As one of the judges on Asia’s Got Talent, it’s not easy for Anggun to say no to a hopeful yet unqualified contestant.

“Some contestants have probably received so much encouragement from their family members. They have dreams to turn their talent into a professional career but they can’t… It’s really hard to be the one to break the reality to them,” Anggun, 43, said in a phone interview from Singapore.

Indonesian singer-songwriter Anggun along with music producer David Foster and Korean rapper Jay Park make up the judging panel for Asia’s Got Talent. Now in its second season, Anggun believes she and her fellow judges have somehow learned to master the art of handing out rejection. The key is to be kind.

“We try not to hurt them of course. When we have to say no, we try to be gentle,” she said.

It only gets harder when a contestant doesn’t take no for an answer.

“They are so convinced that they have talent and it just makes things complicated,” she continued.

Anggun on getting rejected by labels

Anggun’s singing career began in 1986 when she released her debut album Dunia Aku Punya at 12 years old. By the time she turned 20, the Jakarta-born songstress has already sold four million albums in Indonesia and even established her own record company. In 1994, she sold the company and left Indonesia to start a music career in Europe.

She was rejected by a number of labels and struggled to find her footing before achieving international success in 1997 with the hit single Snow On The Sahara.

If anything, Anggun would argue that rejection doesn’t mean it’s the end for a person’s hopes and dreams. For some, it could mean getting a chance to start over with a newfound perspective.

“When I got rejected, I appreciate it when they (the labels) told me why. I have to find out who I was first,” she recalled.

Details about new album

It made sense that Anggun would also be her own biggest critic. She is about to release her new album, her first since the French-language Toujours un ailleurs which came out in 2015. Anggun admits that she has kept fans waiting because she wants to put out the best.

“I would never do something that I’m not happy with and I have to be 100% sure about it. Plus, I’m actually my biggest critic. When I write songs, I tend to throw away a lot of what I’ve done. Sometimes, I rewrite. Then I’ll revisit my work, throw it away just to start again,” she explained.

Anggun added: “I don’t want to write songs that are useless. Songs have to change something, to inspire people or move them. With that in mind, it always takes time for me to be happy with what I’ve done.”

Some of the things that inspire her songwriting include movies, books, conversations with friends and even the smell of warm bread. Being a mother to a nine-year-old daughter living in France also makes the list.

She also writes about living in a foreign land. “The fact that I’m an Indonesian who has lived in Europe for a long time, but don’t understand many things about the country. And I will never understand. These unfamiliarities evoke feelings, and they are good to write about,” she said.

Anggun hints that the upcoming album which features her new single What We Remember will showcase different sides of her.

“If I have to put into words to describe my album, then it’s pop with grit and some rock,” she said, laughing.