Angie Landers wins Voice of Pride

This year’s Voice of Pride wasn’t short on familiar faces from previous years. You can almost guarantee who you’ll see in the finals each time, but this time, veterans stepped up their games big time. Some found their voices while others polished off past performances to a shine. But the night belonged to victor Angie Landers.

After her first round song “Anyway” by Martina McBride, it could have been fair to say that Landers had it in the bag. The crowd was behind her after all her just-misses in the past. But no one held back from working to give performances of their lives. Vanessa Guzman added sparkle to her deliveries in both dresses and charisma. She crooned “At Last” with solid emotional conviction in Round 1 and continued to knock out the crowd with a killer rendition of “Rain on My Parade.” Showtunes never hurt in this competition, but she amplified it to bombastic.

I’ve seen Carlos Saenz perform several times, but there was always a little something missing. He would sometimes be a little stiff with the song, or a tune didn’t display his talents properly. He found whatever that was Sunday night. In dapper threads, Saenz channeled his sex appeal and “there-it-is” voice with soulful versions of “Unchained Melody” and the gospel tune “His Eyes on the Sparrow.” Stellar stuff that gave him a good shot.

Erik Way, another familiar name to the contest, brought it just as hard. As the second “You & I” of the night, he somehow trumped an already impressive version by Jennifer Arrambide. Along with Landers, these were the ones to keep an eye on, but Landers seemed to have learned from prior outings how to relax into her music and her first track, Martina McBride’s “Anyway,” showed she was there to win.

I tend to question obvious song choices (read: Celine, Whitney), so when her second round song “One Moment in Time” by Whitney Houston started, I cringed a bit. Landers didn’t try to be Houston, but instead, embraced the song into her own and in her final note, the buzz in the crowd was for sure in her favor.

As the winner was to be announced, emcee Edna Jean Robinson played coy before announcing her name, but once he had, the crowd erupted, as did Landers.

“I’m so proud of her,” Robert Olivas said. “She finally did it, and I knew it was her night.”

Olivas is the other half of Spare Parts, the singing duo with Landers who won last year’s competition for groups.

Newcomers Aaron Alarcorn and Jazsmyne Kelly made healthy impressions in their first finals with operatic work by the former and some sexy soul by Starks. If there could be a Balls Out award given, that should be handed to Steven Patterson for his second tune, Dead Or Alive’s “You Spin Me Round.” The clean cut guy with the sweet face was committed to the retro dance tune — never treating it tongue in cheek which kinda made it great.

The runners-up included Greg Castillo, fourth runner-up, Eric Way, third, Carlos Saenz, second and Vanessa Guzman as first runner-up. More photos after the jump.

—  Rich Lopez

And your 2011 Voice of Pride winners are …

Voice of Pride individual winner Dru Rivera, from left, and group winners Spare Parts, made up of Angie Landers and Robert Olivas. (Photos by Gregory Hayes/Dallas Voice)

On Sunday night, the Rose Room hosted the 2001 Voice of Pride finals and, with some surprises. The competition started in early June and whittled down from hundreds of entrants to a strong handful of talent. With 10 solo finalists and three groups competing for top honors, the night belonged to both new and old faces.

The competition for group contestants grew exponentially. Steelos and AMP(H) rounded out the group finalists but by the end of it all, one group rose above the rest. Spare Parts set a high bar delivering oodles of chemistry and charm. As soloists, both are fine performers, but Robert Olivas and Angie Landers brought out something in each other that I hadn’t seen from either before. Landers was letting the audience have it as she poured her heart into Jason Aldean’s “Don’t You Wanna Stay.” Olivas let her shine but didn’t disappear by solidly holding up his end of the vocals and even performance. It really was a great moment as they finished to rousing applause, and this was only their first song. They followed up with the punchier “Stuck Like Glue” by Sugarland. With simple but effective choreography, they delighted with a strong showing and even the bauble at the end of the song added charm rather than detriment.

“After six years, it’s finally happened,” Olivas said while walking to the Round-Up Saloon for a post-victory celebration. Their excitement on stage after the announcement was a genuinely sweet moment.

In the individual competition, the decision had to have been a difficult one. Each of the 10 finalists delivered strongly and feasibly, any of them could have deservedly taken it home. But in the end, Dru Rivera crooned a beautiful “Cryin’” and rocked out with “Dream On,” and he ended up with the title of Voice of Pride. I figured he’d place high, but thought the winner might have been between Angie Landers and Kristen Philips. Landers was riding high from her strong performances with Olivas, and Philips killed everyone in the room with her rendition of “River Deep, Mountain High.” But Vanessa Guzman rallied with a strong second song — a fun and engaging “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” by Etta James. But it was Rivera’s connection to his inner rock god that I think pushed him to the top. He body-slammed the audience with his take on the signature Aerosmith tune and proved that even classic rock can win over a gay crowd. The other top finalists included 4th runner-up Joel Canales, 3rd runner-up Juliana Jeffrey, 2nd runner-up Kristen Philips and 1st runner-up Vanessa Guzman.

It was a riveting moment because I think Rivera’s victory came as a surprise to some being that there were more familiar faces in the running, but the audience still roared and applauded his win. Interestingly, it was his first time to participate in the event. As the winner, he won a $3,000 cash prize, a trip to Puerto Rico and a performance at Pride in September.

—  Rich Lopez

Arizpe wins individual title, teams with real-life partner to earn group award at Voice of Pride

Mel Arizpe, a frequent bridesmaid at Voice of Pride, made up for lost ground this year by winning overall and as part of the duo Mi Diva Loca, which one the inaugural “group” award.

But wait, it gets more interesting.

Arizpe’s singing partner in Mi Diva Loca, Laura Carrizales, came in second place. And Arizpe and Carrizales are a couple in real-life as well. Arizpe gets to fly to Manchester, England, later this month to partake in that city’s Pride celebration, and will perform at Lee Park following the Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade next month.

Rounding out the top five were Juliana Jeffrey, Robert Olivas and Angie Landers. You can see footage from some of the performances in our video section here. Congrats to everybody!

—  Arnold Wayne Jones