Actor and businessman Piolo Pascual’s newest venture with Cornerstone Entertainment, is an indie music label offering a home for talented singer-songwriters who have yet to be discovered.
“With the abundance of talent that we have here in the Philippines, we’ve been seeing a lot of potential in these new artists and that’s where this all came up.” Piolo reflects on the creation of the label. “When you see a lot of artists who could potentially make a change in the scene, you want to give them that platform, that chance.”
A sub-unit of CS Music (Cornerstone Entertainment’s music label for big mainstream hitmakers and names such as Catriona’ Gray, Kyla, Jay R, Jason Dy, Richard Poon, Ian Pangilinan to name a few), Just Music is a homegrown music label which stays true to its name—to create music for what it is, and to promote a safe and just creative space for artists to explore their creativity while keeping their rights a top priority. With Cornerstone Entertainment’s president and managing director Erickson Raymundo as co-producer and head.
Music has always been a universal language of hope and love throughout the world. Due to the pandemic, where social gatherings are prohibited and travel limitations have been imposed, it has become increasingly hard to put music out into the mainstream. Although it has been challenging for all industries and artists to continue their craft during such a turbulent time, mainstream music artists are still able to release and record music successfully. Having an established fan base is extremely helpful as they are essential to catapulting an artists’ streams from zero to a million within a few days or weeks.
But how about artists who are equally as talented but have yet to be established? According to Piolo himself, this is exactly what the label is for.
“There are a lot of new artists and so much talent that have to be exposed, but they need a platform to legitimize it.” Piolo says when asked if longtime fans should expect him to release music under the label soon. “I want to give them a chance to shine on their own, using this label.”
Bolstering their arsenal of talents, local music giant Cornerstone Music (CS Music) launches two fresh up-and-coming names to look out for in the ever-evolving music scene. 23-year-old (Nikko Virtucio) under his artist name “NKO” and (Kenji Exaltacion) or simply “kenji” (stylized as “kenji” lower case ), debut their first single (February) of this year under Just Music, CS Music’s sub-label that concentrates in handling independently produced music by their auspicious roster. Largely highlighting new breed of prolific singer-songwriters.
NKO’s debut single “Langit” (“Heaven”) brings us the ethereal and the sensual with its supercool 80’s funk and lyrics that flirt with the imagination. NKO wanted to communicate an underside of every love story: the reconciliation after a fight, which, to him, is “langit sa feeling (feels like heaven)”, he said in an interview. With new wave hip-hop as his staple on-repeat, NKO expressed that composing “Langit” was a challenge because its retro-pop daze is something he only grew up hearing from his dad who is an avid fan of 80’s music.
Taking modern inspirations from Lauv, Lany, Conan Gray, and The 1975, NKO made it his goal to ultimately own the song (“Langit”) by making it inventive, innovative, or, in his words, “indie”, like deliberately omitting a distinct chorus. “I don’t want my music to be simply listened to… I want my songs to be an experience (for the listeners)… Like (they are) in a movie.” Throughout the years before his debut, NKO spent his time finding his own sound, while keeping a nearness to his audience, writing songs that capitalize from common human experiences, such as the mentioned theme with “Langit.”
Meanwhile, Cebu-based music rookie, kenji, invites us to an emotion-charged acoustic mellow with the tender words of his debut song “Night and Day” (stylized as “night and day”) that tells a story of departure and the numbing ache of letting go. Lyrics like “Never gone are the memories I had and I shared with you. And so now I’m finally letting go of the rope that leads me back to you,” will poke through listeners’ hearts, as the gentle lilt of strings ease them back to comfort.
To kenji, exposing his rawest, most honest emotions with his guitar is the concoction of his genre, greatly inspired by British acoustic icon Ed Sheeran and local singer-songwriter Moira Dela Torre. With pretense out of his vocabulary, kenji expressed in an interview, “I want them to take the honesty and the story of my songs. Every song that I write, you can always (hear) the honesty of a 23-year-old kid.” He took the lockdown caused by the pandemic to his advantage, utilizing his time to fine tune his songwriting, which has been his passion along with singing since he was only 10 years old.
According to kenji, it only took him 15 minutes to write “night and day” after watching and being extremely moved by the 2018 film “Through Night and Day” (Alessandra De Rossi, Paolo Contis). STREAM! NKO’s “Langit” and kenji’s “night and day” out now on Spotify and Youtube Music.