That was quite a haul that Darren Espanto brought home after the recently conducted Awit Awards night. The Canadian-born pop idol was the top winner in the People’s Voice category of the Awit, wherein instead of judges choosing the winners, fans vote for their favorites. He bagged the awards for Favorite Male Artist; plus Favorite Collaboration in I’ll Be There with Jed Madela; Favorite Song, Alam; Favorite Record/ Single, Alam; and Favorite Album, Be With Me.
Darren’s Be With Me was also conferred the Bestselling Album of the Year Award for 2016. There are some claimants for this honor around as recording artists almost always tend to believe that their every release is a big hit. But because Darren’s was certified by the Philippine Association of Record Industry or PARI, the trade organization behind the Awit, then it truly means that indeed, Darren sold the most number of albums last year.
Darren has come a long way from the time he was tapped by coach Sarah Geronimo to join her team in the first edition of The Voice Kids Philippines three years ago. Back then, he was known as the boy with the crystal-clear vocals who could stop everyone on their tracks whenever he sings Whitney Houston’s One Moment In Time. It also did not hurt that he was cute and appealing. He was signed to a recording contract by Universal Music after the contest and has not stopped one bit in his determined and steady climb to the top.
His first album titled Darren Espanto zoomed to the top of iTunes upon release in 2014 and became a Platinum seller. It produced the hit singles In Love Ako Sa ‘Yo, You Are The Only One and Ah Basta Gusto Kita. The now much-lauded Be With Me came next and similarly gave Darren several hit songs like Seven Minutes, Starlight and Parachute. A year later, Darren is making his hit bid for the charts with his first Christmas album.
Titled D’s Christmas, it is notable not only because it is by a true hitmaker like Darren but also because it marks the debut of Pasko Na, which is his first Christmas composition. I like it when artists come out with their original works, more so when it is a Christmas song. We can certainly use new additions to our usual line-up of Christmas In Our Hearts, Pasko Na Sinta Ko and Miss Kita Kung Christmas and given Darren’s hitmaking clout, his Pasko Na, a song which is so full of hope and longing, might just make the grade.
The other new song in the album is Pasko Bawat Sandali, which was written and arranged by Jungee Marcelo. Then there are the usual Yuletide Chestnuts: My Grown-up Christmas List, The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire), Sana Ngayong Pasko, originally by Ariel Rivera; All I Want For Christmas Is You, the biggie by Mariah Carey; Justin Bieber’s Only Thing I Ever Get For Christmas; and the traditional carol O Holy Night.
Darren’s voice is just settling down after undergoing growing-up changes, which must be the reason why he tended to take things easy with his singing in the album. Fans who loved his soaring vocals in his early days might be disappointed. On the other hand though, young listeners who prefer their idols with soft and easy sounds will surely find D’s Christmas very much to their taste.
If you can, try to get the specially numbered limited edition version of the album. The CD comes inside a booklet with 60 pages of colored, and from what I have heard, never-before-seen photographs of Darren. You can download the album, borrow or dupe a copy, but there is no way you can do that to the booklet. So go out and buy your own album now.
Meanwhile, Darren’s latest non-Christmas release is Dying Inside, the theme from the movie All Of You, which is one of the entries in the coming Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).
Incidentally, the other winners of the People’s Voice Awards category at the Awit were:
Favorite New Male Artist: Kyle Echarri
Favorite New Female Artist: Alexa Ilacad
Favorite New Group: IV of Spades
Favorite Music Video: Label by Myrtle Sarrosa
Favorite Group: Acapellago
Favorite Female Artist: Vina Morales