The “pandemic-born” song is a barefaced confession of desires.The worst time to be alive may very well be the best time to be an artist.
It’s a hyperbolic statement and I don’t fully agree with it but when a friend of mine said this to me during a manic rant, I could see where he was coming from. Why not? Some of the most stirring works of art the world has ever known were inspired by abject pain and misery. Creativity has been known to flourish at the face of adversity. And situations, as bad as they may be, can yield some good.
For multidisciplinary artist Karla Bautista—she who is also known for her stage name, Art of Bodybending (AoB,)—the bad situation is the slump we’ve been experiencing because of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19.) She too has felt the effects of the lockdowns and movement restrictions imposed by the government to slow the spread of the virus. Like most performance artists in the country, she too was robbed of gigs, live audiences, and platforms to showcase her talents as a singer, dancer, model, acrobat and contortionist. But in the midst of it all came to good: solitude and time—consolations that paved the way for the creation of her latest single, “Please.”Released today with a supporting music video, “Please” is nothing short of a barefaced love song. Using elements of jazz and blues, she created a swaying surface to carry her blatant request for companionship and attention. She created this song during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. And now, she’s vocally appreciative of the good that came with the bad.
“Please’was a pandemic-born song that wouldn’t have happened without the lockdown,” she said. “I love to entertain, and how much my artworks are crafted with that goal. But quarantine was the first time I had no one to watch me or pressure me to do things they say would help my career. In that solitude, I felt the most authentically myself. Instead of abstract storytelling, I said what I meant plain and simple for once.”
And the message she wants to convey with her music is clear. She wants “you”—whoever “you” are—to stay with her, to give her the chance to love and be satisfied. For nearly five minutes, backed by the sounds of a piano and a saxophone, she shares this message in a sensual manner, like a lover whose hands are crawling on your back, whose skin is brushing against yours as a means of coercion.
“This is a feminist song that I wrote for all Filipinas to celebrate their sensuality that’s often scandalized,” she shared. “It shows a side of the Filipina that we all have, but are afraid to express. Filipinas are among the most affectionate lovers who want all aspects of intimacy. The passion of the Filipina deserves to bloom in all its glory.”
This is a fitting sentiment because the song itself is a nod to the kundiman, that subgenre of traditional Filipino music often used in the art of courtship. In the press release written for this song, it was mentioned that among her inspirations was “Pakiusap” by Dr. Francisco Santiago, the song which asks its inspiration to take pity on the singer’s aching heart. “The structure of the song is one verse and two choruses, which I used for ‘Please,” she shared. That said, however, the song musically sounds little like a kundiman. “I knew the accompaniment had to be blues, with a gospel choir,” she shared. “I wanted a sax and piano solo on the track, with a showdown between both instruments towards the end. The sax represents the smooth, sexy front people put on when they meet someone they like, while the piano reveals your true feelings, gathering the courage to ask someone to be with you. The piano fights with the sax to show the lover’s cards, and wins eventually.”
For this release, AoB worked with producer Angelo Garcia, pianist Chuck Joson, and saxophonist Dix Lucero.
“Angelo really gave my song some royal blues treatment”, AoB said. “Our workflow was 100% virtual on a Facebook chat. I never even met these guys in person, but it was a match made in heaven, because they got my concept completely.”
It may not have been the most ideal way to collaborate but judging by her response and the product she now aims to promote, it appeared that they made it work.
It’s a familiar story, isn’t it? This has been the running theme of the Filipino narrative in recent years. The pandemic struck and people had to find ways to keep things going. There have been failures but there have also been those who managed to get by. Then, there are those who succeeded, those who used the hands they were dealt, put themselves out there and inevitably managed to “please.”