January 15, 2006

OPM Roundup, Part One.

Last May it seemed that the two songs that were absolutely inescapable -- blaring from jeepney speakers, playing in the background of TV noon time shows or in record stores -- were Daddy Yankee's "Gasolina" (good) and Gwen Stefani's "Hollaback Girl" (terrible). This time around, there were two other songs as well: Orange and Lemons' "Pinoy Ako [I Am Pinoy]," a fist-pumping, proud-to-be-Filipino pop song that, by all accounts, has served as an unofficial Philippine national anthem. Which is rather ironic (Tagalog readers will relish the lyrics), considering that a) the track was reportedly plagiarized from a song by the Care, circa the early '80s (check here for details), and b) the song was the theme to the hit TV show Pinoy Big Brother, which, as you can guess, is a Filipino adaptation of the British original. (If you use Firefox you can open the pages above on separate tabs and play the streaming files at the same time.)

At this point it seems unfair to criticize them for taking their name from an XTC album; my favorite Filipino band took its name from a David Lynch film, after all.

The second song also has Filipino connections: the Black-Eyed Peas' "My Humps," just about one of the most annoying songs ever. I know it's supposed to be tongue-in-cheek, but still. It's further proof, unfortunately, of a truth becoming ever clearer, which I hesitate, ever so slightly, to declare publicly, but will do anyway: the Black-Eyed Peas suck.

Anyhow, here is a little roundup of albums I was able to pick up and listen to (either bought or borrowed from my sister):

Barbie Almalbis, The Singles

In the world of one-hit (or one-album) wonders that is the Philippine music market, Barbie Almalbis is already something of a veteran. This compilation includes her work with the Hungry Young Poets as well as with Barbie's Cradle, and it's as good a snapshot of sharp '90s Filipino indiepop as you will get.

Isha, Time and Again

While the clear commercial hook here are the sincere piano-jazz cover versions of '80s hits -- Tears For Fears' "Everybody Wants To Rule The World," a clumsy version of the Go-Go's "Head over Heels," and a lovely reading of my second-favorite Madonna song, "Cherish" -- the standouts, interestingly, are the arrangements of some overplayed standards. "I'll Be Seeing You" is appropriately mournful; "Our Love Is Here To Stay" is turned into a pop torch ballad; "Round Midnight" is a jittery, caffeinated affair, belying the calmness of her vocals. The other half of the album -- which makes it rather oddly sequenced -- is filled with her own compositions which to my ear sound like "Silent All These Years"-era Tori Amos. Not a plus in my book, but I should listen to them more; songs that reference Milan Kundera can't hurt. (I still think she should have recorded under her full name, Pearlsha Abubakar.)

Isha, Katakataka

This, however, is the real gem -- a delightful and slightly sultry four-song EP of original songs in Tagalog about the things that matter most: love, longing, and the summer breeze.

Juana, Misbehavior

This quartet (two women, two men) plays smart, no-frills power pop; in an ideal world, the first track ("Connected") would be a Philippine middle-class teen angst anthem, upbeat but full of the burden of unfulfilled expectations. "Reyna ng Quezon City" is even better, kind of like a wiser Tagalog version of J. Lo's "Waiting for Tonight."

Rivermaya, Greatest Hits 2005

I'm probably remembering things wrong, but wasn't there a time when Rivermaya didn't sound like (or look like) Coldplay? Half the songs on this anthology have those faux-inspirational, hold-your-head-up-high lyrics that U2 should have abandoned twenty years ago; the other half sounds like bad Radiohead -- you know, kind of like Coldplay. In a word: insufferable.

The Tilt-Down Men, Together with The Tilt-Down Men

The Tilt-Down Men occupied that space between the British Invasion and AM-radio soft pop; as such, you get the almost requisite covers of songs by the Beatles, the Hollies, the Lettermen and the Bee Gees. The packaging, unfortunately, is quite sparse, and I would have loved to know whether this exemplified what the mainstream "combos" of the late-'60s played. Either way, it's an early chapter in the fascinating careers of the Sottos; future scholars of the political and cultural dimensions of the Sotto dynasty should take note.

Posted by the wily filipino at January 15, 2006 11:00 PM

Whoa, coincidence. My younger sister, who spent Xmas in the Philippines, just sent me an mp3 of "Pinoy Ako" yesterday (along with one of Y-Not's "Average Joe") -- she said, and I quote, "they kinda get in your head." I had no clue about either song's provenance, but I personally liked "Pinoy Ako." Quite an anthem song, that one (literally!).


Posted by: Gladys on January 16, 2006 04:02 AM

thing about rivermaya - i think they're a cool band but i think what they do best is sound like other bands? i could be wrong.

Posted by: barb on January 16, 2006 09:17 AM

BEP lost IT after they replaced kim hill with a white girl. ahahaha.

i like juana. simple lang.

pinoy ako. ok na sana, pero mismatched.

pakinggan mo junior kilat. astig.

meron akong nahanap na forum, opm mp3 swap. email mo ko kung gusto mo yung link.

Posted by: ibalik on January 16, 2006 12:11 PM

Pinoy Ako is just driving me insane. The only Filipino TV we get in Australia is ABS-CBN on cable, and they use the damn song as a station-ID song. All these inspirational pinoy sports victories with the song playing in the background. I've developed twitches and the urge to dance that Pinoy Big Brother dance to that song.. aaaargh!

It really sounds like the kind of song Eraserheads would have done if they were still around. I mean, christ, the guy even *sings* like Ely Buendia! Though probably the lyrics would be a bit more meaningful... hmm.. but then again, when did anthems have to be meaningful? Remember "Smells like Teen Spirit"? When da layta, Ena Fay-cha, Hini-how-naw - A-nas-tay-sha!

Posted by: krangsquared on January 18, 2006 06:31 PM

The Tilt-Down Men: with Tito being a senator and all (or *was* one? i just assume TV personalities just keep getting re-elected anyway!), you'd think he'd have enough pull with the record company so they could put in some decent liner notes. (which seem to be unheard of in Pinoy CDs)

Posted by: krangsquared on January 18, 2006 06:35 PM

Gladys: What another coincidence! I have "Average Joe" on my laptop as well -- a speedy acquisition after I watched three generations of people (grandpa, mom and partly drunk dad, kids) dancing to it at a New Year's party in the Philippines. Catchy indeed.

Ibalik: Junior Kilat will be in the next OPM roundup entry, if I ever get around to it... Astig indeed.

Krangsquared: unfortunately it really does sound like the Care, doesn't it?

Posted by: the wily filipino on January 18, 2006 10:32 PM

Anything on Kearney Street? ;-)

Posted by: Happy on January 19, 2006 12:46 AM

i only heard it today. oh my god, it's uncanny. such a ripoff. even the plucking of the intro chords is the same. jeezus.

well, pinoy nga talaga! hahahaha... bloody sad.

pero mas gusto ko yung 'pinoy ako'

Posted by: krangsquared on January 31, 2006 07:00 AM
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