With ‘simple song’ written in her bedroom, newcomer Rhodessa breaks records, touches people’s lives
When she received an email from a Viva Records talent scout last year, the first thing that came to Rhodessa’s mind was: Is this a scam?
“Sino ba naman ako, ‘di ba?” she said in an interview. After all, she was just an aspiring musician writing songs in her bedroom, uploading them online and hoping that, somewhere out there, people would come across her works and give them a listen.
“But when we started talking through Zoom, it dawned on me that it was actually real,” related Rhodessa, the voice behind the viral and record-breaking hit “Kisame.”
“But I didn’t get signed right away. The management was looking for a hip-hop artist during our meeting in January 2022. So they let me go. But after six months, the scout pitched me again. Sayang daw kasi.”Second time’s the charm. “I took the offer because a label has a lot to offer… It’s hard being an independent artist,” she said.
Prior to being discovered, Rhodessa tried her luck in singing contests like “Talentadong Pinoy” and “The Voice Teens PH.” She did song covers for YouTube, and performed in school intermission numbers and webinars.
She began writing songs when she was in Grade 8. And when the pandemic hit, with nothing much to do at home, she busied herself studying music production and online publication. And she did them all by just watching video tutorials on YouTube.
She put out her songs on Spotify, which later on, featured her in one of its playlists. Streams started to trickle in. And before she knew it, she had already attracted a decent following. That’s how Viva Records stumbled upon her. And now, Rhodessa is one of the industry’s most promising young talents.
“Kisame,” a gentle, guitar-driven pop tune about unrequited love, has amassed 33 million streams on Spotify since its release last March. It topped Spotify’s Viral 50 Philippines playlist and is still going strong in the music platform’s other charts like Hot Hits Philippines and Viral Hits Philippines, where the song sits at No. 3 and No. 6 as of this writing.
“I wrote ‘Kisame’ one boring day during the pandemic. I read a fan fiction story about the K-pop group Twice, and that was where I got the idea for the song. It’s about two best friends. One of them falls in love with the other but can’t admit it because it might ruin the friendship,” she related.
“My mind went blank when I was writing the chorus. I couldn’t really think of anything. I was just staring at the ceiling when I thought, ‘Why don’t I just write about this very moment and turn it into lyrics?’” recalled the 22-year-old artist, whose musical influences include Lizzy McAlpine, Gracie Abrams, Sarah Geronimo, Miley Cyrus and Taylor Swift.
“Kisame” also set a record last month for garnering the most single-day streams for a female OPM artist’s song (454,300)—a feat previously held by Moira dela Torre’s “Paubaya.”“I was lying in my bed when I got a notification about it. I didn’t know exactly what to think about this, but I was happy. I mean, I’m just Rhodessa, a homebody. It wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for the listeners. I was hoping that people could just at least give it a chance. I didn’t expect it to break records,” she said.
And as with most Gen Z singer-songwriters and artists, Rhodessa knows her way around TikTok, which is arguably the most influential promotional tool in music nowadays. “One time, I uploaded a video using a ‘Kisame’ filter. But one user bashed me for wearing braces, so what I did was record another video, this time, with my teeth covered,” she related.
“Because of the TikTok video, ‘Kisame’ had another surge in streams. Its average daily streams jumped from 150k to 450k,” she said, adding that the song’s massive success came with pressure.
“There were times I couldn’t sleep at night because I felt like my next releases should match ‘Kisame.’ But now I realized that I should just continue writing songs for the love of it … and because I enjoy it,” said Rhodessa, whose unassuming musical style and no-nonsense lyrics resonate with the young audience.
Touched people’s lives
Rhodessa has a degree in tourism and had been applying for airline jobs before show biz beckoned. But her parents couldn’t be prouder and more supportive of the career path she took. “They’re happy with my achievements. I’m under a label now. And they know that this is what I have always wanted to do since I was a child,” she said.
But more than streaming numbers and commercial success, it’s the way “Kisame” has touched people’s lives that convinced her that making music is her calling. “People tell me that through my songs, they’re able to express feelings they can’t put into words. Someone sent me a mail. In it was a Twice album and a letter. The feeling is indescribable,” Rhodessa said, turning emotional.
“Every so often, people would tell me that ‘Kisame’ is their comfort song, that the song saved their lives. And in such moments, I often find myself lost for words. I don’t know what to reply. It makes me cry, knowing that people find comfort in my simple songs … that they inspire them to write music, too,” she said. INQ