What signature did for an encore

A month ago, Amardeep blogged about Suleman Mirza and Madhu Singh’s audition for Britain’s got talent (it’s the second video in case you missed it before). The challenge thrown down by Simon Cowell was whether they could repeat their original success or whether they were a one-trick pony. Well, here’s what they did for an encore [HT Manish, skip forward to around 2 minutes in to see the act]:

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Two things struck me about their performance. The first is how easily it was accepted by both the audience and the judges, something that would never happen in the US. The audience loved both the Michael Jackson impersonation and the Bhangra. The judges loved it as a dance act, they didn’t condescend to it at all. Heck, they even describe the dancers as typical brits with a day job and a dream. There was no talk about it being exotic or foreign, and no PC admiration for the multicultiness of it all.

The second is that it was weaker than their original performance. I thought the choreography wasn’t as tight, and the integration of the two styles was not done as well. The problem is that neither seems to have great range as a dancer. Suleman is a Michael Jackson impersonator and Madhu is a bhangra dancer. Once the shock of seeing the two together wears off, how far can they go?

Here’s their first performance for comparison:

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Still, I’ll start watching American Idol when it’s even half as good as this …

48 thoughts on “What signature did for an encore

  1. The second is that it was weaker than their original performance. I thought the choreography wasn’t as tight, and the integration of the two styles was far weaker.

    I agree. I actually couldn’t get myself to watch the second performance all the way, it was so weak.

    The lesson seems to be: stick to what you can do well, and do it even better the second time. So what that would mean is, try a minor variation, don’t change too many things!

  2. suleiman is an amazing michael jackson dancer, but the madhu is not that good. Half the dancers on most of the collegiate bhangra teams here are better than he is.

  3. “The first is how easily it was accepted by both the audience and the judges, something that would never happen in the US.”

    Ennis,

    Aren’t desis (or Asians) a bigger minority in the UK than the US? Familiarity tends to de-exotify. Anyway, the word exotic exists for a reason. Some things are exotic to a particular person, living in a particular place, and at a particular time. I used to think tuna noodle casserole was exotic when I was a kid, and, no-one I know would have minded if I had referred to it that way!

  4. Madhu Singh is fun to watch for entertainment, but superb bhangra dancer, he is not. If they were both good dancers and had done just a good dance for their 2nd performance, esp if it wasn’t the same faux fusion type scenario, I would have been impressed. Otherwise, it just reminds me of performances at Desi college shows that people think are clever or novel. Eh.

  5. While it is true that Madhu is not the greatest of dancers, it is his facial expressions and that hard-to-describe ‘cuteness’ in a Teddy Bear kind of way that sells the whole thing.

    As for their Finals presentation, I asked:

    Anyone want to put money for their finals presentation: “Beat It“, “Bad� (although I always liked Weird Al’s Fat better), or “Smooth Criminal.� Any other possibilities? My vote is for “Beat It.� I just think it would fit their format much better, plus Madhu would look great in that white ‘gangsta’ bomber jacket. Suleman would HAVE to wear that red zipper leather (or pleather) jacket. I can’t lie, I had one back in the day. It might not fit, but that might make it even work better. I am sure I could dig through the old stuff and let Suleman borrow mine. The knife scene between the two would be classic. Hopefully they can get in touch with Tigerstyle to do a mix for them. So Madhu and Suleman, here is your first vote! [link]
  6. MD: ah! “Bigger minority” almost sounds like an oxymoron and I was confused for a minute. :)

    I agree with Ennis. I would love it if we were more readily accepted in the US, instead of being seen as “exotic” any time we, and any other minority, actually (gasp!) exhibit our culture in some way, big or small. Thankfully most of my friends are totally relaxed and nicely complimentary and inquisitive without being obnoxious, but being called “exotic” is ridiculous. Just because we’re a minority in YOUR country…

  7. Can someone tell me what was last thing Madhu said, it sound like shamoor or something? whatever it was he said the crowd went wild!

  8. the thing about the word “exotic” is that is just another way to “other-ize” a group people. that doesn’t happen with the mainstream culture that is in control. it’s more about power than semantics.

  9. simons question last time was legit, is there more then michael jackson and bhangra..i guess there isnt. they are good but I ll be surprised if they win this thing.probably suleman alone would have done better

  10. I like the second performance better, I see what you say about the limitations in their dancing skills, but I thought with the back up dancers and the grandness of it, more then made up for limited moves. (now if they can add a few flips in! man o man).

    “Madhu Singh is fun to watch for entertainment, but superb bhangra dancer”

    its what its about, having fun, making the crowed smile, non of the judges come from any credible background, people just want to be entertained.

    Because they are very good they are accepted.

  11. Another thing is that the filming angles of the second performance were way off. The camera men had no clue where to focus because it is like two separate acts on the stage. I think this is one of the reasons that the you tube version comes off less impressive. I wonder if it came off differently live.

    I think Madhoo said “shamoh…(spelling)” kind of like waht jackson used to say in his songs on “Bad”

  12. thanks, Mankanwal.

    to all the Madhu-haters, i think without Madhu, Suleman would just be another boring, balding Micheal Jackson impersonator. Is it wrong that i still like Teddy Bears… maybe someone will create and market a “Madhu-the teddybear” doll soon!

  13. i think madhu is a great energetic dancer and i dont want to sound like i am putting down “heavy” people, but madhu’s bhangra lacks the jumpy stuff that i see at Dhol Di Awaz and other bhangra competitions. Suleman on the other hand is trained in the michael jackson type stuff, so his bhangra isnt that great either. On the whole they are very entertaining together and i think prince charles would LOVE it!!

  14. I liked the first performance (although not the clothes Madhu was wearing). The second performance seemed all too similar to the first with the exception of the additional dancers. I’m quite suprised they got away with Simon – now that’s a shocker!

  15. I think it’s strange that most of you are looking at this as an “indian” performance by comparing it to dhol di awaz and the bhangra dancers we see at other bhangra competitions. These guys are trying to go mainstream and have guys like simon cowell complimenting them, yet all the brown people on here are too busy dissing their dance skills. I know Madhu and he’s an amazing guy who you will never forget if you meet even once, so maybe I’m snippy because of that, but I think some of you need to readjust the way you’re viewing this performance.

  16. I think he said “Sham-on” or something similar. It’s a phrase that Michael Jackson says in one of his songs.

    They’ve got a good act and their contrasting styles play well off of one another like Penn and Teller.

    Seems like people are drinking from the Bhangra Hater-Ade cooler. I can’t dance to save my life but I am watching De Kwon’s Dance Moves so look out for me on the latest cable reality dance competition.

  17. i think it’s their interaction that is wildly entertaining and the subtext (east-west competition?) that the act flirts with.

    on the other hand, i do try not to be a cynic but as in the previous episode, i read into the judges’ reactions some careful restraint. maybe it’s that stiff upper lip supposedly characteristic of brits, but i thought that the judges might be trying to compensate (and, i think, over-correcting) for the problematic multiculti-hailing, exoticizing response. i mean, why did the first judge have to emphasize that in their day jobs they’re just a couple of regular folks?

  18. They weren’t amazing, but hey, it was entertaining. If you guys are looking for real talent, then you’re looking in the wrong place.

    Remember Kashif Memon on America’s Got Talent? The judges and audience were amazed, but he wasn’t even that amazing. But you have to admit his dorkiness was entertaining.

  19. OK, the first time, it was amusing. But I never got the amzing part either time. It is kind of like watching your chubby cousin joke around at a family gathering.

  20. i think it’s entertaining, and that’s what it’s all about. i do think that the way they work the cameras takes away from the performance.

    my favorite was when simon said they have “originality”… how can copying michael jackson be original?

    still, fun to watch.

  21. i mean, why did the first judge have to emphasize that in their day jobs they’re just a couple of regular folks?

    You’re thinking too deeply and being a little paranoid. The whole show is predicated on people who are boy and girl next door types beoming famous and getting in the limelight for their talents, “your dreams can come true too”, they emphasize that with every contestant. It’s how they sell and sentimentalise the show. Last year it was won by a mobile phone salesman who turned out to be a great opera singer.

  22. I want for their next act, for them to do something totally totally different. No Michael Jackson, no bhangra. But keeping with the theme of the “unexpected”. I agree, I don’t think this was as good as their first… although it fared better than my pessimisstic predictions. We don’t get to see a whole lot of their act in this clip, but from what we could see… I thought the re-interpretation was nicely done. I do think the remix music was far superior in the first round, which helped making it kind of great.

    Also about Madhu being not-so-good dancer. He may not move like his desified michael-jackson counterpart, but he brings loads of personality, and good humor. Also I do think he’s a pretty good dancer.

  23. Yes it was a typo. Sleep is hard to come by with nurses, feedings, diaper changes, and the damn SCDs. Lack of sleep leads to bad typing.

    Not to hijack the thread but Anjali Joyce – 5 lbs 12.4 oz, 18 inches, born 4:44 pm cst. She joins her now very giant appearing 2 year old big sis, Asha Alease

    Vote for Pedro and all your wildest dreams will come true.

  24. Ok so I’ce watched the performance a couple of times and these are some thoughts:

    1) I think the real genius in this combo is that Suleman and Madhu are able to seamlessly combine two very different styles of dancing and it works. I mean for anyone who remembers the thriller video, Madhu’s interpretations work really well!

    2) The surprise element in the first performance was great, but so was the first time I heard Russell Peters. After that RP kept my attention by riffing on the same theme. Same thing here.

    3) Let’s face it, these guys ARE entertaining!

  25. The first is how easily it was accepted by both the audience and the judges, something that would never happen in the US.

    Maybe it’s being in NY and assuming the rest of American can’t be that ass backwards but I find the above statement totally untrue. We have Basement Bhangra and every “exotic” type of dancing going in New York where the ‘gringos’ mix with the exotic birds and no one bats an eyelash or thinks of throwing in terms like turmeric or mangoes in the mix :-) Why do we assume something like this wouldn’t happen in the US? I don’t think Indian culture/music/dance is that insulated from the rest of the American world.

    Asha and Anjali’s dad CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU. :-)

  26. 29 · Janeofalltrades said

    Maybe it’s being in NY and assuming the rest of American can’t be that ass backwards but I find the above statement totally untrue. We have Basement Bhangra and every “exotic” type of dancing going in New York where the ‘gringos’ mix with the exotic birds and no one bats an eyelash or thinks of throwing in terms like turmeric or mangoes in the mix :-) Why do we assume something like this wouldn’t happen in the US? I don’t think Indian culture/music/dance is that insulated from the rest of the American world.

    I don’t think anybody would dispute that you could find such a “scene” in most major US cities, but mainstream television is a different beast altogether. I found the performance pretty uninspired and the most noteworthy part of the video for me was indeed the judges’ lack of hyperbolic reaction to the “exotic” dancing. The fact of the matter is, we do not have programming such as EastEnders or Goodness Gracious Me! or The Kumars at No. 42 on our networks–it wasn’t that long ago that The Cosby Show‘s portrayal of middle-class black Americans was considered groundbreaking.

  27. Maybe it’s being in NY and assuming the rest of American can’t be that ass backwards but I find the above statement totally untrue. We have Basement Bhangra and every “exotic” type of dancing going in New York where the ‘gringos’ mix with the exotic birds and no one bats an eyelash or thinks of throwing in terms like turmeric or mangoes in the mix :-) Why do we assume something like this wouldn’t happen in the US? I don’t think Indian culture/music/dance is that insulated from the rest of the American world.

    JOAT – can you imagine this act being on American Idol and getting that kind of enthusiastic response? When I’ve been to BB, it’s been around 70% desi and the remainder are hipsters. Imagine the reception this act would get in front of a national audience. NY is very very different from the rest of America, speaking as somebody who now lives in the (gulp) middle of the country.

  28. JOAT – can you imagine this act being on American Idol and getting that kind of enthusiastic response?

    See I think it was so well coreographed and done well and fun and peppy and it’s dance music, all the movement and the sheer genius of the first video that it would do just fine here. American Idol is not the showcase for this. It’s about talent and creativity. I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the American’s got Talent episodes but they were just so bad that this would totally fly because it’s fun and gets you on your feet.

  29. I propose a moratorium on any/all South Asian Michael Jackson tribute/knock-off performances.

    The Michael Jackson remix has been the mainstay of college culture shows and bhangra competitions for FAR TOO LONG.

  30. 28 · badmash said

    and

    I think you summed it up perfectly. As a standalone bhangra act, yeah, I’ll buy that it’s not the absolute best dancing that I’ve ever seen. But, that isn’t what it’s about, at all. The charm of this act is in how they are able to find ways of merging Michael Jackson’s music and unique dance style with bhangra. The first time, it was a complete surprise, and the second time, they found a way of merging it for Thriller. What can/will they try next – Beat It? Wanna Be Startin Somethin? That suspense – WHICH MJ track/dance, not WHETHER they will do MJ again – is what makes it fun for me.

    As for all the haters… well, it’s always easy to cap on people. I’d like to see you try out for a nationally televised (and internet-published) show, perform at the caliber that you think Signature should, and then you can talk!

  31. I’d like to see you try out for a nationally televised (and internet-published) show, perform at the caliber that you think Signature should, and then you can talk!

    So… you condemn all movie critics who’ve never directed, edited, and written a movie themselves?

  32. 36 · talent spotty said

    I’d like to see you try out for a nationally televised (and internet-published) show, perform at the caliber that you think Signature should, and then you can talk!
    So… you condemn all movie critics who’ve never directed, edited, and written a movie themselves?

    I like your analogy. Still, I think it takes a lot more guts to put oneself out there and showcase talent to the world, than to snark from the safety of one’s living room.

    In that way, I think movie critics have it made :)

  33. In about ten mintues live on ITV1 we are going to find out whether Signature have won Britain’s got talent. Good luck to them. In the final they have gone for a repeat of their initial act

  34. They came second. Lost against a ten year old kid…nevermind..thought it might send a positive message out…actually I think it does. A muslim and Sikh, Two Asians, probablyu one a Pakistani the other Indian..morte importantly both British…is a positive message considering the situation in UK and USA at the moment.

  35. While I still admire these guys for what they have accomplished, I have to say I was disappointed by their choice to perform their initial routine in the final. I don’t know if that feeling is justified – I suspect, given the judges’ positive reactions, that repeating a performance is standard practice. Still, the excitement of “what will they do next” was deflated when I watched the same routine and knew everything that they would do. Kind of like going to a comedy routine and knowing all of the punchlines already.

  36. Well, seeing as they came in second in the phone vote, I think they made a pretty good choice with their routine. These guys were entertaining, talented and awesome – and a joy for us desis back in the UK to watch. You just have to see the crowd reaction to their first skit to see how well their routine went down.

  37. 44 · Random Guy said

    Well, seeing as they came in second in the phone vote, I think they made a pretty good choice with their routine. These guys were entertaining, talented and awesome – and a joy for us desis back in the UK to watch. You just have to see the crowd reaction to their first skit to see how well their routine went down.

    I can get on board with that. Also, to your comment, the judging/voting in the final doesn’t seem to be about ‘how surprising’ or ‘how original’ the current performance is – it’s more about judging the act as a whole. It’s called “Britain’s Got Talent”, not “Britain’s Got Unique Performances”. My comment was just that as a spectator, I wished for something new to watch.

    Then again, maybe that means they really did well… always leave the crowd wanting more, eh? :)

  38. I think they’r bloody brilliant.

    My sister is getting married in July and I was thinking of getting hold of them. Anyone know how to get in contact with them? Please let me know.

  39. Wow, if Britain and those judges are impressed by this, I can only imagine what a trip they’d have if they saw my sister’s high school troupe perform. Bloody brilliant it is NOT.