Here Are 15 New Songs from Filipino Artists You Need to Hear Right Now
While most of us just couched and watched Netflix while staying indoors, artists got busy and found inspiration within and beyond the walls of their own home. Want proof? Listen to these OPM gems right now.
1| Roses on My Piano
Artofbodybending is a strange name for a music artist, but it sort of makes sense when you find out that she’s also a contortionist, model, and pole dancer. In her latest release, she explores the swing era and big band sound of the 1920s USA. There are plucky strings, mad percussions, and the vocal delivery of a spirited seductress. Pay attention to the lyrics as it’s also somewhat of a feminist anthem: “You know what’s better than roses on my piano? Two licks on my organ.” Hot stuff.
The boys that helped popularize Pinoy reggae and ska are back, and it feels like they never left. Sulit is a leisurely drive with the crew to wherever; it’s sisig-and-beer on a Saturday night; or an unexpected call from a close friend you haven’t heard from in a while. It might toe the novelty song line ever so slightly, but ain’t nothing wrong with that. It’ll get you nodding your head and snapping your fingers faster than saying “See you at Xaymaca!”
3| The Way You Love Me
If this song were any sexier it’d be illegal. Seriously, the way Lioni, who is Filipino-Canadian, sings it makes me imagine a femme fatale in a red dress onstage in an upscale lounge with a single spotlight, her flowy long hair covering one eye so she has to brush it back mid-song. Hate to sound like a cliché, but if this doesn’t get you in the mood for sexy time, nothing will.
4| Smoke Break
There is an untold number of songs in history written over several puffs on a cigarette break, and there’s no doubt this is one of them. Delano is casual and nonchalant as he sings about wanting, needing, a second to catch his breath, and filling his lungs with smoke is the way to do that, obviously. He switches between English and Tagalog lyrics, but he makes it sound so natural, like normal, everyday conversation. Hey if you don’t smoke (like me), listening to a song about a smoking might just be the break you need.
5| Happy w u (feat Jason Dhakal)
We’ve been fans of Arthur Nery for years (we were even one of the first to write about him), and a new song from him is a literal gift. This one carries sparse arrangement that puts the focus on his trademark syrupy sweet voice—Motown soul and R&B perfection by way of his hometown CDO. He brings Jason Dhakal along for the ride and the result is a gentle love song you’d want to send to your special friend, stat.
6| Find Me
Jezrelle, HRZON, Old Rose
DJ and music producer Jezrelle collaborates with HRZON and Old Rose in this EDM track that borrows heavily from the likes of Avicii, Martin Garrix, or even The Chainsmokers. Too bad we won’t be hearing this anywhere but at home and in the car through our speakers and earphones because we can totally imagine this being a club hit (pre-pandemic, of course).
Local DJ wannabes so often produce uneven results; sometimes it just feels too awkward and contrived to be any fun, but there are times when it works. Eleven’s “Lapit” falls in the latter category. The two-and-a-half-minute long song is packed with lovely 80s synths, distorted vocals that’s strangely transfixing and not annoying, and an overall fun, classy vibe. “Gandang Morena” isn’t bad, too.
8| Setup and Punchline
Devices are a six-piece band informed by New Wave of the 80s, post-punk of the 2000s, and their own creative musings as a 21st century indie group. “Setup and Punchline” is this list’s cool track; a song you’d hear first from your music nerd classmate or cousin. The indie pop sound is unmistakable, and unless you’re anti-good music, that’s not a bad thing.
9| The One
Purples n’ Oranges
2020 was such a soiled diaper of a year we’re ready for some joyful, soul-shaking sounds. “The One” is, well, the one that fits the bill. It’s hard not to think of Jackson 5-era Michael Jackson, some 60s and 70s funk mixed with some modern pop. “Where have you been all my life cos I’ve been waiting,” they sing. Well, right back at ya, Purples n’ Oranges.
10| I’ll Die Here If You Leave Me
I’m not exactly sure when in 2020 this was released (could have been earlier in the year), but there’s such an energy to this song it’s tough not to develop a liking for it. A pulsing beat that’s lifted straight from the 80s, some poppy synths and what sounds like DIY effects—the song works whether you’re jogging or working out to it, or just need an instant pick-me-up on a gray day. A bit slower but also not bad: “Sige Na Nga.”
11| Drive Away
I often judge songs on whether they would sound great played on a long drive, and this one does (and I’m not just saying that because it has the word “Drive” in the title). At times reflective, at times dismissive, “Drive Away” attempts to articulate the confusion that inevitably surfaces in any relationship. But it’s such a pleasant, vivid song, even if you don’t have time to dissect its meaning.
12| Don’t Hug Cactus
Childlike Wonder certainly boxed himself in (instead of freeing himself up) with that alias, but it works, at least for now, especially with this song that wouldn’t be out of place in the soundtrack of a Saturday morning show for kids. It reminds me of the music of artists like Kero Kero Bonito and Japanese pop acts like Kyary Pamyu Pamyu—innocent, whimsical, honest. The lyrics might be a bit too simplistic, but perhaps that’s the point. We could all take a break from the forced, overly manufactured sounds from artists creating for the masses. Besides, the song is also good advice. Don’t hug cactus!
13| I Really Like You
Move over Outerhope; there’s a new duo out for the title of cutesy local indie pop darling (Kidding, we’ll always have a soft spot for the Benedicto siblings). reon means beautiful sound in Japanese (at least according to their Spotify bio), and judging by their limited discography, they can rest easy that they live up to their name. “I Really like You” is a gentle, thoroughly delightful little ditty on that magical period during the beginning part of every relationship. To paraphrase Amy Dunne in Gone Girl, they’re so cute I want to punch them in the face (kidding again!)
Zack Tabudlo’s got some set of pipes. In “Sigurado,” his falsetto might give Luke Mijares or Jay-R a run for their money. But even his lower register is pretty convincing. "Sigurado" itself might be in the running to be a modern OPM pop classic the way the songs of Ogie Alcasid, Dingdong Avanzado, and Ariel Rivera were in the 90s. Turns out he was a finalist in The Voice Kids in 2014. Well of course he was.
15| Matulog Ka Na
Why don’t people write lullabies anymore? Sugarfree’s “Tulog Na, Mahal Ko” might’ve been the last great one, but new artist Clayson has something to say about that. It might just be a simple exhortation for somebody to hit the sheets, but there’s something emotional and sweet in “Matulog Ka Na;” a hint of bittersweet melancholy about watching a loved one drift off while holding their hand. Of course, it might just be exasperation because the person the song is for just refuses to sleep. But we’ll just choose to believe in the more dramatic interpretation; it’s more fun that way.