Pinoy Boys’ Love, P-Pop: Socio-Political Tools and Platforms for Local Artists to reach Global Audiences?

February 22, 2021

Much of the local entertainment scene may have stalled during the pandemic, Filipino artists as well as the emergence of new phenomena continue.

In 2020, Pinoy boys’ love (BL) became a potent launchpad for aspiring new artists, while the exploding P-Pop ‘fandemic’ has enabled Pinoy singing groups to reach the global charts.

Both flourished during the government’s imposition of lockdowns, P-Pop and Pinoy BL opened doors for new Filipino artists to find audiences in the international market as it continues. Interestingly, the rise of these new formats and platforms, inspired by similar cultural movements overseas. Pinoy boys’ love began to thrive on the heels of the Thai boys’ love (BL) proliferation in the country, while the idol group, SB19, expedited the country’s charge into the global music scene with P-Pop.

Ian Pangilinan (left) and Paolo Pangilinan (right) play characters in ‘Gaya sa Pelikula’, who are both finding ways to find and express their identity

While the core anthems of boys’ love (BL) as a genre–is not unique. It was already previously tackled in movies and television long before its emergence in local media. Many independent and mainstream films with coming-of-age, gender-sensitive, and LGBTQIA+-themes are released to local and international audiences. The arrival of boys’ love (BL) as a conscious endeavor is a symbolic gesture deemed to tame—if not eliminate—public perception against same-sex romance.

Before popular titles like SOTUSAddicted, and 2Gether broke into the mainstream media, BL used to be just a secondary theme that primarily drives peripheral plotlines. 

Movies with strong LGBTQIA+ characters are rare, and discussion on sensitive issues addressing or about same-sex-themed pieces are blurred and carried out with evident precaution, all to avoid presenting arguments that directly defy both government-set restrictions and societal norms. 

Now, while public tolerance towards BL and similar media, remains pale, and eliminating the mass perception that invalidates and restricts its existence still feels to be a long shot. The increasingly progressive public discernment about the matter, suggests we’re on the right track in bringing this campaign to a rewarding end.

BL’s inherent breezy appeal, allows themes concerning homosexuality and other related socio-political issues, to be tackled against thematic backdrops that are widely regarded as conducive to the public’s understanding and acceptance of same-sex romances.

In the local setting, Web series that feature BL, have been serving as a potent platform to shed light on arguments that promote tolerance, and demystify anti-homosexuality claims, raising issues on discrimination against LGBTQIA+ and their psychological plights. In the Web series, Gaya sa Pelikula, for example, the main characters are motivated towards articulating issues about coming out and finding a safe space where love between men is no longer seen as an irregularity, a sentiment, IdeaFirst Company’s Gameboys, similarly echoes.

Idol group, SB19, currently leads P-Pop foray into dominating the global music scene with chart-topping hits that are able to reach Billboard’s LyricFind Global charts.

Coinciding the current boys’ love boom in the Philippines, the rise of P-Pop as an emerging OPM subgenre is also seen as a developing phenomenon. Like its K-Pop and J-Pop relatives, P-Pop’s blazing development is seen as an effective tool in breaking cultural barriers set by global markets, that used to be lorded by Western acts.

K-Pop’s success overseas, and even in the Philippine market, has inspired local star-builders to create similar groups, hence the birth of the likes of P-Pop Generation–BGYO, Alamat, MNL48, 1st.One, and SB19.

SB19’s phenomenal success in reaching global charts only verifies P-Pop’s shot at dominating the global music scene, and with the arrival of more idol groups, created with similar motivations, the quest of finding a faithful international audience, now no longer seems a remote possibility.

While P-Pop’s and Pinoy Boys’ love’s thriving at practically the same time, and cannot be easily dismissed as a mere coincidence. The fact that it is happening now, speaks volumes of our increasingly liberal perspective about homosexuality and our musical identity, with boys’ love becoming a conducive platform to address LGBTQIA+ issues and P-Pop music becoming our response to demands for OPM to find new flavors and identity.

And while it remains to be seen, whether or not these cultural movements will last long enough to usher in a revolutionary era in music, filmmaking, and television, we continue to live in this freeing moment, hopeful for others to join our cause.

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