PUTTING singer Gigi de Lana into a single song category would be difficult. She first gained the showbiz spotlight when she joined Tawag ng Tanghalan singing torch songs, but unfortunately she didn’t bag the grand title. And then she started a YouTube channel where she and her band (Gigi Vibes composed of Jon Cruz, Jake Manalo, LA Arquero and Romeo Marquez) would perform covers of pop songs. At the time, Gigi would be happy if there were around 30 viewers of her livestream.
Then the pandemic happened, and she and her band put out livestreams of their performances and little by little, their following increased. She became viral when she performed “Bakit Nga Ba Kita Mahal Kita?,” a sappy love song originally done in the 1990s by Roselle Nava, where she used harmonic modulation to sing the chorus at heys that went higher and higher. Because of that, her followers and views now total the millions.
So when news came out that this breakthrough singer would release an album, it was safe to say that her debut single would probably be a love song. After all, with her powerful pipes, a soulful song a la Mariah or Whitney would’ve been apt.
But I was surprised when her first single, released by Star Music and titled “Sakalam” (it is now in the Spotify Philippines’ Fresh Finds playlist), is a pop rock ballad. According to the press release, the song tackles a person’s struggle to let go of a broken relationship despite the detachment of her partner. The term is an inverse of the Tagalog word malakas, adding more emphasis to the emotional grief caused by the separation as depicted in the song.
“Habang kinakanta ko ’yung ‘Sakalam’, nasasaktan ako. Nilalagay ko ’yung sarili ko sa song kasi gusto kong kantahin na punong-puno ng soul. Sobrang nakaka-relate kasi sa mga pinagdaanan ko rin sa buhay,” shared Gigi.
Produced by ABS-CBN Music creative cirector Jonathan Manalo, “Sakalam” was written by Gigi Vibes members Romeo Marquez and Erwin Lacsa, and arranged by Jon Cruz.
Painful it is, as the song opens with heavy guitars like a B-side Aerosmith song, her vocals are soft and in despair describing how she is lost after a break-up.
The song is a successful melange of Alanis angst, Courtney Love attitude (post Live Through This), and the Pinoy rock sensibilities of Aegis. It’s a weird formula but with the current music landscape leaning into hip-hop, R&B, and electronic influences, this song is a welcome respite hoping to fill the vacuum with pop melodies and a punk attitude. Gigi’s producers quickly land on this equation—clean, spiky but sparkling guitar riffs, punchy live drums—that may seem pretentious for others as it’s still bubblegum compared to authentic rock—but, hey, we should all welcome diversity, right?
Gigi will perform “Sakalam” and a number of her songs in upcoming gigs such as the Filipino music festival “1MX Dubai” and the staging of her very own “YouTube Music Night” digital concert, both in December.
“Sakalam” is out now on various digital music platforms, and you can watch its music video on ABS-CBN Star Music’s YouTube channel.