Michael Bolton is back in Asia for another reality show talent search. He is, after all, the Soul Provider who is always singing how we can Go The Distance. And he's doing that right here in Singapore.
“It's so great to be based in Singapore,” said Bolton. “I've been coming here for touring and promotions for 35 years. And I'm really comfortable here!”
Asian Dream is a new reality singing competition that sees six contestants from the region compete with one another, with the winner landing a Subaru Ambassadorship and the opportunity to go on the Asian Dream Tour with Bolton himself. And while Bolton previously headlined an Asian talent search called Bolt Of Talent in 2017, his new show promises to offer something different.
“The original concept was poor, because it was almost like a tourist type show where you go to different countries and tour around," said Asian Dream co-creator Glenn Tan, who is also deputy chairman and managing director of Tan Chong International, which distributes Subaru cars through its subsidiary Motor Image.
“This one is more organised, where they're really competing with each other all together. And you build up the character of each particular person for the viewer to follow, and root for. Here, the contestants also have more interaction. That makes the big difference.”
Asian Dream is presented by Subaru.
Bolton, who serves as Asian Dream's host and co-creator, agreed. “I think we both knew we needed to move forward in a different format."
It is a concept that Tan and Bolton hatched over a productive lunch at the latter’s house in Connecticut about a year ago. "We're now using the time and our resources to watch and feed the contestants so that they develop right in front of the camera,” Bolton explained. “And we’re actually seeing their improvement in every episode.”
To a point, the two-time Grammy winner added, “that we're getting attached to them”.
“Because they're trying to give their all. So, you know, the elimination episodes are really the painful ones. It’s a group of people fighting for their opportunity to be discovered,” he said.
The 66-year-old singer confessed that while it’s hard for him to be “brutally honest”, he is trying his best. “I don't do well with hurting other aspiring artistes,” Bolton told CNA Lifestyle. “And now because they are all together, they are bonding. So we have some tears and some crying festivals. I haven't had one [episode] yet where I haven't been honest.”
Billed as a seven-episode series that aims to foster emerging musical talent, the Asian Dream team scouted six aspiring singers from Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, handpicked from submitted casting videos.
Throughout the series, they will be coached, mentored and judged by Bolton and an array of special guests that include Singapore actress Tan Kheng Hua, Thailand’s Mild Nawin and Jannine Weigel, US fashion photographer Yu Tsai and Vietnam’s Thanh Bui and Ho Ngoc Ha. The first season of Asian Dream will be hosted on the Subaru Asia website. The TV channel that it will air on has yet to be finalised.
So will the contestants get extra credit or extra cringe if they decide to sing any one of big hits from Bolton’s massive back catalogue?
“No, I really appreciate that How Am I Supposed To Live Without You is one of the most used songs during competitions for aspiring artists all over the world!” he replied with a laugh. “That's a great compliment and I love knowing that new generations are embracing the song and are aware of it.”
“I would say that this is that artiste’s interpretation. And as an artiste, you have the right, and actually need to be able to, deliver your own interpretation,” said Bolton, citing some of his biggest hits Georgia On My Mind and When A Man Loves A Woman as examples. “I wasn’t intimidated. I love Percy Sledge’s version. But I knew I had to bring my own. And I talk to the contestants about that as well when picking songs.
“No, I wouldn't be more critical because it was mine. I'm looking for the potential," he said. "There's only so much time left for the contestants to step up and stand out. And, basically, at the end of the deliberation, have the judges say clearly that this is the winner.”
Asian Dream will premiere in the fourth quarter of 2019.