In recent years, Korean pop or simply K-Pop, a genre of pop music that originated from South Korea, has developed quite a huge gloal following that includes the Philippines. No surprise there since K-Pop acts have devoted months, even years of training to capture audiences’ imagination with breathtaking, tour de force song-and-dance performances.
By taking the K-pop formula and making it entirely their own, one Filipino boy band recently found its own niche. With their own sub-genre called P-Pop, Justin, Sejun, Ken, Josh and Stell, collectively known as SB19, has become a big hit with music fans not only from the Philippines but even those based in, yes, South Korea.
At first glance, SB19 looks like any other K-pop group. Their aesthetics and musical style pretty much screams K-pop except that their songs are sung mostly in Tagalog and English.
When asked about this, the boys firmly state that they are not copying K-pop groups, they were simply just trained in the Korean way.
“Maybe makikita sa pananamit namin o sa itsura namin na medyo may influence ng K-pop”, said leader Sejun, “Pero yung company namin mismo trinain at inenhance yung skills namin para ma-promote namin yung sarili naming musika, sariling musika ng Pilipino.”
The boys underwent three years of training with ShowBT, a Korean entertainment company that recently opened a Philippine arm in 2015. Training to be an idol is demanding in Korea, as it also prepares them to compose their own songs and choreography. Lead rapper Josh stated that their training mainly consisted of daily vocal and dance training that lasts for nine hours six times a week. As rigorous as it sounds, the boys said they have embraced this strict work ethic, stating that it made them “better persons.”
Following their training, SB19 debuted their first single in 2018, a smooth, soulful ballad about heartbreak called “Tilaluha” which sounds Korean but is actually two Tagalog words, “tila luha” which means “seems tears.” Accompanied by a music video shot in Seoul, the song, to date has, reached 401,064 plays on Spotify and 1,024,217 views on Youtube.
While “Tilaluha” is a testament to SB19’s vocal prowess, it was the group’s 2019 single “Go Up” that took them to even greater heights.
“Go Up” features an infectious dance track composed by well-known Korean music producer Lee Oh Won and lyrics written in Tagalog by the boys themselves. The combined lyric, dance and official music videos plus a live performance at the Wish 107.5 Bus have earned total views of around 10 million as of this writing.
The song’s official music video also showcased both the clean vocals and sharp synchronized dances of the group that drew praises from many netizens. On social media, SB19’s combined followers from its official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts is now at the 650,000 mark.
A tweet from last September 2 that showed the boys practicing their dance routine reached over 81.7 thousand retweets. One tweet even went as far as saying they and fellow local group MNL48, “will save the PH music industry.” Television appearances followed, the most notable of which was when the boys partook in the speed dance challenge in Gandang Gabi, Vice!.
With their training in Korea, their K-Pop influenced aesthetics and the inclusion of their profile on at least one website devoted to K-Pop and even an article on The South China Morning Post that compared them to the wildly sensational BTS, it seems that SB19 cannot distance themselves from the popular genre.
The group, however, insists that they are here to elevate their own P-pop sound to a global audience.
“Ang mga Pilipino sobrang talented po niyan sa lahat ng larangan,” said Sejun, ““Gusto lang din namin maiparating na hindi dapat natatakot ang Pilipino to evolve in the sing and dance department. Yun po ‘yung maipapakita namin sa ibang bansa.”
In any case, the boys have developed a solid enough following as evidenced by more than 120,000 monthly listeners in Spotify alone. Given that kind of stellar musical impact so far, it’s likely that we’ll hear more of SB19 in the days to come.