If there is one thing Malaysian artiste Marsha Milan Londoh has learned from her experience in the Anugerah Juara Lagu (AJL) music competition, it would be that there's no pleasing everyone.
Marsha, 37, is a two-time AJL finalist.
Last year, the singer emerged as the first runner-up of AJL36 with her ballad, Cinta, composed and written by singers Akim Ahmad and Stacy Anam.
She had another good run at AJL37 this year, after finishing as one of the 12 finalists with her song, Kembali Terang.
Despite not taking home a trophy at the annual music competition in February, Marsha was all smiles as she sat with StarLifestyle to speak about the "invaluable lessons" she gained from her time in AJL that she'll be carrying with her in her career.
"I learned a lot from my time in AJL. I learned that sometimes, no matter what we do – even if it's good – people will always have a say in it.
"So it made me understand that I can't always do things based solely on what I like. I need to analyse what the public likes too and align our interests together.
"I was quite adventurous in my last AJL performance. I gave something that was entirely different than in my first performance. Even though I didn't win anything this time, I don't regret it, and I wouldn't change a thing about it.
"But for the next AJL, I will take into consideration not just what I want to do, but what other people like me to do as well," she said.
For context, Marsha took a bold step in AJL37 with her song Kembali Terang which featured notes that were much higher than the ones in Cinta – her first AJL track.
She said that this was an "adventurous attempt" at presenting something unique to the audience in a way she enjoyed.
Despite receiving a standing ovation from the crowd, mStar – The Star's Malay language news portal –reported that one of the judges, Datuk Mokhzani Ismail, criticised her for "yelling too much" in her performance.
"Marsha's performance is good. But by yelling too much, it affects the performance. The audience can also see how comfortable (or uncomfortable) a singer looks if they play around with their vocals too much," he said.
Instead of taking his words to heart, Marsha took it as a lesson for her to push harder and improve.
But living up to people's expectations is no easy task. It's a challenge that's pressuring, and that's something Marsha can attest to.
"Performing Cinta was quite overwhelming for me because that was my first time on AJL. I was so nervous when I entered my second AJL.
"I almost had a panic attack on stage, but it was OK. After the second AJL, I found myself to be stronger.
"I don't really care much about what haters have to say because performing is all about having fun onstage. If it's constructive, I'll take the advice," she added.
She has since been enchanting fans with catchy tunes like Bila Aku Cinta, Bersama Kita and Bila.
In 2013, Marsha voiced Elsa in the Malaysian dub of Disney's Frozen – where she also sang Bebaskan (the Malay version of Let It Go).
With over 17 years of experience in the local music scene, Marsha has certainly established herself as a prominent vocal powerhouse in Malaysia.
As a musician, I think it's important to experiment with different genres.
I've been singing pop ballads for the longest time, 17 years in fact, but none of (the songs) got into the charts or even on AJL – that is until Cinta (2022) and Kembali Terang (2022).
These were the first two pop ballads that really put my name out there.
But I don't want to stick to just pop ballads.
I want to experiment with new sounds, and pop-rock is something I've always wanted to try.
Nobody has seen me (perform) pop-rock songs before, so it can be quite fun.
To make things all the more exciting, I got to collaborate with a good friend of mine (Hazama) for Ilusi.
Aside from pop-rock, I also want to try Broadway. I think public loves Broadway songs.
I enjoy Broadway songs too, so I want to have fun performing while simultaneously catering to what the public likes.
At the moment, I'm doing a few businesses that are outside the entertainment circle because I think it's nice to evolve outside of just singing or acting.
I'm quite active in the beauty industry. I did a collaboration with Haus Cosmetics in which I'm also the director. I'm also involved in a transportation business in Sabah (Topaz Travel D'Borneo).
I do these things because I want to grow. Throughout my 17 years in showbiz, I've always been a singer.
From then on, I realised that I needed to evolve in order for me to stay relevant in the industry.
It was also one of the reasons I got into acting, hosting and stuff like that. These ventures made me who I am today.
Like even though acting was something new to me at the time, it kind of helped me with my singing and taught me to be a better entertainer.
From acting, I learned how to express myself better not just onstage but in my songs too.
So this is something that I feel is important to succeed.
We need to venture in various fields, be open to new things and seize opportunities whenever we can in order to grow.
I'd be lying if I said it isn't overwhelming because it is.
Even though I have events until late night, I still wake up at 5am on some days just to get things done.
It gets tiring but that's the thing about evolving. If we want to evolve, we have to be disciplined.
At the moment, I'm still trying to figure out how I can do all that without burning myself out.
But for now, how I usually wind down is by pampering myself.
I treat myself to a good meal, get a massage or a spa facial. I also do yoga to stay fit.
Even though I'm Sabahan, I haven't had the chance to explore other areas aside from my hometown (Tamparuli).
In fact, I haven't climbed Mount Kinabalu yet so that's something that has been in bucket list since forever.
London also seems like a fun place to go. I also want to explore more areas in the United States.
I've been to New York and Los Angeles but the last time I was there, I didn't have enough time to explore.
I've always wanted to go on a road trip there. It's something I want to do if I get free time.
I remember chatting with a friend awhile back and we were talking about how people shouldn't be afraid to fail.
That's the affirmation I always hold onto whenever things don't go my way because so many successful people out there – in and outside the entertainment industry – have experienced failures.
They've been the target of criticism and sometimes straight-up hate and mean comments.
At times when I feel depressed, I just tell myself that it's OK to fail... because failure brings me another step closer to success.
At the end of the day, even if things don't turn out the way I expect it to, what matters is that I've tried. It's better to fail trying than not trying at all.