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Rant and Rave: ‘Pagsibol’ forges new beginnings

With their slick choreography and charm, SB19 has cheerfully danced their way into the hearts of many. Their debut album Get In The Zone showcased a great deal of vocal versatility and stage presence. Since then, SB19 has become one of the Philippines’ premier pop acts, garnering an unprecedented international fanbase and scoring a nod for the Billboard Music Awards’ Top Social Artist Award.

Riding high on their success, the group treated fans to a new album rollout, starting with the experimental tune What? This was followed by Mapa, a critically acclaimed ballad that spawned an epic collaboration with Ben&Ben. Building on the hype of its two pre-release singles, Pagsibol is a bold artistic statement of hardship, trauma, and triumph that cements SB19’s status as trailblazers of modern Filipino music.

‘We’re gonna go up’

Pagsibol continues SB19’s expression of their larger-than-life personas. The members’ different vocal styles and registers make for dynamic song structures and dramatic tempo changes. As such, the members’ skills are noticeably more refined than ever. Ken’s lower register exhibits swagger through his rapping in Bazinga. Meanwhile, Josh shows off his knack for frenetic rapping in What?, where he angrily calls out the ignorance of the privilege, saying, “Bente-bente, paulit-ulit / Intelihente subalit, ngunit basag ang lente.”

(20/20 vision / Smart, but the lens is broken.)

Stell croons the most vocally demanding segments of each song, like the pre-chorus of Ikako. On the other hand, Justin opens Mapa with a compelling sense of longing for his parents. “Mama, kamusta na? / ′Di na tayo laging nagkikita / Miss na kita, sobra,” he sings.

(Mom, how are you? / We don’t see each other that often / I miss you so much.)

Pablo, as the group’s leader, lets the other members shine. This can be seen in his chorus in Mana, which he sings with Ken. This command of the songs gives the tunes a sense of direction, which the man can only offer behind the song’s lyrics and melodies.

‘I’ll break the dawn in my home’

Pablo is the only credited songwriter on Pagsibol. However, because of the diversity of subject matter and styles he plays around with, monotony is never an issue. The album cleverly balances out moments of happiness and gratitude in songs like Mapa and Ikako, with aggressive fits of rage and confidence in Mana and Bazinga.

The rhymes and flows efficiently deliver the vast scope of themes of each song. The chorus of SLMT is light-hearted, cheesy, and carefree—serving as a tribute to their loyal fanbase, A’Tin. Brilliant metaphors and imagery are also evident throughout the tracklist. In Mana, SB19 is likened to the manananggal, splitting in half as its upper torso flies and leaves the bottom half on the ground. This playful subversion of the age-old idiom of keeping one foot on the ground for humility reflects pride in carrying their Filpino identity to the international stage.

The melodies and rap flow also blend seamlessly, all on their own. Thankfully, this frees up the production to be more concerned with delivering exciting and novel sounds. 

‘Langit, lupa’y magsasama’

YouTube music producer Simon Servida produced most of the record. Like the songwriting, the production works to amplify the versatility of SB19. This can be mostly seen in the high-octane lead single What? which starts off the record in an anthemic build assisted by toms, horns, electric guitars, and marching band percussion. The song then proceeds to play around with gritty rock, hip-hop, and R&B influences.

The grimy atmosphere is palpable in Mana, which employs horror sound effects in line with Billie Eilish’s When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? album. SLMT perfects the sound the group was going for in Get In The Zone by tastefully applying synths, hi-hats, and 808 kicks in a dynamic house-driven beat. While their influences may be easily spotted, Servida brings his stamp into the songs through his modern production style.

Coincidentally, the EP’s weakest point is with Ikako, the only song where Servida was not involved. Through its generic arrangement and vague lyrics that rhyme “tayo” with “ako” twice as its leading hook, the song is as hollow as 90s charity singles in the vein of We Are The World, becoming a distastefully optimistic track that tackles the pandemic.

‘Mahiwaga, bawat nakasarang bintana’

Pagsibol features the blossoming of SB19 into titans in the Philippine music scene. With one creative risk after another, this EP shows that SB19 has the self-awareness needed for musical experimentation while maintaining their unique brand of pop.

Through their willingness to dip their toes in the uncharted musical territory, the group proves that they are masters of their craft. SB19’s sophomore record serves as an exciting prospect for the group’s musical future. If there’s one thing that every A’Tin knows, it is that SB19 is constantly outdoing themselves with every release.

Rating: 3.5/4.0

By Andy Jaluague

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