K-pop has undoubtedly taken the world by storm. Whether you’re in Asia, America, or Europe, you would be hard-pressed to encounter anyone who hasn’t heard a song by BTS and BLACKPINK at this point. It’s safe to say that people from all walks of life are becoming more open to modern music from Asia. But what’s the next big thing in music aside from K-pop?
Well, it’s high time we look to our very own for some pop inspiration that deserves to be on the world stage. The world has always known Filipino singers to be balladeers. But there’s so much more to Filipino talent than just that. The Philippines has hip hop dancers, rappers, rock singers, among many other talents. In fact, its most popular boy group called SB19 is waving the flag pretty high for both P-pop and Southeast Asia these days.
But how did SB19 come to be, and what does K-pop have to do with them? We’ll explain it to you as clearly as we can with these things to know about SB19.
1. The idea behind SB19 and their training
One look at SB19 and you can immediately tell that they were inspired by K-pop. That’s the idea, but they’re obviously not limited to it. K-pop itself was influenced by J-pop and American pop music; what helped South Korea own it was how they injected their own culture into their songs and style.
One of the things to know about SB19 is that although they were trained by a South Korean company, they are absolutely not an attempt to replicate a K-pop group. Their songs are in Filipino mixed with a bit of English — their music has Philippine culture pulsing through each lyric. The idea of ShowBT Philippines, the company behind SB19, is to localise K-pop in the Philippines; but the goal of the business and the group has always been to push P-pop into the world stage.
ShowBT Philippines’ founder, Seong Han Geong himself, has claimed that Filipinos have an advantage over Koreans because they can speak English. “The advantage of them being fluent in English opened an opportunity and possibility for overcoming K-pop’s weaknesses,” said Geong in an interview with Forbes.
2. Where SB19 got its name
SB19 is a P-pop group under the management of ShowBT Philippines, a South Korean media company that aims to bring Filipino culture to the world. As its first boy group that underwent Korean-style training, SB19 was given the name that fully represents the partnership between the Philippines and South Korea. “S” and “B” come from the company name, while “19” is actually each digit of the Philippines and South Korea’s country code all added up (6+3+8+2).
However, SB19 also gave their name a different meaning and interpretation, which is “Sound Break,” to remind them of their goal of breaking into the Philippine and international music scene.
3. Who are the members of SB19?
All the members of SB19 are 100% Pinoy, born and raised in the Philippines. The group is composed of Pablo aka Sejun, Josh, Stell, Ken, and Justin. Pablo is the leader of the group who helps write and produce the music; Stell is the main vocalist and lead dancer; Ken is the main dancer and lead vocalist; Josh is the lead rapper and sub-vocalist; while Justin is the youngest member and the sub-vocalist.
These hard-working boys all come from different backgrounds. If you want to get to know them at a more intimate level, you can subscribe to SB19’s YouTube channel, where they post videos about their travels, birthday surprises, games, rehearsals, recordings, and music videos. Their channel is growing by the day and, at the time of writing, recently reached 2.6 million subscribers. Josh and Justin have their own YouTube channels, which you might want to check out too. That would definitely give you more in-depth knowledge on the things to know about SB19!
4. SB19’s struggles and their big break
If you’re an aspiring artist, then one of the most inspiring things to know about SB19 is that these boys went through a lot to get to where they are now. Training alone was a complete struggle for them because it was three years of rigorous training without getting paid. In the Philippines, that’s an incredibly challenging arrangement to agree to due to the Philippine economy and the culture of providing for your family aside from yourself. SB19 received a lukewarm reception when they debuted in 2018, which didn’t help.
Stuck between a rock and a hard place after their first year, the group came to a decision. “Since we weren’t earning money, we told ourselves that if this song (Go Up) didn’t work out, we would be splitting up,” said Pablo in an interview with MTV. But luckily for SB19, a K-pop fan in the Philippines stumbled upon the YT video of their Go Up dance rehearsal and saw the potential that was there.
That fan dropped the video on Twitter, and the rest was history. The Go Up dance practice alone has gained 5.3 million views to date since 2019, and that’s not even SB19’s highest viewed video. Their most successful music video is What?, which gained 10.7 million views on YT in a matter of three months.
5. They are the first Southeast Asians in history to be nominated at the Billboard Music Awards
In May 2021, SB19 was nominated for the Top Social Artist in the Billboard Music Awards alongside BTS, Seventeen, Blackpink, and Ariana Grande. This was the first time a Filipino act was nominated in the BBMA; in fact, this was the first time any representative from Southeast Asia was nominated in the BBMA.
It was a huge milestone for the boys, with Josh even tearing up as he watched the announcement of the nominees during his YT livestream. With the voting in full swing, local influencers in the Philippines rallied online to support SB19, including Vice Ganda, Catriona Gray, Wil Dasovich, Alodia Gosiengfiao, and Kean Cipriano.
It came as no surprise when BTS won against everyone by a landslide; but if you look at the estimate of the tallied votes on Twitter (excluding website votes), SB19 fans put up a fight. While BTS placed first with almost 41 million votes, SB19 placed third with almost six million votes. The tallied votes from the Philippines only amounted to 1.2 million votes, which means millions of votes for SB19 possibly came from overseas fans.
See the breakdown by the Daily Tribune below:
6. SB19 was the first act to overtake BTS in the Billboard Hot Trending Songs Chart
The Billboard Hot Trending Songs chart powered by Twitter was newly introduced in Oct 2021. Since its emergence, only BTS topped the chart with their hit song Butter. That all changed six weeks later when SB19 broke BTS’ streak with Bazinga. This made SB19 officially the second act to top the Billboard HTS chart, and the first to overtake BTS in the chart’s history.
Bazinga is SB19’s diss song to their haters, so it was truly a moment where SB19 was able to prove its naysayers wrong in an unforgettable way. Of course, this was also thanks to the efforts of SB19’s fans who worked day and night to trend Bazinga on Twitter until the tags finally beat Butter. Speaking of SB19’s fans…
7. Meet SB19’s fanbase!
With every pop group comes a strong and loyal fanbase, both local and abroad — SB19 is no exception. Their passionate fans call themselves A’tin, pronounced as 18. The name basically signifies how SB19 will always put their fans first, just as the number 18 comes before 19. If you think about it, A’tin also reflects how the fans will always have SB19’s back; 18, after all, always stands behind 19. “They are like superheroes. They make impossible things possible for us. The awards we receive are because of them,” Justin said about A’tin in an MTV interview.
In Tagalog, A’tin would be read as atin (ah-tin), which directly translates to “ours.” SB19 never skips a beat when they have an opportunity to thank their fans because the group’s success is the success of their fans as well. “Walang SB19 kung walang A’tin,” Stell said during a variety show interview in the Philippines. [There is no SB19 without A’tin.]
And A’tin is only getting bigger even outside the Philippines. You simply need to look at Twitter’s trending hashtags about SB19 to see that the fans participating aren’t just Filipinos. On YouTube, there are Latinos, Americans, Europeans, Asians (yes, even South Koreans), raving about SB19.
Among the things to know about SB19, here’s more proof of their fame: Ken, the group’s most mysterious member, was even gifted with a billboard birthday ad in Seoul by IdolPick. This made him the first Filipino and P-pop member to have a birthday ad in South Korea!
8. Southeast Asia represent!
When SB19 got nominated for the Top Social Artist in the Billboard Music Award, it was a momentous occasion for Southeast Asia; pop music in the region was finally being noticed by international audiences and acknowledged in an American award show.
This prompted SB19’s leader to speak about how their nomination could open more possibilities for Southeast Asian acts. “Just being nominated for Top Social Artist can do a lot of things. It could open up more opportunities not just for Filipinos, but for other Southeast Asian artists as well,” Pablo told Steve Angeles.
The Philippines may be waving the flag for pop music in Southeast Asia right now; but there’s a lot of talent to be found in V-pop (Vietnam), T-pop (Thailand), M-pop (Malaysia), and I-pop (Indonesia) too. Southeast Asians just need to shout a little bit louder if they really want their people to be represented on the global stage. SEA pop groups deserve all the support!
No way to go but up
We’ve merely scratched the surface with this list of things to know about SB19. Even though they’ve hit huge milestones, including approximately 61 million MV views on YouTube and around 64.2 million streams on Spotify as of writing, SB19 will be the first to say that they are only just beginning.
“We’re focused on promoting our music all over the Philippines, and hopefully if we’re given the chance to perform internationally or globally, we would be honoured and grateful to do so,” said Pablo in an interview with The Korea Times. SB19 of the Philippines will surely reach more heights. The question is: Are you watching?