SB19 Shows How Hit Single ‘What?’ Was Made—And Why The Song Is Purely ‘Them’

SB19 tells us to raise our flags-and they also raise theirs.
by Gianna Sibal   |  Apr 15, 2021
Image: (LEFT TO RIGHT) INSTAGRAM/OFFICIALSB19, YOUTUBE/SB19 OFFICIAL
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Since a practice video that went viral on the internet back in 2019, SB19 has been taking the country by storm with their latest single released last March, "What?"—which now has almost eight million views.

The first ever Filipino boy group, SB19 is composed of members Pablo, Justin, Stell, Ken, and Josh. They trained under a Korean company, debuted back in 2018, and has been steadily making music ever since with three digital singles packed in their first album Get In The Zone. And their hard work isn’t unnoticed. SB19 was actually the first Filipino group to chart on the Billboard Next Big Sound, and they were the first Southeast Asian artist to enter the Top 10 of the Billboard Social 50

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While their discography is refreshing with beautiful vocals and rap, paired with clean and jaw-dropping dance moves, the group revealed in an interview last year that they wanted to be more active and involved in the creative process of their projects—and they were able to do so with "What?".

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On their official YouTube channel, SB19 is releasing a five-episode docuseries, titled SB19 What?: The Making Film, about their journey making their hit single—up until its release. The first episode of which was just released last week, and the P-pop group lets us in on how they actively made the song ‘them.’

Bumalik ako sa pinanggalingan [namin], sa roots namin,” shared Pablo, the leader, main rapper, and lead vocalist of the group. “[The song points out that] ito kami.”

While for their previous songs, Pablo had a hand in the songwriting of their tracks, "What?" is his first time as the song producer, and compared to their previous tracks, "What?" has a stronger and more aggressive sound to it—which is why Pablo shared that he was really meticulous with the recordings and the production of the track.

On a YouTube video posted by the song’s other producer, Simon Servida said that "What?" was “easily one of the most challenging projects I’ve ever had to work on” because of the many tempo changes that he’s never tried before. With a lot of back and forth DMs and the occasional Zoom call with Pablo and his brother, Servida said that SB19 asked for a lot more "complexity" in the song rather than going for the usual simplicity—the route taken by most producers making tracks for artists. Servida described this as "refreshing," and added that although Pablo was very meticulous, he found the artist easy to work with because he knew exactly what he wanted for the song.

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In Episode 1 of the docuseries, it’s obvious how the group put their complete effort, dedication, and heart into the making of this song as well as the music video. Their exhaustion and anxiousness of exploring a completely new sound and direction was often paired with excitement and genuineness of hoping that their fans, called A’TIN, and other listeners would be encouraged and strengthened to raise their own flags and be proud of who they are.

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Josh, lead rapper and lead dancer, said, “Ito’ng kanata na ‘to... ito na siguro yung magre-represent kung sino kami talaga.” The member said that "What?" is where they introduce their "true selves," and Justin, the bunso and visual of the group who raps, dances and sings, added, “Ito 'yung kanta na magpapakita ng bandera namin, ‘yung individuality namin, and ‘yung pagiging grupo namin.” "What?" truly shined as SB19’s song that was completely theirs.

The docuseries also gives fans a glimpse of what happens in the recording studio. In an interview last March, Pablo shared that the recording would take place until early morning until everyone was satisfied with their parts, because he had to force the ‘oomph’ in the members’ voices to match the track. “The feeling had to be there,” the leader said.

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Stell, then, brought out a different attitude whilst going in the studio. The main vocalist and lead dancer said that he always enjoys moments when he’s recording in front of the mic, but since "What?" is very, very different from their previous tracks, he had to become someone more maangas. “Para lumabas ‘yung character ko kahit hindi pa sa MV (music video), kahit sa boses pa lang, para ma-portray ko ‘yung character na gusto kong ilabas para sa kanta.” Josh, meanwhile, added that “sinapuso ko talaga ‘yung kanta na ‘to” through allotting practice time for himself to improve on his vocalization.

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It’s truly admiring to see how these artists grew from their first release in 2018—to now. Not just music-wise, but also in embodying the message they want to send through their songs.

You can expect a new episode of SB19 What?: The Making Film every Friday at 7:00 p.m. While waiting, watch the first episode here:

Watch "What?" here:

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Gianna Sibal
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