What is P-Pop?
Not only 2020 had ended but also an era of JPop seemingly came to an end. Arashi, a legend in the genre, officially retired from performing as a group. It was a sad day for Arashians/Arasick. I have known the group quite late but has been and still listening to their music as of late. They gifted their supporters with really great songs such as Whenever You Call, Party Starters and In the Summer. These songs have mostly English lyrics so it’s a bonus to international fans.
But if many Japanese pop enthusiasts are sad, Filipinos are up for a treat this past few months. Pop isn’t new in the Philippine music scene, but unlike KPop,Pilipino Pop or PPop isn’t as popular, but slowly picking up.
Pop fans are crazy about Kpop. Except for it being really upbeat and fun, many people attribute it partly to Sandara Park aka Dara of 2NE1’s popularity. Dara was a phenomenon in the country when she joined a reality talent search Star Circle Quest. Her fame intensified the Hallyu/Korean wave in the Philippines. Groups such as Super Junior, Bigbang, Exo are extremely famous and continued to the third generation groups up to present. BTS, EXO, Twice, Blackpink among others are a craze nowadays.
So what’s PPop and how it started?
As these Korean groups are garnering millions of followers and views on social media and music platforms, one Filipino group caught the attention of many netizens. A practice video went viral overnight in 2019, gaining over a million views and shared in multiple social networking sites. The group is called SB19. It is a sing and dance group, with rap lines and tight choreography.
Who are SB19?
SB19 is a five-member group whose ages range from 21 to 26 at the time their video became viral. Their name SB19 was from the initials of their talent company ShowBT but they gave a different meaning to it, Sound Break because they want to break into the music scene in the country. The number 19 however are the sum of the digits of the Philippines(63) and Korea’s country codes (82) hence, 6+3+8+2 is 19. Why Korea though?
This group was trained under Korean training system. ShowBT is a Korean company but the boys trained in the Philippines. According to them, they were trained not to imitate Kpop, rather, they had the intensive trainings that Korean idols get, but their music is solely Filipino and their purpose is to promote it to wider audience. Filipinos are known to be great singers and are vocally superior that even international audience recognize, unfortunately, they haven’t penetrated the international arena yet.
How they started
Just like other groups, they had humble beginnings. Initially, there were hundreds of trainees who were regularly evaluated and gradually eliminated or some just gave up. The hundreds of trainees were finally down to the final lineup which was the five of them. They trained for a total of four years without earning financially. They admitted that at some point, they also thought of giving up but went back because of their dreams. Their viral video is a product of 1000 times of practice of the whole song!
The group debuted with a ballad song entitled Tilaluha, unfortunately, the song went unnoticed. They performed in some events but only had less than twenty people watching them. But that didn’t stop them from giving their best. In later interviews, the leader said they perform with the same intensity whether the audience is small or big, or even no audience at all.
More than the physical exhaustion, the group also braved criticisms early in their careers. In a press conference for their song Go Up, a song which lyrics are about their group’s story and also the song for the viral dance practice video, they were bombarded with harsh questions.
The members of the press kept asking them how they could promote PPop, if in fact, they sound and look like Kpop. The leader smartly answered with a fact, ” The genre Pop is not owned by anyone. Even Kpop is influenced by other countries like Jpop and American pop. People can recognize Kpop only because it is the most popular right now.”
Other questions during the presscon were low blows and personal. They were asked about their gender preferences. They were attacked with their visuals. One even pointed out that only one member is good looking and is likely to carry the group on his own, to which the members respectfully answered that the achievement of one is an achievement for the group and that they don’t feel jealous to each other, rather, they make up for each other’s weaknesses. As for their visuals, they replied that since they style themselves, they choose to be comfortable instead.
What’s their edge compared to other Pop groups from other countries?
Except for music, Filipinos are also known to be rather good at speaking English. It is a huge edge for the group since they can use the language easier to communicate to their audience and to use in their music as well. In fact, most of their song lyrics are a mixture of Tagalog and English. They aim to promote the Filipino music internationally, and if given the chance to perform and be known worldwide just like Kpop now, they said they’d proudly raise the Philippine flag.
The group is composed of well-rounded individuals. They have unofficial roles in the group but all five can sing, dance and rap. They even act in their vlogs and in fact, only recently, they released a short film for Christmas. Aside from these, they compose, arrange, choreograph and produce their songs. They conceptualize, edit and direct their videos. They often do their own hair and makeup and style themselves, too. It is safe to say that the group have the artistic freedom and capacity for that matter.
What are their activities and achievements so far?
To show their gratitude, the group were supposed to do concerts to 10 different cities in the country including an Araneta Stadium concert but was not able to finish due to the pandemic. They had several TV appearances and shows. They graced various magazine covers. Their biggest stage was a concert in Cuneta Astrodome. The seating capacity was around 12 000. Tickets were sold out in less than 3 minutes. The tours and concerts were free!
All other activities were halted but in November 2020, they held their first virtual concert which was available to all countries except China and Indonesia. Despite the absence of a real audience, their performance was superb.
Brands also took notice of their influence. They have bagged endorsements such as Lucky Me/Monde Nissin(instant noodle), TM/Globe (mobile service provider), Pepsi (beverage) and Samsung (mobile phone) Philippines among others.
Perhaps the highlight of their long list of achievement is penetrating the Elite top 10 of the Billboard charts for multiple weeks. SB19 was the first and only Southeast Asian act to enter the Billboard charts, even peaking at #2,only behind BTS in the Social 50 and ranked #6 in the yearend list. Locally, they have received various awards from several music award-giving bodies. And with all these, they never failed to thank their supporters, the A’tin for making it happen for them.
How’s the reception and the impact to the local music scene?
The group is introducing a new concept and sound to Filipino ears. Pop genre isn’t new but the sound they are introducing is. Their fans are called A’tin because they said, there is no 19 without A’tin (sounds like 18) and in Tagalog, it is read as ‘atin’ (uh-tin) which literally means ‘ours’. All their achievements they said are ‘ours’, not just theirs. They have over a million subscribers and followers in their SNS.
But not all Filipinos support them. Many are skeptical about them, even saying they are poor Kpop copycats despite the Tagalog lyrics and performances in famous cultural landmarks in the country. The boys are aware of it but they said they won’t stop until the Filipinos would know and like their music and promised to always give better performances better than yesterday.
Despite the doubts, some other groups have emerged. One is even produced by a Korean company while others are organized and trained by big TV networks. SB19 didn’t sign up to any networks so they can appear to any of these stations. In spite of the lack of a big production behind them, the group are a constant trend on social media platforms. The fans vowed to introduce them to the world and true to their word, they work hard to keep them on trends list and make sure that their presence is felt. They introduce them to their friends and relatives and even call out networks and publications when they think an SB19 performance or achievements need more recognition.
SB19 paved the way for Ppop. Hopefully, the local talents and music will be known wider and farther around the globe. SB19 has gained a number of foreign supporters as manifested by foreign online content creators and vloggers reacting to their videos. They have impressed local and international spectators with their vocal powers, dancing skills and humble personalities. Local music has gained momentum and may it last long.
Who are the members?
John Paulo “Sejun” Nase – the leader/main rapper/lead vocal/dancer. He is the second eldest of the group and had the longest training among them. He took up Bachelor of Arts in English in college and worked as an Analyst in Makati. He was juggling work and training for quite sometime until he finally decided to give up his job, with the support of his parents, focused on his dreams. He is well-spoken. He has written some Korean rap verses. Many listeners would agree that his singing voice is so similar with that of Taeyang, a Bigbang member. His Kpop faves are Bigbang,BTS, Dean and Zico.
Josh Cullen “Josh” Santos – is the eldest/the gamer/main rapper/vocal/dancer. He was a member of a group with another SB19 member Stell. They used to cover Kpop group dances mainly BTS and Bigbang, competed and won several dance competitions locally and abroad and even met their idols, BTS in Korea. Josh had a dramatic and difficult childhood. He became independent at the age of 15. He used to work in a call center so he’s fluent in the language. He is also a professional online gamer. He loves Itzy and Twice but faves are BTS and Bigbang especially Gdragon.
Stellvester “Stell” Ajero – the happy pill/main vocal/lead dancer/choreographer. Everybody agrees that he is the life of the party and the most active in interacting with the fans. He finished Hotel and Restaurant Management so he obviously knows how to cook. He was part of a Kpop dance cover group with Josh. He loves animation such as Voltes V and Power Rangers and watches it with his nephew. He has lived in Japan for quite sometime. He also loves strawberries. Stell can reach really high notes. He sings Lady Gaga, Mariah Carey, Katy Perry among other song in original keys. He likes BTS but also love a lot of local singers.
Felip “Ken” Suson – the weird one/the fashionista/main dancer/vocal. He gave up his studies while in university (took BS Architecture) to focus on his training. He was the last member to join the group and did his audition online. He came from the southern part of the Philippines and he speaks Bisaya. He wrote some songs in their local language. He loves animations and always watches animes and manga. He can do flips and stunts and plays various musical instruments, too. He is known to be a fried-chicken lover and can eat it every meal. He likes Kai of Exo.
Justin de Dios – is the youngest (bunso is Filipino/Maknae in Korean)/main visual/vocal/dancer of the group and also the tallest. He graduated in one of the most prestigious universities in the country, De La Salle University with a degree of Multimedia Arts. He is the unofficial visual/face of the group and often mistaken to be a Korean although both of his parents are Filipinos. He is responsible for editing their videos and in fact, he conceptualized, drew and directed an animated official music video of one of their songs. He likes Kpop girl groups and can also dance to it. He likes Got7 especially the leader, JB.
As you may know, I am a big Kpop fan,too. I love Bigbang especially Gdragon. Music helps me get by on difficult days. It relieves my stress and during the pandemic, it saved my soul. But this time, it wasn’t only Kpop. It is when I discovered this group of young men pursuing their passion and have the heart not only to reach their dreams but to inspire other dreamers like them as well. And I don’t have to wait or read subtitles to understand. My heart won’t get broken once they reach the age where they have to go to the military because here, it’s not mandatory to do so.
My impression of this group is that they don’t just do music. When you listen to their songs, you listen to stories and feel emotions that are so relatable and relevant. These group are not just singers or dancers, but a group of artists who have the passion, the will, the character and most importantly, the intellect and attitude. They dream big and slowly get there. They don’t take shortcuts as the leader have said. No matter how big or small their successes are, they always appreciate and show gratitude to the people behind them. They remain humble. When there are issues with their fandom, they ask them to remain calm and “always choose to be kind”. They focus on their craft and they envision to carry the name of the country with them. With their dedication, hard work and vision, it is not impossible.