(MANILA BULLETIN) By LUIS KATIGBAK - Last week, I was hanging out with my friends Erwin and Gang, and, of course, we were talking about Cory Aquino. Everyone was talking about Cory: what she meant to our country and to us individually, her term as President, her children, her legacy. And then the talk turned to related but lighter fare: What was the music that was popular during Cory’s term, from 1986 to 1992? What are the songs that we remember from then? Not necessarily the songs by our personal favorites, but the songs that were being played on radios and in taxis and jeepneys everywhere.

It was quite a trip, calling out names of songs and singers and immediately getting a slight rush of nostalgia from each name and title, no matter how mind-meltingly awful the actual music was. And believe me, there was a lot of awful music. There was a lot of good stuff as well, of course, and even more stuff that was more or less in between. It was a strange time for pop music, that transition from the ‘80s to the ‘90s—from gaping at Madonna and singing along to Gary V. we went to hurling ourselves into mosh pits to the manly howling of Pearl Jam and wearing shiny oversized pajamas like MC Hammer. Okay, maybe we skipped the pajamas.

Here are some random highlights of pop music in the time of Cory:

1986. Queen sang about having “One Vision,” as well as one goal, one world, one mission, and of course, fried chicken. Madonna sang (and danced) about being “True Blue.” Five Star said they’d be there for us, “Rain or Shine.” And of course we had the EDSA-giddy anthems like “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo.” (My favorite part of that song is the line that goes “Mapayapang paraang pagbabago.” Aside from the message, the fact that it has many P’s makes it fun to sing). And oddly enough, Spandau Ballet’s “Through the Barricades,” while having nothing actually to do with the Philippines, felt like it had been written to coincide with events here, to the point that I remember being forced to perform it with classmates for some stupid school program.

1987. This was the year Gary Valenciano became a superstar; everyone knew “Di Bale Na Lang.” Children aped the dance moves, adults bought the Moving Thoughts cassette in droves. Still a great song; I heard it in a taxi recently and a lot of the little melodic touches just make me smile. This was also the year of Mike Francis (“Let Me In,” not to mention “Friends”), and the year Michael Jackson followed up the biggest-selling album of all time with Bad. (I had a real soft spot for “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You.”) And The Dawn broke through to the mainstream with the New Wave anthem “Enveloped Ideas.” Doesn’t seem all too bad...

1988. When in Rome may well have claimed the title of Ultimate One-Hit Wonder of the Late 80s (not much of a title, I realize) with their ubiquitous hit “The Promise.” (“If you need a friend, don’t look to a stranger...” Pretty obvious advice, when you think of it). But pop music was changing. Guns N’ Roses had come out with “Sweet Child O’ Mine,” sending us into frenzies of air guitar playing. Information Society heralded a computer-savvy brand of hit with “What’s On Your Mind (Pure Energy).” Paula Abdul made a false promise with “Forever Your Girl.” And the New Kids on the Block heralded the arrival of a sort of musical apocalypse with “Please Don’t Go Girl.”

1989. It seemed a good time for strong women in pop, with Madonna Expressing Herself (and scandalizing people with “Like a Prayer”), and Neneh Cherry taking a “Buffalo Stance” (“What is he loik anyway?”) Martika had a hit with “Toy Soldiers,” too. OPM was doing well, as well, as Side A assured as with “Di Pa Huli,” while Smokey Mountain sang “Kailan.”

1990. Rap and dance-pop claimed the spotlight. Francis M. rallied listeners with “Mga Kababayan,” while Andrew E. exhorted them to mate with unattractive prospects with “Humanap Ka Ng Panget.” For some reason, the insufferable “Angelina” by P.S.Y. was a massive hit, spawning numerous Tagalog parodies of the lyrics. “Pakita Mo” by Archie D was a hit too, though Archie D himself remained a relative unknown. Cathy Dennis, who would go on to even greater success as a songwriter, complained about there being “Too Many Walls.”

1991. Michael Jackson returned, with a song whose title would become a question as his appearance got further and further distorted by plastic surgery over the years: “Black or White.” Donna Cruz invaded airwaves with “Kapag Tumibok Ang Puso.” Tom Cochrane likened Life to a Highway, and was subsequently never heard from again. Nirvana unleashed “Smells Like Teen Spirit” this year, but for me, 1991 was best summed up by one-hit wonder Jesus Jones—with the dance-rock-melding, millennium-gazing “Right Here, Right Now.”

1992. Admit it, you were listening to Color Me Badd, too. After all, they were “All 4 Love.” (Yes,I realize that last sentence made little to no sense.) Other artists with spelling problems included Boyz II Men, who sang about it being the “End of the Road.” (Though After Image would insist, looking forward, that we were “Next in Line.”) Perhaps the best advice came from Right Said Fred, however, who, after declaring themselves too sexy, told us “Don’t Talk, Just Kiss.”

So there you go. From New Wave to grunge, from dance-pop to hip-hop, from sappy love songs to, well, sappy love songs. There is a lot of stuff from that time that I would never willingly listen to again, but still, when it comes on the radio or gets blasted through a speaker system in some public place, I may flinch or wince, but it is not a wincing that is entirely without fondness.  

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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