Worth a listen: February 2021 in music

Audiophiles, want to know what’s up in the world of music this month? Check out my rundown below!

Dark pop songstress Naomi G upholds feminist virtues on new song “Prey”

Singapore-based artist Naomi G has released her contemplative pop single “Prey” in an attempt to reclaim greater tenure as a woman knowing her worth in a relationship. The track, invocative of Banks’ chilling despair on some notes and The Weeknd’s midnight sentiments on others, resolves itself by criticizing structural behaviors that oppress women and upholding virtues that are necessary to curb patriarchal pressures. 

As Naomi G puts it, “I wanted to empower young people who are faced with unwanted or unhealthy sexual attention that causes them to psycho-socially feel like ‘Prey’. This song is an anthem of power to those who have been gaslighted, dominated, manipulated, harassed and controlled based on their gender and looks. This song is a movement about saying no quickly and firmly, whilst understanding all the microaggressions that be before getting into any kind of deception.”

“Prey” is a brooding synth-pop jam that begins with motif-roving synths whose presence comes in forcibly and dips out in an exhale after the purposeful exercise of each line. A minimal percussion drives it, morphing into a choppy, playful, and hard-hitting stomper that’s enough to catch listener’s attention. 

The resulting musical concoction builds up into a riveting climax where dark pop, trap and hip-hop accents come together seamlessly, complementing pop feminism in its own terms. 

“Prey” is the second single for Naomi G’s debut EP which is scheduled for release over 2021.

SZA makes a splash on PH charts with hit single “Good Days

The numbers are in: SZA’s “Good Days” is officially her biggest hit to date in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world. In the country alone, the soulful single remains unstoppable with its No. 2 peak at Spotify Philippines Viral 50 and a top 15 placement at Spotify Philippines Top 50.

Over at mainstream radio, the critically acclaimed R&B songstress is performing well on several top 40 stations. This week, “Good Days” ranks No. 5 on 99.5 Play FM, a major pop station; No. 7 on Wave 89.1 FM, a rhythmic and urban-leaning station; and has gained prominent spots on Magic 89.9 (No. 23), and more.

“Good Days,” the second track following 2020’s “Hit Different,” is one of her two new headline releases since 2017’s groundbreaking multi-platinum debut, CTRL—an album that garnered significant critical attention for “laying bare the kind of vulnerability most often whispered in private” and for its “believable insights into one woman’s quest for erotic self-determination.”

Written and produced by SZA, Jacob Collier, Carlos Muñoz, Carter Lang, and Christopher Ruelas and mixed by Shawn Everett, the laid-back tune was released as a surprise drop on Christmas eve last year. More than a week after its debut, the buzzy empowerment anthem skyrocketed at No. 1 on US Spotify Streaming Chart, and has since peaked within the top 10 of other major music markets including the US, UK, Australia, Ireland, Belgium, and New Zealand.

To date, the track has racked up more than 75 million streams on Spotify and more than 20 million cumulative hits on YouTube in just a month.

Aside from its commercial triumph, “Good Days” also made an indelible impression among music critics. Hip-hop magazine, The Source praised the new song for “mastering bliss and serenity all at once.” The publication adds, “In particular, the rawness of her vocals creates an ethereal energy that dives deeper into SZA`s unmatched creativity as a songwriter.” British music bible, NME called her comeback single “worth the wait,” citing how her voice has grown more sophisticated and carefree through the years.

Elha Nympha reasserts confidence with new soulful single, “Do It”

Elha Nympha arrives with both finesse and maturity on “Do It,” her comeback single under MCA Music Inc.

Now exploring a more sophisticated take on R&B, pop, and neo-soul, the former champion of The Voice Kids Season 2 reasserts confidence and sass in delivering a romantic confession that appeals beyond her particular demographic.

When she sings, “Come on over a little closer / Take me where I’ve never been,” she takes full control of the quiet storm brewing: her voice fluttering effortlessly over dreamy arrangements and soft keyboard tones, taking the spotlight with ease.

“Do It” is a suave R&B jam that tackles the beauty of taking bolder steps when it comes to love. Upon hearing the song for the first time, Elha got excited to record the material as it barely sounds like anything she’s recorded in the past. “I’m happy with where the direction of my music is going,” the 16-year-old star said in a statement. “Do It unravels a more vulnerable side of my artistry, and this is exactly the kind of music that I want to keep making—something that is young and current, but very much me.”

“Do It” has earned comparisons with the likes of SZA, Jhené Aiko, and H.E.R., embracing the fundamental agency of womanhood and young love in all its messiness and glory. While Elha is elated with the feedback that she’s been getting from her mentors and music listeners, she wants to forge a path of her own and make music that is distinctly a product of her own sense of style and adventurousness. The promising pop sensation admits, “As a fan, I can definitely see myself doing the same kind of music. But there’s more to my sound than being pigeonholed into a category. For now, I’m ready for where this journey would take me, musically. I’m definitely looking forward to creating something that is original and unique.”

SB19’s Justin De Dios stars as Alex Bruce’s love interest in “Yakap” music video

SB19 fans (or A’TIN) are in for a treat as their very own Justin De Dios makes a surprise cameo in the music video of Alex Bruce’s endearing bop “Yakap”—released on February 5 (Friday) on video-sharing platform, YouTube.
Justin De Dios portrays Alex Bruce’s love interest in this visual spectacle filled with incredibly surreal and romantic scenes. “It’s a fun and creative concept,” De Dios said. “I really like the fact that the MV showcases both the ‘maangas’ and cute sides of Alex.”

Appearing like a P-pop charmer that Alex Bruce has been pining for in her dreams, De Dios was seen exchanging smiles with the young hip-hop sensation, sharing cute moments together as they engage in pillow fights, fake tattooing, and other onscreen activities.

According to the R&B/hip-hop star, working with Justin De Dios was totally fun, especially given how friendly and warm he is with everyone on the set. Alex Bruce fondly shares in a statement, “I’m really into Korean dramas, and Justin somehow looked the part: innocently good-looking and very much charismatic. As a leading man, he really shone effortlessly in terms of acting, and gave us the kilig that we truly deserve.”

De Dios returns the favor by praising Alex Bruce’s artistry and talent. “I am really impressed with her skills. I wanted to introduce her to A’TIN as she could be a source of inspiration for a lot of young dreamers too.” He recounts how Alex was very shy during their first meet, but as the shoot went on, they eventually got along very well. “She’s an interesting kid, and we had a lot of fun talking to each other about random things. One thing I also noticed while working with her is how close she is to her parents. It’s very adorable!”

Alex Bruce is grateful to the production for allowing her to showcase some of her personal artworks and Beanie Boos collection. “I love owls, so there’s plenty of them in my shelf—as seen in the music video. I had a great time drawing and showcasing my artworks for the very first time. I hope it won’t be the last.”

“Yakap” was penned by Bruce as a tribute to young love, and was conceived as a three-way collaboration featuring the fourteen-year-old teen star, her Australia-based dad, and music producer Cursebox. The song garnered significant attention in late October 2020 for its infectious pop sensibilities and to quote Rappler, for its “first brushes at puppy love.”

Foo Fighters release tenth studio album: Medicine at Midnight

Foo Fighters have finally released their highly anticipated 10th studio album, Medicine at Midnight under Roswell Records/RCA Records.

Following delays due to the unprecedented challenges of releasing an album during the pandemic, Medicine at Midnight finally landed late last week with nine tracks of power-driven, anthemic rock tunes that drummer Taylor Hawkins described as more “pop-oriented” than previous releases.

On its first day, the American rock band’s latest record peaked at No. 1 on several iTunes album charts worldwide, and is raring for one of rock music’s biggest debuts on major music markets this year, including the United States, UK, Australia, and more. It also garnered significant traction from several music publications worldwide, with Wall Street Journal calling it “one of Foo Fighters’ best albums of this century,” and British music publication, NME declaring the new release as “the soundtrack to the summer we all crave.”

Medicine at Midnight’s release wraps up Foo Fighters’ week-long partnership with Spotify, which featured surprise ‘Midnight Drops’ of exclusive video, audio, and playlist content— an occasion marked by the band’s larger than life appearance on Spotify’s Times Square billboard.

To celebrate the release of their new album, the Foo Fighters will host a special six-part radio series: Medicine at Midnight Radio on Apple Music Hits. Each band member will host an hour-long episode where they’ll explore their personal inspirations and reflect on the creative process behind the album. Fans can tune in every day next week, beginning Monday, February 8th at 4:00p PST on Apple Music Hits at apple.co/FFRadio and simultaneously on the band’s new limited-run SiriusXM channel, Foo Fighters Radio (channel 105). Dave also joined Zane Lowe on his daily Apple Music 1 show earlier this week to chat about the album.

Medicine at Midnight is produced by Greg Kurstin and Foo Fighters, engineered by Darrell Thorp and mixed by Mark “Spike” Stent.

Foo Fighters are Dave Grohl, Taylor Hawkins, Nate Mendel, Chris Shiflett, Pat Smear, and Rami Jaffee.

YouTube sensations Agassi Ching and Jai Asuncion star in Sponge Cola’s “Siguro Nga” music video

Content creators Agassi Ching and Jai Asuncion are featured in the latest music video of Sponge Cola’s “Siguro Nga.”

The onscreen and offscreen love team amassed a fandom in social media with pranks, viral videos, and challenges. In “Siguro Nga,” JaiGa—as they are popularly known for—portray a fictional romantic couple in disarray.

According to the band’s vocalist and guitarist Yael Yuzon, Agassi is a dear friend whom he plays basketball with every Tuesday. “I also produced the song he wrote for Jai during the stricter quarantine period through file sharing,” he said. “I also watch their daily vlogs. On some level, I felt like I was always involved in their love story. It just made sense to cast them.”

The video shows Agassi Ching singing “Siguro Nga” in a neon-lit karaoke bar, while Jai Asuncion is in the very same room with friends, silently crying and hurting inside. Separated by their own version of realities, both characters try to move forward with the changes in their respective lives, albeit having a difficulty wiping out their memories together—especially with the song forever binding them in spirit.

“A person’s go-to videoke song says so much about who they are and what they are about,” Yuzon reveals. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

Guitarist Armo Armovit shares that the visual treatment focuses on honoring people who are no longer present by living lives with meaning and memory. “We want them to feel nostalgia for a person in their past who was a meaningful presence in their lives; sadness for the loss, but also, hope for the future.”

The music video also comes with a meta-karaoke version of the track that allows fans to sing their hearts out and engage with the narrative.

Inspired by the hit K-drama, StartUp, Sponge Cola’s “Siguro Nga” was written by Yael Yuzon as a tribute to one of its beloved characters, Han Ji-Pyeong. Its lyric video features various footage from Seoul, South Korea that includes locations from the series.

Zack Tabudlo maps his music journey with new single “Iyong-Iyo”

The beginning of Zack Tabudlo’s Island Records journey saw the young singer-songwriter going full speed ahead. His song ‘Sigurado’ hit the Top Viral PH charts and stayed there for four weeks, following its feature in the online series Your Home. There’s also ‘Cruel,’ whose music video was released a few months ago and has racked up more than 70,000 views on YouTube and more than 240,000 streams on Spotify.

Zack’s biggest single to date, the first one under Island Records Philippines, is the sultry ‘Nangangamba,’ whose play count on Spotify clocks in at over a million streams.

And Zack shows no signs of slowing down, as evidenced by his latest single ‘Iyong Iyo.’ Written by Tiny Corpuz and performed by Zack Tabudlo, ‘Iyong Iyo’ sees Zack putting it all on the line and giving everything—literal possession. “Kahit pa ba sa kabilang buhay, ‘di maglalaho,” he croons in the glimmering chorus, showcasing his lyrical penchant for themes like romance and longing. Gentle harmonies and mellow instrumentation make you feel like you’re floating, and allow Zack to flex the upper register of his vocal range, his high notes triumphant and sincere.

“I was really in touch with making the album art of the song as well, having a Halloween-like ghost costume in it which shows a person under a white cloth with holes in it, but has this heart glowing from his chest,” says Zack. “He wants to be like the ghost to really feel the same connection, with his heart glowing, symbolizing how much love he feels for the ghost.”

According to Zack, the song was inspired by the original Thai song for the “Let’s Fight Ghost” series, which is set to air on March 2021. The acclaimed singer-songwriter and producer shares, “I wanted to take it to a different world with different styles and vibe compared to the original. It has a very slow blues-pop feel to it production wise. I wanted to go for something mellow having the foundation from the original one but has a “slow dance” feel to it instead of going full ballad.”

Ben&Ben surprise listeners with Valentine’s-themed track “Inevitable”

Filipino folk-pop outfit Ben&Ben have officially dropped a soaring new single called “Inevitable” this Valentine’s Day via Sony Music.

Inspired by recent events surrounding the band’s lives, their latest song encourages listeners and music fans to live in the moment freely and truthfully without the need to succumb to expectations.

Ushering into a reinvigorating sense of calm, the empowering track ascends to a place where love can be inevitably beautiful even in its simple, unassuming terms. It was written by Paolo Benjamin (lead vocals and acoustic guitars) during a random afternoon run by the beach near the place where Ben&Ben live—coming into fruition after a solitary moment spent with nature and the spiritual force above him. Paolo reflects, “Inevitable is a song that tries to describe the nature of fate, and how all our actions somehow lead us to some better place that is destined for us. It’s also a song about being real with someone, and that no matter how scary that may seem at times, there is freedom in bearing your truest nature with someone dear to you, even if that someone is yourself.”

Production-wise, Ben&Ben retain the sonic hallmarks of their prior releases, while employing ultimately rewarding experiments in texture and tone. Its ‘world music-meets-acid jazz’ sound displays the band’s newfound musical direction, melding sporadic bursts of colors with their otherworldly approach. Thanks to the song’s eclectic blend of sitar-sounding riffs, propellent rhythms, jazzy chords, and ethereal arrangements, the nine-piece band ventures beyond the confines of their radio-ready sound without alienating the distinct pop sensibilities that made their songs a streaming and crossover hit in the Philippines, and elsewhere in Asia.

“The songwriting in itself presents a concept of the state that is both a surreal mystery and a peaceful certainty, so we wanted to create an aural representation of what these lyrics felt like,” Miguel Benjamin (lead vocals and acoustic guitars) reveals in a statement. “Our process started with a mix of acoustic guitars, which I tweaked with sitar effects as the main intro riff; kind of like a representation of the two contrasting feelings working together. We then built everything around this contrasting union with Jam’s drums and Agnes’ bass carrying the steady base of the song, and then Pat’s piano, Poch’s electric guitar and pads, Keifer’s violin, Andrew and Toni’s percussions; Andrew, Miguel, Poch, and Toni’s backing vocals, and some ambient sounds.”

Unlike their usual process where the members of the band jam their song a few times before recording the material, “Inevitable” was born out of a shift in production perspective. “With this song however, we decided to record a demo individually then went to record our parts a few days after without knowing how the song would sound like in the end,” Poch Barretto (lead guitar, backing vocals) said. “During the time we were creating the song, one of our bandmates, Toni, was also recovering from a major surgery and had to record her parts from home. Thankfully she was able to send her parts on time with the help of our producer.”

Despite the several challenges during its recording phase, “Inevitable” ended up reaping significant attention before its actual release. The song eventually made it as the official theme of Smart Communications’ newest commercial ad featuring Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin—stars of the highly acclaimed and popular Korean drama, Crash Landing on You. Patricia Lasaten shares, “Many of us are mega fans of the CLOY couple, so this is definitely a dream collaboration with Smart. We can’t help but be kilig and at the same time wish that our co-fans who would hear the song would also connect it with the evolving story of Hyun Bin and Son Ye Jin. It’s also our gift to the fans, and to the couple as well. We’d like to thank Smart for this amazing opportunity.”

Details provided in recent press releases.

Author: Gel Jose

Manic Pixie Dream Girl Wannabe, Imagineer, Foodie, TV Addict and Lifelong Learner

5 thoughts on “Worth a listen: February 2021 in music”

  1. iba dn tlaga ang goodvibes na dala kapag nakikinig ka ng ganito kagagandang music hayy tanggal stress, minsan mapapasabay ka pa nga sa pagkanta heheh hilig q makinig ng music lalo na sa gabi, pampaantok.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sa twing feeling ko stress na ako sa araw araw . Nkikinig nlng ako ng mga music lalo na ung fave ko na music para kahit papaano mwala ung stress ko at nkakarelax din mkinig ng music 😍❤️

    Liked by 1 person

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