Filipino Boy Bands for Dummies

Do you have what it takes to be the next them?

At an airport ambush, a girl was able to get really close to her favorite K-Pop artist, enough to hold his hand and pass him a fan letter, which she composed with months of suppressed online stalking as a foundation. We are talking about a smart, creative, young female student with an interestingly quick wit to boot, who was bred within the confines of, like, y’know, the Arrr’neo de Manila University. Call me stereotypical, but it’s not usually expected that a girl of background would submit herself to such a scenario, wherein if stones and sticks could replace the cameras waving in the air, we would automatically be witnessing a scene right out of Flintstones.
Surely, fanaticism knows no age, class, and race.

In some sadistic way, I like seeing celebrities get mobbed. I am fascinated with the idea of fans wanting to rub celebrity DNA on their skin, so they can tell their future grandchildren that once upon a time, their cells had some kind of symbiotic relationship with said celebrity’s. It would be interesting to witness a sudden barrage of photographers harassing a member from, let’s say, a local boy band, who merely wanted to take a stroll in peace. However, in this time and age, chances of such encounters are next to impossible because 1) consumer fanaticism in the Philippines has yet to rise up to a consistent standard and 2) there is no actual established Filipino boy band to date. Wait, what?

Before blood levels rise, a need to define terminologies is at hand. For the sake of clarity, consistency, and dodging bullets, I will define what a boy band is. The words “boy band” do not merely refer to any musical group composed of three or more males. More often than not, a boy band is an effortlessly good-looking, fashion-savvy group that specializes in singing and dancing. They’re marketed as pure and innocently masculine; if there is a show of frank sexuality, it’s probably a direction dictated by their respective record labels … or possibly, the result of an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction. While everybody won’t necessarily love them, the entire nation knows them. Following this train of thought, I think it is safe to assume that the Philippines has yet to successfully launch and immortalize an iconic Filipino boy band, despite several humble attempts to do so.

If fanaticism does not pick its victims, and yet rendering our own version of a boy band has been in the works since MTV debuted videos of white shirt-clad teenyboppers dancing in the rain, what then are we doing wrong?

Lately, Manila has been swept off its feet by the K-Pop craze — Filipino fans swarm airports, check in at hotels or stake out nearby dining places for possible idol sightings. While Filipino fans can devote this much fanaticism to fellow Asian artists, and not so much to their own, this compelled me to study the Korean formula in forming the perfect pop group. Here are tips on how to concoct a mean boy band:

• Beauty is stagnant, talent is dynamic. It’s not exactly breaking news that our show business industry capitalizes more on aesthetics than talent. Unlike their counterparts here, Korean talent agencies are pretty realistic when it comes to picking their moneymakers — the untalented but pretty ones become models, the talented ones go into the performance pool, the pretty and talented ones eventually contribute the most to the company’s revenues. If you find yourself on the side of the judge’s panel, there is no room for dreams, only business. This strategy, though something that should have been entrusted to common sense, ensures Korean agencies that their talents are planted where they will actually grow. So be brave. Allow tears to form in those doe eyes that are illogically begging you for a chance at stardom. Trust me, it will benefit our pop culture in the future.

• Invest in the worthy. Not only is it important to recognize potential, it is equally, if not more important, to build on it. In Korea, a trainee usually goes through rigorous hours of singing and dancing on an almost daily basis, some even devoting nine to 10 years of their young lives to training. Trainees that do not show improvement can easily be dropped by the company, or are absorbed by other companies. Dancing and singing clips of the trainees are sometimes released to the public to garner interest and feedback from potential fans, so that the company can gauge who their assets are. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the Internet serves as pre-debut marketing — it’s cheap, it’s fast, it’s free, and the fans gobble up information about the trainees as if their happiness depended on it.

• Any business venture should have a sound business plan. This is the most underrated step in forming a boy band. Amid imagining the glitz and glamour of pioneering semi-gods on their way to becoming collectible miniature figures, one must remember to be smart. Know your target market, come up with a solid concept, and map out a thorough marketing strategy. Koreans are very particular when it comes to conceptualizing. They pay close attention to their trainees’ characters, strengths, and weaknesses and base their group’s concept from there. Even their endorsements have to fit in with the image that they are trying to convey. A group with a sound concept can be like 2PM, which is a group of male teens specializing in singing, dancing, and gymnastics, or a group of cute, leggy, innocent young ladies like Girls Generation, who appeal mostly to young and middle-aged men. Another impressive trait of Korean talent agencies is their devotion to long-term goals. Case in point, majority of the Korean trainees are required to learn Japanese and English so that they can eventually penetrate the respective markets.

• Everybody loves a tease. Always leave the public wanting more. While exposure is good, too much of it can be bad. Individual Korean pop idols usually have hosting gigs and dramas on the side, but when it’s time to prepare for a new album, they literally vanish — a strategy that keeps the fans on their toes until the release of the next teaser video. Also, try not to let the members of your boy band do too many covers and dance numbers on variety shows. The fans’ anticipation wanes, thus shortening the boy band’s career.

• Quality should never be compromised. I am begging local recording companies to please invest in your artists’ songs and videos. If I say that I plan to hang myself if I hear another Filipino artist do a remake, I would probably have around 24 hours left to live. Korean pop groups usually seek out composers from different countries just to assure the quality of their songs. One girl group even bought out a song that artist Ke$ha was supposed to use. If budget is inevitably tight, please seek out local composers with actual talent and a portfolio to boot.

• Put your artists on a leash. One of the endearing traits of Korean pop groups is their humility towards media and their fans. Every mistake is accounted for with an apology, even if it’s something as simple as missing a dance step. They always ask for continuous support and guidance from the fans, and unfailingly promise better performances in the future. They are able to create and maintain a culture of mutual respect — something that needs to be practiced consistently in the local showbiz industry.

While I wish for our local artists to achieve international fame someday, at this point, it is more of a challenge for them to establish themselves locally. Even though I’m already past the boy band stage, I still wish to see a group that would win the hearts of proud Filipinos, instead of eliciting distaste. When that happens, baduy or not, we will ultimately be proud that all the clamoring, screaming, and clawing from fans are genuinely out of love for one’s own.

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