January 23, 2021

He was denied $7,000 prize because of how he said a pop star’s name. Then the pop star weighed in.


(CNN) — Spandau Ballet front man and 1980s icon Tony Hadley stepped in to solve a long-running controversy in Singapore that hinged on the pronunciation of his surname.

The uproar concerned a contest by radio station Gold 905 that promised 10,000 Singapore dollars ($7,030 U.S.) and a shopping spree to the first listener who could identify 14 celebrities just by their voices, each saying one word.

The “Celebrity Name Drop” contest started on March 16. After weeks of listening to callers’ incorrect guesses, Muhammad Shalehan thought he knew the answer.

On April 21, Shalehan called in and recited his list of 14 names, starting with Hadley’s. He was told he had gotten 13 correct, and better luck next time.

The game continued for more than two weeks, with no correct answers. On May 6, Jerome Tan called in and gave the same list of 14 names as Shalehan had — and was declared the winner.

Immediately the station was inundated with messages on social media from confused fans, asking the same question: What about Shalehan?

The station’s response: “He mispronounced Tony Hadley. We hope this clarifies!”

A recording posted on the station’s Facebook account confirmed that Shalehan’s pronunciation could have been heard as “Hedley.”

Shalehan’s backers pointed out that Tan referred to “Belinda Car-lall,” rather than Carlisle.

Gold 905 was unmoved. “Our decision remains final,” it said.

But Shalehan, a 32-year-old subway worker, had one last card to play: He got a message to Hadley.

“At first I thought, is it a hoax? Is someone on a wind-up?” Hadley told CNN, speaking about his reaction after getting a message forwarded from his manager. It was the first he had heard of the weeks-long controversy.

“I looked into it and realized that this chap had, I thought, won fairly and squarely,” he added. “I didn’t understand what the problem was, I thought he certainly pronounced my name correctly.”

So Hadley filmed a video telling Shalehan he deserved his winnings.

On Thursday, the station posted an apology: “Since Tony Hadley has said that Mr Shalehan said his name correctly, who are we to disagree? The full prize of $10,000 cash and shopping spree will also be awarded to Mr Shalehan.”

After the turnabout, Shalehan told CNN that, while the controversy raged, the station had privately offered him a lesser reward as  a “goodwill” gesture.

“When (they) offered me the ‘consolation prize,’ I felt a bit insulted,” Shalehan told CNN. That was when he decided to take his battle to the man who’s got the power to know.

“He obviously felt pretty aggrieved, and rightly so,” Hadley told CNN. “… When I listened to his pronunciation of my name I thought, well, there’s nothing wrong with that at all.”

With that, Shalehan’s persistence was finally rewarded.

Now the story has gone viral — and nobody is more surprised than Hadley himself. “I didn’t know it was going to go global,” the 59-year-old singer said. “I suppose everyone at these times is looking for a nice outcome.”

(Hadley’s word in the Celebrity Name Drop, by the way, was “gold” —  the name of a 1983 Spandau Ballet hit. The 14-word phrase was “Gold 9-0-5, the station that sounds good and makes you feel good.” The celebrities: Tony Hadley, Madonna, Maggie Wheeler, Ellen DeGeneres, Jim Carrey, George Clooney, David Bowie, Belinda Carlisle, Julie Andrews, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Meryl Streep, Michael Buble, Rebecca Lim.)


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Author: CNN.com