We Need to Talk About SB19’s Debut Album
The P-pop boy group’s first full album is finally here. Let’s discuss
On a particularly hectic afternoon in January, one that involved rigid scheduling and more hair and makeup rotations than I could keep track of, we shot our February 2020 cover with the boys of SB19. At the time, their music video for Alab (Burning) had been out for less than two weeks, but was already raking an impressive view count. Sejun, Stell, Ken, Josh and Justin were in the thick of touring, booked and busy with mall shows and events (remember when those were a thing?) for the next month.
A lot has changed since then. Physical performances have come to a stop, and the boys have since pivoted to engaging with their fans exclusively on online spaces. The success they experienced in the beginning of the year has revealed itself to be but a first taste of victory—baby steps to get SB19 to even larger milestones: releasing another single, getting featured on Forbes, becoming a staple in Billboard’s Social 50 and Emerging Artists charts.
SB19 is at the epicenter of a success whirlwind no one saw coming. And in the midst of it all, they released their debut album.
Get In The Zone! kicks off with a dance down memory lane. With the exception of their quarantine track Ikako, three previously released singles form a solid opening act. The most recent of the three, Alab (Burning) opens the album on a high note with smile-inducing whistles and an infectious melody. We’ve been lucky enough to see SB19 perform this track live (thanks to the A’TIN who’ve been helping our video make rounds on Twitter!), and it’s no wonder why it’s an easy fan favorite. Buoyant and bursting at the seams with energy—Alab is a good mood waiting to happen.
— Wonder (@WonderMagPH) February 5, 2020
Some songs pick up new meaning over time, and Go Up is one such example. During our chat for Wonder’s cover story earlier this year, Josh stressed that Go Up was the song that earned them a foothold in the industry and effectively changed their lives as they knew it. “After releasing Go Up, ang bilis ng lahat. Isang tulog lang namin, parang kinabukasan bumaliktad ‘yung mundo.” He revisits these sentiments in one of the teasers prefacing Get In The Zone’s release, crediting the track as one of the reasons they could be where they are today. Energetic as the song might be, there’s now something else tucked into Go Up now—more meaningful, more tender. Perhaps the emotional turn the album takes with the next track, Tilaluha, isn’t quite as jarring as it lets on.
The tracks that follow are new but not quite, because they aren’t exactly surprises.
Love Goes, their first release with lyrics completely in English, reveals a new side to SB19. They’ve crooned about lost loves, but never quite like this. Love Goes is doused in edge and angst, and is aptly described by Ken as “anguish” in a track. There’s an abundance of rap verses too, with Justin stepping into a new light as a rapper. Personally, the looped high synth works against the track, making it difficult to sit through multiple listens. But with the sharp choreography that propelled SB19 to stardom in the mix, it becomes clear that the track was crafted for stage performances.
Hanggang sa Huli takes a page from Tilaluha’s playbook, rife with emotion and layered harmonies. With dances as polished as SB19’s, it’s impressive to see that they take their time perfecting their ballads and beefing up the vocal chops, too. If their dances are what turn heads, it’s arguably tracks like Hanggang sa Huli that get the fans to stay. Coincidentally, the very first video of SB19 that made me stop and listen until the end was a recorded performance of Hanggang sa Huli from an event in 2019.
Despite the fans’ positive reception of their debut album, there remains ample space for them to grow. I know what it’s like to itch to get my hands on the studio version of an already performed, still unreleased song, but it would have been interesting to see the group drop something completely new. After all, the fans have long been familiar with Love Goes and Hanggang sa Huli. Even the wild card track Wag Mong Ikunot Ang Iyong Noo isn’t completely novel—it’s a localized adaptation of a 90s Korean smash hit and has been previously released on the group’s YouTube channel.
If I side-step beyond my longing for newness, though, Get In The Zone! undeniably makes for a solid first album. With six tracks, an EDM remix and two instrumentals, it’s a tasting menu for the first-time listener. For casual listeners, it’s a breeze through everything the group is capable of. For A’TIN, it’s a sign of victory—a triumphant fist in the air—and a forewarning of all that is to come. Nowhere but up, right?
Art Alexandra Lara