Come together, folks— Project: Aloft Star 2018, a singing contest in the UAE, promises one winner the opportunity to record a single at the iconic Abbey Road Studios in the UK, renamed after The Beatles album that made it famous.

The contest’s champion will get to digitally release their single worldwide under Universal Music Group, among other perks.

Starting from September 18, and up until October 6, unsigned artists above the age of 21 can enter the contest by submitting a short biography and a video of themselves performing an original song online.

Submissions will be judged on their originality — no covers — and their creativity, as well as quality of performance, entertainment value, artistic composition and an ability to capture an audience.

Last year’s winner was the UAE-based North Carolina-native Stephon LaMar. His contemporary pop-R’n’B songs made him stand out of the crowd. He recorded and released the single Love on the Internet, along with its accompanying music video. LaMar told Gulf News tabloid! that hearing his music played on the radio was surreal.

“To be chosen out of such an incredible group as the winner felt amazing. My popularity has definitely grown in the region since the competition. It’s been a fun experience,” he said.

Life after the competition sees LaMar performing at Dubai’s Soho Garden on Saturday nights. His fellow 2017 finalist, Canadian-Lebanese singer-songwriter Danny Aridi, performs on Saturday nights at Iris Dubai.


This year, four finalists will be chosen in November after two elimination rounds: one by a judging panel, and one by fan vote.

They will be mentored by regional music professionals, including Lebanese pop singer – and a former contestant on The Voice France – Anthony Touma. Touma advises the musicians to do their best and enjoy the ride.

“From experience, being in a talent search competition could prove to be very difficult for an artist,” said Touma.

“When and if criticised, learn from it and don’t take it personally. You will never be able to please everyone’s different tastes and there’s always room for improvement. Not winning the competition is not a failure.”

Touma’s fellow mentor will be DJ Mark Shakedown, who works for streaming service Anghami. He shared insights on what audiences are looking for today.

“People these days want to play music that suits their specific mood and activity at that moment,” said Shakedown. “In general, most people love familiar music that they can sing along to, so a song with a catchy hook is often a winner.”

Meanwhile, UAE-based DJ Shaun Warner, also a mentor, said it’s about more than just making good music.

“That’s about half of the process. I’m looking to make sure people understand what it takes to get your music out there. Having a great song is just the beginning,” said Warner.

Revolt Magazine founder Big Hass rounds up the list of mentors.


This year’s judges are the CEO of Universal Music Mena, Patrick Boulos; VP Partnerships at Anghami, Rami Zeidan; and Virgin Radio hosts, Maz & James.

Four finalists will perform on November 6 at Aloft City Centre Deira, where a winner will be crowned. The front-runner will head to Abbey Road Studios for a single-day session of up to 10 hours, receive mentoring from record label executives and producers, and have the chance to film a music video at an Aloft location.