A new novelty: Foreigners singing OPM hits in contest

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A dozen foreigners—comprised of individuals and group acts—are out to prove they can do Filipino covers capably, shown here with ‘I Love OPM’ judges Martin Nievera and Lani Misalucha, and host Anne Curtis

A dozen foreigners—comprised of individuals and group acts—are out to prove they can do Filipino covers capably, shown here with ‘I Love OPM’ judges Martin Nievera and Lani Misalucha, and host Anne Curtis

Filipinos have always loved singing covers of chart-topping hits by the world’s most famous artists, which is why reality show franchises like Your Face Sounds Familiar and Pilipinas Got Talent became instant hits on local TV.

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But what if contest producers mounted a show the other way around? That is to have foreigners singing OPM hits in competition. Apparently, the concept can be just as successful.

ABS-CBN’s newest show featuring “100-percent non-Filipinos” covering songs by Martin Nievera, Gary Valenciano, Lani Misalucha, Regine Velasquez and everyone in between has caught viewer’s attention since premiering in mid February. Simply dubbed I Love OPM, the show’s episodes have even become Twitter trends, with its 12 foreign contestants quickly gaining a following.

On its pilot week telecast, I Love OPM, hosted by Anne Curtis with Eric Nicolas, hit a national TV rating of 24.8-percent on February 13 and 20-percent on the following day, versus rivals which scored 11.1- and 6.1-percent respectively, according to data from Kantar Media.

An original concept by ABS-CBN, the show aims to find the best non-Filipino singer who can sing Original Pilipino Music and at the same time promote Filipino music on national TV.

Though a bit cheesy in calling their judges “Himigration Officers”—impressively comprised of Concert King Martin Nievera, Asia’s Nightingale Lani Misalucha, and Ultimate Multimedia Star Toni Gonzaga—with the contestants labeled “Touristars,” viewers actually lapped the novel concept up.

The 12 finalists are: Jeena Dimaandal, 19, a college student of Irish and German descent and raised American in Oakland, California; Ryan Gallagher, 27, an American business manager born in Grand Rapids, Michigan; Dio Smith, 30, a Pakistani model for conceptualized fine-art photography; Addy Raj, 21, a former exchange student from India; Anna Rabtsun, 26, a Russian model who married a Filipino; Korean pop group J-Morning; Sumner Mahafey, 22, an American missionary to the Philippines; Jerome McCuin, an American who currently lives in Taguig; Fathin Amira, 23, is a Singaporean wedding singer; Daniel Herrington, 27, a musician who grew in small town Mississippi; Naisa Lasalosi, 21, is a Tongan missionary and musician born and raised in Australia; and DBD is an all-male interracial trio comprised of Korean Dae Lee, 22, Nigerian Bobby Skyz, 24, and Australian Dwaine Mooley, 25, who started out as individual artists but found that they sound better together.

Some of them have been to the Philippines before returning to join the competition, while others have already found a new home in these islands. There are also those who just simply love Filipino music and upon hearing about I Love OPM, auditioned for the cut.

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