In the past half-year or so, many a good rock act has disbanded due to various reasons. You have Narda, who broke up after the pressures of constant defections and lineup shake-ups, ending a promising run that climaxed with Discotillion, perhaps the band’s most well-received album. You also have Sheila and the Insects, wherein disenchantment within the band basically caused the hiatus or perhaps the end of the band that brought us the albums Tangible Rhymes, Plastic Eyes, Static Minds, Manipulator, and Flowerfish. Dicta License is gone too, after releasing just one studio LP. Orange and Lemons, as much as I dislike them, are gone as well, after just releasing what NU107 called its album of the year. You’d think that those bands all had bright or at least promising futures ahead of them, and it is depressing to think of what might have been.
Of course, one will also wonder why these bands never made it “big” (barring ONL of course). After all, the bands above are all critical darlings, and have nabbed a lot of praise from music critics. In a JUST AND FREE SOCIETY (I’m sorry no political bulsh*t allowed) fair world where success was judged by talent and skill, these bands would have a bigger share of the pie, one definitely bigger than some lesser bands out there (cough*6cyclemind*cough). Answer? I’ll take the words POGI, EMO, REVIVAL, and MASA for 500.
Everyone knows the pogi rock phenomenon by now, bands like Cueshe and Callalily get off on pretty boy looks and passable but hopelessly generic melodies to build up a fanbase of adolescent girls to but their albums, fill up their concerts, and spam the radio networks to vote for their latest single about lost love and other “sensitive, heartfelt” nonsense.
For the adolescent boys, we now have the EMO movement. Led by bands such as Typecast and Chicosci, the black parade is in full swing in the Philippines, with unkempt hair and black eyeliner being all the rage among the 14-21 demographic among males. Telling signs of the EMO movement are talking about feelings and looking contemplative and/or angry for no particular reason. Teardrop tattoo is optional.
Then we have the revivals. I’ve already ranted on MYMP’s reliance on covers for their mainstream success. Of course, they’re not the only ones that are “borrowing” material for their personal profit. Hey at least MYMP bothered to credit the artists that made the songs. As recent scandals of ONL’s Pinoy Ako, that Session Road song, and most likely a lot more bands that haven’t been caught yet, show that imitation is still best option for bands without the talent to pen a decent song.
Finally we have the masa, or bandwagon phenomenon. Not to be confused with the masa radio phenomenon (which also sucks), the bandwagon phenomenon involves the uneducated masses being needlessly enamored with the latest inane “music” that music execs want us to waste our money on. Recent examples are the Otso-otso stupid- as- hell- and- yet- I’ll- still- dance- and- sing- to- it jingle phenomenon, the Star<add noun here>- American- Idol- ripoff phenomenon, the I’m- on- TV- and- I- look- pretty- so- why- don’t- I- sing- with- my- completely- and- utterly- mediocre- voice- to- make- the- unwashed- masses- buy- my- completely- and- utterly- worthless- album- and- waste- more- of- their- money phenomenon (hi Sam Milby and Kim Chiu), the Bossanova (sadly, I’m not referring to the Pixies album) phenomenon, and the aforementioned EMO, revival and pogi phenomena. Also falling under this are the pop-“rock” cuts that inexplicably get excessive airtime and become hits, like Imago’s Taralets, Shamrock (ugh)’s Alipin, Cueshe(more ugh)’s Stay, and, whether you agree with me or not, Kamikazee’s Narda. These repetitive and most likely utterly bland “hits” steal valuable airtime and eartime from quality songs from artists that get blatantly ignored for that band with the “hot” lead singer. It’s sad really.
When the masses support these trends, what are music bigwigs to do but feed the masses’ demand for it. After all, music is a business, and demand is money. What this has brought about is the inability of the general populace to discern quality music from the formulaic drivel that is on most of the airwaves. When listeners regard the song that is constantly on the radio as an instant classic, that group on the latest songhits mag as the next big thing, or the band featured prominently on MYX as the “best evahhhhhh!!1”, the music scene has a definite problem. After all, all three of those spots are bought by managers or by major record labels that are cultivating their newest batch of pretty-boy/girl groups. In a media-hungry society, image is everything. With that image being sponsored by the pockets of money-hungry media execs rather than earned through artistic merit, it is no wonder that rock doesn’t sell anymore. The rock acts that do sell are the ones that have an established fanbase, like Rivermaya, Parokya ni Edgar, or Bamboo, or are carried by the momentum big-time hit single, like Urbandub (First of Summer- though the fanbase is building, but they wouldn’t be popular if it wasn’t for that song) or Callalily (Stars). Checking Odyssey’s charts, the alleged rock music is utterly commercialized, and everything else is generic (Jericho Rosales), inane (Gretchen Barreto), or outright stupid (Willie Revillame). What are lesser- name- but- better- game bands to do in a static music scene that encourages formula and blandness?
Why so, you ask? Well the music scene is never going to help the little guy, and when a band that played the goddamned Power Rangers theme song gets picked over Sheila and the Insects in a battle of the bands contest, you know that musical integrity is basically in the gutter. Do you honestly think that real bands wouldn’t feel jaded by that sort of horse sh*t? People say that pinoy rock has experienced a resurgence in recent years. I say that there are more local rock bands because record labels think that’s the “in” thing right now and are signing “rock” acts that would be marketable to the various audiences that buy CDs (basically teenagers of both genders and the uneducated citizens that find Masa radio stations amusing). Just read the blog of Sheila and the Insects. I fully agree with their sentiments, and the blog is a sobering log of what will happen to many more good bands if the Philippine music scene isn’t cleaned up soon. We are heading towards the path wherein everything on the radio sounds the same and innovative ideas are shelved for “consumer appeal”. Oh wait, we’re already there. Which basically means we’re screwed.
Of course, some bands continue to fight the good fight. Indie label Terno Recordings has a roster of unique acts like Daydream Cycle and Up dharma Down, and have never accepted lesser bands. Radioactive Sago Project has always rebelled against the mainstream, always poking fun at whatever is wrong in this country. Indie bands like Bagetsafonik and Sugar Hiccup still peddle their unique type of music in the crowded and competitive music landscape. But it is definitely a losing fight. And sadly, it probably always will be.
Every person has a dream, a passion. People will spend a good chunk of their lives chasing the dream. After all, it is the dream that makes life worth living through, right? Without it, a monotony of everyday will basically render us disenchanted and inert, reducing us to animate shells, without a calling or a reason to go on. And thus, it is unfortunate for some people, whose dreams are to become true musicians, those who play for the music and the artistry, that the dream is basically out of reach, withheld from them by sellout bands, soulless execs, and media-trained masses.