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A Look Back At 2017's Best Local Music Videos

Filipino music video directors had us abusing the repeat button—proof that the format is here to stay no matter what
by Ian Urrutia | Jan 2, 2018
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Autotelic joined the Mapa brothers in a retro dance number, Cheats’ very own Candy Gamos disrupted the peace inside the MRT, and Filipino-American rapper Bambu wore a hood mask as a sign of rebellion.

2017 has been a great year for local music videos. The bulk of the entries on this list rallied against various forms of social injustice that the current government continues to perpetuate. Others have found inspiration by looking back at the past and stretching the aesthetic imagination to evocative places. Different strokes for different folks, but one thing remains consistent: Filipino music video directors had us abusing the repeat button—proof that the format is here to stay no matter what

10) Cheats - "Crumble"

Director: Kyle Quismundo

When a music video manages to pull off tricks in one continuous tracking shot, you know you’re in for a wild ride. “Crumble” finds a common ground between timing and ingenuity, with singer Candy Gamos disturbing the peace inside the MRT as she lip-syncs, dances, and hops from one place to another like a star in a musical play. Gamos is an infectious talent capable of bringing immense sunshine to an otherwise stale background. Not even a world about to crumble down can stop her from putting on a show.

9) James Reid – "The Life"

Director: Petersen Vargas and Nadine Lustre

It’s refreshing to see acclaimed filmmaker Petersen Vargas collaborate with singer-actress Nadine Lustre on a music video that brims with glossy elegance. Their work on “The Life” is striking in its subtlety and nuance, perfectly capturing the romantic intimacy between James and Nadine, and the dreamlike atmosphere of cities and cultural landmarks that serve as backdrop to their love story. Its unapologetic extravagance is part of what makes it special, transforming conceit into a personal essay of travel and romance.

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8) Yuji De Torres – "Bheybi Pa-shembot Gang"

Director: Patricia Laudencia

The premise of “Bheybi Pa-shembot Gang” is nothing like you’ve seen before, but its attempt to showcase a progressive exploration of a trans character in less than four minutes deserves a pat in the back. Wickedly funny and morose at the same time, it sheds light on the life of a tans prostitute in the urban jungle, where struggle is a form of survival and pain is masked by smiles and neon signs.

7) IV of Spades – "Hey Barbara"

Director: Myca Guinchoma

IV of Spades’ brand of '70s retro is enough to convince you that they were born in the wrong decade. They’ve managed to capture the era in its shimmering glory, using it as drive to shape their aesthetics. The video for “Hey Barbara” combines power dressing with hippie chic, minimalist set pieces with muted colors and pastel motifs. The visual approach is simple but effervescent, and is somehow a good fit for the shiny disco vibe of the song.

6) Jess Connelly – "Turn Me Down" (Feat. Lustbass)

Director: Paco Raterta

Somewhere in the tropical haze, Jess Connelly is accompanied by a rooster and a yellow parasol umbrella, singing alt-R&B jams in her pink pajamas. It’s a striking visual standout that marries camp with eclectic style, and only Jess can pull it off. She’s a star in her own version of paradise, a colorful persona who has found a deep connection with nature, surrealism, poetry, and romance.

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5) Autotelic – "Mapa"

Director: “Quentin Tolentino”

The video of “Mapa” is a textbook example of how DIY goofs can leave you in stitches even without the glitzy spectacle that blockbusters have. It works as some kind of a shoestring tribute to all things retro and novelty, pandering to trends without being trendy, proud in its excess and silliness. There’s a lot to celebrate about this effervescently joyous trip: awkward dance moves straight from the Backstreet Boys catalog, WTF banters between ‘90s matinee idol Jao Mapa and his eccentric musician-brother Diego Mapa, and Autotelic surprisingly charming us with their comedic chops. And who would tap someone with a name “Quentin Tolentino” to direct a music video? I mean, seriously?

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4) Eyedress – "Manila Ice"

Director: Paco Raterta

Music video director Paco Raterta is not known for subtlety, but his signature motif of bleakness meets style has created some of the most visually arresting work of the last three years—from BLKD’s socio-realist noir “Taksil” to Eyedress’ “Manila Ice.” The latter is a cold, unflinching look at Duterte’s war on drugs, where ruthless police thuggery and harrowing images of government-sanctioned murders have become the norm. Helmed with unnerving precision, Reterta tackles extrajudicial killings in a way that underlines tragedy and remorse.

3) Calix – "Executive Order"

Director: Dwight Galang

What’s remarkable about the music video of “Executive Order” is how it resonates on an emotional level in a time of political strife, showing the scale of the situation in a manner that needs to be told. Dwight Galang’s absurdist take is an allusion to the killings of 17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos and 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz—both “handcuffed, dragged, and shot” by cops as part of the government’s crackdown on illegal drugs. The video shows how a tragedy can break a family’s spirit in an instant, rendering their life useless and grappling for sanity.

2) BP Valenzuela – "Cards" (Feat. CRWN)

Director: Apa Agbayani

Late-period BP Valenzuela has gifted us with music videos that champion LGBTQIA+ visibility. “Cards,” BP’s collaboration with director Apa Agbayani, pushes the envelope forward for queer and gay perceptibility, giving a glimpse into the romantic dissolution that unfolds between a young couple. For all the simplicity of the narrative, Apa evocatively captures the moment when every great relationship is bound to fall apart, lingering on metaphors, visuals, and facial expressions to get its point across.

1) Bambu – "Prey’er" (Feat. Killer Mike)

Director: Filmonita

It’s fascinating when artists challenge the boundaries of what a music video can be, redefining the form into a call for social action. Riveting in every frame, the music video of “Prey’er” depicts the systemic oppression and rampant exploitation faced by marginalized communities and people of color. Removed from its geographical context, it shares affinity with the current socio-political landscape of the Philippines, where the poor and the underprivileged suffer the most from state-sanctioned killings and doomed justice system, where the country’s institutional policies favor only the rich and the powerful. Music website Raw Drive calls it “a theatrically deranged visual accompaniment.” Subtlety be damned, this statement of protest deserves global attention.

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