Hannah Lorenzo ‘25
The rise of Filipino boy group SB19 brings attention to the world of P-pop, Pinoy pop music, and the worldwide K-pop music genre. SB19’s global outreach and considerable talent in music, dance, and production make them a valuable example of the Philippines’ capability to produce music artists and represent Filipino culture on a larger scale.
K-pop remains popular today, and BTS can be considered the most renowned K-pop group to date, with billions of views, sold-out tours, and a strong presence in the US music industry with artist collaborations and recent English songs. While BTS and other famous K-pop groups like Blackpink and NCT appear to dominate mainstream Asian music, it is worth noticing other contenders, specifically P-pop.
The Philippines has produced music artists that helped shape the entertainment industry. Tony award-winning Filipina singer and actress Lea Salonga not only demonstrated her exceptional talent in the arts on Broadway, but she also recorded the iconic Disney songs “A Whole New World” and “Reflection” in the roles of Jasmine and Mulan. KZ Tandingan is a Filipina singer and rapper who reflects the more modern popularity of Filipino pop music.
Despite this popularity, Filipino boy groups seemed nonexistent in the early 21st century as K-pop groups debuted and kickstarted their journeys to music and media fame. While K-pop groups like Super Junior and 2pm preceded the more active groups like EXO and Seventeen, P-pop groups were never truly in that kind of spotlight until SB19.
Since their debut in 2018, SB19 has consisted of five members: Pablo, Stell, Ken, Justin, and Josh. According to an article about the group by Cosmopolitan Philippines, SB19 trained under ShowBT, a Korean entertainment company that took endeavors to the Philippines to find talent. As trainees, SB19 worked under the same rigorous schedule as K-pop idols. From extensive vocal training to hours upon hours in the dance studio, the members ultimately honed their skills enough to debut on the global stage. The world had a P-pop boy group that could potentially rival the mass appeal of K-pop boy groups.
This potential became a reality in 2021; the year became a turning point for SB19 as their global popularity pushed through the K-pop sphere. Their music video for the song “What” in March 2021 reached 17 million views on their YouTube channel. The song highlights their growth as a group while representing the Philippines as they sing about swinging their flag with familial and cultural pride. The music video also showcased hard hitting choreography, warrior/soldier inspired costuming, and various detailed sets. These aspects pay homage to the similar elements in K-pop music videos.
Additionally, SB19 competed against BTS for the Top Social Artist award at the Billboard Music Awards, further highlighting the group’s prominence on the global music scene. In January 2022, they would surpass BTS on the Billboard’s Hot Trending Songs Chart for the No. 1 spot with their song “Bazinga.” Their recent song, “WYAT (Where You At),” kicks off the start of their new world tour.
So how did SB19 finally get into the limelight years after their debut? It certainly has to do with the natural growth garnered by the group’s talents and media presence but equally important is the rise of diverse representation within Asian music. K-pop remains one of the top players in the music and entertainment industry, covering singing, dancing, and acting. K-pop has the ability to retain South Korean culture while showcasing styles inspired by other cultures, such as R&B, hip hop, and English lyrics. South Korea became known as the hub for entertainment talent through their tough training programs and selective process in picking trainees to debut.
These ideas entered mainstream music, where worldwide audiences saw the talent for themselves, with hundreds of millions of views per music video and K-pop playlists created by streaming services for people to listen to the latest hits.
The Philippines, however, did not have the same kind of reach as South Korea. As a third world country, negative stereotypes of Filipino quality of life dampened their presence in the international entertainment industry, but SB19 is a prime example that Filipinos are no longer able to be overlooked. Through their workmanship as songwriters, singers, and dancers, SB19’s talent and true potential was finally recognized to stand out and rise to the top of the music charts. Rather than be recognized as K-pop copycats, they are able to showcase Filipino love and support through their lyrics and message as Filipino representatives in music. The world may have realized that South Korea is not the only country to compete and collaborate alongside American artists.
SB19 heralds a new era for themselves and the Philippines. They should not just be compared to K-pop artists but be regarded as equals in this competitive industry. They will hopefully support the development of P-pop as more Filipino artists/groups make headway, such as boy group BGYO and girl group BINI. SB19 can maintain their bright future by not only reaching global fame but, most importantly, representing the ambitious and humble values of Filipinos everywhere to the world.