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Mainstream music 2018: Youth dominates mainstream pop

Dylan Amirio and Marcel Thee

The Jakarta Post

Jakarta  /  Fri, December 28, 2018  /  08:57 am
Mainstream music 2018: Youth dominates mainstream pop

Joining forces: Many new collaborations between genres have taken place throughout 2018, including one between DJ Dipha Barus and pop diva Raisa. ( Courtesy of Mathias Manderos/-)

This year was a good one for mainstream Indonesian pop, full of moments showing mutual respect between the artists of yore and those of the present.

Collaborative projects were more frequent and became a “new” norm. Experimentation was no longer a mere wish but a necessity, and long tours became part of pop stars’ normal routines. All these paid off, especially when local stars’ fan bases upstaged those of international stars.

In 2018, music lovers saw countless performances across cities nationwide by premier Indonesian DJ Dipha Barus.

Dipha’s year was also marked by the release of three mammoth singles, “Money Honey” with Monica Karina, “My Kind of Crazy” and “Mine” with Raisa.

The subsequent tours Dipha went on to support the singles — and also to have fun — only elevated his star power. He held his largest local gigs at the 10th Djakarta Warehouse Project (DWP), Synchronize Festival, Soundrenaline Festival and We the Fest (WTF), where the size of his crowd easily beat out that of American rapper Vince Staples.

Much experimentation in mainstream Indonesian pop made their mark on the year.

Petra Sihombing released his second album, ¼, filled with many new sounds that are as yet uncommon in major-label pop.

Flamboyant Elephant Kind frontman Bam Mastro dove deeper into his passion for meticulously crafted hip-hop with a new EP, while Indonesian Idol 2008 veteran Kunto Aji released his second album Mantra Mantra, a work that helps people feel comfortable about their vulnerabilities.

Years removed from his stint during the soulless Idol competition of 2008, Kunto returned with an album chock-full of experimentation while still retaining pop characteristics.

The artist described his album as an exploration of his psychology, which was usually marred by his tendency to overthink things and to easily assume the worst.

Tackling a topic rarely accepted in the mainstream pop of yore, Kunto reemerged as a brighter, better musician and person through his experience with the best Indonesian pop album of 2018.

“A lot of positive things happened to me this year,” Kunto said.

“For the year ahead, I’m still riding the energy of the second album. I hope anything I produce in 2019 or any show I play will emit that same kind of great energy for me, which I also hope will allow me to stay fresh.”

Read also: Kunto Aji learns to let go in new album

Rise of the new mainstream

Speaking of the biggest night in the industry, the Indonesian Music Awards (AMI) also provided a night of collective appreciation for mainstream artists.

Most of the nominees in AMI’s various categories were young musicians that found success simply by putting out music, independently of major record labels.

In other words, they were the new faces of mainstream pop.

Artists like Jevin Julian, Ariel Nayaka, Bam Mastro, Reality Club and Matter Mos stood on a par with the likes of Afgan, Andien, Yovie Widhianto, Eross Chandra and Noah in the nominations.

In the end, the night went to Dipha Barus, who won three awards out of seven nominations, including Best Rap or Hip-Hop Record for Decide, with Money Honey taking home Best Production and Best Electronic Record.

In terms of musical trends, we saw the rise and vague fall of livestreaming app TikTok, and Jakarta’s clubs saw a prevalence in karaoke-style events to constantly nourish our nostalgia and musical preferences.

K-Pop fever

But like every year, the K-pop phenomenon maintained its tight hold on Indonesian listeners.

The most prominent K-pop act this year in Indonesia was undeniably BLACKPINK.

With melodies and rhythms resembling the Indonesian musical aesthetics of dangdut koplo, the four-piece act was quickly embraced by the Indonesian populace. Hits like “Whistle” and the ubiquitous “Ddu-Du Ddu-Du” became inescapable as they were played in malls, at restaurants, on angkot (public minivans) and literally on the streets.

What made BLACKPINK’s songs even more prevalent was the fact that the girl group was named the local brand ambassadors for Singaporean e-commerce platform Shopee, which put their faces on billboards across the country and they appeared on incessant YouTube ads.

That’s one way to achieve world domination, and BLACKPINK certainly conquered Indonesia; so much so that their upcoming Jakarta concert in February 2019 is already the talk of the town.

Tribute to legends

This year also featured many tributes that celebrated several legendary names in pop.

One of the most significant of these was the tribute concert for Yovie Widhianto, the songwriter behind seminal pop group Kahitna and a number of songs by legends like Rossa, Ruth Sahanaya and the late, great Chrisye.

Yovie’s talents helped Kahitna escape the traps of nostalgia and of being labelled “a ‘90s band”.

The “Inspirasi Cinta” (Love Inspiration) concert on Nov. 7 featured a parade lineup including Glenn Fredly, Tulus, Rossa, Bunga Citra Lestari, Kahitna and Yovie’s side project, Yovie & Nuno. Without Yovie, old-school mainstream pop would have turned out differently.

Another legendary act that held their own celebratory concert was pop queen Syahrini, whose “10 Years in the Industry” show in September was touted as Indonesian music’s biggest night, with ticket prices matching that of Celine Dion’s show at Rp 25 million (US$1,715) for the highest-priced ticket.

Going global

The year was also kind to Indonesia’s largest musical export, Brian Imanuel, who now goes by the stage name Rich Brian after ditching his previous moniker, Rich Chigga.

Brian welcomed 2018 with the February release of his massively successful debut album, Amen.

Upon its release, he broke the record by becoming the first Asian musician to top the global iTunes Hip-Hop Music Chart with singles “Cold” and “Amen”.

Amen charted internationally in the United Kingdom, Canada, New Zealand and Australia, and ushered in sold-out tours for him and the rest of his 88Rising crew. Brian’s star has only grown brighter since he burst onto the scene in 2016, and he has also shown significant growth in his songwriting skills.

Meanwhile, fellow 88Rising member NIKI also went for her own brand of greatness by releasing her debut EP, Zephyr.

No longer just a featured female crooner among the 88Rising boys, Zephyrshows quality approach and direction for the young RnB singer and signals good things are coming her way.

Brian and NIKI were part of 88 Rising’s “victory lap” compilation, Head in the Clouds, also released this year, featuring the group’s usual Asian mainstays like Joji, the Higher Brothers, Keith Ape and AUGUST 08.

Will more mainstream Indonesian pop acts break out onto the international stage in 2019? So far, Agnez Mo seems the only one to have done so — and slowly at that — but what about the rest?

For now, it is wise for the young to spend time at home honing their craft until they are able to transcend to heights similar to Brian’s. They have the will, the talent and the time.

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