The false assumption about the P-pop world that SB19 intends to quash



If you ask up-and-coming P-pop groups if there’s anyone on the local music scene they look up to or hope to work with, one name usually pops up—SB19.

Composed of Josh, Pablo, Stell, Ken and Justin, SB19 is one of the genre’s pioneering acts in the Philippines. The boys made their debut in 2018, a time when the P-pop genre and the concept of Korean-inspired idol groups were still trying to gain ground in the local industry. But while the odds were seemingly stacked against them, they soldiered on, achieving one feat after another.

They put out hits like “Mapa,” “Bazinga” and “Hanggang sa Huli”; earned recognitions, both here and abroad; and performed for sold-out crowds in some of the country’s biggest venues. SB19 also set historic firsts: The first Filipino and Southeast Asian act to earn a nod from the Billboard Music Awards (Top Social Artist category) in 2021 and the first Southeast Asian act to make it on the Top 10 of the Billboard Social 50 weekly and year-end charts in 2020.

Most recently, the group made it to Teen Vogue’s “Favorite Boy Bands of All Time” list.

But despite their impressive—and still growing—list of achievements, the boys’ feet remain firmly planted on the ground. Because they believe that whatever success they’re enjoying now isn’t theirs alone.

“I feel overwhelmed and happy. When we started, not a lot of people believed in us. So we had to work hard to achieve [our goals] and to be accepted. Now, we get to interact with new groups, some of whom idolize us, and we’re very happy because the goal has always been to see more P-pop groups in the Philippines, and show the world what we’re capable of,” Josh said, when asked by the Inquirer how it feels to see a new generation of P-pop acts that look up to SB19.

“We wouldn’t have made it by ourselves. We need the help of other groups and people who believe in what we do,” he said at a press conference, announcing SB19’s partnership with Pizza Hut for the “Make It Great!” campaign. “And we’re very thankful, because they took the risk to join us in [this journey.] And we will stay with them until the end to promote Filipino music and culture.”

Rising together

Stell, on the other hand, admitted that with admiration comes pressure. “We feel the pressure when other groups say they look up to us. It compels us to show that we’re worthy of their appreciation every time we step onstage,” he said.

And despite being an established P-pop act, SB19 believes that there is still a lot to be learned from those who are still getting their feet wet. “We give it back to them. If they idolize us, we idolize them, too—and it’s not just for the sake of it. As artists, we see in them what we have to improve as a group … we see the things we lack. So they also inspire us to continue improving ourselves.”

Contrary to what some casual observers assume, competition—in the strictest sense—doesn’t really exist in the P-pop world, Stell pointed out. “If you step inside the circle of idols, you will see how close everyone is; how we bond when we’re together. It’s very different from what some people think,” he said. “We really support the new groups. We’re rooting for them … we can’t do it by ourselves. We need to help each other, so we can rise together.”

Showcasing Filipino talent

Music-wise, the boys said fans can expect future projects related to their Youth and Sentro Rizal ambassadorship for the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. They hope to take part in more programs that will give Filipino artists the platform to show their talents.

“We have an abundance of talents. Some just aren’t given the chance to showcase their skills. We need programs that will let us do that. And I’m thankful because that’s happening now,” Pablo said.

SB19 performs at the launch

SB19 performs at the launch

Given the chance, they said working with National Artist Ryan Cayabyab would be an honor.

“He’s a legend. Should we get the opportunity to work with him, we can consider ourselves really lucky. The artists he has worked with in the past are on another level. He’s such a celebrated and respected musician who has helped so many people. And we want to be part of that. We want to be able to say someday that we got to work with him,” Stell said.

For its “Make It Great” campaign, Pizza Hut tapped SB19 because the band “represents exactly the kind of market” the restaurant “wants to be part of—young and with active lifestyles.” And it was no less than Araneta Group of Companies chair Jorge Araneta who told Pizza Hut executives to get SB19 as endorsers.

The campaign rollout will include the release of the campaign’s theme song (also called “Make It Great”), a television commercial, as well as SB19-inspired meals.

“The shoot went by quickly. No hassles. Everything was smooth,” Stell said of shooting the commercial, which will be unveiled in the 2022 Binibining Pilipinas Grand Coronation Night on July 31. INQ

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