The relationship Filipinos have with music has always originated from a place of love. Whether it’s the original haranas of the past or the latest phenomenon/prevalence of sawi songs, a huge aspect of the Filipino musical identity is rooted in themes of romance and paramour.
In the case of Ben&Ben, arguably one of the biggest musical acts in the Philippines today, we see how such topics prevail in their musical blueprint. The nine-piece act has grown to become one of the most successful Filipino bands in recent memory, beloved for their undeniable talent and unique chemistry as a group. But you might wonder, what exactly got them to such heights in the industry? Well, a lot of it comes from the success of their surprise smash hit, “Kathang Isip”.
Released in June of 2017, “Kathang Isip” was the band’s third single, following the warm reception of their second release, “Leaves”. While “Leaves” could already be considered a success, its long-standing impact wasn’t anywhere near where “Kathang Isip” would eventually place the band in the Filipino music setting.
From being recognized as just one of the many indie bands in the local scene, Ben&Ben had become a household name all across the country in such a short span of time—with everyone and their mothers knowing all the words to the song.
To this day, a sudden skyrocket in fame like this is almost unheard of. The case of Ben&Ben and “Kathang Isip” is a remarkable achievement that not many OPM acts get to experience in their lifetimes, especially with how it marked the beginning of a fruitful career that has lasted to the present day. Even when diving deeper into the song’s statistics, “Kathang Isip” is recognized as the band’s most valuable song (both monetary and stream-wise) on Spotify Philippines. Though many of their recent musical works still sell (and stream) quite well, none possess the hold that “Kathang Isip” still has on audiences worldwide.
Game-Changer On The Scene
But what exactly makes “Kathang Isip” such a game-changer? Is it the melodramatic crooning of Miguel Guico, the heart-tugging instrumentals that build up to a soaring, cathartic chorus, or the impassioned and highly relatable lyrics that tell a story of unrequited love? Perhaps it’s a combination of all three and even more, but if there’s one thing that could be said for sure, it’s that there is so much to unpack with such a song.
For starters, one could look directly at the track’s lyrics and analyze them. The songwriting is layered and personal but still quite easy to decipher at face value. Its straightforward nature is accessible and understandable for anyone who listens to the track, allowing them to apply these words to their own lives and experiences.
Though its lyrical focus tackles the end of a relationship, it does so with a unique flair that allows for a compelling narration that immediately draws its listeners in. Looking back on a failed relationship through rose-colored glasses is something that many of us are guilty of, and Ben&Ben perfectly encapsulates this experience in their song. Because as it is, letting go of the fleeting memories that cloud our judgment of reality is a common internal conflict and a source of pain for many.
The Guico brothers had penned such a personal track to express their emotions, and it resonated with many, as this song became a universal emblem of recounting lost love and fading memories of past relationships. With a choice set of words, it added the perfect soundtrack to what many people were going through –– and fit right into the local (and sickeningly romantical) climate of 2017.
It was also the year of local romantic films like I’m Drunk, I Love You and 100 Tula Para Kay Stella. Hugot culture was suddenly all the rage, and it set the stage (and tone) for the song’s immensely popular music video. With a whopping 80 million views on YouTube, it’s as if 70% of the country’s entire population has already seen it.
Hundreds of reactions flood the comments section, with many fans and listeners sharing personal anecdotes that relate the story and song to their lives. Scroll down and find messages of gratitude, song analysis, and heaps of praise. No matter what you see, it’s obvious that the composition carries a great weight of meaning to millions of people who have made the effort to share a piece of their mind (and heart) about the “Kathang Isip” video.
The Music and Its Meaning
With how big an influence the song has had on the masses, the cultural landscape of love songs in the Philippines has been changed forever.
As it is, music is a tool that forms relationships that go in two ways for both the audience and the artist. “Kathang Isip” is an excellent example of this––it remains a modern staple that keeps its resonance, impact, and meaning to all its listeners. Heartbreak is a universal theme that is forever ingrained in the Filipino identity across all generations. It’s an aspect of ourselves that will continue to go beyond time, and definitely something that Ben&Ben will continue to tap into with their music.
But even as the years go by, it will be a tough feat to recapture the magic that “Kathang Isip” achieved, and it will remain as the country’s heartbreak anthem for a very long time.