Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Philippine Popular Music Festival Experience (PhilPop) Part 4

The Finals Night

PhilPop Grand Prize Winner Karl Villuga

By now, the winners of the first ever Philippine Popular Music Festival (PhilPop) have already made the news all over. The celebrations and hopefully, the conspiracy theories as well have mellowed down a bit. Although I think that the winning composers, grand prize winner Karl Villuga (Bawat Hakbang), and runners up Toto Sorioso (Tayo-Tayo Lang) and Soc Villanueva (Kontrabida) still couldn’t believe that they’ve won and are probably still on a PhilPop high. I was an adjudicator during the earlier rounds and I still feel that high since this has been incredible experience for me as well.

After the announcement of the finalists, what kept me on my toes was the announcement of the interpreters for the compilation album and the performances on finals night that was held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). And when the interpreters were finally announced, I was surprised by the inclusion of some artists like Nyoy Volante for Slowdancing, Sam Concepcion for Kontrabida and Marié Digby for 3 AM. Some interpreters were already expected like Cathy Go for Negastar, Gary Granada for Minsa’y Ibang Bansa and Joey Ayala for Piso.

I awaited the release of the album anxiously since it would be the first time for me to listen to the final songs entirely. During the screening process, we usually proceeded to the next entry by the time a song got into the chorus. And some of the entries were raw demos which aren’t fit for commercial release. Hearing the studio versions of the finalists made me think ahead on how they would fare in the local music industry outside of the competition like if they would gain some radio airplay.

Aside from the compilation album, the most awaited event for PhilPop has got to be the performances during the finals night. Here are my thoughts on the performances of the Top 14 songs that night which was hosted by Ogie Alcasid and Nikki Gil.

Negastar
Music & Lyrics by Mike Villegas
Interpreted by Cathy Go

I guess that this song, tailor made for Cathy Go, was already in the can and Mike Villegas just decided to try his luck and enter it in the competition. Hence, a very comfortable performance by Cathy who had the daunting task of performing first. The song’s title, a play on Megastar and negativity caught my attention during the screening. The rest of the song was strong enough to carry it through the finals.

Dulo ng Dila
Music & Lyrics by Noah Zuñiga
Interpreted by Jay R & Deejay Poblete

I really liked this song when I first heard it during the earlier rounds. The triple meter, the old school vibe and the duet nature of the song appealed to me. I just wish that the chorus was just as strong as the verses.

Slowdancing
Music & Lyrics by Kennard Faraon
Interpreted by Nyoy Volante

This is one of the finalists wherein I liked the submitted entry a lot more than the studio version. No offense to Nyoy but the one that I heard during the screening stood out more and was a lot more memorable with the electronic sound giving it a certain charm. I was not too keen with the live band arrangement during the finals night as well.

Minsa’y Isang Bansa
Music & Lyrics by Gary Granada
Interpreted by Gary Granada

It makes me wonder if people consider a song to be good if it has a moral lesson to it. Does a song become automatically good if it’s talking about a good cause like caring for the environment or being patriotic? These are the questions that came to mind when I heard not just this song but also a lot of songs as well during the screening process.

Tayo-Tayo Lang
Music & Lyrics by Toto Sorioso
Interpreted by Ebe Dancel

Here is a prime example that a song does not need to have a moral lesson in order to be good. Ebe Dancel had some major voice problems during this performance that I initially thought would hurt the chances of this song placing among the top three. Fortunately and a bit eerily, Ebe’s troubles somehow fit with the message of the song.

3 AM
Music & Lyrics by Keiko Necessario
Interpreted by Marié Digby

I remember humming the chorus to this song during the screening process. That is how inescapable this song’s melody is. The band, especially the drums, was off during the performance and I felt that they accelerated too fast to the point that I couldn’t figure out the downbeat during the chorus.

Takusa
Music & Lyrics by Byron Ricamara
Interpreted by Rocksteddy

This was yet another song with an intriguing title that had everyone curious during the earlier screening rounds. I think that the chorus was too repetitive and that there could’ve been more to it lyrically. In the actual performance, the drums section was off again, just like what happened in 3 AM. I don’t know what happened but there could’ve been some problem with the band’s monitor.


Himig ng Panahon
Music & Lyrics by Thyro Alfaro
Interpreted by Duncan Ramos, Luke Mejares, Loonie, Thyro & Yumi

I admit that this song went under my radar. During the performance, I was put off with the sheer number of interpreters on stage. I think that this song could’ve done a lot better performance wise if there were fewer singers on stage. But I like how this song explored rhythms a lot more.

Kontrabida
Music & Lyrics by Soc Villanueva
Interpreted by Sam Concepcion

I wasn’t too keen on this song until I heard Sam Concepcion’s version. This was when I felt that this could be part of his performance repertoire and that it could possibly stand on its own outside the competition.

Bawat Hakbang
Music & Lyrics by Karl Villuga
Interpreted by Mark Bautista and Akafellas

This gave me goosebumps when I first heard it. The refrain with the leaps leading to the chorus gave me chills and right then and there, it became my favorite. Mark Bautista being added with the Akafellas surprised me a bit. I wish that it was just Karl or Mark doing the solos instead of making it a duet.

Kesa
Music & Lyrics by Edwin Marollano
Interpreted by Daniel Grospe

Daniel Grospe was entirely unknown to me before so I had no idea how he looked or sounded like prior to this. His voice sounded odd which suited the song. But the pants he wore during the performance actually stole the show.

Bigtime
Music & Lyrics by Trina Belamide
Interpreted by Baihana

The intro to this song had the adjudicators grinning and nodding their heads to the big band beat. It’s a cute song but for me, it was too old school and lacked that current vibe and feel. It felt too much: the big band arrangement and the jazz trio. It would’ve been a lot more refreshing if current vocal styles were used alongside the big band arrangement or a jazz trio singing alongside current rhythms.

Brown
Music & Lyrics by James Leyte
Interpreted by Brownman Revival & James Leyte

This is another upbeat song with that had adjudicators nodding their heads to the beat during the screening process. But I personally found it hard to connect with this song though. It was a personal song for composer James Leyte which was probably why it didn’t get through to me at all. But it did get through to a lot of people since this song won the Smart People’s Choice Award.

Piso
Music & Lyrics by Krist Melecio
Interpreted by Joey Ayala

This song is another case of too much patriotism and nationalistic for my taste especially when I’ve had my fill during the screenings. But I was pleasantly surprised on how well this song came out during the live performance. The addition of the drum line helped a lot to generate excitement for this song.

Other performances that served as breaks from the competition included an opening song by Ogie Alcasid and the Ryan Cayabyab Singers; Macho Guwapito by the comedy duo Jose and Wally; classic song medley by Christian Bautista, Erik Santos, Regine Velasquez, Basil Valdez and Sharon Cuneta; and a Metropop medley by a bunch load of singers. What made these numbers remarkable was that the network wars were forgotten at this point and all the performers on stage were just Filipino recording artists/musicians uniting to show everybody how awesome OPM is.

Gian Carlo Vizcarra, Sam Concepcion, 2nd Runner Up Soc Villanueva
& Kathleen Dy-Go

I am so glad that I wasn’t under any pressure to judge these entries since my part as an adjudicator was over and done with during the earlier rounds. But I did have my own bet that night which was Bawat Hakbang. And I always told people that I’ve always been behind my PhilPop bet “every step” of the way. Kontrabida was the other song that grew on me because of the studio recording by Sam Concepcion. And by the end of the night, the judges thought that these songs among the 14 are the most awesome:

Grand Prize
Bawat Hakbang by Karl Villuga

1st Runner Up
Tayo-Tayo Lang by Toto Sorioso

2nd Runner Up
Kontrabida by Soc Villanueva

Smart People’s Choice Award
Brown by James Leyte

The winners are definitely happy with their cash prizes, P1 million for Karl Villuga and P500,000 and P250,000 for Toto Sorioso and Soc Villanueva respectively. James Leyte bags P200,000 for garnering the most number of text votes.

The judges for the finals night of the Philippine Popular Music Festival were singer, songwriter, advocate and FILSCAP President Noel Cabangon, radio personality Chico Garcia, Universal Records’ Managing Director Kathleen Dy-Go, PhilPop Treasurer Randy Estrellado, former Eraserheads frontman Ely Buendia, songwriter and music director Louie Ocampo, and APO Hiking Society Member Jim Paredes.

DJ Myke, RAd, Poppert, Krina and Celine during the PhilPop after party

On a personal note, I'd like to thank Mr. Ryan Cayabyab for giving me the opportunity to be an adjudicator for this event. Never had I imagined that I'll be a part of this. Thanks also to Patricia Bermudez-Hizon who worked tirelessly in order to make this a success. Thanks also to Fonz, Kriz, Verna, Vida, Ross-man, Oscar, Vince, Rica, Perry, Jeman and Azrael.

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