It’s almost expected that Miss World will rejigger its competition format each year that it’s always a challenge keeping track of what rules would be in place.  This is because many times the organization only discloses the format later in the game, and even then there would be last-minute tweaks after the fact.  For instance, while most (including myself) assumed the competition format would be similar to last year except for the twist that the Head-to-Head Challenge would now be conducted in two rounds to ultimately select 10 instead of 20, it turns out more changes were afoot–instead of a 15-10-5 format like last year, it’s now whittling the 30 to a Top 12 with continental allocation (minimum two per region–Asia & Oceania, Africa, Europe, Caribbean, and Americas), and the Final Five is basically the continental winners.  The format is a throwback to the 2005-2006 editions but in a year where a certain region has a bevy of stellar standouts, it would be a bloodbath to secure those limited slots.  I remembered I was concerned about this back in 2007 with the strong group of Caribbean standouts, but they relaxed that rule and let merit prevail instead.

I have to take note that the stage featured an innovation that proves to be taking the contestants into consideration–there is like a semi-stadium set-up onstage divided into five sections for the five continents they set up, and seats are provided so while the host do their banter they are typically seated in their designated spaces (indicated by the flags lit below them).  Some noted it also created an impression that one is in a telethon, but then again, isn’t this pageant emphasizing the charity aspect?

Again, the Miss World organization decided to tap its hosts from generally either from within its ranks or from people they have had a long relationship with.  This year, there’s a twist as they decided to feature a pair dedicated for the Spanish speakers, so English (and most other languages) will feature the pair of Miss World 2013 Megan Young and Barney Walsh (longtime insider Donna Derby‘s son) and the Spanish team featured Mexican entertainer Fernando Allende and Miss World 2016 Stephanie del Valle.  For the Chinese audience in the venue, the veteran ageless host Angela Chow is the main host of the proceedings.  Mister World 2012 finalist Frankie Cena is back doing backstage commentary and the off-camera announcer is gameskeeper and Julia Morley‘s presumed successor, her son Stephen Douglas.  We all know the caliber of Angela Chow’s hosting by now and Megan is also near-flawless.  I don’t know much about Stephanie’s hosting because I’m viewing the English broadcast, but I presume she’s strong.  Fernando is also smooth since he’s a veteran and Barney is basically competent.

Prior to 2016, we see the contestants doing at most three wardrobe changes–one for Dances of the World,  and one for evening gowns.  They added cocktail dresses from 2016 for the first round of announcements.  But this year, there is an additional wardrobe change as for the opening number the ladies performed in glittery midriff-baring T-shirts and athletic shorts as they accompnay Voice UK 2018 runner-up Donel Mangena as he performed his single “Bang Like A Drum”.  To his credit, the tropical-infused electronic song is very much in line with current music trends, but it hasn’t quite caught a break in the UK charts.

Of course the key highlight of recent editions of this pageant is the “Dances of the World” segment, with the contestants bedecked in danceable national costumes and showcasing their culture.  This year’s twist features THAILAND (Nocolene Pichapa Limsnukan) taking centerstage with her flag routine as the ladies gather onstage, set to a peppy girl-power rap song, before seguing to the traditional dance sequence.  This time, to feature more contestants dancing, several of them were presented in pairs or groups, with a smattering of solos tossed in.  It’s as enjoyable as always.

As is customary in recent editions, they do recaps of activities and then use that opportunity to announce the winners of the head-to-head challenges and the fast-track events.  On top of that they guaranteed that the Top Five of BWAP are granted sltos in the Top 30 too, leaving only 13 slots for the judges’ interview.

Besides the aforementioned Donel Mangena and a performance from the Talent winner JAPAN (Kanako Date) there are three other music performances during the show.  There was Kazakh singer Dimash Kudaibergen singing his Chinese language ballad “An Unforgettable Day“.  His key characteristic is his multi-octave vocal range, and it was impressive.  I’m not crazy about sentimental ballads, but there is an audience for this.  It also served as the moment the non-finalists changed from cocktail dresses to evening gowns.

Fernando Allende has been using the show as a platform to premiere music videos to his song.  Last year, he premiered “Tombola“, and this year it’s “Despeinada [Disheveled]”.  From the more traditional Latin sound of last year’s song, this year it’s a more an early 1960s-sounding beach bopper, with the Miss World contestants serving as eye-candy backdrop.  It doesn’t sound like what is currently hot in Latin music (as they are seeped in reggaeton and cumbia these days), so I’m not really crazy about this.

Hearkening back to editions in the late 1990s to mid-2000s, they decided to hire a veteran act with at least an immortal chestnut to perform.  This year, it’s Sister Sledge as they performed their eternal disco chestnut “We Are Family” not once but twice, first after the continental queens were announced and then after the winner was announced.  I adore this song, and the sisters look great even after 40 years since the song came out, but I have to say, the ladies are about 70% of their full power as I hear some off-pitch moments–partly because they are now reduced from a quartet to a trio.  Actually, only two of the original sisters, Debbie and Kim, are still in this act, as youngest sister Kathy chose to concentrate on a solo career and Joni passed away last year.  So who’s the third member singing along with them?  It’s a guest artist, Tanya Tiet.  Actually this act also has some other great songs in their repertoire, like “He’s the Greatest Dancer” (which is sampled in Will Smith‘s No. 1 smash “Getting Jiggy with It“) and then there is the retro 1985 UK no. 1 hit, “Frankie“.  But then again, neither of those songs seem to fit the tone of the pageant, even if “Frankie” could’ve been an opportunity for a corny production number featuring backstage host Frankie Cena, but I have a feeling he’s not game for that, so we’re left with making them perform the same song twice.