Worth a listen: January 2021 in Music

The local and international music scene continues to evolve and thrive despite the limitations resulting from the global pandemic. In this post, I have listed the hottest news in music for the first month of 2021 for you music lovers to enjoy.

In 2020, Bryan Estepa released two new songs, continuing on from the success of his exceptional 2019 album Sometimes I Just Don’t Know. The second of those singles, ‘Admit Now, Pay Later’, received a video premiere on Rolling Stone Australia, was featured on NME Australia and had strong national radio airplay – including selection as one of the featured Singles of the Week on 2ser FM in Sydney. Now the Sydney-based Filipino songwriter reveals the second of his collaborative efforts with multi ARIA and APRA award-winning Australian songwriter Josh Pyke.

Estepa has always had an undeniable ear for hooks. Combined with classic pop and rock arrangements, (like his heroes You Am I, The Beatles and Wilco) his songs always possess a timeless quality. He’s proved it over and over again across six acclaimed albums and live shows in Australia, Japan, the USA, UK, Spain, Sweden and the Philippines.  

On ‘Trick of the Light’, Estepa combines heavenly melodies and a melancholic air on this irresistible slice of indie guitar pop, singing about acceptance, letting go and allowing yourself to feel whatever it is that comes out while you’re treading new waters. As always with his songwriting, there are layered poetic brushstrokes in the way Estepa blends and informs his songs with multiple meanings, as he explains. “I also like the idea that the presence of light does not necessarily signal happiness or life but can also mean that emotions and perception can be blurred by its appearance.”

Working with Pyke, Estepa was impressed with the producer’s instinct and ability to enhance the inherent strengths of Estepa’s songs. “It’s exciting watching Josh work! You sense that his creative light is always on and he needs to get his ideas out quickly before it starts to flicker. He takes on what I think the song’s direction might be but adds a couple of detours that are normally right on the money.”

Pyke is quick to reciprocate the praise. “Bryan’s a great writer and collaborator. He’s got a classic pop sensibility but is really open to feedback and experimentation which made my job as producer really fun and free.”

Sonically, there’s a beautiful weightlessness to the production and instrumentation that gracefully carries the song. Guitars sparkle and lightly jangle amid some sublime piano, backing vocals and percussive elements that add unique detailing to the melodic richness of the track.  

ZAYN scores another No.1 album in the Philippines with ‘Nobody Is Listening’

January 2021 in Music

ZAYN’s third studio release Nobody is Listening makes history once again as it debuts at No. 1 on iTunes Philippines Top 100 albums chart a few hours after its release. Co-written by ZAYN, the project highlights his R&B influences and showcases deeply personal lyrics. Nobody is Listening sees ZAYN in complete creative control, from designing the album cover art to his sound, he has created a moment in music that is all his own.

The album contains the previously released singles “Vibez” and “Better,” both of which were embraced by fans and critics alike, with Wonderland proclaiming ZAYN was here to “save 2021” with the release of “Vibez” and Billboard calling “Better” a “straightforward R&B track, expressing love in spite of disagreement and designed to showcase one of the most skilled voices in modern pop.” The latter single has accrued over 105 million streams across all platforms, and upon release the video received a half a million views in the first 10 minutes.

ZAYN’s critically acclaimed debut album Mind of Mine saw him become the first male solo artist in the world to simultaneously chart at #1 on the UK and US album charts in the first week of release. The album’s lead single “Pillowtalk” hit #1 in 68 countries around the world and was recently included in Billboard’s “Songs That Defined the Decade” list.

His follow up, Icarus Falls, captivated fans and garnered over 5 billion worldwide streams across all platforms in less than a year, a staggering feat for any artist. Alongside his solo success, ZAYN has also collaborated with a variety of artists, including Taylor Swift and SIA and most recently lent his vocals on “Trampoline” with Shaed, which received an iHeart Music Award for “Best Remix.” Alongside building a reputation as a world class music artist, ZAYN has become one of music’s biggest fashion icons. He has graced the cover of every major magazine from Highsnobiety to Vogue. In addition to being named “Most Stylish Man” at the GQ Man of the Year awards, he also was awarded “New Artist of the Year” at the American Music Awards and “Top New Artist” at the Billboard Music Awards. Nobody is Listening was released via RCA Records.

American recording star MAX and SUGA of BTS drops a star-studded remix of “Blueberry Eyes,” feat. Lil Mosey and Olivia O’Brien

After the global success of their maiden collab smash, Acclaimed pop sensation MAX and SUGA of BTS are committed to redefining the top 40 landscape with the release of “Blueberry Eyes” remix, featuring breakthrough hip-hop star Lil Mosey and singer-songwriter Olivia O’Brien.

“Having Lil Mosey, the mastermind behind ‘Blueberry Faygo,’ add his story to ‘Blueberry Eyes’ felt too iconic not to create the ultimate blueberry hit song,” said MAX. “The cherry on top is getting to add the legendary voice of my friend Olivia O’Brien. I’m so excited for this final chapter of ‘Blueberry Eyes’ with my brother SUGA and honored to work with all of these incredible artists on this new version of the song.”

On the day of its release, MAX and Suga were featured on the cover of Apple Music’s New Music Daily playlist and the song went No.1 on iTunes in 66 countries as well as trended No. 1 worldwide on Twitter and No.1 on YouTube’s Video Hot List. “Blueberry Eyes” has also been featured on several of Spotify’s coveted playlists including Today’s Top Hits, Pop Rising and Mood Booster, to name but a few.

The song follows the release of MAX’s “Blueberry Eyes” feat. SUGA of BTS [Steve Aoki Remix], which has more than 5 million global streams and 2 million views on YouTube.

MAX has been labelled a “Young Pop God” by GQ and named a “top popstar to watch” by Billboard. Since the breakout success of his debut album ‘Hell’s Kitchen Angel’, he has garnered more than 1.2 billion streams and toured the world multiple times over. He yielded an inescapable smash with his 3x platinum hit “Lights Down Low,” which generated over half a billion streams globally, soared on the Billboard Hot 100, reached No. 7 at Top 40 radio and earned him an iHeartRadio Music Awards nomination for “Best New Pop Artist.” Most recently, MAX released his sophomore album ‘Colour Vision’ featuring his current single “Blueberry Eyes” feat. SUGA of BTS.

Ritt Momney’s “Put Your Records On,” now a hit in the Philippines!

Ritt Momney’s rework of Corinne Bailey Rae’s “Put Your Records On” is now a certified smash in the Philippines. The sleeper hit that catapulted the 21-year-old producer and singer-songwriter into global fame, has now reached a top 10 peak on Spotify Philippines’ Top 50 this week, and continues to impact mainstream radio stations such as Monster RX 93.1 (No. 8), 99.5 Play FM (No. 8), and more.

Jack Rutter, the man behind the Salt Lake City-based music project, is amazed by the attention that his take on the 2006 classic is receiving. “I didn’t expect the cover to be anything more than a fun little release in between albums,” he shares in a statement. “I was super surprised to see it taking off on TikTok. It’s been the coolest thing ever to see people from other countries enjoying it.”
The hip-hop-flavored, electro pop tune initially gained significant traction via online video platform, TikTok before it blew up on several music markets worldwide, including a top 10 placement on Australia and New Zealand’s official charts, and a No. 1 peak on Spotify US and Global Viral 50 charts late last year.

Released a few weeks ago, its music video finds Jack Rutter “imagining himself as a future pop star stuck in a psychedelic dreamscape.”

Ritt Momney’s version stays truthful to the pop sensibility of Corinne Bailey Rae’s hit record, but his trademark lo-fi production somehow gives the track a fresh, contemporary spin. “I really didn’t change much, and I think it’s really important to remember that what makes it good is the songwriting that Corinne and her co-writers did on the track,” says the multi-talented crossover act. “I may have modernized it a bit, but I hope people don’t give me too much credit for that.”

Corinne Bailey Rae, the original artist behind the soulful track, gave Ritt Momney her blessing in an intimate Zoom chat sometime last year. Like Ritt Momney, her original version became a huge hit when it first came out, peaking at No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart, and becoming a staple in several singing shows across the globe.

Details and images were provided in recent press releases.

Sponge Cola releases “Siguro Nga,” a song inspired by K-drama series, Start-Up

Sponge Cola is no stranger to writing music inspired by their love for cinema and pop culture. In fact, the four-piece alternative rock outfit named their debut full-length album, Palabas to acknowledge the compelling impact of shows—be it a theatrical play, a dramatic film, or an episode in a television series—in making us understand our own lives, the lives of those around us, and the lives of people whose contributions to humanity deserve to be celebrated at all cost.

With this creative pursuit comes a tribute to the blockbuster K-drama series, Start-Up, which is currently heaping praises all around the world for its gripping story on young entrepreneurs aspiring to make it big in the competitive world of Korean high-tech industry. Sponge Cola released “Siguro Nga” as a song born out of vocalist and guitarist Yael Yuzon’s love for Han Ji-Pyeong, a prominent character whose unconventional upbringing and misfortunes in life enabled him to become a principled, self-made man with a tough exterior and unbeknownst to everyone—a tender heart.

“Immediately after the shock of episode 9, I literally picked up a guitar and began writing the song,” Yuzon shares in a statement. “I didn’t know how the story was going to unfold, but at that point, I felt like it wasn’t going to work out for Han Ji Pyeong’s character. And while heartbreak wouldn’t ravage him, it leaves him with an undulating kind of pain.”

“Siguro Nga” builds on this nuanced character study of a man realizing that he’s lost the love of his life, after spending a great deal of time living a lie to protect the person he’s pining for, from emotional harm and trauma. It’s a soaring acoustic number that is propelled by a genuine reverence for empathy and romantic yearning, but never quite reaches a climatic run arrangements-wise, as it ends on a miserable note, with the subject of the song stuck in a rut, hoping to relive his past to undo his mistakes.

According to Yuzon, the song arrived in the middle of recording phase for their forthcoming album to be released next year. “The process was a bit more theatrical than what we’re accustomed to,” he admits. “As a singer, I had to be in character, which made the recording process a bit grueling.” In order to capture the very essence of the song, Yuzon had to experience some of Han Ji Pyeong’s crucial scenes in the series, including having to bask in the rain for minutes and reliving the memories of standing next to a corn dog stall. “I also had to face someone looking at me with ‘those eyes’ while pretending to be fine. Couple that with the idea of multiple takes, it was tiring but ultimately fulfilling.”

Armo Armovit, the band’s lead guitarist explains how the arrangements for “Siguro Nga” came to play. “Like most of our songs from the previous albums, we started by recording a very basic acoustic guitar as a foundation. Yael himself played the rhythm to make it consistent with how he initially wrote the song and his melody. Everything else on top of that are layers of sound to decorate and enhance the song’s emotional content.” Bassist Gosh Dilay adds, “We tried some experimentation in terms of overall sound– but we reserved a version specifically for future live performances of the song.”

“Siguro Nga” was recorded at Love One Another studios, and was mixed and mastered by Joey Santos. Armovit, who praised Santos for doing an excellent job in designing sounds and layering them to tell a story, was very much happy with the final product. “His familiarity with a wide range of music, and ability to create the appropriate textures for the song was a very welcome and refreshing addition to the production process. Everything you hear that isn’t the usual drums, bass, vocals, and guitar are all him.”

Sponge Cola’s “Siguro Nga” is out now on all digital platforms worldwide via Sony Music Philippines.

Get in the Christmas spirit with Lilystars Records’ compilation album, IN REVERIE

Philippine indie music label Lilystars Records brings festive warmth to music listeners all around the world with the release of IN REVERIE: A Lilystars Christmas Compilation.

In keeping up with the tradition of spreading Holiday cheers, the 11-track album offers heartfelt music that evokes the reassuring comfort of home and togetherness even in the unlikeliest of circumstances.

According to Clem Castro, the CEO of Lilystars Records, the compilation release is more than just a reflection of longing, hope and love. “It’s a call to keep our spirits alive no matter what we are facing. There are also tracks about celebration, optimism, loneliness and even dismay.”

While Christmas can mean a lot of things to different people, IN REVERIE: A Lilystars Christmas Compilation isn’t afraid to explore themes that indirectly address the current pandemic situation. “We can’t say if this release will have an impact for those who are having a difficult time with the pandemic, but we are hoping it does make a difference, Clem shares. “This serves as our gift to music fans this holiday season.”

Helmed with Hallmark-inspired melodies, vibrant arrangements, and intimate songwriting, the songs in Lilystars Records’ IN REVERIE offer an alternative listening experience for discerning music fans who want their Christmas jams a little bit on the obscure side. It covers a diverse selection of tunes with genres spanning pop, folk, blues, jazz, indie rock, twee, electronic pop, post-punk, and alternative music.

Clem admits that there was no selection process for the compilation album. Instead, he challenged some of the artists in the roster to write and produce their own original Christmas songs. “We have a high regard with the capacity of our artists and their contribution exceeded our expectations. We commend their commitment to produce the tracks on their own, either recording at home or with help of friends or people they work with to bring life to their record.”

Eleven artists from Lilystars Records participated in the call for submissions, which is more than enough to complete a proper album. The result is a unique collection of songs, defined by the sound of each artist and their own personal sentiments about the season. The track list includes:

  1. Christmas Daydreams – Orange & Lemons
  2. Blue For Christmas – Meagan Trees
  3. The Kids Are Out – The Bloomfields
  4. 1225 – Project Orange
  5. Feliz Navidad (I’m Falling Apart) – Dey Rose
  6. This Christmas Time – Dustybuns
  7. A December Afternoon – Parasouls
  8. Yo! Santa! – The Charmes
  9. Christmas Mourning – The Geeks
  10. Xmust – Kubra Commander
  11. Good Night – Starry Eyed Cadet

IN REVERIE: A Lilystars Christmas Compilation is now available on all digital platforms worldwide via Lilystars Records.

Ben&Ben music video of KathNiel-starrer “Sa Susunod na Habang Buhay”

“What if every time one dies, they go back to their first date with one of them carrying memories from their previous run?”

Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla stars as a romantic couple stuck in a time loop in the new music video for Ben&Ben’s “Sa Susunod na Habang Buhay.”
Helmed by the band’s resident director Jorel Lising and written by Gaya Sa Pelikula creator Juan Miguel Severo, the song’s visual narrative explores the complicated relationship dynamics of two lovers who have lost and found each other in a fated cycle of events.

Complicated love in a time loop

Severo reveals that “Sa Susunod na Habang Buhay,” a song that deals with the “possibility of another life to succeed in love,” complements the KathNiel starrer that he has in mind. Having written Hintayan ng Langit, an evocative piece that examines eternal romance in the afterlife, Severo decided to do away with another reincarnation story for his interpretation of the material.

“Then it hit me, what about a couple stuck in a time loop?”, the prolific writer points out. “What if every time one dies, they go back to their first date with one of them carrying memories from their previous run? It took the band, Direk, and I a couple of zoom calls, brainstorming ideas to compound on that concept and get everything laid out before I presented it to KathNiel.”

Severo’s writing lends to a beautifully understated film that allows KathNiel to tackle their role with nuanced sensitivity and depth. To make it more impactful on screen, music video director Jorel Lising makes use of non-liner, fragmented storytelling as a way to capture the couple’s memories in its undiluted form. Lising adds, “It all comes from the content of the song – it’s a strong piece that speaks about love lost and an intense sense of longing, so the process of developing the treatment and Severo’s script came from that. The challenge for us was to maximize the emotion based on that kind of narrative.”

Working with KathNiel

According to the band’s co-vocalist and acoustic guitarist Miguel Benjamin, the journey behind the music video was both a dream and a serendipitous sequence of events. “About two months ago, an interesting exchange came up while our keyboardist Patricia Lasaten was working on the music of Juan Miguel Severo’s Gaya Sa Pelikula,” says Miguel. “As a way of showing appreciation when we offered our song ‘Ride Home’ to the series, Juan Miguel graciously offered us in return to write a script for the ‘Sa Susunod Na Habang Buhay’ MV, and pitch it to KathNiel, as they are good friends. We pushed through, and to our surprise, they loved both the idea of working with all of us and the script. This was a big thing for us because we never expected that these great artists would be open to doing a music video with us, given their stature and busy schedules.”

Despite the time constraints, Lising didn’t experience difficulty working with one of the biggest love teams in recent memory. The nine-piece collective’s frequent collaborator recounts that he only has few adjustments for every take, thanks to KathNiel’s astounding professionalism and craft. “We didn’t have a whole lot of time with them, but they definitely possess star power quality on camera. Every frame we took of them has a strong presence that comes with lots of experience, especially since they’ve been acting for so long now.”

Image and details provided by Sony Music Philippines in a recent press release.

Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys redefine modern pop with new single “Matches”

New Glory deluxe edition available now at digital service providers featuring “Matches,” “Swimming in the Stars” & “Mood Ring (by demand).”

Britney Spears and Backstreet Boys surprised music fans all over the world with the release of their collaborative track “Matches”—out today via RCA Records. The Ian Kirkpatrick and Michael Wise-produced track is featured on the new edition of Britney’s 2016 album, Glory, along with recently released songs “Swimming In The Stars” and “Mood Ring (By Demand).” 

Backed with infectious, clubby beats and intricate production details, “Matches” sounds prime for top 40 radio and streaming dominance. The song is featured in various New Music Friday playlists across the globe, including the Philippines—one of its formidable markets. The song is currently at No. 2 on iTunes Philippines, while the deluxe edition of the album that it’s part of, has peaked at No. 1 a few hours after the track’s release.

Just last week, “Swimming In The Stars” was released along with the new limited edition deluxe vinyl of Glory. 

ABOUT BRITNEY SPEARS

Multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning pop icon Britney Spears is one of the most successful and celebrated entertainers in pop history with nearly 150 million records worldwide. In the U.S. alone, she has sold more than 70 million albums, singles and songs, according to Nielsen Music. Born in Mississippi and raised in Louisiana, Spears became a household name as a teenager when she released her first single “…Baby One More Time,” a Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 smash and international hit that broke sales records with more than 20 million copies sold worldwide and is currently 14x Platinum in the U.S.

Her musical career boasts countless awards and accolades, including seven Billboard Music Awards and Billboard’s Millennium Award, which recognizes outstanding career achievements and influence in the music industry as well as an American Music Award and the 2011 MTV Video Vanguard Award. So far, Spears has earned a total of six No.1-debuting albums on the Billboard 200 chart and 34 top 40 hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100 — four of which went to No. 1. Spears has been nominated for seven Grammy Awards and won for Best Dance Recording in 2005.

Not only has Britney’s music touched the lives of millions, but she has also used her global platform and voice to support the LGBTQ community, from the Dream Act to anti-transgender bills in Texas. As a longtime ally of the community, she most recently received GLAAD’s 2018 Vanguard Award, which is presented to media professionals who have made a significant difference in promoting equality and acceptance of LGBTQ people.

After her cutting-edge pop concert Las Vegas residency, “Britney: Piece of Me,” at Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino ended in December 2017, Spears took her show on the road with a “Piece of Me” global tour in summer 2018. Britney has been creating fragrances for over ten years, and her scents are available in over 85 countries around the world.

ABOUT BACKSTREET BOYS

For 26 years the Backstreet Boys have delivered the finest pop music one has to offer, making them one of pop’s most influential performers. With countless #1s, record-setting tours, numerous awards and worldwide sales in excess of 130 million, BSB has been recognized as the best-selling boy band in history.

In early 2019, BSB released their GRAMMY nominated 10th studio album “DNA” on RCA Records. The album debuted at #1 and features the Top 10 hit “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” The critically acclaimed and chart topping single was nominated for the “Pop Duo / Group Performance” 2019 GRAMMY, and was BSB’s first hit on the Billboard Hot 100 in 10 years. Upon its release, the single went straight to #1 on iTunes Top Songs and Global charts and charted in over 22 countries.

In May 2019 the Backstreet Boys kicked off “The DNA World Tour” – the group’s biggest arena tour in 18 years thanks to the global success of their #1 new album. The DNA World Tour has seen the group sell out arenas all over North America, Europe, Asia and South America. 

Over the years, the Backstreet Boys have continually captivated millions of people with their impressive catalogue of hit songs and creative partnerships. Most recently, we saw the group’s highly successful Las Vegas Residency “Larger Than Life” become the fastest selling residency in Las Vegas history; along with hilarious collaborations with Jimmy Fallon and James Corden; a #1 Country radio single with Florida Georgia Line; and viral remixes of their hit song “I Want It That Way” by Chance The Rapper and Lil Uzi.

Image and details provided by RCA Records in a recent press release.

Ben&Ben, Darren Espanto, Moira, SB19, Maximillian, and more to headline BYE2020

Philippine record labels and musicians of all stripes are standing up for solidarity with the biggest concert event of 2020.

With the utmost goal of bringing together the Filipino people through music and inspiring them to help cope better in the face of adversity, BYE2020 is a powerful statement that not only recognizes the small but impactful triumphs of the music community despite a very challenging year, but also honors the collective efforts of everyone in holding each other up during the pandemic.

28 artists are set to join the movement with virtual performances designed to make the experience as immersive and enjoyable as possible.

The lineup includes some of the biggest acts here and abroad, including Ben&Ben, Darren Espanto, Moira, SB19, Matthaios, The Itchyworms, Leanne & Naara, Maximillian (DK), Peach Tree Rascals (US), Tate Mcrae (CA), Glaiza de Castro, Kean Cipriano, Lala Vizon, Zack Tabudlo, Keiko Necessario, Fern., Elha Nympha, Autotelic, Sud, Miguel Odron, VVS Collective, Ace Banzuelo, Paolo Sandejas, Earl Generao, FANA, TALA, J-Nine and Dia Mate.

In a statement by the team behind the virtual show, BYE2020 is committed to mounting the first-of-its-kind year-ender party to usher in a brighter, better new year and turn this unprecedented moment in history into a collective call to seek a way out of darkness through unity, hope, and music.

“What BYE2020 delivers is a way for every Filipino to look back at all of the challenges we have faced, and enter 2021 a bit more hopeful,” the organizers explained. “Fortunately for us technology has allowed us to re-imagine what we can do for music entertainment and live events. And we are bringing to bear every learning, every talent, and every skill we have gained this 2020 and applying it to our event BYE2020.”

Aside from top-notch entertainment and much-awaited surprises, BYE2020 is set to recognize some of the most notable feats in the online space in order to shine a light on the more positive side of 2020. Through the Best of the Year Awards, digital platforms such as Facebook, Spotify and TikTok, and other notable partners will be part of a special segment dedicated to awarding the finest local creators for their record-breaking achievements in digital content and entertainment.

The six-hour continuous virtual event will be streamed live on multiple platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, TikTok, and more on December 31, 2020, from 7pm onwards. It will also air on Sky Cable (Ch 955 HD and 155 SD).

For exclusive concert privileges such as access to zoom pits, backstage content with the artists, and limited-edition merch, visit ticket2me.net to get tickets.

BYE2020 is brought to you by Pepsi, Tinder, and Its More Fun in the Philippines, and is presented by MCA Music, Sony Music Philippines, Warner Music Philippines, O/C Records, Star Music, Universal Records, and Midas Records.

The virtual showcase is also co-presented by Official Beer Partner, Heineken; Official Streaming Partners, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok; Official Music Partner, Spotify; Official Cable Partner, Sky Cable; in partnership with Viber; and Media Partners, CNN Philippines, InqPop, Manila Concert Scene, We The Pvblic, UDoU PH, Wonder, Rank Magazine, Adobo Magazine, Starmometer, and Rakista.

BTS #LifeGoesOn TikTok Challenge Sets a Record of 930M views in 15 days

TikTok, the leading destination for short-form mobile videos, today announced that BTS’ ‘Life Goes On’ which recently topped the Billboard ‘Hot 100’, hit a milestone on TikTok, setting a record of 930 M hashtag views in just 15 days.

Held from November 21 to December 5, the #LifeGoesOn challenge was a call for users all over the word to interpret and positively express how ‘Life Goes On’ in their own creative ways. The videos created with #LifeGoesOn had more than 463,276 in 15 days of the campaign.

BTS also participated in the challenge and connected with their fans by releasing TikTok videos of their own: Jin goes through a flipbook, RM and V does maple leaf art, Jimin decorates a glass bottle, j-hope takes Polaroid pictures and JungKook practises calligraphy. In response, the group’s fans, ARMY, uploaded videos of themselves dancing and singing along to the new song, as well as moments in their daily lives with friends and family.

A special ‘Life Goes On (ARMY version)’ music video will be released on the official BTS TikTok and social media channels on December 30, capturing selected video submissions that were part of the #LifeGoesOn challenge.

For more details about the challenge, visit the #LifeGoesOn Challenge Event Page.

Image and details provided in a recent press release.

The unfettered truth about love: PhilPop releases final batch of songs

PhilPop, the country’s premier songwriting competition, drops the final batch of songs from the South Luzon cluster.

Carefully selected from thousands of submissions, the entries from this particular group reflect the unfettered truths about romantic relationships, disappointments, and heartaches, written based from personal experiences or from the perspective of an outsider looking in.

Distributed by Warner Music and produced by PhilPop, the homegrown tracks are available today, November 27 (Friday) on all digital and streaming platforms worldwide. The entries include “Para Kay Catriona,” composed by Kulas Basilonia and interpreted by I Belong to the Zoo; “Bitaw,” composed by Keen and interpreted by Zsaris; and “Lunod,” composed by Chochay Magno and interpreted by Shaira Opsimar.

Para Kay Catriona: A Beautiful Serenade

“Para Kay Catriona” comes to terms with the painful reality of loving someone who will never be aware of your deep and strong romantic affection. Kulas Basilonia penned the track when he was aboard the bus, seeing Catriona Gray on television as she struts in the runway with her signature slow-mo twirl. “It felt as if my life is in a slow-mo too,” the up-and-coming singer-songwriter quips. “I immediately researched about her and found out that she has a Music Theory certificate from my dream school. I was amazed, and it made me daydream about the possibility of being destined together. But reality check: we’re different in a lot of ways, and I know, it’s never going to happen.”

The intricately arranged folk ballad is interpreted by I Belong To The Zoo, and produced by Caio Cadiz. Instead of synthesized sounds, Cadiz went for real instruments such as classical guitars in his attempt to record a serenade that is both heartwarming and beautifully melodic.

Bitaw: A Soulful Ballad

“Bitaw” is an emotional R&B track that centers around the dissolution of a romantic relationship, and the struggles of dealing with healing and self-love. With slinky beats and soulful delivery, the Keen-helmed song refuses to stick to the time-tested formula of pop music, tapping someone like Zsaris to interpret the material with the right balance of sensitivity and nuance.

“We are confident enough to win the vibe of the listeners,” Keen shares, beaming with so much enthusiasm and confidence. “The production team sauces up the final piece, they’ll be hearing a different approach from the original one that I made.”

Lunod: A Colossal anthem

According to composer Chochay Magno, “Lunod” is about finding merit in quitting, and how it can be liberating sometimes to just give in to loneliness and melancholy. “Sometimes quitting is winning,” the South Luzon finalist shares. “And walking away from those who failed to see your worth is your first step towards regaining yourself back.”

Magno wrote “Lunod” while lying in the sands of La Union. She attests to the power and tranquility that nature gives off, which allows her to hit the reset button and escape the toxicity of work and personal life. “I can cry my tears out without being obvious because when you’re soaked in water nobody knows you’re crying, right,” she explains. “I can shout to the waves without being judged. It’s like the sea is my witness and fortress.”

“Lunod” is interpreted by pop newcomer Shaira Opsimar, who gave justice to the song’s colossal nature and emotional depth.

“Para Kay Catriona,” “Bitaw,” and “Lunod” are are now available on streaming and digital platforms worldwide via PhilPop and Warner Music Philippines.

Image and details provided in a recent press release.

Miley Cyrus drops retro-inspired album, Plastic Hearts

After peaking at No.1 on iTunes Philippines with her first single “Midnight Sky” and revamping the ‘80s discotheque with her Dua Lipa-assisted jam “Prisoner,” pop trailblazer Miley Cyrus makes an explosive return with the release of her highly anticipated new album, Plastic Hearts, out now via RCA Records.

Miley’s seventh studio album features collaborations with Billy Idol, Joan Jett and Dua Lipa. In a handwritten letter about the new album, Miley recalls that she began writing the album over two years ago.

“Thought I had it all figured out,” she wrote. “Not just the record—its songs/sounds but my whole fucking life. No one checks an ego like life itself. Just when I thought the body of work was finished it was all erased, including most of the music’s relevance because everything had changed.”

Built around retro-inspired bangers and thumping stadium anthems, Miley’s new sound gives listeners a renewed sense of appreciation for music made in the ‘70s and ‘80s, as seen in her cover art, which was photographed by iconic rock & roll photographer Mick Rock. Rock adds Miley into the list of artists and legends that he has photographed over the years, including David Bowie, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Joan Jett, and Debbie Harry.

So far, Miley has released two singles from the album: “Prisoner” feat. Dua Lipa, which was accompanied by a shamelessly campy rock video featuring the dynamic duo, and directed by Alana Oherlihy and Miley, plus Miley’s summer hit, “Midnight Sky.”

Image and details provided by RCA Records in a recent press release.

The Itchyworms brings festive cheer with “Have A Merry Christmas” and “Maligayang Pasko”

The Itchyworms keeps the holiday cheer going with the simultaneous release of two Christmas songs “Have A Merry Christmas” and “Maligayang Pasko.” In honoring the time-tested tradition of writing Yuletide-themed originals that are meant to bring people closer to home in feeling and essence, the pop-rock quartet is keen on uplifting our spirits during the pandemic.  

Drummer and lead vocalist Jazz Nicolas points out the important of Christmas songs in a very crucial time like this. “We need to be reminded of the joy and hope and the spirit of giving. It’s the time of year when the world falls in love, so it’s important to listen to Christmas songs all year round.” 

Kelvin Yu, the band’s bassist, echoes Nicolas’ sentiments. According to him, Christmas songs are those anchors in our lives that we can always expect to be there for us no matter what the situation is. “There will always be Christmas songs: during good times, it further uplifts us; and during not so good times, it can provide us with that warm hug that everyone needs come December,” Yu shares.

Have A Merry Christmas: A Modern Holiday Standard

According to lead vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jugs Jugueta, “Have A Merry Christmas” is inspired by a meme featuring Jose Mari Chan, inarguably one of the most popular holiday tunesmiths ever. “When the Jose Mari Chan meme first came out, it was funny,” says Jugueta. “But then, people just do it every year and it becomes not as funny anymore. Anyway, one time I posted a challenge to my Facebook friends: instead of posting about Jose Mari Chan, why don’t you write your own Christmas song? ‘Have A Merry Christmas’ is an attempt to do so.”

Intricately arranged with Beatlesque pop harmonies, swoony string arrangements, and catchy, sing-along moments, “Have A Merry Christmas” fills the air with comforting message of joy and positivity. In describing the musical process behind the Christmas bop, Chino Singson, The Itchyworms’ guitarist, envisions a lush template in mind: “The melodies are definitely Britpop, and our classic shuffle a la Akin Ka Na Lang and Chocophotoland completes the aesthetic vibe.”

Written by Jugs Jugueta, “Have A Merry Christmas” is a “smorgasbord of Christmas tropes or cliches all rolled into one song.” Nicolas adds, “When you mix them all together, you get a song that pretty much says, Merry Christmas!”

Maligayang Pasko: A jazzy, tropical-infused jingle

Helmed and produced by Jazz Nicolas, “Maligayang Pasko” takes you back to the ‘70s and early ‘80s era: a laid-back, groovy tune that winks toward Manila Sound and city pop. It’s a nostalgic Hallmark anthem whose groove, to quote Nicolas, “is partly based on a latin or bossa nova beat, mixed with funky guitars.” 

The multi-instrumentalist member of The Itchyworms also add a little bit of camp experimentation in the mix in an attempt to highlight the band’s sense of musical adventurousness. Nicolas recalls, “I was very excited to use a combination of a vocoder, which is sort of a voice synthesizer and a text-to-speech type program to sing the chorus harmonies with us. I programmed three tracks of text-to-speech saying ‘mah lee guy young pass koh’ and tuned each them to sing in harmony.”

This organized chaos resulted into a Christmas song dipped in Tropicália and jazzy elements, and serves as an exploration into an unfamiliar sonic territory.

Both “Have A Merry Christmas” and “Maligayang Pasko” exude the timelessness of holiday songs, and its significance in bringing festive cheer to everyone, despite the challenges brought about by the pandemic. As Kelvin Yu puts it, “I feel that Christmas should still be celebrated this year, especially with the important people in your lives. This year has been tough on everyone, and has made us all appreciate our loved ones, and we can keep them close and celebrate life with them every day, and not only on Christmas.”

The Itchyworms’ “Have A Merry Christmas” and “Maligayang Pasko” are now available on all streaming platforms worldwide via Sony Music.

Image and details provided in a recent press release.

Global superstar Jason Derulo teams up with Nuka on future pop smash “Love Not War”

After topping the charts and going viral in the Philippines and the rest of the world with the infectious bop “Savage Love,” global superstar Jason Derulo returns with another future smash. The multi-platinum pop artist joins forces with Nuka on brand new single “Love Not War (The Tampa Beat),”—out now on Robots + Humans/Columbia Records. The hypnotic siren-infused instrumental finds Jason Derulo in his element, singing over tropical beats and summery, pulsating rhythms.

With a staggering 40 million followers across TikTok, Derulo is the biggest musician across the platform. The undeniably catchy yet enigmatic instrumental from 19-year-old New Caledonian producer Nuka captured the attention of many and amassed over 200 billion impressions worldwide.
Derulo being a big fan of the viral sensation, sifted through the videos and across the internet, sought after the creator. Regardless of the miles that separated the two artists, the power of music brought the two artists together to create new hit “Love Not War (The Tampa Beat).”

“Love Not War (The Tampa Beat)” follows on from a string of anthemic singles released by Derulo over the past year, with “Savage Love” being his fifth UK #1 with over 550 million global streams and the latter “Take You Dancing” amassing over 205 million global streams and counting.

Emotional frailty as source of strength: Get to know PhilPop’s Metro Manila entries

PhilPop, the country’s premier songwriting competition, makes another huge comeback with an exemplary batch of music entries from the National Capital Region.

With a diverse showcase of sounds spanning R&B, contemporary pop and folk-influenced genres, the latest roster offers catchy, radio-friendly fodders that tackle romance, forgiveness, and regret with precision and sensitivity. 

Produced by PhilPop and distributed by Warner Music Philippines, this Friday’s commendable picks include two compositions by Aikee namely “Mapa,” interpreted by Chloe Redondo and Aikee himself, and “Bestiny,” interpreted by Kevin Yadao and Jr. Crown. Composer Kian Dionisio rounds up the Metro Manila cluster with his compelling original “Huling Sayaw,” interpreted by Nyoy Volante.

Two Entries

Prolific rapper and singer-songwriter Aikee Aplacador snags two entries at this year’s PhilPop 2020 finals round.

On “Bestiny,” Aikee expresses his frustration on navigating the harsh realities of dealing with unrequited love and friendship. Kevin Yadao and Jr. Crown trades verses with smooth effortlessness, singing atop upbeat melodies, warm R&B beats and indelible harmonies.

“Mapa” is Aikee’s tribute to the parents that served as guiding light in times of utmost difficulty and trouble. This time, the acclaimed composer recruits newcomer Chloe Redondo on the inspiring pop/R&B ballad.

Both songs channel Aikee’s pop and urban sensibilities, while harnessing his skill as a versatile songwriter with a knack for inescapable chorus and earwormy hooks. 

Life regrets as song inspiration

Kian Dionisio pens a heartfelt anthem of regrets and what ifs in life on “Huling Sayaw.” Delicately woven with lush keyboards and stripped-down arrangements, his song “Huling Sayaw” was inspired by Dionisio’s music career and the frustrations that come with nurturing the process. “I’ve been told that I was a late bloomer, not brave enough, and not driven enough,” Dioniso shares. “knew from the very beginning that I am a dreamer. But as I age, I started regretting all the opportunities and time that could’ve been so productive. If only I had started so much earlier, maybe I’m already living THE DREAM right now. This is one of my biggest regrets in life and I tried to incorporate the idea to the song.”

Acoustic pop balladeer Nyoy Volante interprets Dionisio’s melancholic piece with just the right amount of skill and restraint. Volante worked hand in hand with Dionisio in capturing the emotional frailty of the track, delivering it with his own touch while staying true to the original’s message.

“Bestiny,” “Mapa,” and “Huling Sayaw” are now available on streaming and digital platforms worldwide via PhilPop and Warner Music Philippines.

Image and details provided in a recent press release.

Filipina-Singaporean R&B star Gail Belmonte channels personal heartbreak on new single “Restart”

“Restart” is the most personal of Gail’s releases so far, and takes a slower pace, music-wise.

Filipina-Singaporean singer-songwriter Gail Belmonte has finally dropped “Restart,” her last release for 2020. The electro-R&B ballad caps off a trio of singles that mark her debut as a solo artist signed under Umami Records. 

“Restart” immerses listeners into a harrowing tale of breakup and romantic dissolution. Written by Belmonte based on personal experience, the poignant track dissects a kind of love that the singer-songwriter thought was the only thing that she’ll ever get to have. “It was deeply upsetting at the time but I learnt so much, including the fact that there will be new beginnings, even if it seems like it won’t be happening anytime soon or in the ways we want,” reveals Belmonte.

“Restart” is the most personal of Gail’s releases so far, and takes a slower pace, music-wise. A steady 808 kick plays throughout the song, while the mood flows with a more sober approach. “I wanted this to be like the sound of a heartbeat, grounding the song musically from start to finish,” shares Gail. 

“Please, don’t forget one thing – it’s to remember me. I’ll love you for eternity”, Gail sings at the end of the bridge, and reflects, “those words seem to stop time for me for a little while. They really highlight the weight that love and heartbreak hold.”

Gail is currently working on her self-titled debut EP scheduled for release in 2021, as well as an upcoming collaboration with R&B singer Angelo Martinez on an acoustic EP.

Listen to Restart via Umami Records

About Gail Belmonte

R&B/soul singer-songwriter Gail Belmonte makes music full of heart, with a voice that radiates beauty and effortless delivery.

Born and raised in Singapore, of Filipino descent, Gail Belmonte loved singing and performing from an early age and has been practising professionally from the age of 18. Gail was champion in the vocal solo category of Singapore talent competition Impresario 2016, a finalist of China Super Vocal 2016, a finalist in Mediacorp Singapore’s The Final 1 (2013), and also appeared in Season 4 of ABS-CBN’s Pilipinas Got Talent (2016). Gail made her theatre debut in Pangdemonium’s staging of the Tony award-winning musical, Fun Home, in 2017.

Gail Belmonte has featured on tracks by artists like fulses, thecolorfractal, Fingerfunk and Tim De Cotta, and is finally ready to put out her own music with 3 singles planned for release in 2020 via indie label Umami Records, in which she explores the effects of love, heartache, falling apart and putting yourself back together again.

About Umami Records

Umami Records is a Singapore-based indie record label founded in 2013. Much like the “5th taste” reputation of its namesake, the label strongly believes in discovering new, interesting sounds that run underground and away from the mainstream. The label’s tight-knit, curated roster includes releases from Linying, The Steve McQueens, brb., Evanturetime, CampFire, Martin Baltser, Phoria, Oriental Cravings, and more.

Image and details provided by Umami Records in a recent press release

Melancholia as Universal Theme: PhilPop releases third batch of songs

PhilPop takes the competition to an entirely impressive scale with the official release of songs from the North Luzon clusters.

The latest batch balances compelling drama and introspection as it gravitates toward themes of unrequited love, romantic dissolution, and abusive relationships. Produced with professional polish and help from PhilPop, the newest selection includes “Paos,” composed by Angelic Mateo and interpreted by Keiko Necessario; “Balikan,” composed by Lolito Go and interpreted by Benj Manalo and the Collective; and “Agsardeng,” composed by TJ Paeldon and Abby Esteban, and interpreted by Miss Ramone.

Distributed by Warner Music Philippines, the homegrown songs are now available today, November 6, 2020 (Friday) on all digital and streaming platforms worldwide via PhilPop.

Paos: The beauty of unspoken emotions

Beautifully written with tenderness and warmth, “Paos” documents the repressed feelings of being tried and lost, but still wanting to be found. According to its composer Angelic Mateo, the song speaks about the aching truth in our everyday lives and the reality behind the unspoken emotions that reflect one’s bottom points. 

“This song is a way to remind people that everyone fights a unique battle.” Mateo explains  in a statement. “Moreover, it hopes to emphasize how people must not forget to genuinely understand what the other one is going through because reaching the bottom thorns and wanting to pause does not make a precious soul weak.”

The subtly produced track is interpreted by acclaimed singer-songwriter Keiko Necessario, who gave her own incredible spin on the serene pop ballad. Despite her own vocal inflection and stylistic take, Necessario remains faithful to the underlying message of the song, careful not enough to blur its intentions while owning the material with genuine understanding on what it’s all about. 

Balikan: a dissolution of romance

 “Balikan” is a post-breakup anthem that laments on the irreversibility of the past and mocks the prospects of reunion. According to composer Lolito Go, the song was inspired by his friend Jake Vargas’ split with actress Bea Binene. 

“I was challenged to write a song about it and that’s the time I wrote the first draft of Balikan,” the singer-songwriter shares. “The song revolved around a couple of lines I originally wrote 7 years ago for a popular ‘Hugot’ page on Facebook back when I was one of its content writers.”

The early iteration of “Balikan” leans on the acoustic ballad side, and was set to be performed by Jake Vargas. But after being selected as one of the fellows for PhilPop bootcamp, Go had a change of heart, and the song underwent changes in terms of how it was arranged and produced. The final version is reimagined by Benj Manalo and the Collective, whose Motown-inspired, funky feel deserves props.

Agsardeng: breaking the cycle of abuse

“Agsardeng” is an empowering song that tackles the breakage from the cycle of abusive relationships. According to Abby Esteban, one of the composers of the emotionally penned track, it follows the story of a person who is stuck in recurring domestic abuse, and finally decides to emancipate from its trappings to start anew. ”We wanted to write a socially relevant yet easily digestible pop song that could hopefully serve as a voice and inspiration to those who have survived and are still experiencing gender-based and domestic violence,” tells Esteban. “This is their story we are amplifying.”

Esteban and her co-composer TJ Paeldon used Ilocano and Filipino lyrics in its attempt to convey both the regional and global appeal of their entry, while catering to contemporary listening standards. Paeldon adds, “We are also aiming on promoting the Ilocano dialect mixed with our National language which is Filipino, for us it’s all about bridging the gap between Filipino and our Ilocano dialect so everyone can appreciate this song and also appreciate the beauty of the Ilocano language which makes a very large portion of the North Luzon cluster.”

As for the overall sound, Esteban and Paeldon are very particular with melding Ilocano native instruments with vintage-sounding synthesizers to recreate their version of a modern lullaby. Interpreter Miss Ramone adds her sultry and soulful take on the intricately nuanced jam, while making sure to keep up with the ambition of its sound design.

“Paos,” “Balikan,” and “Agsardeng” are are now available on streaming and digital platforms worldwide via PhilPop and Warner Music Philippines.

Image and details provided by Warner Music Philippines in a recent press release.

Gloc-9 teams up with UE Jam Sessions for the acoustic version of “Lalaban Tayo (The Renewal of Honors)”

Chart-topping and best-selling rapper Gloc-9 contributed a verse on the acoustic version of UE Jam Sessions’ aptly retitled track, Lalaban Tayo (The Renewal of Honors).

With a rousing message that champions the unwavering spirit of Filipino bayanihan during the pandemic crisis, the award-winning hip-hop artist called for solidarity in a bid to rise above the uncertainty of the times. As Gloc-9 effortlessly put it in summary, “At kung hindi na makalakad, ika’y aakayin / lagi mong tandaan na makakaasa ka sa akin.”

As featured main artists, the UE Jam Sessions delivered a stripped-down but empowering take on an anthem that serves as tribute to the unsung heroes: our frontliners. 

“UE Jam Sessions is here to remind everyone to stay safe in the comforts of your homes for it would be of great help to all our frontliners who have their hands full at this time of pandemic,” Executive Producer Tommy Tanchanco said. “Amidst COVID-19, we must keep our spirits high and face the battle head-on. Hence, through music, we extend our gratitude to our modern-day heroes.”

In a collective statement posted on their social media pages, UE Jam Sessions also dedicated the song to the people behind the outreach programs and donation drives, and those who offered voluntary services: “We salute and applaud your continuous dedication to serve our fellow countrymen during this difficult time. Thank you for all the sacrifices that you have been putting over the past months. Lalaban at lalaban pa rin tayo.”

UE Jam Sessions’ “LALABAN TAYO (The Renewal of Honors)” Feat. Gloc-9 is now available on all streaming platforms worldwide.