The life and death of OPM

- Don Jaucian (The Philippine Star) - August 25, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Original Pilipino Music” (OPM) used to be a term that was proudly worn on the sleeves of artists like the APO Hiking Society, Sampaguita, and Jose Mari Chan. Its glory days saw a broad spectrum of original compositions, and pioneering genres and subgenera, all born out of a sincere desire to make music. But today, in a world where giant studio producers roam the streets, looking for the next products to sell to the masses, OPM as it was has withered away. It has been thrown into some bargain bin, upstaged by Korean girlbands, cover albums, and bossa nova.

Here then is the grave of Original Pilipino Music: a repository of yesteryear’s hits sung to death by variety show singers. Young emerging artists have to struggle to get their original material released. In an interview this year with MYX Magazine, pop duo Krissy and Ericka revealed how their label, MCA Music, thinks: “Doing revivals [is] the trend in the music industry. The label told us releasing an original would be difficult for a radio to pick up.”

Familiar And Comfortable

It’s a disheartening concept, that music companies believe that repackaging old tunes is the best way to reach a bigger audience, thinking listeners only lap up whatever’s familiar and comfortable. But the punch in the nuts is that they may be right. This year’s biggest record-seller is Daniel Padilla, ABS-CBN’s “Primetime TV Prince,” whose self-titled cover album went platinum in less than three months. Another top hit is the two-volume soundtrack to Walang Hanggan, a TV series, buoyed by songs from ABS CBN’s fossil roster, headlined by Martin Nievera and Gary Valenciano. And in 2009, Noel Cabangon — for all his stature, and despite being a symbol for people who believe there is still a smidgen of “original” in OPM — released a cover album. It still occupies a place in the charts today.

Becoming a commercially viable artist now means doing something comfortable; doing things that are expected. Risk is equated with career suicide, and stagnation is an acceptable pond in which once-great artists can wallow to preserve their legacy. When notes are recycled for the nth iteration, you wonder: Where are the composers and legitimate artists of the industry?

Signs Of Life

It wasn’t that long ago when major music labels took a chance on artists like Eraserheads, Sugarfree, Yano, and ’90s-era Rivermaya — artists that challenged the notions of rock and pop, and pushed boundaries of how music should be and how it should affect communal shifts. These were not meager blips in the radar. Eraserheads’s “Cutterpillow” is still one of the bestselling albums of all time, being certified platinum 11 times. With new wave interest on the band due to a US reunion tour, Cutterpillow is that glorious monument of OPM, a vital reminder of how market consumption once looked up to an artist that had energy.

There are occasional signs of a better future, though. While they are few and far between, major label artists like Rico Blanco and Gloc-9 manage to put out relevant original material. And at the periphery of the industry, independent musicians are building steady fantasies. They may not tour around the country, have TV appearances, and get their music videos played on the label-affiliated channels, but that’s where we come in. Perhaps the responsibility of resurrecting OPM falls upon us, the fans, the listeners. The death of innovation happened because we let it.

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Tweet the author @geeksturrrr.

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