- Darren Lyndon Gonzales Espanto
May 24, 2001 (age 19)
Darren Lyndon Espanto is a Filipino - Canadian singer. He started singing at the age of two, and first joined a competition at the age of ten, he won the Masters Finals of the Pinoy Singing Sensation competition in Edmonton. He made his first television appearance at the age of ten when he joined YTV's reality television The Next Star in 2012; he became the youngest finalist in the history of the show to be included in the Top 6. However, he rose to prominence after joining the first season of The Voice Kids Philippines. In June 1, 2014, Espanto became part of ABS-CBN's Star Magic.
Espanto released his first full-length self-titled studio album, Darren, in December 2014, under MCA Music Inc. (Philippines), a Universal Music Group company. It debuted at number 1 on the Philippine charts of Apple's iTunes store and Astro Chart; it is now a certified Double Platinum album.In May 2015, Espanto staged a major solo concert at MOA Areana, he set a record for being the youngest artist to perfrom at the said venue at the age of 14. In May 2016, he released his sophomore album titled Be with Me, also under MCA Music Inc. (Philippines), featuring his carrier single "7 Minutes", that was then followed by "Starlight" and "Parachute", which also became number 1 on the Philippine charts of Apple's iTunes store after just being released. The said album is now a certified Platinum album.
Espanto was born in Calgary on May 24, 2001. He is the first child of Filipino registered nurses Marinel Gonzales and Lyndon Espanto, who emigrated to Canada from Nueva Vizcaya. His parents taught him Filipino language, particularly Tagalog. Espanto started singing at the age of three . He was interested in singing from a young age, and his parents were supportive of his dreams.
As a toddler, Espanto serenaded his parents with the tunes of Hakuna Matata from The Lion King, which led to his relatives to discover his singing potential and urged him to pursue and hone his raw talent.
At age 12, Darren attended Grade 6 at St. Jude Elementary in Calgary, before traveling to the Philippines in 2014 for The Voice Kids. After passing the auditions, he returned to Canada to write his advanced test in St. Cyril School, before returning to the Philippines. He, along with the other The Voice Kids finalists received a ₱350,000 scholarship from Eton International School.
At age 10, Espanto won during the Main Edition Finals of the Pinoy Singing Sensation competition in Edmonton on August 20, 2011, singing "Alone" by Celine Dion.
2012–2013: The Next Star
In 2012, ten-year-old Espanto auditioned for the fifth season of YTV's reality television The Next Star, singing Bruno Mars' "Grenade". One of the judges, Keshia Chanté, got emotional and told him that his voice was 'unbelievable' and 'controlled'. Judge Mark Spicoluk, on the other hand, stated that he 'lacked stage presence'. Nevertheless, after Chante asked him if he was ready, she and Tara Oram said yes, earning him the 'golden ticket'.
He continued to be selected onto its Top 6, singing pop songs such as Rihanna's "Only Girl (in the World)" and Maroon 5's "Payphone" among others. He also had his own single and music video entitled "Gotta Give A Little Extra", as well as two other singles, "Now" and "Oh Oh Santa" with the other five finalists. Ultimately, he lost to 14-year-old Brooklyn Roebuck, after singing his own single during the finals. He was the youngest finalist in the history of the show to be included in the Top 6.
In 2013, Espanto had his first series as a guest in YTV's Life with Boys.
2014: The Voice Kids
During the auditions of the inaugural season of ABS-CBN's The Voice Kids that aired on June 1, 2014, Espanto performed Jessie J's "Domino", which he formerly sang during The Next Star at age 11. Coaches Sarah Geronimo and Bamboo Mañalac both pressed their buttons for him, vocalizing that he 'can be groomed to be a recording artist, a total package'. Although Espanto revealed that he was Mañalac's front act during one of his concerts in Canada, he still picked Geronimo stating that she could help him a lot in the music industry.
Espanto eventually advanced to the finals after singing Whitney Houston's "One Moment in Time" during the live semi-finals held at the Newport Performing Arts Theater in Resorts World Manila, Pasay. He was the second one to receive the highest votes, after Lyca Gairanod. Salonga, one of the coaches commented that Espanto is a phenomenal while his mentor Geronimo stated that he was 'a winner and a complete package'. He also sang "Somebody To Love" by Justin Bieber with some back up dancers, and Star Magic artists.
In the finale, during the first round which was a power ballad theme, Espanto performed Basil Valdez's song "Ngayon" where he received a standing ovation including from the three coaches. Lea Salonga left a warning to older performers, saying: "To every person Darren idolized, this is a warning to all of you: this kid will outshine you someday". Once again, Geronimo praised him and said that despite his talent, Espanto never showed superiority and instead listened to his coach. On the final round of the competition, Espanto accompanied himself with a piano during his performance of "You Are My Song" while having a duet with the original singer Martin Nievera, where received another standing ovation. At the end of the competition, he once again came in second after Lyca Gairanod.
2014–present: Post The Voice Kids
In 2014, Espanto said that he will not go back to Canada, Alberta, and that he was staying in the Philippines to try acting and do a project with his coach and mentor, Sarah Geronimo. In August, Espanto became a part of ABS-CBN's training and management center Star Magic.
Espanto's rendition of Whitney Houston's "One Moment in Time" topped the Philippine charts of Apple's iTunes store on September 11, while his rendition of Justin Bieber's "Somebody to Love" placed second. He then staged his first solo concert at the Music Museum; a repeat of the concert was staged on December 19, 2014.
On October 25, he made his Carnegie Hall debut as the headliner at the Fourth The Outstanding Filipino Americans in New York Awards, which celebrated Filipino American History Month in New York City. His rendition of "O Little Town of Bethlehem" topped the iTunes chart on November 18, while his rendition of Jessie J's "Domino" placed second. These were the only two local songs to be included on the top 15.
On November 29, 2014, Espanto signed a record and management deal with MCA Music Inc. (Philippines). A week after, he and the other three finalists of The Voice Kids (Lyca Gairanod, Juan Karlos Labajo, and Darlene Vibares) held a concert at the Philippine International Convention Center. He also released his first solo album, "Darren", with MCA Music Inc. (Philippines). It debuted at number 1 at the Philippine charts of Apple's iTunes Store upon its release on December 8.
In January 2015, Espanto performed Trina Belamide's "Tell The World of His Love" (the theme for World Youth Day 1995) during Pope Francis's visit to the Philippines. On May 29, Darren performed at the Mall of Asia Arena for his birthday concert making him the youngest performer to stage a solo concert in the said venue.
On November 18, Espanto was one of the singers performing at a state dinner for a delegation from Mexico.
In 2016, Espanto released his sophomore album "Be With Me". The album contains 11 songs from the singer, two of which are his original compositions.
On July 31, 2016, Espanto opened for the Philippine leg of Selena Gomez's Revival tour.
On May 4, 2017 during his twitter party, Espanto surprised his fans with a deluxe edition of his sophomore solo album entitled Be With Me, to be released the following day. Be With Me (Deluxe Edition) contains 5 bonus tracks: “I’ll Be There” with Jed Madela, Acoustic versions of “7 Minutes” and “Alam”, the viral hit, his cover of Sia’s “Chandelier”, and a stripped version of Young Hearts with Malaysian pop singer Nik Qistina.