Why PPop is a Big Deal

PPop will start the Pinoy version of the Hallyu Wave.

PPop, as coined by fans, has been living under the shadow of OPM (Original Pinoy Music) for so long now. But I’m glad the distinction is gradually becoming widely known. And it’s about time.

PPop is the subgenre of OPM that goes beyond the typical popular music. PPop gravitates to groups as a typical performance does not only consist of singing but also intricate choreography. Groups tend to have in-depth concepts and their image is curated to the smallest detail to cater to fans.

Brief History of PPop

KPop eventually made its mark in the Philippines with its trademark Hallyu Wave, mainly brought about by Sandara Park and her group 2NE1. After this, a steady infusion has caused many local experiments with building boy and girl pop groups, similar to what KPop has.

PPop can potentially be traced to the makings of MNL48, a sister group of the original AKB48 (A JPop group) in 2018. The group is still currently active.

2018 was a banner year for PPop. Geong Seong Han, (“Tatang Robin” formerly of ShowBT) became one of the trailblazers in starting the KPop system using local Pinoy talents within the country. This gave rise to SB19. They also officially debuted in 2018. This group has had a notoriously difficult start, but eventually, due to hard work and determination, they’ve become the first internationally known PPop group.

ABS-CBN also conducted a similar experiment, using a KPop training system (Mu Doctor Academy) with a girl group called Bini. The group trained for two years and debuted in 2021. Similar groups have popped up over the years, but SB19 and Bini can be considered the pioneers.

PPop’s Immense Potential

Filipinos have no shortage of singing talent. We’ve been bred in karaoke, steeped in Mariah and Whitney as basics, then with big helpings of Beyonce, Taylor Swift, and Sam Smith songs throughout our lives. We love to mimic good singers at the start, and then eventually, we find our sound.

Singing contests and cover bands are the norm in the Philippines. As a result, we’ve demanded so much more of our artists as an audience. No lipsynching nonsense happens during any performance. Nothing like this environment exists anywhere else in the world.

We’ve also had singers in all types of talent shows internationally. YouTube and TikTok have been kind to us, as we Filipinos are social media juggernauts. We’ve pushed OPM internationally with grassroots support, especially with the Filipino diaspora contributing to it.

All of these factors are slowly boiling, bubbling underneath the surface.

A Mix of Cultures Makes PPop Accessible

One big contributor we have is our culture — we can relate with almost anyone on the planet. We are Austronesians (as with virtually all Southeast Asians) and have had influences from China and India pre-colonization. We can also relate to the US and Latin America because of our colonial history.

Another big contributor is our English. This is why our country has a big Korean contingent, as Koreans want English exposure. Our pronunciation is on-point, with no accents when singing. I’ve heard KPop groups singing in English, but it isn’t the same. We can rap in English and Filipino, oftentimes interchangeably.

We are playful with our songs, incorporating English and Filipino with mastery of both. Even if the only English part of the song is the hook, it can become viral. An example is “Raining in Manila” by Lola Amour.

The argument that language would become a hindrance is moot because KPop is popular despite people not knowing Korean.

OPM As an Incubation Chamber

OPM has almost always been a domestic affair. Our greatest singers and performers have always catered solely to Filipinos, and the effort to try to push boundaries for international exposure has always been lackluster at best. When our singers perform outside the country, the audience has always been fellow Filipinos.

But occasionally, I become pleasantly surprised when our music shines abroad. Examples are “Da Coconut Nut“, “Paruparong Bukid” and “Leron Leron Sinta” being adopted by non-Filipino choirs, most likely brought by our native choirs like the Madz (The Philippine Madrigal Singers) while competing abroad.

One good thing about OPM being domestic is that everyone collaborates with others in the PH. This allows for a lot of experimentation with creating beautiful music. You would see this on YouTube as many local artists try different things while working together.

YouTube as the Driver of Growth

On YouTube, local talents have grown their international audience. Let’s acknowledge the Wish Bus as the vehicle (figuratively and literally) for pushing excellent live PH music without resorting to copyright strikes. It has become the go-to for all YouTube reactors and background music in local cafes.

Morisette Amon has become the darling of international music reactors. Other artists like our version of the musical Avengers Budakhel + Kat (Bugoy Drilon, Daryl Ong, Michael Pangilinan, and Katrina Velarde) and Gigi De Lana with her band (GG Vibes) have made their strides with reactors and viewers.

SB19, Bini, and other PPop groups have steadily grown their international base through YouTube and social media because of the KPop methodology of churning out content for fan service and reactions.

The Differences of PPop vs KPop

The KPop system has nothing like it. It’s a culture generator on steroids, and the Koreans have got it down to a science.

PPop may have its roots in KPop, but we Filipinos love to make things our own. PPop has our flavor. The main distinction, of course, is the vocals. Any OPM and, by extension, PPop artist will not lack vocal talent and abilities. Dancing and stage presence can always be taught.

In KPop, it’s common to have positions like main rapper, lead vocal, etc. But in PPop, singers can rap, and rappers can sing. Only in PPop will you hear multiple techniques like adlibs, harmonies, runs, and belting in one performance. It will seem that PPop idols would be more all-rounders.

In PPop, live performances are more organic as PPop artists put something unique in each one, pushing novelty. This is unlike in KPop, where performers rely on the backing track more, and performances tend to be similar.

One thing I notice in K-pop is that the producers mainly control the songs; they push certain parts to certain members because of their positions. As a result, line distribution is not a priority. In P-pop, everyone has a chance to shine with mostly balanced allocations, as the priority is to showcase the group’s vocal harmony.

PPop groups generally lack resources, so members contribute their skills to the group. For example, in SB19, Pablo is also the composer and producer, Stell is usually the main choreographer, and Justin is the creative director for concepts and shoots. Other groups also practice this in one way or another.

PPop fans do not have fan chants because Filipino audiences love to sing with the performers. Check it out on YouTube. Only in the Philippines can you see fans buy tickets, attend concerts, and sing most of the performers’ songs.

K-pop, in contrast, has all the resources and machinery to build and maintain a concept with a group. So, they know the type of producers and choreographers they need to hire to achieve this concept. The idols mainly need to execute with the company’s full support.

The Future of PPop

Shimmering. That is the future of PPop, and we see it now. Foreigners are coming here to watch PPop concerts. International concerts are also no longer exclusive to Filipino audiences. Spotify counts are increasing for OPM and PPop groups due to more international exposure from social media.

We should push for more industry support and better infrastructure. We have no shortage of talented artists; we need to give them a platform to showcase what they have. Mall shows are the norm in the PH, but we should provide better venues nationwide.

I’m seeing the start of the Pinoy Wave, a version of the Hallyu Wave. This wave brings great prosperity if we take the opportunity. As the Philippines grows its economy (now the fastest-growing in Asia), we want to see culture and music play a big part in its growth in the coming years.

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