MANILA – The Philippines proved to be incapable of escaping the K-pop invasion.
This was made clear in “K-Pop Republic 2,” which was held at the Circuit Concert Grounds in Makati on Saturday.
The four “idol” groups that headlined the event were not from the same wave of stars that took South Korean pop music to great heights here sometime between 2008 and 2009.
Most of the acts were still newcomers, just a few years fresh from their debut, yet they embody the same potential their “seonbaes” (a Korean honorific for senior colleagues) had when K-pop started its global ascent.
NCT 127 was definitely the highlight of the night, drawing the loudest cheers from the crowd.
Taeyong opened the set with a solo dance routine before being joined by his co-members for their debut song “Fire Truck” and “Limitless.”
The rest of NCT’s set was comprised of songs from their latest mini album: the house track “0 Mile,” the feel-good “Summer 127” and the synth- and bass-heavy title track “Cherry Bomb.”
Almost everyone sang along to “Cherry Bomb” and its ridiculous but infectious English hooks: “I’m the biggest hit, I’m the biggest hit on this stage” and “If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands.”
In the middle of the set, NCT members encouraged the audience to sing for Chinese member Winwin, who was celebrating his 20th birthday, and Japanese member Yuta, who had his birthday two days earlier. As it came unplanned, the crowd and NCT were left divided, albeit amusingly. Some sang in English, while others in Korean.
NCT 127 continues SM Entertainment’s tradition of groups that like to experiment on their sound with each new release, similar to label-mates Exo and F(x).
NCT, which debuted last year, is notable for its unique concept of having unlimited members of different nationalities, divided into and rotating among sub-units, one of which is NCT 127.
If NCT 127 proved to be the ideal act to cap the night, six-piece girl group GFriend was the perfect opener for the entire show as they set the mood with the energetic “Navillera.”
They also performed recent releases “Summer Rain” and “Love Whisper.” But it was “Me Gustas Tu,” their 2015 smash hit, which remained their most iconic song.
GFriend have always prided themselves for their “knife-like” dance moves and it’s not hard to see why. Their dances are more physically demanding from the gesture-focused choreography common among girl groups, yet they managed to pull these off with ease while singing.
Cosmic Girls, the third act, is one such group that best embodies the mold of cute-concept girl groups.
Their style remains indistinguishable, following the same formula of most girl groups. Thus, Starship Entertainment's 13-member group struggles to establish a unique sound or image.
Out of the five songs they performed, the alluring dance-pop “Catch Me” and festive “Happy” stood out.
Perhaps most unique among the performers was N.Flying, an all-male group that isn’t “sing and dance.” Rather, they’re a rap-rock band with members playing instruments.
They've been around since 2013 and have a large following in Japan, where they debuted first before debuting in South Korea.
Their recent single “The Real” and the bittersweet “Lonely” are the songs that stood out in their set.
Based on the turnout, these acts have managed to amass a reliable traction here. It's an incredible feat considering the competitive nature of the K-pop industry, where many groups debut each year but not everyone achieves domestic, much less international, success.
Fueled by eclectic sounds, dazzling visuals and an unabating energy, K-pop continues to be a genre that cuts through language barriers and geographical borders. K-pop holds on to its old audience while succeeding to draw a newer, younger crowd.
“K-pop Republic 2” is a testament to K-pop's continuing popularity here in the Philippines.