Sariling A’Tin: How SB19 Carved Their Own Path to Success

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With the predominance of KPop’s impact on the youth and KPop-influenced music in the Philippines, there is a need to establish an identity that we can call “our own” within the pop music industry. Fortunately, there is an all-Filipino boy group that is not only generating buzz in the Philippines but also internationally. SB19 is a Filipino group comprised of five members – Pablo, Josh, Stell, Ken, and Justin. The group currently has ten (10) singles namely: Tilaluha, Go Up, Alab, Hanggang Sa Huli, What?, Mapa, Bazinga, Ligaya, and WYAT (Where You At?).

Tilaluha: The struggles and humble beginnings

Photo from: SB19 Official

Prior to their debut, the group trained for three to four years through ShowBT Philippines, a Korean entertainment agency with a branch in the country. They used to perform at events under the same company and were required to study different languages. The group recounts their breakdowns because of these challenges.

The “SB” part of the group’s name came from the entertainment agency as well. But the members have derived the phrase “Sound Break” from the name of their group which signifies their desire to “break into the Philippine music business and set a better standard for other Filipino idols to follow.” While the “19”, came from adding South Korea [82] and the Philippines’ [63] country codes [8+2+6+3=19], which represents the collaboration of the countries in forming the group.

On October 26, 2018, SB19 released their debut song “Tilaluha” with a theme focusing on unrequited love and heartbreak, the song was meant to introduce the group and their strong vocals. The debut received a lukewarm reception.

Disappointed and discouraged, the group revealed their previous desire to give up and disband due to the uncertainty of their chosen path. Pablo – the leader, lead vocalist, and main rapper of the group expresses: “Dumating sa point na nagsisisi ako bakit ako sumali dito. (It got to the point where I regret joining the group).

SB19 also doubted whether their sacrifices would one day be worthwhile. Prior to devoting years of their life to intensive training, the members’ careers were vastly different from what they are now. Pablo was once a real estate data analyst and Josh, the lead rapper, lead dancer, and vocalist of the group was a call center agent.

Still, the group’s main vocalist, lead dancer, and choreographer was a Hotel and Restaurant Management major, Ken – the main dancer, lead rapper, and lead vocalist – was a third-year Architecture student, and Justin, the group’s sub-vocalist, visual, and youngest member majored in Multimedia Arts and graduated with honors.

The group faced uncertainty as they gave up their professional occupations for a career in which they were unclear would succeed. They recalled a day when they performed in front of a few friends beside a mall and being “happy” when more than ten (10) people would show up.“Kahit pito, basta sumisigaw sila, parang ma-uuplift ka talaga. (Even if there are just seven of them and they scream aloud, you will feel uplifted.)” Pablo reveals.

Go Up: The rise to fame


Photo from: SB19 Official | Instagram

Despite a less-than-successful debut, the band persisted and published “Go Up” on July 26, 2019, a motivational song on the difficulties and entire process of achieving one’s goals. Pablo referred to the song as the group’s “last shot” as they had resolved to disband if their career would not develop.

The group disclosed that the music video was initially unsuccessful. However, the group acquired popularity after a fan account on Twitter reposted their dance practice video to the platform and highlighted the “uniqueness” of the group.

“So there is this Filipino Boy Group called SB19. They are under a Philippine branch of a Korean Company called ShowBT.

The producers are Korean but the lyrics are in Tagalog (written by the members) but i didn’t feel any cringe at all! Their dance is also great” says user @BAE_Sodu on Twitter on September 2, 2019.

The account attached SB19’s dance practice video which has 4.7 million views as of writing.

In an interview on Toni Talks, the group remembered the “unexpected” occurrence that led to their viral success.

Parang “hala anong nangyari?,” pagkagising namin, pagtingin namin ng mga social media accounts namin, dumadami na ‘yung notifications. Dumadami na ‘yung nakaka-appreciate. (We were like, “what just happened?,” when we woke up, and we looked at our social media accounts, there were so much notifications. A lot of people appreciated it.) Justin recalled.

SB19 became the first Filipino act to feature on the Billboard Next Big Sound list on November 20, 2019. Multiple local and international radio and television stations began to feature the group as more opportunities are presented for SB19. “Go Up” also reached the top spot in the Billboard LyricFind Global Chart.

As a follow-up promotion to their viral single, on December 22 they began their first-ever 10-city national concert tour named SB19: Get in the Zone.

The team recalls their first “sweet” success and declares that “the wait was all worth it.”

Alab: Burning success

Photo from: SB19 Official | Instagram   

SB19 was admitted to the roster of Spotify’s RADAR Program, which promotes new artists through marketing campaigns, on March 9, 2020. The band recalls that waiting for their tracks to be included on Spotify made them feel like genuine artists.

“Maluha-luha po talaga kami, (We really got teary-eyed.)said Pablo.

The group was scheduled to have their first major concert at the Araneta Coliseum on March 19: “Give in to SB19.” However, due to the pandemic, the concert had to be postponed. Despite the canceled event, SB19 featured at No. 6 on the Billboard Year-End Social 50 chart, making them the first Southeast Asian artist to enter the top ten of the magazine’s annual ranking on December 3 of the same year.

The 2021 also gave a good start to the group. On January 17, the quintet gave their first major performance at the 6th Wish 107.5 Music Awards at Smart Araneta Coliseum. The group recounts feeling anxious while performing in front of a huge audience and fellow artists. They went home with three awards.

SB19 found global success after being nominated with BTS, Blackpink, Ariana Grande, and Seventeen for the Billboard Music Award for Top Social Artist. It was the first time a Filipino performer has ever appeared in the awarding body.

However, despite their achievements, the group reports enduring hatred and threats from fellow Filipinos. When questioned about the most disheartening statement they heard, Ken responded that many people said and believed they would not succeed.  They were also referred to as “Korean wannabes” and “copycats.”

On the other side, SB19 remarked that these comments have just served to bolster their confidence and that they no longer make a big deal out of it because they receive more love and welcome than hatred today.

“The tables have turned,” Josh stated.

Pagsibol: Global and individual growth

Photo from: SB19 Official | Instagram

SB19 is becoming increasingly well-known on a global scale owing to its goal to increase the number of people who recognize and appreciate the Philippines via the art of music.

Their record “Bazinga” held the number one slot on the Billboard Hot Trending Songs chart for more than six weeks, surpassing BTS’ “Butter” as the song with the longest reign on the chart.

The group performed in their first international music festival on January 9, 2022, representing the country at the 2021 ASEAN-Korea Round Festival with the intention of promoting cultural exchange within the ASEAN region. SB19’s debut overseas live performance took place at Dubai Exhibition Centre on March 16 of the same year.

Two members have made their solo debuts as of 2022. On January 28, Pablo released “La Luna,” a song about totally accepting oneself and ignoring society’s false expectations. While Ken began with “Palayo” under the mononym “Felip,” the song is about a person who has decided to end a relationship.

SB19 has continued to achieve its goal of making its own name and bringing international attention to Philippine music. The group currently has 2.72 million subscribers on their YouTube account, and its music video for the song “What?” has received 17 million views, its highest total to date.

The group announced their globe tour dates for their WYAT promotions in September of this year. On September 17, SB19 performed a sold-out concert at the Araneta Coliseum, followed by local stops in Cebu last October 1, Clark on October 8, and Davao last October 15. The group will then fly to Dubai, New York, Los Angeles, and Singapore for their world tour in October and November. More tour dates in Europe are yet to be announced.

Photo from: SB19 Official | Instagram

With their collective and individual accomplishments, as well as their national and worldwide recognition, more Filipino groups look to SB19 as an inspiration. In an interview with Philippine Star, the group advises the Philippine pop community aspiring artists: “They can always do it.”

Ituloy lang din po ang pangarap dahil alam namin ang iba ay frustrated. Iyong iba, they’ve tried na maglabas ng something new, pero hindi talaga successful. Nagdaan din po kami doon, ituloy lang po at makukuha natin ang success balang araw. (“SB19 shares advice to other P-pop groups ahead of world tour” – PhilStar) (Although we know that others are discouraged, continue to pursue your goal. Others have attempted to release something new, but without much success. However, we also experienced this. So, persevere and one day you will achieve success.)

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