Women in bands used to be a rarity. While women were never truly excluded from the music industry, the fact that they were mostly consigned to singing pop tunes or slow ballads made the notion of girls in a band such a novelty. Fortunately, this is slowly becoming a thing of the past. We’ve seen more women take centerstage and lead their own bands past the stereotypes and into greatness.
These are 15 of their most underappreciated tracks.
1) "The Dance" by Barbie’s Cradle
Barbie Almalbis is probably one of the most notable names in OPM, regardless of gender. She has been churning out hit after hit since her front woman days with Hungry Young Poets and Barbie’s Cradle, up to her latest foray into solo territory. And just with the sheer number of songs she has released, some tracks are bound to get less attention than the others, like lesser-known track "The Dance." Released with the debut album of Barbie’s Cradle, this song showcases Barbie’s songwriting and guitar playing (do yourself a favor and skip to the guitar solo now) prowess. Unfortunately, it was overshadowed by another song in that album, the theme song to everyone’s favorite '90s teleserye, Tabing Ilog.
2) "Wounds" by Ourselves The Elves
Ourselves the Elves is classified in numerous online sources as “indie-folk” or “folk/pop.” Whatever it is their sound is, we should all just be satisfied with calling them pretty darn awesome. The Aly Cabral fronted quartet has quietly been releasing impressive material and people should be taking notice. Wounds features Cabral’s vocal work that, while subdued and restrained in its delivery, is bursting with emotion.
3) "Minsan Lang Naman" by Gracenote
It’s a mystery why Gracenote isn’t more popular in the local music scene. They’ve been releasing solid tracks that are deserving of more listening ears. This track from their 2012 album, First Movement, is an LSS and head-bop ditty that should be getting plenty of airtime. In this performance, main woman Eunice Jorge, who does a solid job on vocals as usual, also shows us her musical chops by playing keyboards and the violin.
4) "Lonely Tree" by Moonstar 88
Moonstar88 is a name that arguably fits a futuristic electronic music duo rather than an alternative pop rock band. What is undeniable though is that Moonstar88 has an impressive discography. We’ve all enjoyed listening to tracks like "Sulat," and every self-respecting guitarist should know the four chords that make up "Torete." Lonely Tree, a cut from the band’s sophomore album, is a forgotten track that lets original vocalist Acel Bisa’s voice shine through.
5) "Na Naman" by Color It Red
There are songs that, when you first listen to them, are frustratingly familiar. But it isn’t until the chorus or that one particular melodic line in the verse that makes you realize that you know and actually used to love that song. "Na Naman" is one of those songs—we know it, we love it, but we rarely listen to it, making this a sorely underappreciated track. Cooky Chua is known to be one of the best singers in the country and this song proves why she deserves that reputation.
6) "Idlip" by Imago
A long time Imago, vocalist Aia de Leon probably had the purest voice among local female vocalists. Songs like "Sundo" and "Akap" are OPM playlist must-haves and have their own place in Philippine music history. One song though that isn’t being played as much as it should be is "Idlip," a track from Imago’s debut album, Probably Not But Most Definitely. The dreamy guitars and delicate drumming set a perfect sound bed to support Aia’s powerful vocals. If this isn’t on your playlist yet, we suggest you make space for it and add it now.
7) "Two" by UDD
We can’t write an article about female band vocalists without including a song from UDD and Armi Millare. Armi possesses one of the most unique voices in OPM’s long history. And while we’re all familiar with what that voice can do by listening to UDD’s numerous hits, it won’t hurt to get into some of their lesser known material such as Two. The power and soulfulness of Millare’s voice is on full display in this track as she displays amazing control of her vocal range.
8) "Takipsilim" by Paramita
While it is common for band frontmen to play an instrument while handling vocal duties, it’s rare to find a vocalist who sits behind a drum set. But that’s exactly what Ria Bautista of Paramita does. We can only imagine how difficult and how much concentration it requires to hold down the beat of a song while singing main vocals but Ria does it effortlessly. "Takipsilim" chugs along behind Ria’s driving beat as her voice floats delightfully on top of the track.
9) "Another Day" by Mojofly
Kitchie Nadal’s voice is as recognizable as it gets in OPM. And while most people now associate her with her solo career, Kitchie started out as the voice of Mojofly. Before Lougee Basabas took over vocal duties, it was Kitchie out in front for the band. Though Mojofly and Kitchie continued to produce notable tracks after they parted ways, the Kitchie-era track "Another Day" stands out as one of the best songs ever written, anchored by the intro piano riff which is one of the best melodic hooks you’ll hear. Combine that with smooth bass lines, an outstanding bridge progression, and Nadal’s signature voice and you have a song that you should be listening to more often.
10) "F.A.S.T." by Taken by Cars
Taken by Cars was at the forefront of the local indie music explosion that took the country by storm in the late 2000s. Today, they’re one of the top acts in the indie rock scene, recently releasing their album Plagues for free as a digital download. "F.A.S.T.," however, isn’t a song you’ll find in any of the band’s albums. The single, created in collaboration with DJ Mars Miranda, features Sarah Marco’s impeccable vocals backed perfectly by a mix of her band’s analog instruments paired with Miranda’s electronic samples.
11) "Short Stories" by Put3ska
To the average Juan de la Cruz, Put3ska is exclusively associated with their biggest hit, "Manila Girl." But Myra Ruaro and her band are more than "Manila Girl." Put3ska was a perfectly capable band to whom we can credit our (very limited) exposure to ska. Their track "Short Stories" will definitely make you want to move and, as the song promises, will “rip you off your seat with the Pu3ska beat.”
12) "Usok" by Asin
Now some of you might probably be saying that this is definitely not an underappreciated track as it is one of the most popular tracks released by the Lolita Carbon and her band, Asin. That may have been true when "Usok" was released back in 1979 but certainly isn’t the case today. While a few Manila Sound-era songs have retained their mass appeal and relevance, mostly due to retro-themed Christmas parties, this reggae-influenced track has been relegated to a nostalgic novelty listened to only by people who were alive when this song was released and those influenced by their dads and titos. So for those who are unfamiliar with this song, do yourself a favor and listen to it and be awed by the quality of Carbon’s vocals.
13) "Sama Na" by Chillitees
That we chose to include their biggest hit on this list just means that we feel that the Chillitees are not getting as much recognition as they deserve and as a result, their entire body of work falls under the underappreciated category. "Sama Na" is an A+ track with a perfect mix of funk and soul with Uela Basco’s voice serving as the proverbial cherry on top.
14) "Praning" by Sinosikat?
Kat Agarrado has been in the local band scene for a long time. While most people today know her as the voice behind Sinosikat?, she actually started as the female vocalist for local music acts Kindred Garden and Passage. It was with Sinosikat? though where Kat found her signature soulful sound. Praning is a lesser-known track that really shows how tight Sinosikat?’s sound is. While the band does a top-notch job keeping the groove for the entire song, it is Agarrado’s voice that truly sets the pace with a healthy dose of swag and sultriness that seems to jump out of the recording.
15) "Rough Skies" by Farewell Fair Weather
Farewell Fair Weather is a band that sounds older than they actually are—and we mean that in the best way possible. With jazz, soul, and a bit of funk as the main drivers of their music, there’s a maturity to their sound that is quite surprising given how young these guys are. "Rough Skies" is a perfect example of how they can take different elements of music and make it sound fresh with Mic Manalo’s voice playing seamlessly with the deft instrumentation.