SB19 Is Aiming For The Global Pop Market And Bringing The Philippines Along: “Going International Is No Small Matter”


SB19 is undeniably the Philippines’ breakout pop group, but as their latest single and tour position them for greater international attention, the band has a bigger vision for themselves and their homeland.


SB19 is a Filipino boy band made up of Pablo, Josh, Stell, Ken, and Justin who mix mainstream sounds with Original Pilipino Music (OPM) in the country’s two main languages, Tagalog and English. Since the quintet’s inception in late 2018, the group has received an unprecedented amount of local attention, online interest, and day-to-day exhaustion in bringing the country’s current pop renaissance to international shores. While the Philippines has yet to rank highly among the world’s largest music industries (it was the 41st largest market on the IFPI’s global music report in 2010), SB19’s staggering, social-fueled influence and interest has helped the group and their country push boundaries even as the pandemic continues.

SB19 was first highlighted by Billboard in early 2020 as a Social 50 chart mainstay for rapidly growing online metrics across platforms (primarily Twitter, but also Facebook and Wikipedia), fueled by consistent OPM singles like “What?” (with 17 million views on its official music video), “Alab (Burning),” and “Go Up” (both with 12 million views). The group was nominated for Top Social Artist at the 2021 Billboard Music Awards, alongside BTS, Ariana Grande, BLACKPINK, and SEVENTEEN. SB19’s new single is their opportunity to showcase the group’s global-pop vision, just as their fellow nominees have all made wise moves in entering the international market.


“Right now, everything’s a bummer,” Pablo, who handles the majority of the band’s songwriting and production, says over an evening Zoom call from the Philippines. “This song is about getting back in touch with people.” It’s different when you go out and meet new people and do exciting things like climb a mountain! I’d give anything to go back to the previous situation, where you’re not concerned if someone coughs. The song is about going back to the way things were: talking and meeting real people, doing things together, and simply re-creating the feeling we had before.”

“When Pablo wrote the song, I asked him what he was imagining while writing the song,” says Justin, the group’s youngest member in charge of creative direction and visuals. “From there, I tried to expand on it and, of course, I asked if the group liked it and what they could add.”


Along with its retro sound, the accompanying “WYAT (Where You At)” music video transports viewers from a stressful 2022 to a time that can make audiences of all ages nostalgic.

“We researched how to show it visually and make people feel the nostalgia of things they kind of miss going back to the ’50s, ’70s, and ’90s eras,” Justin says. “We know that the majority of our fans are young, but we also want to reach out to those who lived through those times and tell young people what they did.” They’d go roller skating, have parties, and hang out in diners and arcades because we didn’t have computers or cell phones. Because of all the digital and, of course, the pandemic, we are now somewhat disconnected. We’re trying to connect SB19 to everything, including our tour, and it’s not just in the music video.”

SB19 see their upcoming WYAT Tour, which includes stops in Dubai, New York, Los Angeles, and Singapore, as critical to spreading their message and creating opportunities for the country’s burgeoning music scene, particularly in the world’s largest music market.

“It’s our first trip to the United States, and we’re not sure what to expect, but we’re looking forward to meeting everyone, all of our fans, and, of course, finding new, casual [fans] as well,” eldest member Josh adds. “We’d love to promote both Filipino and our music.”

However, SB19’s freedom as celebrities does not imply that the road here has been similarly lax.

SB19 say they took it upon themselves to become pop dynamos after forming and undergoing “intense” training by management company ShowBT Philippines Corp, the local arm of Korean entertainment company ShowBT, and signing with Sony Music Philippines in late 2019.

“If I may share, we didn’t have a choreographer or vocal teachers in the beginning,” Pablo says of the group’s early days. “We’re the ones who just made our own choreography and prepared new songs—we’ve been doing that since now, and I think that’s the biggest thing we’re very proud of.”

“We didn’t have money, but now we can buy food,” Stell, who leads the group in choreography creation, adds. “Perhaps that was the most significant transformation that happened to us.”

SB19 now has a larger local team that includes teachers and professionals focused on vocal training, performance, dance, and fitness, assisting them in putting in the hours and physical exertion required to achieve superstardom.

“My body aches,” Ken, the quietest and most exacting member, says. “I’ll be honest with you: I don’t want to wake up and get out of bed. That’s the most honest thing I can say, but it’s so rewarding because we can see how far we’ve come and how much it’s helped. Going international is not a small step for us, but it is the most significant opportunity we have right now.”

“I can say that A’TIN are more than just fans or supporters to us; they are family,” Stell concludes. “Without them, SB19 would not be in this position to promote and showcase our talents to the rest of the world.” We are grateful to our fans and, of course, to everyone who is rooting for us. We wish the best not only for our team, but also for the other teams in the Philippines. Thank you for all of your efforts and everything you’re doing for SB19.”

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