Revisiting the Philippine Idolsphere

Like indie wrestling promotions coming into consciousness after the birth of All Elite Wrestling (AEW), the same can be said during the rise of MNL48. Last time I covered groups like Aidoru Sozai (not dead?), Kawaii 5 (obviously dead) and CH4U (may they rest in peace).

Now I won’t still cover groups like SB19 and BGYO (again, not my field of expertise) but I might go and bend the rules in my favor for a bit since one of the groups we’ll be covering, in my opinion, replaced Aidoru Sozai as MNL48’s chief rival.

Without further ado, let’s begin.

The Ambiguity of BINI

If you’ve been following PPOP Twitter, there are at least four names that are popular with listeners of the genre, and one of them is BINI.

Their origin is quite confusing for the average reader because they released their pre-release single, a cover of Smokey Mountain’s “Da Coconut Nut”, on November 6, 2020 while their official debut, according to the now semi-defunct ABS-CBN, was of this year with the song “Born to Win”, not to be confused with the Paul Stanley song “Live to Win”.

This might lead to confusion later on because people might be confused as to when they actually debuted because if you’re going to say they debuted in June of this year and release a song almost a year before that, you’re going to get a “when was the first episode of WWE SmackDown?” syndrome on your hands. Go ahead, search that phrase on Google.

The promotional stuff says November 10, 2020. ABS-CBN promotional material says otherwise.

Their formation is quite interesting as they were trained in two styles: K-Pop style under the South Korean dance school MU Doctor who successfully launched careers of some K-Pop stars that I won’t bother to mention since it’s not my field of expertise but the names Momoland, Monsta X and WINNER should ring a bell to you K-Pop stans and the Pinoy showbiz style by Pinoy Big Brother himself, Laurenti Dyogi together with voice coaches Kitchy Molina and Anna Graham.

In my opinion, this is one of BINI’s advantages over the Japan-centered MNL48 and their predecessors Sexbomb and EB Babes as a mixture of styles between the “pang-masa” Philippine pop scene and the more bass-heavy, American inspired era of Korean pop could produce something original, a thing that the Philippine music scene badly needs.

Then again, this can produce something what I would like to call “copycat syndrome” and no offense to the A’Tins but groups like SB19 and XLR8 seem to lean more on one side of the music spectrum than on the other thus me considering them as “K-pop group copycats”.

As I’ve listened to two of their songs so far, I didn’t notice the “copycat syndrome” in BINI. Their rendition of “Da Coconut Nut” sounded something out of a LoveLive! album and it really brought the song to a “dance ditty worthy of the emerging P-Pop scene” as Pinoy Big Brother’s vision.

Meanwhile, Born to Win sounded something more of a Sarah Geronimo song with some K-popesque instrumentals.

Therein lies the ambiguity of BINI, they don’t sound like an idol group in the sense of MNL48 and Aidoru Sozai before them and at the same time, they are presented as such in what I think is the Lopezes’ answer to VIVA’s PPOP Generation (and we’ll get to VIVA records later on) being in-house competition to what HHE’s offering.

I even put up a Twitter poll for this one and people are either adamant about BINI not being an idol group and at the same time as confused as I am due to their ambiguous nature.

Only 13% said that yes, they are idols.

I would really like to see how ABS-CBN will use BINI since they already have another girl idol group on their hands and with the state of HHE, they might focus their attention on one group and not on the other.

Songs:

  • Da Coconut Nut (2020)
  • Born To Win (2021)

Duterteland has its own idol group

Well…sort of.

They’re more of a cover idol group right now than an idol group with its own songs and so ladies, gentlemen and everyone in between, meet Pastel∞Mix.

Meet Cherry, Thea, Jessa, Miichan, and Kanon. All members of the Pyon family.

They are a cover group based in Davao and unlike our previous entry, there’s something behind the name: Pastel representing their vibrant personalities when they come together (probably this is where the word Mix comes in too) and the infinity sign represents their unlimited passion for performing.

Pastel∞Mix is a brainchild of AMBOX Events, an event organizer from Davao that specializes in anime-manga related events and has been their official idol group since 2011, May 19th of 2011 to be exact according to their Facebook page.

Okay, this is shocking since with this information, they would be the older than Happina, the haafu idol group that avex introduced a year later. To think that they’re older than MNL48…huh.

They are also the official mascot of World Cosplay Summit Philippines and one of the idol guests for ToyCon 2019 together with LoveSo, CH4U and this other group that we’ll be talking about later on.

Aside from that, they’re also active in events in the Davao cosplay scene and were also part of the first Manila Idol Matsuri with other indie idols and our girls from HHE.

They are currently having a collaboration with AS☆FIRE, another Filipino indie idol group.

Basing on what I saw with their performance at Otakufest 2020, they really do love performing in front of their studio audience and they really nailed that LoveLive! energy school idols present.

I also watched one of their performances from 2012 and what’s interesting is that eight years ago, it seems that they’re basically a dance group at first since they didn’t sing the song (AKB48’s Beginner) or is it because the video’s so blurry you can’t see if they’re singing it or lip syncing it but I like how they sing the vocals because they really can sing.

There are some rumblings that they are planning to record their original song but it might take some time because of the pandemic and all and I can’t wait for the day that this shows up.

Since the original song isn’t there yet, let me put in their performances here:

UPDATE: As of this writing, Thea Pyon has now graduated. I wish her good luck on her future endeavours.


Half-Pinoy, Half-Japanese Action Figures

What’s with that title you ask? It’s a wordplay on what JAPH Dolls are.

What’s interesting with this group is that all four (formerly five and we’ll get to that in a bit) members have a little bit of Japanese in their blood, so in short, they’re Japinoys or as Mike Enriquez would call them, haafus. I mean it’s kind of obvious by now what the “JAPH” in “JAPH Dolls” meant by now but we’re not here to talk about race, we’re here to talk about the music.

According to one source, the girls were recruited in Japan with no auditions whatsoever which I find it hard to believe if you’re planning to produce an idol group and not just make one with your friends (like what Aidoru Sozai and CH4U did) and the fact that Riyo Nishijima mentioned on a Bandera article that she had to do auditions for JAPH Dolls makes me doubt the fact that there were no auditions that happened.

The initial number was three members and it got bumped to four in January of 2017 and then the roster increased by one member a month later. They’re currently signed with VIVA Entertainment aka the same group who brought us PPOP Generation.

Another thing to point out here is that they are all high school graduates and that they also have this love ban rule in place just like every other idol group which is pretty normal for any idol group at this point.

Their first single, Magdamagan, was released on September 15, 2017 and I am not 100% sure if this even received any airplay on the radio but what I am 100% sure is that it gained traction to people who were starving of local idol content at that time.

Remember, during this time, the MNL48 auditions haven’t even yet started and people were doubting the legitimacy of MNL’s existence back then because there were no updates as to what the hell is going on, aka HalloHallo Entertainment’s modus operandi.

Their other singles though like Count Senpai, Gumball, Makura and, get this, Yamete Kudasai either got no promotion, only got performed on events and places like the Wish 107.5 bus and Manila Idol Matsuri 2018 (yes, all acts I’ve mentioned in this and the previous Idolsphere article sans BINI revolve around here), or were only released as a YouTube exclusive music video.

It seems that VIVA either saw the writing on the wall, got cold feet on promoting the Dolls, didn’t get the appeal of the idol industry, or just knew that they won’t get anything from smelly otaku in terms of revenue that they didn’t bother to heavily promote these songs as hard as Magdamagan.

Anyway, here’s the gimmick of JAPH Dolls. Remember Itsumo by Dice and K9 where Hi-C does the chorus in Japanese? That’s basically what JAPH Dolls is doing with their songs. They sneakily insert Japanese into their English/Tagalog songs. What makes it special is that unlike Hi-C, they have their Japanese lineage as the advantage I guess.

They also had a concert called “JAPH Dolls Fantasy World” which happened on December 9, 2019 and it took place on Music Museum and that’s the last we’ll hear about them.

Seriously, that is the last time we’ll hear about them as they became radio silent in 2020 and that’s something to notice because neither the Dolls nor VIVA had any news about the group. They also have a café in Makati city and there’s no news about it either.

If ever the current situation ends, I hope we will hear any comeback or anything from them.

Songs:

  • Magdamagan (2017)
  • Count Senpai (2017)
  • Makura (2017?)
  • Yamete Kudasai (2017?)
  • Gumball (2017?)

So that’s it for the moment. If ever we get any more idols to come out of the woordwork, we might as well feature them here.

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