There are a good number of welcome surprises in the sophomore edition of the Philippine Popular Music Festival (PhilPop)—not the least of which is Joey Ayala’s “Papel,” one of this year’s 12 finalists. But, if you think you know what to expect from the 57-year-old singer-songwriter, think again!
While the song—about identity and our aversion to shameless attention-seekers—hews close to Ayala’s ethno-pop style, it introduces innovations that make it more accessible to the younger demographic of music lovers, by way of his collaboration with rapper Gloc-9 and singer Denise Barbacena. There’s even a passing nod to the Auto-tune technology that fuels many hip-hop tunes these days!
“That’s Joey opening himself up to new possibilities,” notes the festival’s executive director, Ryan Cayabyab, who gave us the lowdown on what to expect in the tilt’s eagerly anticipated finals next week (July 6).
The current line-up has more pop-friendly and radio-ready songs, with at least two-thirds of the finalists worthy of a slot in the top three.
How did the adjudicating team come up with the noticeably better harvest? Mr. C beams, “While it’s true that we had more entries this year—3,383, coming from more than 15 countries—the adjustment we made in the selection process was very effective.
“Truth is, nobody really knows the exact formula that would guarantee a hit,” admits Cayabyab. “So, I told the 40 adjudicators to choose the songs that they liked, and those that truly affected them—it was that simple!
“Yes, there were more tunes to choose from, but the simplified criterion made it easier for them. The panel was not encumbered with abstractions—kung sinong nagustuhan ng mas nakararami, ‘yun ang umangat! As a result, the top 42 picks were so good that any of them could have made it to the final 12!”
Like last year’s batch, the 12 finalists are a potpourri of genres—from Marlon Barnuevo’s dreamy ballad, “Araw, Ulap, Langit” (interpreted by Christian Bautista), and Ganny Brown’s fun-filled novelty tune, “Askal” (by Jose and Wally), to Thyro and Yumi’s hip-hop and R&B-tinged “Dati” (gorgeously rendered by Sam Concepcion, Tippy Dos Santos and Quest) to Paul Armesin’s groovesome rock anthem, “Segundo” (by Yael Yuzon of Spongecola), each of them as catchy as the next.
If we were to use Mr. C’s criteria, the three tunes that stand out for us are Johnoy Danao’s “Kung ‘Di Man” (performed by Ney Dimaculangan), Jungee Marcelo’s “Pansamantagal (by Sitti Navarro and Julianne Tarroja) and Lara Maigue’s “Sa ‘Yo Na Lang Ako” (by Karylle).
Danao’s striking ballad is fuelled by the exhilarating confluence of a heartbreaking melody, a soul-stirring rendition from Dimaculangan, and lyrics that ooze with romantic inspiration. For his part, Marcelo delivers another relentlessly witty and hum-worthy ditty.
The most pleasant surprise is turned in by Karylle, who finally finds the perfect song to showcase her sultry vocal chops—and one that doesn’t expose her limitations. Maigue’s gorgeous composition allows ZsaZsa Padilla’s lovely daughter to finally come into her own as a singer.
Completing the lineup are Raffy Calicdan’s “Space” (interpreted by Kean Cipriano of Callalily and Banda ni Kleggy), Myrus Apacible’s “Sana Pinatay Mo Na Lang Ako” (by Kimpoy Feliciano), Adrienne Sarmineto-Buenaventura and Antonino Regalado’s “Sometimes That Happens” (by Ace Libre of Never The Strangers), and Kennard Faraon’s “Time Machine” (by Six Part Invention).
Last year, our pet peeves included vocally challenged composers who insisted on interpreting their own compositions, performer wannabes who wanted to use the songwriting fest as a launching pad for their fledgling singing careers, and “singers” who sang badly on finals night.
We cannot complain about Daniel Padilla and Anne Curtis’ performing “disabilities” if our “singers” sing just as badly! True, PhilPop is a competition for songwriters, not a singing contest—but, a bad performance can grievously impair even the loveliest of tunes!