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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 March 2019

TNT Boys: The Filipino teenage trio taking the world by storm on TV talent show 'The World’s Best'

The singers reveal details of a forthcoming new single and a possible return visit to the UAE

From left, TNT Boys - Francis Concepcion, Mackie Empuerto and Kiefer Sanchez. Courtesy ABS-CBN
From left, TNT Boys - Francis Concepcion, Mackie Empuerto and Kiefer Sanchez. Courtesy ABS-CBN

A trio of young Filipino singers is taking the world by storm.

TNT Boys - Francis Concepcion, 12, Mackie Empuerto, 13, and Keifer Sanchez, 14 - have become the front­runners of the new reality talent competition The World’s Best, thanks to their skilful vocal range, dynamic stage presence and a mastery of vocal rifts and three-part harmonies.

Presented by British comedian James Corden, the show features 28 contestants from around the globe, who each perform in front of three American judges – actress Drew Barry­more, singer Faith Hill and television personality RuPaul – and a panel of 50 entertainment experts hailing from different countries.

Speaking to The National after the show’s latest episode aired on Thursday, February 28, the TNT Boys said they are overwhelmed with the support they have received from viewers around the world. They are also proud to have been selected as their nation’s representative.

“We are happy to be part of The World’s Best,” said Empuerto, “and to represent our country, the Philippines.”

The TNT Boys have emerged victorious from the latest stage of the contest, known as the battle rounds, in which the remaining acts competed head-to-head against each other. Performing a cover of the song And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going from the musical Dreamgirls, the trio garnered a score of 97 out of a possible 100 points — the highest mark among all contestants. Their battle-round opponents, the South Korean dance group Emotional Line, only received 43 out of 100 points and were eliminated from the competition.

“We were excited and nervous before the performance," Sanchez says. "And so we were very overwhelmed when the judges and audience gave us a standing ovation.”

The video of their performance quickly trended worldwide as the most popular clip on YouTube. They were lauded by the judges, particularly RuPaul, who said: “I already love them. I couldn’t think I could love them any more. But my goodness, every note: pitch perfect. You boys are fabulous.”

Hill said she felt privileged to be “witnessing superstars”. “I just feel like the luckiest person in the world because I can sit here and witness this,” she said.

The TNT Boys have dominated the competition since the audition rounds, where they impressed the panel with a performance of Beyonce’s hit track Listen. They garnered a score of 99 out of 100 points, which is the highest mark received in the competition thus far.

“I have a soft spot for kids. I was a kid performer and I have kids now,” Barrymore told them during their first appearance on stage. “But this is a whole other thing. You possess a gift. You’re just that good.”

Filipina singer Pops Fernandez, who is part of the international judging panel on the show, waved a flag of the Philippines before telling the TNT Boys: “I am so proud right now to represent the Philippines. I know for a fact that you can be the world’s best.”

The talent show’s panel also features Bollywood choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan, Afghan singer Aryana Sayeed, Kazakh actress Gia Noortas, Mongol rapper Rokit Bay and South Korean K-Pop producer Alex Wright.

Since launching their group in Manila in 2017, the TNT Boys have appeared on several television programmes in the Philippines as well as on the American, British and Australian editions of the variety series Little Big Shots. Their previous performances have earned them rave reviews from international superstars like Jessie J, Brian May and Barry Gibb.

The TNT Boys also recently performed on The Late Late Show with James Corden, where pop star Ariana Grande shocked them with a surprise appearance.

The trio, who have expressed their fondness for Grande in the past, were hitting the powerful refrain of And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going when Grande entered the stage, thrilling the group.

“I’m obsessed with you guys,” Grande told them. “You guys are so incredible. That was so beautiful.”

The teenage singers told The National that they are still getting used to their newfound international fame. On social media, they have been receiving messages of love and support from both Filipino and foreign fans.

“We appreciate it a lot,” Empuerto says.

Sanchez added: “We hope our fans continue to support us until the end because we will continue to work harder for you guys.”

The TNT Boys also revealed that they are releasing a new single later this year, although they could not yet talk about it in detail. The group’s career is being managed by ABS-CBN Corporation, the largest media company in the Philippines.

“But please follow us on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter — @TheTNTBoys — where we will be posting updates,” Sanchez says.

“And this year, we have a world tour coming up,” adds Concepcion. “Please watch out for it.”

Is a return to the UAE on the cards?

The group’s first visit to the UAE featured a headline performance at the Pinoy Hype music event at Dubai’s Al Nasr Leisureland on September 28, 2018.

Empuerto said, “Yes, we want to go back to the Middle East again. Because we’ve already been to Dubai last year — and we hope to perform there again.”

In the meantime, their journey on The World’s Best continues. The competition is down to 12 semi-finalists, including young pianist Lydian Nadhaswaram from India, singer Dimash Kudaibergen from Kazakhstan, puppetry performers Dundu from Germany and the capella group Naturally 7 from the United States.

The World’s Best, which debuted on television in February, was created by Mark Burnett and Mike Darnell, who previously developed and launched the popular reality singing shows The Voice and American Idol.

In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Alison Holloway, executive producer of The World’s Best, said: “The Philippines is rich in vocal talent and we hope to have many more acts from there.”

Updated: March 3, 2019 05:27 PM

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