“Super Random,” the Inquirer Podcast powered by PumaPodcast on Pinoy pop culture hosted by Super associate editor and obsessive fanboy supreme Ruel S. De Vera takes a spin on music this time–on those songs that found a lasting home on Philippine radio and in Filipino ears—even if they were made by foreign artists and were never meant to gain permanent residence here.
And there is no better example than the most notorious one-hit wonder of all time in the country, one so bizarre the man behind it pretty much refuses to talk about it. Everybody knows Ricky Gervais as the acerbic British comedian behind the original version of “The Office,” but in the 1990s, the young, mullet-wearing Gervais was the frontman of a band called Seona Dancing, and dreamed of a new wave career. That career went nowhere, but one song—“More To Lose”—became a huge hit in the Philippines.
It could be argued that this was a good thing, as the failure of Gervais’ musical career led him to become a comedic genius. He still seems a bit embarrassed by it.
Pinky Aseron is a former DJ who worked in the radio industry for three decades and is a broadcasting teacher at the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication says, “And so, yun nga parang radio stations are resorting to foreign music. You know for and of course because of yung American top 40. Di ba influence nila yun. Di ba because of American top 40 you know uh they’ve become, they’ve practically become the the the yardstick so to speak no? Uh for for radio stations. I remember RT, used to have this ano di ba? Yung syndicated show yung kay Casey Kasem yung American Top 40.”
Even in death, musical artists live forever in Philippine memory. When I was growing up in the 1990s, there was one who needed to be played at proms. Once these songs were played, the passive bored high students would suddenly rush the floor and not leave until the remixes were done or their feet gave out.
We are talking of course of the Italian musician Michele Francesco Puccioni, but known to all of us only as Mike Francis. This is “Let Me In.” His fusion of synth pop, drum and bass, and dance turned him into a pied piper for teenagers at soirees.
Even though Mike Francis tragically died in 2009 at 47, his songs still rule the prom. As for the songs which are hits in the Philippines despite the fact they aren’t in English, it turns out we were ahead of the curve. Aseron says this can be seen in how quickly the Filipinos took to K-pop: “I mean K-pop is such a phenomenon you know. I’m I’m still I still can’t you know uh you know wrap my head around it kase a lot of a lot of kids nowadays are so crazy about K-pop that they even sing along with their songs. With the songs of these K-pop groups. Even if they’re purely in Korean.”
Nonetheless, songs with foreign lyrics taken hold of Pinoy ears are outliers. It’s still the songs in English that figure on the radio and in our heads. Sometimes, they figure so prominently, it seems like they live here. The single best example of this is none other than David Pomeranz.
But what really propelled Pomeranz to prominence was his involvement in the 1982 Scott Baio-starring romantic comedy “Zapped,” an awkward teen-gains-magic-powers comedy that found a ready audience. And it had a killer theme song, written by written by Charles Fox & Stephen Geyer.
“I think I’ve been to the Philippines honestly ah over those these many years, maybe 40 times? Something like that? I had been kinda everywhere,” he says. “Ah I’ve had the the privilege of of being ah ah so many places. On so many provinces. And I’ve met so many people in all walks of of life and existence. It’s been incredible. Incredible thing to see. Yeah man. It’s amazing.”
The song itself has become such a part of Pinoy pop culture that it has led to not one, but two very popular adaptations. The first was the 2002 romantic film from Star Cinema “Got 2 Believe,” with the shorter title and the number “2” instead of the word “two.” Starring the then it-couple of Claudine Barretto and Rico Yan, the movie was about a wedding photographer played by Yan who winds up bumping into an irate perennial bridesmaid played by Barretto—who wnd up falling for each other of course.
Directed by Olivia Lamasan, the movie made over $32 million. The title song was covered by that ultimate cover band of the 1990s, Side A:
There is, of course, the hit TV series inspired by his song, ABS-CBN’s “Got To Believe,” starring another it-couple, Daniel Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo.
In this one, the song is covered by Juris Fernandez.
“Ah it’s lovely I mean travels through time. I mean that’s what any artist wants you know. Just wants to ah have the communicate it continues to communicate somehow. And it’s wonderful, wonderful thing,” he says, saying he will never get tired of singing it. “No never. Because again could I make it up? I- I- I create it every time I do it like it’s new. Like it’s the first time. 18:23 My job is to deliver it with with bright intention like it’s brand new.”
He’s been back so many times he even recorded an album with a new song with local musicians and in local studio, “Born for You,” which remains the 13th best-selling album of all time in the Philippines.
To clarify some urban legends, Pomeranz doesn’t own a house–or an island here, but he might as well have done so: “Well I’ve learned a lot from Filipinos. And I’ve fallen in love with them. The numbers of dear sweet people in the Philippines staggers me. And it’s and it’s the Filipinos all over the world. You know the forty million that live elsewhere. And I’ve met them too. And ah, i- just gorgeous. When I go to the Philippines, I have so many friends and I love it and it has become our second home for that reason. That’s the truth.”
Listen to “Super Random: Got to Believe in Music” at
You can also catch it on Apple Podcasts and Anchor.
In the podcast’s next episode, we tried. to answer another musical question: Who is the foreign artist who’s been covered the most—or the one who actually stayed here for good? And why do Filipinos like listening to the same songs by the same singers over and over again, anyway?
Aseron says, “Kasi Filipinos by nature are very sentimental. They’re a you know they they tend to be very emotional. Therefore, ah I have reason to believe that their musical taste is also emotionally driven. So you know they turn to music as something that you know reminds them of a certain phase of their lives. So kunyari let’s say oh this this you know this song reminds me of you know the time I felt ano, I fell in love for the first time. Or this song reminds me of the time I broke up with my boyfriend. And this song reminds me of the time that I you know got over my- my breakup. So, Filipinos I believe have the tendency to turn to music for you know for memories and for you know something as something to soothe them. And something that soothes the soul.”
In fact, the heavy radio rotation of foreign songs has left a lasting mark on OPM, despite the fact that a Corazon Aquino-era executive order actually required four songs classified as OPM songs be played on radio every hour or their equivalent cumulatively for the day. But this EO went nowhere. Some of the most successful OPM songs are so slick and gorgeous they can easily be mistaken for foreign songs.
Take that ultimate conundrum, “I Will Stay This Way in Love with You” by Baron Barbers.
Foreign or OPM? It’s technically OPM because though the original performer is American singer Baron Barbers, the writer and producer is Filipino Boy Katindig, and the song was recorded here. Filipino have become so good at mastering every style, every trend and every skill—but the innovative, melodic search for sui generis OPM never stops.
The Philippines has always been described as a kind of musical paradise. We have our own artists and many foreign artists merely passing through. And then you have the ultimate example of the foreign artist who not only found relative fame in the Philippines—but an actual home.
Keith Martin was born in Washington, DC and made a name for himself as a singer/songwriter, best known for his song in the original. “Bad Boys” soundtrack.
Then when it came to recording his first album, he had to fill it. He just happened to be teaching a song for a Philadelphia gospel choir called “Because of You.” It wasn’t supposed to be recorded, but the tech guy recorded it, and Martin was surprised to see it in the album’s line-up. It’s just filler.
Then nothing. The album went nowhere. But somehow, that song, “Because of You,” became HUGE hit in the Philippines, something Martin was completely unaware of, until he started hearing in from Filipino friends and he was brought here, shocked to receive rockstar treatment.
Soon, everyone was singing “Because of You.” Perhaps the best version is the one by Kyla, whom Martin worked with and impressed Martin the most.
There was even a movie based on the song, though the movie was actually titled “BCUZ Of U” (get?) and starred Kristine Hermosa, Diether Ocampo, Geoff Eigenmann, future fashion icon Heart Evangelista, Hero Angeles and future K-pop Queen of Krung-Krung/2NE1 member Sandara Park.
Martin like working with Gary V. on the cover for movie theme, a version he also likes.
He never got to see that movie, though. In many ways, “Because of You” may just be the most recorded cover foreign song ever, with other versions by Michael Pangilinan, Jed Madela and a Tagalog version–there are countless unrecorded versions on YouTube. He admits to being kind of sick of the song–he’s got other songs, he says. The Martin Nievera version is really different, you gotta admit.
But it also changed Martin’s life. He started working with artists in the Philippies, the States and Indonesia. Then, equipped now with the digital technology, has settled down to have live here permanent–in Eastwood. He has a 13-year-old son with a Filipina and is engaged to work with a critical care nurse. He says many of his American music friends are now living and working here. He considers himself a Filipino in every way.
Listen to the episode “Super Random: Because of Keith” at:
Discover the secret history of “Voltes V” in Philippine history in the next episode, “Super Random Episode V: Let’s Volt In!” dropping on Spotify, Apple Podcasts and Anchor on Friday, Oct. 9!