I DON'T know what was going on in the minds of the judges that night but I do know that if I were in their shoes, I must have erased my score sheets till kingdom come as one song after another unfolded during the finals night of the Metropop 2000 last Saturday at the Bulwagang Heneral Arturo Enrile in Camp Aguinaldo.
I mean, hey, the songs were so good that I would have wanted all of them to win. Well, actually no. I had one favorite song from the time I heard it during the final screening selection of the top 12 songs. And it remained my favorite until the end of the finals night.
The Metropop Song Festival traces its roots from the once renowned Metro Manila Popular Music Festival which started in 1977. This song competition became a venue for new songwriters and spawned a lot of OPMs now considered classics like "Anak," "Ewan," "Sino Ang Baliw," "Magsimula Ka," "Till I Met You" and a host of other well-known tunes that have become permanent titles in the repertory of most Filipino singers doing tributes to OPMs.
Songwriters who have joined and won include Louie Ocampo, Vehnee Saturno, Odette Quesada and Gary Granada.
Now, what was going on in the heads of the other songwriters who did not make it to the magic 12 in this year's edition of the Metropop? For sure they were telling themselves (and their fans: ate, kuya, tatay, nanay and Bantay) that many of the songs were so bad that they should have made it to the finals! "Paano nakapasok yang kantang yan (How did that song make it to the finals)?" I could hear them exclaim!
Yeah, paano nga ba?
Well, first off, when joining a song contest you've got to think of so many things, like the kind of song (dance, R&B, pop, etc.), the lyrics (love, novelty, English, Tagalog, etc.), the choice of singer (male, female, boy band, girl band, mixed, etc.), the venue for recording (professional or home recording), the money to produce the song (studio, musicians, singers, arranger, sound engineer, tapes, food expenses... ang dami!) and countless other details that if you are only halfhearted, or have no money to start with, joining the contest would be such a laborious task.
But many join the Metropop every year. This year's edition reaped close to 15 hundred songs coming from all over the country, plus entries from Filipinos living in different parts of the globe. Many would like to win the P500,000 purse... for just a song. But is it really "just" a song?
Songs take on different forms and styles. Each songwriter has a different style of writing a song. Many successful Filipino songwriters are pop ballade writers (Canseco, Cruz, Ocampo, Saturno, et al). Some are novelty-driven ones (Villame, Apo Hiking, et al). Some have successfully crossed barriers and made their own distinct sounds (the Hotdog in the '70s and the Eraserheads in the '90s).
With the advent of MTV, many new songwriters are taking the dance tempo and rhythm and blues route. We have always been influenced by American Top 40s music, but truly, ours is a distinct Filipino sound, as Filipino as halo-halo, bistek and kare-kare.
So how does one ensure landing in the magic 12? All successful and winning songwriters will tell you this: 1) the song has to be recorded professionally; 2) the song should clinch it in 30 seconds or less; 3) pray hard and leave everything to God.
Why must a song be recorded professionally? Well, most of your competitors are veterans in the contest. They all record professionally (or via professional home recording). And many of them have sat in the screening and the final deliberations of song contests like Metropop.
Clarity in a song production is paramount. It is very annoying to listen to a recording with a lot of extraneous or tape noise. Besides being very distracting, your song might get muddled or gobbled up by non-music elements like a tricycle passing by, a jeep or bus honking or even dogs barking, babies crying and cats meowing, just as you were singing "mahal kita..."!
Why must a song clinch it in 30 seconds or less? Because the screening committee is listening to a thousand other songs, so the most important part of your song is the first 30 seconds. If you don't get the attention of the screening committee tasked to listen to your song in that short span of time, you won't make it to the next round.
Screening committees doing the first round usually do an "in and out" rating. They may opt to listen to the whole song or pass it up after a minute or so.
This does not mean your song should only be good for 30 seconds! No, it means that your song should have focus, like a carefully orchestrated sound map laid out for the listener. It is like luring a mouse to a trap. You have a trail of nice morsels for him to chew and enjoy-and, before he realizes it, he can't get out!
Why should you pray hard and leave everything to God? Well, you have done your part, the best you could. Let nature take its course. Prayers do wonders, or haven't you heard?
Some would recommend visualization. Others would say not to think much of it, that you will get it because it is yours. And if you don't make it, it is so easy to just say, "Maybe it wasn't for me anyway!" Or, you can take it with a grain of salt and sigh, "Bahala na si Batman!"
So what do you write about?
All songs are an expression of an individual who has a story to tell, whether it be a love story, a funny one, social commentary, whatever. In our popular music industry, love songs take a supreme position; all other themes take second place.
So it is no wonder that all the winners in the past five Metropop Song Festivals have been songs about love. What theme could be more universal?
Now wait a minute: a love song is written in many ways, so do not think only the ballad route will do. Here are my inputs: 1) be sincere, not manipulative (the judges can see through you, through the song); 2) be creative, not formulaic (there are many ways to skin a cat, sabi nga nila); and, 3) be stubborn--if you do not make it this time, join again!
Before I forget, there is one thing that you should be good at: making music. You can't write a song if you can't express yourself through music. So if you think you are good with words but bad with melody, team up with a good music writer. If you write good melodies but grope for the right words, get yourself a good lyricist.
Many times two heads are better than one, like Hal David and Burt Bacharach, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lennon and McCartney. If you haven't found a good collaborator, start looking for one now.
OK. So you have made it to the magic 12, now what? How does one make a real winner of a song? That is a whole chapter to write about.--Next year na lang!
So what do I think of the songs and the winners this year? They are all love songs, with general love themes like: "Basta Ikaw" by Tats Faustino; "Why Do You Love Me" by Joanna Orros; "Ikaw Lang Pala" by Jingle Buena; a love story: "Noon, Ngayon" by Rannie Raymundo and Dessa; a love proposal: "Love's Not Love 'Til You Give it Away" by Arnel de Pano; "Baby Be Mine" by Jeffrey Hidalgo; "Move Close" by Brian Cua and Tanya Marquez; "Ganyan Ako" by Vehnee Saturno; unrequited love: "Paano Na" by Arnold Reyes; "Imbisibol" by Andrei Dionisio; a love that has ended: "Tell Me Why" by Ben and Deng Escasa; and "Forever and a Day" by Angelo Villegas.
They are a mix of dance, rap and R&B-influenced styles on the one hand and pop on the other. So it is no surprise that the last song, "Forever and a Day," stands out because it is the only acoustic ballad in the crop.
The composers are mostly senior professional songwriters or producers like Saturno, Escasa, Dionisio, Faustino and De Pano. Then there are the younger professional writers like Villegas, Cua, Buena and Raymundo. The last group are tyros like Hidalgo, Orros and Reyes.
Each group produced one winner each: third place is Vehnee Saturno, second is Arnold Reyes, while grand prize is Angelo Villegas. Both Angelo and Vehnee are veterans of the Metropop while this is Arnold's first time to make it to the finals.
Arnold must be the biggest winner by virtue of the fact that this is the first song he ever wrote, and this is his first time to try out for the Metropop.
This Metropop 2000 edition produced for the fifth time by the GMA Foundation boasts of a line-up of new and exciting performers lead by two "divas-in-waiting": Bituin Escalante and Anna Fegi, the popular boy band Jeremiah, plus performances by Robbie Navarro, Arnee Hidalgo and Carlos Agassi.
If you did not see the show, there is a commemorative CD/tape produced by Infiniti Music in collaboration with BMG Records Pilipinas and the GMA Foundation available in record shops.
Rachel Alejandro, Geneva Cruz, Barbie's Cradle, Rannie Raymundo, Dessa, Tats Faustino, Frozen Pie, Carol Banawa, Noisy Neighbors and Michael V. lend their superior vocal talents to this production.
I did mention that I had a favorite song right from the final screening session, didn't I? The rendition on the demo tape was already superb. The song blossomed into an even more stunning and exquisitely performed masterpiece--and won the grand prize. The song is "Forever and a Day," composed by Angelo Villegas, and performed by Rachel Alejandro. Ang ganda! Pakinggan n'yo.
June 3, 2000
And the Metropop