Art inspires art in his new single
Everything around us can affect our emotions. From that tear-jerker movie you watched on a whim, a day spent in a coffee shop or a song whose lyrics hit a little too close to home—these act as the best switches for your feelings. And for artists, these also flip the switch for creation and inspiration. That spark could lead to a masterpiece, a song, a new story—perhaps even the cathartic release you’re looking for.
Such is the case for Wonder’s 2019 cover star, Unique Salonga and his new single called Reality Checklist. The fresh and airy instrumental contrasts against the resigned and hard-hitting lyrics, enough to make you sit still and take it all in. Reality Checklist is sonically simple, yet the hypnotizing synths and his voice are enough to deliver the raw emotion the song depicts. Despite the intro promising an easy listen, Reality Checklist tugs at your heartstrings.
However, the narrative is not solely his. Unique took to the studio to draw the emotion out after seeing a painting of the same name by Jaime Pacena II. As narratives and feelings overlapped, Reality Checklist came to be. Written before his 2020 album PANGALAN:, Reality Checklist is another piece of evidence of his lyrical and musical prowess. Skills led him to be called OPM’s Favourite Wonder Boy and skills that always put him outside the box.
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In this exclusive one-on-one, Unique opens up on the story behind Reality Checklist, what he misses about performing for a crowd and more.
Can you tell us the story and inspiration behind your new single, Reality Checklist?
Inspired siya sa isang painting ng godfather ko na si Jaime Pacena II. Isang beses, pumunta ako sa solo exhibition niya at na-hook ako sa piyesa niyang Reality Checklist. Bago umuwi, nalaman ko na based pala ‘yung buong exhibition sa personal story niya noong 2017. Simula no’n, ‘di na siya mabura sa isip ko kaya ginawan ko na lang siya ng kanta. (It’s inspired by a painting made by my godfather Jaime Pacena II. One time, I went to his solo exhibit and got hooked with his piece called Reality Cheklist. Before leaving, I learned that the entire exhibition was based on his personal story from 2017. Since then, I couldn’t get it out of my head so I wrote a song about it.)
Reality Checklist sounds dazed, almost dream-like that it visibly contrasts the title. Was this an intentional creative decision on your part?
Sa totoo lang, hindi siya intentional. Natural na lang talaga siyang lumabas na gano’n. (Honestly, it’s not intentional. It naturally turned out that way.)
What’s your favorite lyric or part from Reality Checklist? Why did you choose that part in particular?
Siguro, ‘yung ending na “You” at “Him” na lang ‘yung natira habang pumapasok ‘yung synth na unang lumabas sa intro. Sobrang gustong gusto ko siya kasi sobrang sakit ng part na ‘yon. Masaya rin ako kasi na-execute ko siya nang tama. (I guess the ending where the lyric “You” and “Him” get left behind while the synth from the intro enters the song. I love that part because it really hurt. I’m happy that I got to execute it properly, too.)
Looking back to writing the songs for PANGALAN: and writing Reality Checklist, has there been a difference or growth in your creative process?
Habang pinaplano kong gawin ‘yung PANGALAN:, katatapos ko lang din yatang gawin ‘yung Reality Checklist no’n kaya hindi ko makita kung ano’ng difference niya pagdating sa proseso. (While I was planning to do PANGALAN:, I just finished Reality Checklist so I can’t see any difference in terms of [my creative] process.)
What feeling or message do you want your listeners to get when they listen to your new track?
Gusto kong ma-feel nila ‘yung sadness ng song pero gusto ko ring iparating na ‘yung kantang ‘yon ay pwede ring maging way para tanggapin ‘yung past at magpatuloy sa panibagong journey natin sa buhay. (I want them to feel the sadness of the song. But I also want to say through [the sadness] that it can also be a way to accept the past and go on to the new journey in our lives.)
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You recently performed in an online concert, but for sure, it’s still different performing in front of a crowd. Is there one thing about live shows that you miss the most?
Nakaka-miss ‘yung sinasabayan ka ng crowd sa pagkanta. Tsaka ‘yung mga kuwentuhan sa backstage before at after ng set. (I miss the crowd singing along and the chats backstage before and after the set.)
It’s been a while since your cover with Wonder, and you previously mentioned that you wanted to explore different forms of art such as writing, making films and painting. So what’s another creative hobby that’s been occupying your time lately?
Sa ngayon, sobrang nahilig ako sa street photography. Dala-dala ko ‘yung camera ko kahit saan ako mapadpad. (Right now, I’m really into street photography. I bring my camera everywhere I go.)
The song signifies a new era. What else can we expect from Unique Salonga in the near—and far— future?
I-expect niyo na marami pa ‘kong ilalabas na kung anu-ano para sa inyo. Kaya sumubaybay lang kayo palagi. ‘Di ko kayo bibiguin. (Expect that I’ve got a lot more for you. That’s why keep tabs on what I’m up to. I won’t let you down.)
If we learned anything from Unique and Reality Checklist, is that sometimes, the only way out is through. So feel the sorrow, the sadness. Then use it to create a beautiful thing in the process and, finally, let go.
Listen to Unique Salonga’s Reality Checklist on all music streaming platforms.
Original Images Jaime Pacena II c/o OC Records
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver