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Tony Hadley doesn’t know how to pronounce his own name, insists radio station amid competition controversy

By | Published on Thursday 21 May 2020

Tony Hadley

Singaporean radio station Gold 905 has offered a “goodwill gesture” to one of its listeners – thought to be half of the $10,000 prize money said listener believes he should have won in a recent on-air competition. This whole story comes down to the pronunciation of Tony Hadley’s name and an argument that has raged so fiercely that Hadley himself got involved.

Muhammad Shalehan entered Gold 905’s ‘Celebrity Name Drop’ competition in April. It required listeners to identify the voices of fourteen celebrities saying one word of the phrase: “Gold nine oh five, the station that sounds good and makes you feel good”. It’s a tricky task that partly involves digesting other listeners’ guesses and trying to work out which ones they got right.

Given all that trickiness, when Shalehan called in and read out his list – 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 – he wasn’t too surprised to be told that he hadn’t won.

However, he was somewhat surprised when a couple of weeks later someone did win the prize money with the exact same list. As were many other listeners. However, Gold 905 was adamant that it had been right to deny Shalehan the win on the basis that he had failed to pronounce one of the names in his list correctly – that of Tony Hadley – and that correctly pronouncing all the names on the list was one of the rules of the game.

As a result of that official position, whether or not Shalehan did pronounce Hadley’s name correctly has become something of a mini controversy. Shalehan and many other listeners believe that he did and that he therefore should have won the competition. But the station has held firm with its argument that he definitely pronounced Hadley’s name wrong.

In a moment of desperation, Shalehan searched online for Hadley’s contact details and stumbled across an email address for the former Spandau Ballet frontman’s manager. So he sent off an email which, perhaps surprisingly, actually got forwarded on to Hadley himself.

Despite having initially thought that that email must be some sort of scam, Hadley did subsequently formally enter the debate, siding with those who believe Shalehan is the true winner of the competition.

“I did listen to [the clip of Shalehan saying my name] several times, just to be really, really sure”, he tells the BBC. “And I thought – hold on, this guy is really genuine, it’s a lot of money, he’s done incredibly well to get to that point … To penalise him on a… well it wasn’t even a mispronunciation. So that’s why I [decided] I’m going to back this guy”.

Hadley recorded a video and emailed it back, saying: “Hi Muhammad. I’ve listened back to the tape and, as far as I’m concerned, you pronounced my name absolutely correctly. You might have had a slight accent, but as far as I’m concerned, you said my name correctly, so you should be entitled to whatever the prize was”.

So, an open and shut case. Except that Gold 905 isn’t buying Hadley’s claims. Of course he’d say that Shalehan’s pronunciation of his name was correct. He’s heard it so many times his name is just a noise to him now.

In the latest – and perhaps final – chapter of the story, Gold 905 has said once again that its decision is final. But the story does not have an entirely unhappy ending.

In a statement posted to its Facebook page the radio station says: “In the case of Mr Shalehan’s entry on 21 Apr, his pronunciation of ‘Hadley’ did not meet the criteria as stipulated in the rules of the contest. As a result, his entry was judged as not having all the correct answers. This rule was applied consistently across all the entries. We would like to assure listeners that all entries have been reviewed fairly and objectively by our judges, and our decision remains final”.

Emphasising its point – or not really – it also posted clips of Hadley, Shalehan and the eventual winner saying the name. All of which, accents aside, sound roughly the same.

“However”, it adds, “we are heartened by the passion shown by Mr Shalehan, firstly in participating in the contest and then in reaching out to us several times. Although we had communicated to Mr Shalehan that our decision was final according to the rules of the contest, we are touched by his commitment and resourcefulness – including reaching out to Tony Hadley”.

“We value all our listeners but, every once in a while, the kind of passion that Mr Shalehan showed made us realise how much connection we have with our listeners. So while our decision remains final, and this would not be something we normally do, as a gesture of goodwill, we have reached out to Mr Shalehan with a token of appreciation for his exceptional commitment to the contest and loyal support for Gold 905”.

The exact nature of this “gesture of goodwill” hasn’t been disclosed, but it is thought to be a payment of $5000 and a proverbial nudge in the ribs to shut the hell up now.