When SB19 first burst into the scene, they were met with a mix of awe and hostility. We still vividly remember when a recording of their dance demo sparked massive interest, given that well-coordinated dance groups were a rarity in the Philippines at the time.
This newfound attention helped SB19 carve a loyal following, affectionately called A’TIN. From their mainstream hit Go Up, to subsequent releases such as Alab and MAPA, the boy band went on to become OPM mainstays, garnering millions of views and streams, along with collaborations with similar mega acts such as Ben&Ben.
So there is this Filipino Boy Group called SB19. They are under a Philippine branch of a Korean Company called ShowBT.
The producers are korean but the lyrics are in tagalog (written by the members) but i didn't feel any cringe at all! Their dance is also great 💯 pic.twitter.com/6bDtGxBnQ3
— D-1 CIX Anniversary (@BAE_Sodu) September 2, 2019
But while the meteoric rise is something that few Filipino artists could match, SB19 receives no shortage of haters. One common critique is, to put it bluntly, that the group is seen as K-Pop knockoffs.
SB19 debuted during the current Korean craze, where acts such as BTS dominate every facet of pop culture. At a glance, K-Pop’s influence on SB19 is undeniable: the colorful clothing, the aggressive dance moves, even the mannerisms and facial expressions.
The fact that the group was trained by ShowBT, a Korean talent company, only hammers in the point.
But with the release of their latest EP, Pagsibol, it’s time to recognize SB19 for what they are: Not as Korean caricatures, but something really, really special.
To begin with, the argument regarding the Korean influence is frankly nonsensical. Don’t let anybody fool you: nothing in this world is original.
Hip-hop did not begin in the Philippines. Nor did rock, blues, R&B, reggae, or any other musical genre. But that does not stop us from recognizing OPM acts that can rap fiery verses or belt out with the best of them. Music is a mishmash, constantly evolving through the musicians that touch them.
Given the idea, it then doesn’t make much sense to hate on SB19 for taking a well-existing genre and turning it into something that they can own. If Pagsibol is anything to go by, P-Pop deserves its due: the 6-tracks are fierce, bop-worthy, and above all else, proudly Filipino.
Their lyrics cover the Filipino sensibilities: MAPA is about familial love, SLMT gives a nod to humble beginnings, and Ikako boasts the trademark never-say-die spirit. Pagsibol proves the boys have grown beyond the ‘Korean boy group’ prejudice that critics have unfairly boxed them in.
But despite their ever-growing acclaim and talent, SB19 will still have their naysayers. And that’s okay. People have their own personal tastes. But even if you’re still not sold, there is merit to SB19 and their attempt to challenge the traditional notions of OPM.
To try something different.
That, at least, can be appreciated.