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Why Filipinos Don't Accept Filipino Boybands

Updated on June 6, 2015
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Xypher Farrell is a devout Asian Entertainment Fan and a professional screenplay writer and author on the side.

Boybands is not totally foreign in the Philippines. New Kids on the Block and N’ Sync were popular in the Philippines, so is One Direction. There is also the uncanny but not totally strange popularity of Korean boybands like Infinite, EXO, Shinee, Big Bang and others.

Despite the popularity, Filipinos have rejected Filipino boybands. ABS CBN resorts to taking already celebrities and making them form groups in the tradition of The Hunks and Kanto Boys. Although most of them are successful in their individual careers, their groups have been met with mediocre success. The closest the Filipinos have gotten to a boyband are Hagibis, ReyCard Duet, VST and Streetboys. None are recent and only Streetboys comes close to the mainstream boybands of the West and Korea.

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Hagibis and VST May Be Considered the Earliest Boybands in the Philippines

The Kundiman Heritage

Philippines' Music is primarily 'Kundiman' which is similar to ballads. That is why the likes of VST and Apo Hiking Society made it big. The Hagibis sound is almost a novelty which takes the route of comedy. Dance pop song is never really a part of the Filipino culture. Dance sound in the Philippines are mostly instrumental such as Tinikling, Karinosa and Panggalatok.

That’s why Filipinos feel detached towards dances with lyrics. Of course, the country has evolved so much and with more than a hundred years of Western influence, it is expected for the Western pop sound to somehow make it through. It has but even the Western Pop sound took time to evolve to where it is now.

Remember that Pop and HipHop dances, as we know it now, were ushered in by the African Americans. It hasn’t been long since they hit mainstream America. It will take even longer for it to be accepted in the Philippines.

Single Minded Proposition

Looking at the past male groups that achieved some commercial success in the Philippines, Filipinos seem to accept a single minded proposition. You are either a singer or a dancer. Those who sing and dance seem a strange proposition. There are singers who dance well like Gary Valenciano and Pops Fernandez but they are solo performers. They have back up dancers such as The Manouevres.


Gary V. & The Manoeuvres

Philippines and The White America

When Philippine market opened up to foreign influence, the African-American culture wasn't yet mainstream. So it was the white music that came in first which is primarily 'rock'. That's why there are more successful pop rock bands. As oppose to the likes of South Korea who opened up their market when the African-American R&B and hiphop were already accepted commercially.

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HipHop and Pop is Still New

Boybands in Korea and Japan have a certain formula:

  • the rapper
  • the dancer
  • the singer
  • the belter
  • the pretty face

Although Filipinos may be able to relate to the pretty face, the singer and the belter, rapping and hiphop is a little detached. Hiphop penetrated in the Philippines via the American soldiers stationed in the US Military Based. Presence of the US military in the Philippines started in 1898 when the US helped the Philippines to gain independence from the Spaniards, various political factors deterred the entrance of the American culture. This includes the Marcos’ government ordering media outlets to devote almost all their airtime and space to Filipino music. American music influence had to go the traditional route, on ground.

Francis Magalona stated that he honed his rapping skills by driving to the base every weekend to battle African American soldiers. It may seem like a lot of years for rapping to get into the system of the FIlipinos but not when we remember that the country has at least 175 dialects/languages and separated by water, extreme socio-economic condition and political unres. Cultural influence takes longer to proliferate.

HipHop will take longer to get into the system of Filipinos. There is a need to get through the language barrier. Although using english may be an option since Filipinos are known for speaking the language better than other countries in Asia, that may only be effective in the cities. Remember that for a song to be popular, people need be able to sing the song. In places stricken with poverty, english may be totally foreign to them and their exposure to foreign pop culture is limited.


Colonial Mentality

It is natural to ask why Koreans managed to get into it while it wasn't until the 80s did they actually opened up to the Western market. How come Filipinos haven't adapted it as strongly as Koreans and Japanese have. It is because of colonial mentality.

Pop and HipHop originated in the US. Although HipHop came from the African Americans, it hit mainstream in Asian countries via Eminem, obviously a white guy. Filipinos prefer people with white skin to do things that white people do instead of people with brown skin and that's the color of Filipinos. In fact, Filipinos spend thousands just to get white skin.

In one of my projects with ABS CBN, one of the executives told me that when they go to provinces, they send their celebrities with a fairer skin (read, as white as possible) because people in the provinces don't like celebrities with brown skin.

Japanese, Chinese and Koreans have white skin. Well, whiter than that of the Filipinos. Filipinos feel it is downright awkward to see someone brown trying to do imitate "white" things. Those who do so are branded jologs.

Notice how Francis Magalona became accepted as a legitimate rapper while Andrew E. was a rapper for the jologs market and so are Gloc9 and Abra.

There is a phenomenon now called Flip rappers. These are freestyle rappers that battle in the streets. Again, they are known as jologs. Browned-skinned dudes from the hood trying to be black.

There seems to be more success with girl bands. There is VIVA Hot Babes and Sex Bombs but again, they are known to be jologs or novelties. They are faceless and are watched for their beautiful bodies, not for their music.

Looney is a popular Filipino street rapper that remains underground. His street success has not translated to a lot of mainstream support.
Looney is a popular Filipino street rapper that remains underground. His street success has not translated to a lot of mainstream support.

Glamour

A big part of boybands is fashion and their fashion is partly influenced by the weather. Korea and Japan have winters that allow them to be pattern their fashion after the Americans where Pop orginated. That means lots of layers. You can't do layers in a tropical country. It's stupid and utterly disgusting. The weather in Korea, Japan and Chinese allow them to be more experimental when it comes to fashion.

These fashion style also allow Koreans to view their celebrities as glamorous individuals with a celebrity life.

Is There a Chance for Filipino Boybands?

The question now is whether or not Filipino boybands will ever be accepted in the Philippines. With the obvious downward spiral of Filipino music, there may be some need to experiment with new marketing strategies. If boybands could inspire the market back into spending for music, it's worth a shot.

Yes there is a chance but there may be some adjustements to be made.


Big Bang, not DBSK

Copying DBSK, Shinee and EXO may be too much too soon for the Filipinos. However, there may be a chance if the model is Big Bang.

The difference is in the dancing. DBSK, Shinee and EXO are highly patterned after New Kids On the Block and the likes. They sing and dance throughout the song. On the other hand, Big Bang spend a lot of time just singing and going around the stage. They only dance on certain parts of the song.

Ballad and Dance Pop

There may be a need to introduce the group as a vocal group and ease them into dancing. Filipinos have accepted vocal groups such as Smokey Mountain and MYMP in the past.

Again, it boils down to Filipinos leaning towards ballads.

Branding

Then there is the harder part. The members will have to be packaged the right way. The one thing that is lacking in our entertainment industry now is glamour. Our celebrities are ordinary. There has to be some sense of glamour and fantasy for the interest to come back. Back in the Sampaguita and LVN day, actors and actresses were all trained to act a certain way. They are regal and elegant. Hence, the likes of Susan Roces and Gloria Diaz being a household names. They were all packaged to be queens and princesses.

That strategy has to be modernized and implemented again. Celebrities project a certain kind of glamour, elegance and elitism.

The Characters

Their appeal must go beyond their music. Each one has to be given a unique image. Collectively, they should be able to appeal to almost every girl and guy with different preferences.

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