While American and Korean boy bands are a continuous presence on Billboard‘s Social 50 chart — with BTS just breaking the all-time record for weeks at No. 1 this week — a newcomer from the Philippines is proving to be strong competition.
SB19 is the new, rising boy band based in Manila that is gaining an international fanbase on social media to help them make moves on the Social 50 among other charts. Last week, SB19 — which stands for “Sound Break 19” — hit their highest mark yet on the Social 50 at No. 15 on the chart, rising just ahead of longtime Social 50 mainstays including Selena Gomez, Louis Tomlinson, BLACKPINK and fellow boy band GOT7. The group earned 1.2 million Twitter mentions, 193,000 Twitter reactions and 7,000 new followers on their @SB19Official account while also scoring 10,000 new Facebook page likes, 3,000 Wikipedia views.
The Social 50 is powered by data tracked by music analytics company Next Big Sound and ranks the most popular artists on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and Wikipedia. The chart’s methodology blends weekly additions of friends/fans/followers with artist page views and engagement. The chart’s tracking week where SB19 hit their new peak of No. 15 ended on Jan. 23.
The major week of growth can likely be attributed to SB19’s new music video to their latest single “Alab (Burning).” The energetic synth-pop track sees the boy band singing and rapping in both Tagalog and English (“alab” means “fire” in Tagalog) with the quintet delivering on-point dance moves and serving loads of charisma for the camera. If all of this sounds similar to the K-pop model, well, that may very well be on purpose.
SB19 was created by the Korean-entertainment company ShowBT. The group consisting of members Sejun, Josh, Stell, Ken and Justin reportedly trained in Korea in the same disciplined system that created the robust K-pop scene we know today. The group’s social media accounts calls them as “the first P-pop boy group trained under a Korean entertainment company,” with P-pop referring to Pinoy pop or pop music from the Philippines.
The group first hit the market in October 2018 with their debut single “Tilaluha,” a light, vocal-focused ballad that saw its official video (which has 1.3 million views so far) take place in Korea, and star a member of a Korean boy band and a Miss Korea-Philippines contestant. The guys took center stage for their next single, the catchy dance-focused “Go Up” released in July 2019, which had much more of the markings of a traditional boy-band release with the video showcasing choreography and individual storylines for each guy; it all seemed to pay off with more than 5.2 million views to date. “Alab (Burning)” has 2.7 million views after about a month out.
SB19 has also taken several notes on K-pop groups generally operate and promote themselves. Each member has an assigned “role” in the group like almost all K-pop acts (Sejun is the leader, Stell is the main vocalist, Josh is a triple threat singer-dancer-rapper, Ken is the main dancer and Justin referred to as the “bunso,” which is youngest in Tagalog), have uploaded “dance practice” videos of the band’s singles to let fans see the full choreography and other fun content across their channels.
When the Billboard charts refresh on Tuesday local time, SB19 will spend their seventh week on Social 50, this week falling from No. 15 to No. 24 with 854,000 Twitter mentions, 144,000 Twitter reactions and 5,000 new Twitter followers, plus 9,000 new Facebook page likes and 4,000 Wikipedia views. SB19 has also earned three weeks on the Next Big Sound chart, which highlights the fastest growing artists across major social music sites, peaking at No. 6 so far.
So, is P-pop a new thing to watch out for on the global scene? Right now, it looks like only SB19 is able to garner the consistent and growing social attention that accompanies any big artist looking to break into the mainstream conversation. But, if anything, SB19’s rise may indicate how more artists are looking east — specifically at Korea and the K-pop scene — for inspiration and to gain a larger audience, instead of the long in-power western markets.