The emergence of P-Pop as a modern OPM phenomenon may have been already happening before the current explosion, brought by the rise of a number of P-Pop acts.
But local idol groups whose inspiration is massively taken from Korean and Japanese models, traces back to 2018, when MNL48, a sister group of the J-Pop group, AKB48, made its successful debut.
The spotlight is on the all-girl 48-member P-Pop group, MNL48, as it enters a new era with new members and a new center girl. On the heels of its successful Third General Election, the female idol group is poised to join—if not lead—the charge of Pinoy idol groups in conquering the global music scene.
Formation in 2018; Senbatsu Sousenkyo Ranking System
MNL48’s formation came on the heels of the success of the original Japanese idol group, AKB48, two years after the formal announcement of the plan to create three more sister groups outside Japan was made. The selection of the First Generation members was carried out on It’s Showtime, where young female aspirants across the country to join the search.
From 200 challenge-round contenders, only 75 were selected as official candidates whom the voting public will choose from to complete the first MNL48 members, called the Kenkyuusei. Based on their rank in the election, each girl will be classified into groups. Those who ranked 33rd-48th comprise the Next Girls, the Top 17th-32nd are the Under Girls, while the Top 16 members are hailed as the Senbatsu members.
From the Senbatsu group, 7 front liners are picked to occupy the KAMI slots, who will become the main faces of MNL48 in concerts, and various engagements. The girl who secured the no.1 spot is declared the Center Girl, who will represent the group, worldwide. During the First General Election, MNL48 Sheki is voted as Center Girl. MNL48 Abby, following the Third General Election, now serves as MNL Center.
Other than their General Election ranks, girls are also grouped into color-coded teams, each being led by a team captain. An overall captain is also named to lead all teams, while a single center is picked to be the face of a new single.
First Singles and Breakthrough
MNL48’s singles are Tagalog versions of the original Japanese group’s hit singles, a trend all sister groups follow. Among the group’s first singles are the Filipino counterparts of Aitakatta and Koi Suru Fortune Cookie, which both became commercial successes, with ‘Pag-Ibig Fortune Cookie’ topping various MYX and iTunes PH charts.
In 2019, the group held its second general election, with Jhona Alyannah Padillo emerging as the Second Generation center girl, replacing MNL48 Sheki. During the same year, MNL48 released 365 Araw ng Eroplanong Papel and Ikaw ang Melody as singles, both achieving less impressive feats than their predecessors. Other than their officially released singles, the group also produced other tracks that placed in various local charts, including Talulot ng Sakura and Palusot Ko’y Maybe in 2018, and Igao ni Mango and Gingham Check in 2019.
The group also made appearances on various television shows and other engagements during their first two years, including memorable performances they made for music channel Myx. The group has so far produced 12 music videos, including their first original song ‘Hash Love’.
Third General Election and Collective Rise with other P-Pop Groups
Following the selection of MNL48 Abby Trinidad as the Third Generation Center, the group is set to embark on further expansion as P-Pop increasingly becomes an emerging phenomenon, with multiple groups concurrently making bids to reach the global market. The group also receives stronger support from ABS-CBN, which has played a major role in the promotion of the group since its formation three years ago.
The Third General Election came on the heels of the chart-topping success of both High Tension and River, as MNL48’s official singles. The change of leadership also marks a new era for the girl group as it charges with fellow ABS-CBN-supported idol groups, Bini and BGYO, forward, and aims an expanded exposure overseas. And as P-Pop music continues to gather in size and support among Filipino and global audiences, the rise of MNL48 as a formidable girl group becomes inevitable.