Behind the Music: 'Next in Line' by AfterImage

Leah C. Salterio

Posted at Mar 27 2021 11:00 AM

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Twenty-three-year-old singer-actor Iñigo Pascual was not even a speck in his mother’s womb when AfterImage’s “Next In Line” became such a hit nationwide. Yet, Pascual did a beautiful re-imagined version of the song, that sits well with the original singer and songwriter, Wency Cornejo, the lead vocalist of After Image.

“It is quite flattering for other artists to do their own versions of our songs,” Cornejo told ABS-CBN News. “The farther away from the original, without disrespecting the original content, the better I think it is as a cover.”

Pascual’s version of “Next In Line,” released in 2019, is Cornejo’s favorite. The song became part of the soundtrack of the primetime drama series, “Sino ang May Sala? Mea Culpa,” that starred Jodi Sta. Maria and Bela Padilla.

“Iñigo’s version is fresh, respectful of the original, but at the same time sounds fresh,” Cornejo remarked about Pascual’s recording.

“Next In Line“ had other versions by other local artists, like Daniel Padilla, who recorded the song in 2014, as part of his “I Heart You” album.

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“Next In Line” is the carrier single of AfterImage's debut album, “Touch the Sun,” released in 1992 under Dyna Records. 

“We (AfterImage) actually expected ‘Next In Line’ to be a hit, because we initially released an indie version of that song in 1989 or 1990 and so many people reacted absolutely positively to it,” Cornejo said.

“Everything is sort of a haze to me now, but I don’t think we really had the chance to absorb what was happening in terms of us and the song becoming popular, due to the fact that we were so busy promoting the album and doing our usual live gigs then. Up to this day, everything about the early successes of the band feel surreal.”

“Next In Line” became a much-requested and popular song on the radio and in all of the performances and concerts of AfterImage then and now. The song is something that will always be attached and identified to Cornejo, who was inspired to write the beautiful ballad and made it the carrier single of “Touch the Sun.”

“The inspiration to write that song came from a place of confusion,” Cornejo recalled. “I always, up to this day, explain that it’s extremely difficult for a graduating college student to fathom what life would be after leaving school and I was exactly at that point in my life [graduating from college] when I wrote ‘Next In Line.’

“Also, multitudes of people regard it as a positive song, but on the contrary, if you listen closely to the words, you’ll realize that it’s actually quite dark. Making it the carrier of our debut album was a no brainer.” 

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The title of the album, “Touch the Sun,” was the concluding part in the lyrics of “Next In Line,” which Cornejo uttered spontaneously while recording the song.

“I don’t know how or why the phrase came out of my mouth,” he revealed. “It then became sort of a tradition for AfterImage to name albums with the word sun or araw. ‘Touch the Sun’ (1992), ‘Tag-ulan, Tag-araw’ (1994), ‘Bagong Araw’ (1996) and ‘Our Place Under The Sun’ (2006).”

AfterImage was formed in 1987, yet it took nearly five years before the band released an album. With the success of “Next In Line,” the album was certified with gold and platinum record awards then.

“Comparatively speaking, 1992 was probably more of a breakout year for AfterImage,” explained Cornejo. “And 1994 was the banner year, with the release of ‘Tag-ulan, Tag-araw.’ It was the time we swept the Katha Awards, winning all categories we were nominated in.”

There were the other singles culled from “Touch the Sun,” like “Bai (Sa Langit ang Ating Tagpuan),” “Only You” and “Pagtawid.”

“Everything considered, I think ‘Next In Line’ was the one real hit from that album,” Cornejo maintained. “Perhaps, only die-hard AfterImage fans still remember the other singles.”

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“I think people were drawn to the song that made it a hit then because it was probably the universality of what I was trying to say,” Cornejo said. “Struggles are constant in our lives, regardless of age, gender, stature and religion.

“It is the relatability of the song that makes it endure even after 30 years. I also believe that the piano intro of the song is so catchy. Kudos to [our keyboardist] Arnold Cabalza for coming up with that riff.”

“Next In Line” has undoubtedly become a sentimental favorite by many, embraced by individuals and music fans through the years.

“Very few people probably know this, but the indie version of ‘Next In Line’ was recorded at Eric Lava's studio in UP Village, where I pretentiously lay down on the studio floor while tracking the vocals,” Cornejo shared.

“Also, it was originally recorded in the key of C, but was later shifted to D for the album release. An interesting fact about why many people liked the song was that they, upon first hearing, thought it was foreign. Amazement comes when they learn that it was by a Filipino group.”

Although “Next In Line” became iconic for Cornejo, he wrote and recorded other popular tunes through the years.

“My favorite of all the songs I’ve written, produced and recorded would have to be ‘Walang Hanggan,’ my duet with Cooky Chua,” allowed Cornejo. “I believe it is the closest I got to perfection melodically, lyrics-wise and the way it was arranged.”

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He is also known for his other original songs, like “Habang May Buhay,” “Mangarap Ka,” “Tag-ulan,” “Hanggang,” “Magpakailanman” and an extensive roster of other songs that are not too “popular” with music fans.

This year, Cornejo disclosed his plan to come out with a new album. “I’ve been toying around with an idea for a record the past couple of years and hopefully, that comes to fruition this 2021,” he granted.

Cornejo keeps the faith that artists can perform live onstage again. After more than three decades in the entertainment business, he apparently still has a lot on his mind and his hands, as far as his musical artistry is concerned.

After all, he is not just a great singer, but a prolific songwriter, as well. Hence, it is not surprising that he will continue to churn out quintessential work expectedly in the coming months.

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