Ever since the cultural critic Don Jaucian’s rather assaulting article, ‘OPM is Dead’, was published in the Philippine Star last August, the blogosphere exploded with irritated and disagreeing posts, creating a widespread debate between critics. Maybe because Jaucian said that the modern-day OPM has been “upstaged by Korean girlbands, cover albums, and bossa nova,” or maybe because he attacked the artists and music companies saying that they have misconstrued the true meaning of ‘original’; but either way, music junkies and critics are not happy. The article raised a bizarre array of musical opinions and retractions and harsh words, but the sole issue wasn’t really being solved: Is OPM really dead or not?
“It’s the voice that makes it original,” opines Coco Maceren (II, AB-CAM).
“OPM means expressing our culture through songs,” concurs Donna Lapena (II, AB-CAM).
What does Original Pinoy Music mean anyway? Probably the most common and literal definition that can be squeezed out is that it is original music composed (and performed) by Filipinos or someone of Filipino heritage. But is OPM simply determined by the artist behind the music? Then if this is so, then cover artists such as Jovit Baldivino, duo Krissy and Ericka, and Paolo Santos should be called ‘original artists’ instead. There isn’t a very clear answer to what OPM exactly means since it can venture off into different kinds of genres and sub-genres.
Over the recent years, music conglomerates have hardly been hiring artists with original compositions and music; they settle for acts that do covers of old or foreign songs, ignoring the art of composing original material. It is kind of unsettling to see classic and foreign songs being repeated and tweaked by highly talented Filipino artists. They have a lot of talent; yet amplifying those talents to make music of their own is not an oft-considered option for music companies.
Some say OPM desperately tries to compete against foreign music in favor of Filipino listeners, that OPM is living on the brink of monotony. In relation with the first statement, the sound of local music has melodies aiming to be mainstream often to achieve short but powerful last song syndromes or LSS to listeners. We can call this the ‘One-hit wonder move’.
Although, we do have the likes of Rico Blanco, Gloc-9, and Parokya ni Edgar, among others, who still continue to pump mainstream OPM’s verve. The independent and underground artists you ask? That is yet another problem. Independent artists, in a meritocracy, are parallel with mainstream artists in musical talent and capacity (some are even more competent), but why are they left in the dark? Do they merely lack in mainstream connections or appeal? Or are the fans the ones at fault now?
American music and K-Pop tend to be most popular among the middle class; their music is commonly singled out in playlists and music libraries. Camille Palomares (BS-CHE) remarked, “I’m a fan of OPM, but often times, they pattern it too much to the Americans and Koreans when it comes to music. I think that’s how they express their creativity, but then again, it lacks originality.”
From the classic Juan dela Cruz to the rapping genius that is Gloc-9, OPM’s essence has surely been molded, thumped, and decorated profusely as time progressed. It reflects how we have been and how we are culturally and nationally. And now, seeing OPM being ignored and by majority of our countrymen is quite a sad sight, especially to the lasting dreamers. Although there is some faith left for this beautiful aspect, and that lies among the grit of the people behind and in front of it.
So is OPM really dead? Nope, negazione, nicht. The industry may now be too far away from its glory days like in the 60’s or 90’s, but it is not dead – it and we, the fans, just changed.