How Sarah Geronimo's 'Tala' became a viral sensation years after release

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 30 2020 04:58 PM | Updated as of Jan 30 2020 05:32 PM

MANILA -- Who would have thought a song that almost did not make into Sarah Geronimo’s “The Great Unknown” album would eventually become the nation’s anthem?

Four years since it was released as a single, it is impossible not to hear “Tala” or see someone dancing to it. From drag performances and TikTok challenges to Christmas parties and K-pop concerts, more and more people and celebrities have been bitten by the "Tala" fever.

Geronimo first performed the song sans the popular dance steps during her “From the Top” concert at the Araneta Coliseum on December 4, 2015. At that time, the track has yet to be officially released under Viva Records.

Less than a month later, her “The Great Unknown” album became available in the market and “Tala” was its first single. She also performed the song on “ASAP” to promote the album.

In 2017, Geronimo’s impersonator Bench Hipolito started a “revolution” by performing the track at a gay club in Ortigas. Later that year, Geronimo won Song of the Year and Favorite Music Video for “Tala” at the MYX Music Awards.

In 2018, Geronimo included “Tala” in her “This 15 Me” concert set-list. Another milestone was when she performed it at the ASEAN-Japan Music Festival where she represented the Philippines.

Finally, 2019 saw the resurgence of “Tala” as the nation's newest dance craze. 

But how did it exactly become the viral hit that it is today?

Its success may be attributed to several factors. And just like the five-pointed shape of a “tala” (which translates to English as a star), five striking features easily come to mind.

1. IT HAS CATCHY, METAPHORICAL LYRICS

“Tala” was composed by Nica del Rosario, who was also the genius behind Geronimo’s other songs including “Ikot-Ikot,” “Tayo,” and “Minamahal.”

When Viva Records was building the track list for Geronimo’s “The Great Unknown” album, del Rosario shared that none of her initial pitches made the cut.

“Parang naisip namin, okay so hindi na tayo kasali sa album na ‘to. Tapos nung patapos na 'yung album, kinontak kami ng Viva Records. Baka daw gustong gumawa ng song kasi kulang pa kami ng one more song sa track list,” she recalled.

At that time, del Rosario was informed that Geronimo’s peg for the song was for it to have a vibe of a Coldplay or an Up Dharma Down hymn. This was the reason why the original version of “Tala” wasn’t upbeat. 

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But Geronimo’s vision changed. As early as 2015, she already imagined “Tala” becoming a dance craze.

“Yung Viva 'yung nagsasabi [sa amin] na puwede bang mas mabilis. Tapos nung mabilis na, puwedeng mas actually danceable or puwede bang may dance video. Nakita ko si Sarah nung recording tapos kinuwento niya nga sakin na gusto niya parang maging dance craze ‘to. Gagawan daw nila ng choreography sa G-Force. Ang galing nagkatotoo 'yung gusto niyang mangyari,” del Rosario narrated.

Del Rosario wrote “Tala” just like any other love song.

“Noong time kasi na ‘yun, meron akong dine-date tapos bago pa lang. I think 'yun 'yung lumabas na lyrics ko sa ‘Tala.’ There's something there pero hindi natin sure what's gonna happen so literal 'yung lyrics na, ‘kung hanggang dito na lang tayo.’ If you feel like this is it, this is how far I can go, okay lang, I won't regret what happened. Pero if this can turn into something more real or more serious, 'yung metaphor na ‘aabutin natin ang mga tala’ is just we can be great together,” she explained.

Like Geronimo, del Rosario admitted the popularity of “Tala” years after its release also came as a surprise to her.

“Sobrang surreal nung feeling na parang minsan iniisip mo, paano nangyayari? Kasi sobrang gradual nung build-up na hindi ko na-realize na from there, nandito na ['yung 'Tala' ngayon],” she said.

2. IT HAS DANCEABLE CHOREOGRAPHY

Of course, a dance craze would not be one without an appealing choreography.

"Ibibigay po natin ang credit sa G-Force. Kung wala po si Teacher Georcelle at G-Force na nag-choreograph, hindi po 'yan magva-viral," Geronimo previously said.

According to Georcelle Dapat-Sy who founded the G-Force, she really wanted to bring out a different Geronimo when she dances to “Tala.” The singer-actress is known to be reserved when she’s not performing on stage.

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After a collaborative effort among G-Force members, the “Tala” routine was born. People caught a first glimpse of it when the music video was released. Many were specifically left in awe when Geronimo performed it during her Araneta concert in April 2018.

When asked to describe the process of coming up with the choreography, Dapat-Sy said: “It's always the music that initiates the movements… I started listening to the music. I make sure na papasok siya sa katawan ko. Now, where will my body bring me? Where will this music bring me? Then after that, I will watch myself. Is it nice to watch? Is it visually entertaining? Doon nabuo ang movements ng 'Tala.'”

Despite Geronimo’s vision for the song, Dapat-Sy revealed it was not really G-Force’s intention to make it a dance craze. 

“Hindi 'yun ang objective. Ang objective namin ay maganda siya at ma-appreciate pero kung gagayahin, kokopyahin, wala namang ganun. Maybe because that's our culture here in G-Force Dance Center. We give classes here, we teach the students to appreciate combinations of steps and for them to train their body at ma-train ang muscles nila to do movements. So kung ang target in-envision ko ba siya na maging dance craze? No.”

With the status “Tala” has attained, Dapat-Sy shared what she hopes people would take away from it.

“I hope that the Tala dance craze will inspire a lot of people to know more about dance, to inspire them to really give importance to dance. Dancing is fun. It's enjoyable pero meron siyang lalim pa na sana 'yun din ang maintindihan ng mga tao at makuhang respect ng mga mananayaw because you know dancers are intelligent. They're not just movers na gyrate lang nang gyrate. This is their intelligence, their bodies are smart,” she said.

3. CONTRIBUTION OF THE LGBT COMMUNITY

As previously mentioned, “Tala” took over the airwaves when it came out in 2016. It became an instant hit among Geronimo’s avid fans collectively known as the “Popsters.” 

While it enjoyed massive support from them, Geronimo has also credited the beginning of its buildup as a dance craze to the LGBTQ+ community.

More specifically, Geronimo thanked her impersonator Bench Hipolito for consistently incorporating “Tala” into his sets whenever he would perform at the gay club O Bar as early as 2017. His dance covers went viral on social media that Hipolito became a viral sensation himself. 

“Definitely, [nakatulong talaga 'yung LGBT community] at saka si Bench. Si Bench 'yung nag-i-impersonate po sa 'kin sa O Bar. Siya! Siya talaga yung nagpo-promote nitong ‘Tala,’” Geronimo told ABS-CBN News.

A self-confessed Geromimo fan, Hipolito said on “Magandang Buhay” in October 2019 that it brings him joy to perform one of his idol’s songs in public.

Aside from Hipolito, who would forget the group of gay dancers who grooved to "Tala" to go up against their neighbor, Aling Nelia? 

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Their video dominated social media that it landed them special appearances on “It’s Showtime” and “ASAP.”

On why they have chosen the tune for their “protest” against Aling Nelia, Jandy Raquel said: “Lahat naman po ng kanta ni Ms. Sarah Geronimo nakakaantig, nakaka-touch and most especially nakakayakap sa aming mga members ng LGBTIQ+ community.”

“'Yung lyrics kasi niya ang daming meaning. Puwedeng kami 'yung tala or puwedeng motivation namin 'yung tala. Kaya rin namin magningning na hindi lang kami basta 'yung bakla lang na puchu-puchu,” he added.

4. ADVENT OF SOCIAL MEDIA

In addition to the abovementioned factors, no one could discount the vital role played by social media in making “Tala” a national dance anthem. 

Ultimately, it helped the Geronimo hit endure its popularity after countless dance covers spread like wildfire in the Internet.

One quick search of “Tala” on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Tiktok would generate numerous results of people making their own dance covers.

How Sarah Geronimo's 'Tala' became a viral sensation years after release 1

Based on the data gathered by ABS-CBN News, “Tala” has a total of 877,332 mentions on the first four abovementioned platforms from November 1 to January 27 alone. 

Within this period, what spawned its resurgence was the video uploaded by showbiz personality Kaladkaren on Twitter showing Geronimo dancing to the song during the after-party of “The Voice Kids” grand finals. In the same clip, the singer was joined by her former wards from various seasons of the competition. 

Kaladkaren’s post was retweeted more than 13,000 times and “liked” more than 64,000 times.

On November 17, “Tala” recorded another spike on Twitter when Geronimo was featured on “ASAP” dancing to the tune again along with personalities like Hipolito, MNL48 and some other fans. 

The social media trend continued with the birth of several other dance covers being uploaded online. On December 22, Geronimo was again featured on “ASAP,” this time dancing to the tune alongside Regine Velasquez.

On December 29, Geronimo’s “Tala” music video garnered 23 million views on YouTube. As of writing or just a month after it breached the 23-million mark, the music video has been viewed more than 70 million times already.

The dance craze peaked on January 5 with 123,960 mentions on Twitter due to the Grand Tala Day presented on “ASAP,” and subsequent features on “Rated K,” “Gandang Gabi Vice” and even in the GMA program “Kapuso Mo, Jessica Soho.”

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5. SARAH’S STAR POWER AND INFLUENCE

Finally, let’s admit it: “Tala” was recorded by Geronimo who is regarded as one of the country’s best singers.

It has been 16 years since she was first given the title "Pop Princess" after she won in the talent competition “Star for a Night.” Following her victory, Geronimo landed a contract with Viva Entertainment, which still manages her career up to this day.

Over a decade and a half later, the 31-year-old singer still credits her humble beginnings for her success and avid fandom. 

With her influence and star power, it shouldn’t be a surprise that one of her hit songs had become a phenomenon.

But while Geronimo wanted “Tala” to become a dance craze, she never really expected that it would become an ubiquitous fad in the latter part of 2019.

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“Ang galing eh. I would say hindi siya naging expectation. Parang I was hoping na maging dance craze itong 'Tala.' …We released it 2016. We did the music video. Pumatok lang siya last year po, 2018-2019. So sabi ko, wow, power of manifestation. Nagkatotoo,” she said.

But for Geronimo, this isn’t just her win. She considers it a feat for the OPM industry.

“I would always sing it, perform it. Of course, sino pa ba 'yung magmamahal ng musika ko kung hindi ako din? [Sino pa ang magmamahal] ng sarili nating musika? Hindi ba tayo-tayo din po?” she said.

(With interviews by ABS-CBN News' Jeff Canoy)