Writing on Air

Writing on Air by Jim Paredes

OPM, radio gaga, american junk..

Posted on February 22, 2005 by jimparedes

I was with Danny and Boboy for a concert in Iloilo last Saturday and let me tell you, even if we have been at it forever, we had a blast! The show was for a newly inaugurated strip of commercial area which had restaurants, coffee houses, and a hotel. We performed at the parking area which they spruced up with buntings, chairs, balloons and the like. The whole town showed up and it was filled to the rafters. It started with elaborate fireworks and a very talented magician named Erik Manna. Then it was APO’s turn.

Our live band was ‘smokin’ and I felt APO gave quite an inspired performance. And what helped lift our spirits was the large number of young people (aged 30 and below) who showed up and really enjoyed themselves. Prior to the performance, local cynics were speculating that there would be a small turn out since APO was not a “current” act. “Matanda na!” as some pointed out. Without doubt, we plead guilty to these two accusations. But to those who accuse us of being “ancient”, I’m sorry to break the news but.., well.. if you haven’t noticed it yet, it will eventually happen to everyone! I like to think that we are merely setting the trend for all those younger than us. Ha ha! But to the charge of breaking the odds by having a huge and a very loud and happy crowd, I not only plead guilty but do so gratefully.

I am proud to say that APO belongs to the 70s batch of entertainers who crashed the music scene. Many are still performing, touring and continue to build their legacies—-Rico J., Basil Valdes, Marco Sison, Nonoy Zuniga, Mike Hanopol, Hajji Alejandro, Mitch Valdes, Rey Valera,Freddie Aguilar, Hot Dog, etc. You may not hear a lot from them these days but when these people tour abroad, they always give the current and the trendily new a run for their money! Their cumulative catalogue lists many of the greatest local songs ever written in the past 50 years. There are more revival songs today from the 70s era than what the 80s and 90s have contributed. Why? Because we were an inspired batch to start with. We were the first to break away from our predecesors and write modern pop in Filipino– a very courageous, reckless thing to do and therefore very hip and ‘pop’ at that time. We boldly fashioned our ‘new’ music then which Danny Javier dubbed ‘OPM’! We wrote in more genres of music than people do today.

For the past 15 years now, whenever I hear a new song, I ask myself as a habit if it will be the type that will still be played, remembered or sang five years later. More often than not, before I even finish listening to the song, my intuition immediately whispers a “no”, and so far I’ve been quite on the mark. It’s hard for me to get excited over a lot of the current music which many times seem like they were written while looking at sales reports, advertising campaigns, and after consulting with DJs whose tastes and loyalties (and accents) are exclusively attuned to American Top 40 and MTV.

Mostly because of these factors, there is a prevailing blandness, a sameness in the way many artists sing and how their records sound. It’s a phenomenon that we predicted would happen in “American Junk” when Danny, Boboy and I saw radio slowly change from a staunch supporter of OPM into a mere token one. It has adopted a more hardcore format as a US Top 40 delivery system with just a sprinkling of OPM that conforms to the western format. As a result it’s hard to tell artists apart even vis-a-vis their US counterparts. That’s because many notoriously and unabashedly imitate whoever is current in America. And the disturbing thing is, it’s passed on and accepted as ‘original’ stuff. I hate to be a wet blanket but where is the excitement and originality in that?! Freddie Mercury expounded on something similar upon noticing the blandness that had crept into in his music millieu when he sang “Radio Gaga”.

There are exceptions to the blandness of course, and many (though not all of them) are in the indie (short for independent) band scene. These intrepid, starving artists are writing some cutting edge stuff that keeps the originally bold and brash spirit of OPM alive. APO made a tribute album to the band scene two years ago when we released Bandarito , an album of songs from E-heads, Rivermaya, Yano, Orient Pearl, Joey Ayala, I-Axe, Color It Red, and a few others. It was our way of appreciating their work. But let me underscore that I am in no way limiting my A-list to those mentioned above.

The world admittedly is very commercialized now–so much more than ever before. I also realize that the views I espouse go against the grain of regular TV and radio fare these days. THat’s why I feel that more than ever, creators must resist surrendering to the big, bad, crass gods of commercialism. At least not so easily. Sure, everyone must deal with the demands of ‘the market’. But to preserve some artistic integrity, it is important that artists ask the right questions in the right order. And on top of the list of questions is “What do I want to say?” first, before “What do the people want to hear?”! All great artists throughout the ages who have left a lasting legacy have done this—-Mozart, The Beatles, Eagles, Sting, Frank Sinatra, Willy Cruz, George Canseco, Rey Valera, to name just a few. To change the sequence will only produce more blandness at best, and at worse, more songs like “Bulaklak”, “Ocho-Ocho”, “Huwag Diyan”, “Spaghetti”, “Basketball”, etc., and that is a problem.

Unless of course, you think that they are great songs. In that case, just dismiss this article as the mere rantings of an old man from the 70s!

4 to “OPM, radio gaga, american junk..”

  1. Myke and Anne says:

    SHE SAID: Couldn’t agree with you more. And I feel the same with the Pinoy movie industry as well. Sigh.

  2. sweetest_raine says:

    I just wanted to comment on how the so called critics say Apo is old na and not what’s hot …. good music never dies, it stands the test of time and it never fades away.

    That’s the difference between gimmick & talent …the former is an illusion.

    -Jennifer Anne from San Diego, CA

  3. Anonymous says:

    Jennifer Anne,

    Thanks. Were you able to watch our show in SD? We have another on on May 20 at Pala Casino.


  4. Anonymous says:

    Thank you!
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