R&B has recently been experiencing a revival, and that’s a very good thing. True, the local mass market music scene still champions the birit ballads and the hugot acoustics, despite the fact that there are Filipino singers and musicians who can do R&B well enough to push it into mainstream. But the persistence of young, mostly independent artists who are throwing in their hats into this genre makes me hopeful, because R&B is truly one of the more creatively challenging genres out there.
Currently, it seems to be a free-for-all, undefined scenery, with rappers trying to sing and singers trying their hand at rapping, but listening to R&B tunes from eras past could immediately transport you into a certain time frame: The sound of ‘90s R&B is distinct from the R&B from the early 2000s, which is also very different from what artists have been putting out for the past couple of years. And let’s not even get into its proclivity for sampling and its delicious intersection with pop, jazz, and soul, which led to the popularity of neo soul in the ‘90s.
One local act that rose to R&B’s challenge is BRWN. Comprised of composer/singer Max Guerero, guitarist/musical arranger MigsRaneses, keyboardist/bassist and arranger Oman Peradilla, and drummer Stanley Seludo, BRWN was collectively weaned on the old school sound of Stevie Wonder, acid jazz, soul, and R&B. Though their debut EP is slated for release in the first quarter of 2019, the group has already released their first single, which practically begs for comparison to Michael Jackson and Bruno Mars, not just because of Guerero’s smooth vocals but also because of its groovy, funky vibe:
“The objective is to be challenged,” Guerero said in a statement. “If you don’t challenge yourself, how do you expect to come up with anything new?” How indeed?
As for that visor that the vocalist constantly wears all throughout the video and during BRWN’s live performances, it’s a reminder to the audience that in music, appearances shouldn’t really matter.