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10 Filipino Versions of Boyband and Girl Groups

Updated on June 30, 2015

It’s not a secret that the Philippines is a huge market for foreign artists - from the heady days of Menudo and New Kids on the Block to the more recent wave of South Korean boybands, foreign acts tend to attract a huge following among Filipino consumers. It is therefore not surprising that when Kpop groups make it big in the Philippines, local entertainment companies try to get a slice of the pie by producing their own versions.

However, their success rate leaves a lot to be desired. In the early 2000s, ABS-CBN’s Star Records signed a four-piece boyband called 17:28, which managed to release 2 albums before splitting. A decade later, with the Kpop boom in full swing, two new groups patterned after kpop boybands surfaced, XLR8 and 1:43 – while they had the backing of big labels such as Viva Records and MCA Universal, the groups weren’t exactly enjoying massive commercial success.

That is not to say that major networks and record labels haven’t produced homegrown boybands and girlgroups – as a matter of fact, they’ve been successful at it as early as the 70s. It’s just that people don’t realize that Filipinos have a unique concept of what a “boyband” is. As an example, here are 10 Filipino Versions of Boyband and Girl Groups that have become commercially successful:

#1 Hagibis

Formed in 1979, Hagibis is considered as the Philippines’ answer to American Disco-Pop’s Village People. The group became famous for portraying a macho image and singing songs that glorify the macho culture. Many of their songs such as Katawan, Legs, and Lalake, are still being played to this day and known to people who weren’t even born yet during their heyday.

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What Made Them Work

  • Despite their macho gimmick, they never took themselves too seriously. They are almost a novelty and they created songs that are light hearted and easy to understand. They included humor in their lyrics and personalities, making their performances fun to watch as well.
  • While there are valid comparisons with The Village People, they were the first of their kind in the Philippines.
  • They were marketed as true macho men, not pretty boys. In fact, one of their members even became an action star.
  • Most importantly, the songs are catchy.

#2 VST & Co.

Another disco pop-oriented group that became successful in the 70s, VST & Company consists of two sets of siblings and cousins (the Sottos and the Rigors) and several of their friends. The group became so successful that the core members were able to leverage their popularity into a sketch comedy show, several comedy films, and ultimately a top rating variety show that still runs today, Eat Bulaga (the eldest Sotto is now a Senator.)

What Made Them Work

  • While they are now primarily known for being iconic actors and comedians, the songs that they released as VST & Co. definitely stand on their own merit, as the members are all exceptional composers and great singers.
  • They were the perfect group for people who needed a mellower, less gimmicky version of Hagibis.
  • VST & Co were pioneers of what has been dubbed as “Manila Sound,” which is a sub genre that includes soft ballad and disco pop, fusing it with lyrics relatable to people who followed the club and bar culture of the time.

#3 Smokey Mountain

Conceptualized and formed by veteran composer and conductor Ryan Cayabyab, Smokey Mountain is a four piece vocal group that originally consisted of James Coronel, Geneva Cruz, Jeffrey Hidalgo, and Tony Lambino. A second iteration of the group had James Coronel as the only original member, with the rest of the spots being filled by Jason Angangan, Chedi Vergara, and Shar Santos. Both lineups were very successful and managed to release 4 albums (one of which also had a Japanese release) , and several greatest hits compilations and singles. They have won numerous awards both domestic and overseas, and many of the members went on to become even bigger stars in either film, broadway, or as solo artists.

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What Made Them Work

  • They had really great songs, thanks in part to the support of Ryan Cayabyab, and to the fact that every single member is an exceptional vocalist.
  • They had a unique concept – they’re some of the youngest artists in the industry when they started, and they are named after one of the most infamous places in the Philippines: the Smokey Mountain, which is a landfill that became the symbol for poverty-stricken people. They also used thematic and colorful costumes.

#4 Viva Hot Babes

The Viva Hot Babes is a pop girl group that was founded in 2003, consisting of sexy actresses Katya Santos, Maui Taylor, and Andrea del Rosario, who were eventually joined by other sexy and softcore actresses. The group is known for songs with double entendre and softcore videos. Their success as a group saw the release of 2 full length albums, one EP, 5 chart-topping singles, and a dozen straight-to-home video releases.

What Made Them Work

  • As they say in the entertainment industry: sex sells, and the Viva Hot Babes markets its members as the hottest and sexiest artists in the industry. Each of the members is already famous as a sexy actress and was able to leverage that reputation in order to attract an audience.
  • Their songs are just downright catchy, and aside from being ear-wormy, is also fun to listen and sing along to due to the naughty nature of all the controversial topics hidden within the lyrics.
  • They have the support of a big talent agency, Viva, which has film, TV, music, and even print publishing arms so they were marketed effectively through all sorts of media.

#5 Sex Bomb

The Sex Bomb girls were originally contestants in the variety show Eat Bulaga’s dance contest centered around Tom Jones’ hit song “Sex Bomb.” When they won, the variety show made them regular cast members. Their agency gave them some vocal training and launched them as dancers and singers. To date, they have released 4 studio albums, 3 Christmas albums, and 4 compilations. Their second album, Round 2, managed to sell over 150,000 copies in the Philippines, which makes it the best selling album by a female group in the country’s music history, and they have managed to sell over half a million albums throughout their career, which makes them the best selling female group in the Philippines to date.

What Made Them Work

  • They were supported by the variety show Eat Bulaga, which is one highest rated shows in the country, so they had a lot of exposure and access to an instant fanbase.
  • The main hosts of Eat Bulaga, Vic Sotto and Joey De Leon (two of the founders of VST & co.) are influential and have a lot of clout in the industry, so the Sex Bomb girls were able to enjoy a lot of market goodwill via association.
  • The Sex Bomb’s songs are all novelty songs, which are very popular with Filipinos. Additionally, their dance steps are sexy but never vulgar, which ensured that they never ran afoul of censorship or controversy.

#6 MYMP

MYMP (Make Your Momma Proud) is a five-piece acoustic band that was formed in 1996. While they started out as a four-piece rock band, the group felt that the genre is limiting, particularly in the venues that will welcome them, so they hired a female vocalist and started focusing on acoustic songs. The decision in hindsight is a good one, as they found mainstream success with the new formula, and won numerous awards within the 2004-2009 period, including Box Office Entertainment Awards’ Most Popular Recording Group, PMPC Star Awards for Music’s Best Duo/Group Artist of the Year, and even Digital Music Awards (Korea)’s August International Artist.

What Made Them Work

  • The band’s founder, Chin Alcantara, is not only an exceptional guitarist but also a gifted composer and lyricist. Their songs are radio-friendly and infectious, especially when complemented by their female vocalists' alluring voices.
  • They have always had talented and beautiful female vocalists at the helm – starting with Nina Girado (who went on to become one of the country’s most popular female solo artists), then with Juris Fernandez (who also became a successful solo artist), Juliet Bahala, and finally Jana Laraza.
  • MYMP’s all acoustic act was a much-needed breath of fresh air in an industry that was dominated by alternative rock bands.

#7 The Hunks

The Hunks is a male singing group that consists of Carlos Agassi, Bernard Palanca, Diether Ocampo, Piolo Pascual, and Jericho Rosales, who are all primarily actors. While some of them had a modicum of singing ability, their main pull is that they are attractive and physically fit. They never won any awards but they are fan favorites and can sell performances well, even going overseas on sold-out concert tours.

What Made Them Work

  • Their singing skills are mediocre and their dancing abilities are non-existent, but they are aware of the fact and play it for laughs. This allows fans to enjoy their songs and performances by treating it as pure entertainment and not a display of talent.
  • They’re very, very attractive and each member has his own fanbase, which helps bolster their fanbase.
  • They have the support of one of the country’s largest TV networks, ABS-CBN, so they were frequently doing guest appearances and performances on several high profile shows. They were even given their own comedy sitcom, Bora: Sons of the Beach.

#8 Apo Hiking Society

The Apolinario Mabini Hiking Society, or APO Hiking Society is a trio of vocalists that originally started in 1969 with 13 members, but its membership was whittled down to three – Jim Paredes, Buboy Garovillo, and Danny Javier – by the time the group made a commercial breakthrough, as the rest of the members moved on to different pursuits. APO is one of the pioneers of the Original Pilipino Music (OPM) movement, which encouraged original music contributions and cultural influence. During their 3 decades of being together, the APO Hiking Society managed to release 22 successful record albums, released multitudes of award-winning songs, hosted a number of noontime shows (one of which became a direct competitor of the Sottos’ Eat Bulaga), and launched massively successful concerts locally and overseas, including countries such as the United States, Singapore, Canada, Indonesia, Germany, Italy, and Japan.

What Made Them Work

  • Besides being gifted vocalists and composers, they were also great lyricists whose works were seen as meant for the “thinking man,” due to their unique observations on seemingly ordinary topics.
  • They were responsible for some of the best love songs the country has ever seen, most of which are still being played (and remade) to this day. Comparisons to Air Supply is frequent, and to a lesser degree – the Beatles.
  • The three members are friends first and musicians second, so their interactions are authentic and their careers are never mired in drama.

#9 The Company

The Company is a vocal group consisting of 3 female and 2 male members, with a career spanning 3 decades starting in 1985 when they were first making a living as backup singers for the country’s reigning pop stars, before turning professionals and headlining their own concerts. To date, their songs have garnered over 50 awards ranging from several Artist of the year Awards to Phillip’s International Award. While the group is still together, each member has also pursued different careers as talent managers, producers, composers, and vocal coaches for younger artists.

What Made Them Work

  • Each member of the group is a highly accomplished vocalist, and their experience as backup singers for other artist gave them a lot of experience and the ability to take on a wide range of genres – from classic choral music, to jazz, dance, R & B, rap, and even contemporary acapella.
  • The members are also exceptional composers and producers, so their library of songs are world class, with the English ones frequently mistaken as released by foreign artists.
  • The group relies on the mantra “Substance with Style,” ensuring that their performances are as entertaining to the eyes as they are on the ears.

#10 Reycard Duet

The Reycard Duet, or sometimes referred to as just “Reycards,” is a singing comic duo that consists of the late Carding Castro and the late Rey Ramirez, who started entertaining audiences with their mix of stand up comedy and singing in 1954 all the way to 1997, when Ramirez passed away. The duo also had a successful stint as comedic actors, relying on a Straight Man and Wise Guy routine to bring the laughs.

What Made Them Work

  • Filipinos are fond of comedy, so the Reycard’s comedy routine let them attract fans who are not interested in music. They are so good at comedy that there are even people who consider them comedians first and stand up comics second, even though it’s the other way around.
  • Both Carding and Rey are exceptional singers with a range that would put most of their peers to shame, which allowed them to perform cover songs that would be unavailable to less skilled singers.
  • Their career as comedic actors also brought them a lot of attention, and they benefited from it as they are still enjoying a lot of acclaim even when they have grown too old to be considered as matinee idols.

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      Ben Lee 14 months ago

      MYMP is a bit of a stretch but I like that you highlighted Filipino acts in this blog/

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