Still an idol: Jaclyn Victor is sounding stronger than ever, performing tracks ‘Sedetik Lebih’ and ‘Jagalah Diri’ from her new release, ‘Ikut Rentakku’, during the launch at Zouk Club, Kuala Lumpur.
Jaclyn Victor talks about getting an international break, nine years on from her Malaysian Idol victory.
NINE years have passed since Jaclyn Victor wowed the nation with her big pipes and was crowned winner of the inaugural edition of reality singing competition, Malaysian Idol. Though grateful that she has since found significant success locally, the sassy vocalist admits she has always harboured dreams of making it big internationally. And with the growing number of Malaysian artistes registering their presence in the land of the free, recently – Yuna, Zee Avi and Reshmonu, to name a few – one wonders if Victor has plans to do likewise.
“People have asked me to take six months off my schedule, go to America and knock on some doors. But I have so many commitments here, I can’t afford not to work,” said the Kepong, Kuala Lumpur-native who sat down for a candid chat with Star2 at the launch of her new album, Ikut Rentakku. “And I have friends who are musicians there telling me it’s really difficult. America is such a big country, no one comes up with a new record above the age of 20,” she added.
As such, the 35-year-old singer hasn’t exactly packed her suitcase and taken that leap of faith. Victor also shared she did not want to sacrifice her personal values for her career, referring to Hollywood’s navel-baring, sex-driven culture. “I want to be like Whitney (Houston) or Celine (Dion), where it’s not about how much skin you show, but your vocal ability. These kinds of singers go on forever,” she said.
The Gemilang singer has no plans of turning to YouTube – as it is the case with many singers these days – for international success, either. Though able to widen her pool of listeners, Victor feels it’s too late for that, being an established performer already.
“Good things come to people who wait,” she said, before adding that she senses the wait could be almost over. She can’t quite put a finger on it (“I feel it’s coming,” she vaguely suggests), but she is positive her best years are still ahead of her.
Perhaps it has something to do with her recent collaboration with a certain American 1990s R&B group. Victor teamed up with Az Yet (best known for its 1996 hit Last Night and cover of Chicago’s Hard To Say I’m Sorry) on Magical Moment, the second track on her latest album. It will also be used as the theme song for Ribbit, Malaysia’s first 3D animation film, scheduled for release at the end of this year. She admitted to initially feeling anxious and wondered how her voice would fit among the four-man band’s solid vocals, but was ultimately proud of the end result and grateful for the opportunity.
Also present at the launch was KRU Studios chief executive officer, Norman Abdul Halim, who revealed that after the recording, one of the members of Az Yet asked, “Is she a ‘sista’?” – implying her vocal style and ability are similar to that of an African-American vocalist. Norman also explained that he decided to secure the group’s services in an attempt to help her reach a global audience.
Victor signed with KRU Studios early last year after her contract with Sony Music concluded in 2011. Ikut Rentakku is the singer’s first album with the local label. She was especially thrilled with the opportunity to work with songwriter and producer Edry Abdul Halim on the project. “Edry understands where I’m coming from. He knows what my strengths are and plays on that. He wouldn’t force me to sing a song I didn’t want to,” she enthused. Working under the label, she also feels a sense of control over her work, as Edry encourages Victor to write her own songs.
She believes Ikut Rentakku is different from her previous releases because it comes across as more mature and independent. The title track is a female empowerment anthem which talks about a woman who is strong, self-sufficient and marches to the beat of her own drum. She especially identifies with the song as it reminds her of her mum’s strength, having raised her on her own. “As a kid, you think life is a fairytale. But I remember my mum telling me shortly after my father’s death that when I grow up, I would need to own my own house and buy my own car, as you never know what the future holds,” she recalled.
Asked if the album would reflect the soulful side viewers witnessed when she performed on Malaysian Idolall those years back – who can forget her spine-tingling rendition of Nat King Cole’s When I Fall In Love – Victor admitted most of her work has been pop and ballad-driven so far. Nevertheless, on this album, she assured that listeners will get to hear some elements of soul and R&B as well as other genres. As much as she hopes to revisit her earlier soul and gospel musical stylings full-on, she also stressed the importance of finding a middleground in order to appeal to the masses.
Ikut Rentakku is now available from Speedy, Music Valley and Rock Corner outlets and on iTunes.