Look Back, March Forward: SB19 Powers Through a New Era with MAPA
Marking their next step into a new era, the latest SB19 comeback track is a love letter to home
Click into SB19’s most recent music showcase and you’ll be greeted by 20 and a half minutes’ worth of advertisements. A recap of the band’s current endorsements, commercials—sometimes with their own dedicated jingle—loop while the comments section moves at super speed. Pepsi. Lazada. TM. A fashion collaboration with designer, Chynna Mamawal. And then again, and again, and again.
It’s a jarring reminder of how much has changed since SB19 graced Wonder’s February cover last year.
At the time, the five-piece group could hardly believe their own success. When we handed them a box of fan letters to read, they were stumped at the sheer amount of how many we’d gathered—and that wasn’t even all of them yet. Seated across two couches in a makeshift interview room, their excitement outweighed the initial bout of shyness as they enthused us about how the Go Up practice video changed their lives overnight.
The fame and glory they experienced then was foundational, but fractional. Little did they know that their triumphs would multiply exponentially within the next year.
Advertisements left and right. Their first solo album. The first Filipino artist to land a Billboard Music Awards nomination. With each new SB19 comeback came a new wave of loyal fans. The world was spellbound by their energy, their choreography, their catchy, smile-inducing tracks like Go Up and Alab (Burning).
With the ball already rolling, it would make perfect sense to keep playing by their winning formula, but SB19 has always done things differently. This year, they’re changing the pace.
Starting the journey towards their sophomore album, SB19 released their first pre-release single, What?, in March. A total 180 from their last comeback, What? hinges on aggressive rap verses, robust brass. Declarative and imperative all at once, it’s a challenge to better themselves and a warning for what’s to come. A battle cry of a new era.
Keeping up the momentum, the group dropped a follow-up single just this week.
Entitled MAPA, this SB19 comeback track is a love letter to their parents as much as it is about navigating their way through life’s pivotal changes. In the VCR played ahead of the showcase, the group’s leader and primary songwriter Pablo, who had previously gone by the stage name Sejun, shares his sentiments about performing the track for the first time. Through his pre-event jitters, he shares, “Bukod sa first time, every time na pinapakinggan ko po ‘tong kantang ‘to, naiiyak talaga ako. Kasi talagang sinulat namin siya para sa mga magulang namin.” (Besides today being the first time we’re performing the song, I tear up every time I listen to it. Because we wrote the track for our parents.)
He also shares that he penned the song when he was stricken with a sudden homesickness. From late 2019 to early 2020, the group had been performing non-stop. Despite the latter stops of their Get In The Zone nationwide tour being canceled, the members spent long stretches of time away from home. Despite the joy of living together during group activities (Stell fondly recalls having to secretly cook meals in their bathroom), overcoming the physical distance from their families was a challenge of its own kind. Pablo quips, “Sa lahat-lahat na ginagawa natin, alam natin na para sa kanila naman ‘yon.” (Through everything that we do, we know that we do it for them.)
MAPA, which they reveal is an amalgamation of the words “mama” and “papa,” takes the words we’re often too shy to say out of our mouths. To provide, to help, and to bring comfort to our parents are desires most children harbor, but never quite say out loud. The lyrics are heart-wrenching, if the slew of reaction videos from local and international A’TIN alike tell you anything.
The track also puts SB19’s vocals back on the map (pun intended). While the adlibs in the tail end of What? were a clear flex, MAPA is a direct answer to the fans who’ve been missing ballads like Tilaluha and Hanggang sa Huli.
“Before, nung nagsimula ‘yung SB19, hindi kami sure sa tatahakin namin. Hindi kami sure kung sino talaga ‘yung SB19,” shares Stell. (Before, when we started SB19, we weren’t sure what we were in for. We didn’t know who SB19 truly was.) This era—stronger, more powerful and truer to who the group really is—spells a new kind of self-assurance for all five members.
“Finally, nakita na talaga namin kung sino at ano kami.” (We’ve finally realized what and who we truly are.)
Support the latest SB19 comeback. Stream MAPA on Spotify.
Art Alexandra Lara