Reviews: Juan Karlos, Unique

Pangalan | Unique Salonga | 2020
Shorter and more consistent than his debut with a few hooks poking through (“Bukod-Tangi”). None of the new songs are as memorable as “Ozone” (probably still his best, though I find it a bit exploitative and insensitive when I think about the families and victims of the tragedy). And no, “Delubyo” is neither dark nor disturbing. It’s a sound collage and anyone can make such. Eight cuts, six songs—that’s just slightly more than half of what’s in his debut. That’s good if it means we get less fillers and less of Unique telling us how the IVoS management robbed him of royalties (But where’s my money / Don’t waste my time) or why he left the group. But not really. Turns out, he can’t stop singing about himself (“Bukod-Tangi”, “Pahinga”), can’t stop bragging about, can’t stop trash-talking like he’s up against you-know-who in a FlipTop battle (“Dambuhala”, “Mga Katulad Mo”). Either he’s excessively self absorbed or he’s still hurting. Maybe both. Writing songs to exorcise his own demons? Maybe. C+

 

“Buwan” | Juan Karlos | 2018
Almost there but not quite. Either it makes you push replay or it leaves you wanting. I’d say it’s the latter. There’s enough anguish in Labajo’s singing but his lyrics needed work (“Halina tayo’s humiga”). Sure, he’s in love. Truly? Maybe. Madly? Yes. Deeply? Not, if you read the lyrics. And what’s with the moon? Is he going crazy? A lunatic? Is he gonna turn into a werewolf? More like he’s just plain horny.

 

Diwa | Juan Karlos | 2020
The refrain of “Sampaguita” sounds a bit odd the first time but it works, Gloc-9 makes it work. Gloc-9 paints a heartbreaking picture of OFW life and then somewhat ruins the song in the third verse with that ‘tragic’ ending. As if people having no choice but to work overseas isn’t tragic enough. As if unemployment and underemployment should be accepted as the norm. Don’t like it when this JK Labajo dude puts extra kinks to his singing. It pulls attention to itself and not in a good way. I’m talking about some Jeff Buckley-ish kinks here—some of them are, not all. All the ten cuts here sounds warm, live, sweaty and real, especially after listening to Unique’s self-indulgent, cold electro-psychedelia. Like Unique, JK Labajo has good pipes. Maybe Unique should take his cue from JK and get himself a backing band. In return, he could help JK fix some of his lyrics. Maybe Unique could also learn from JK how to write about things other than himself. Find himself someone/something to love, lust for or think about other than fame. B-

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