Music has always been a means for catharsis. This rings true for singer-songwriter John Roa, who channels his emotions into his first-ever EP, “Amgo” (which means “realization” in Bisaya).
The 19-year-old’s five-song effort lays bare his vulnerabilities in narrative-type numbers about love and even his anxieties. These include how the Cebuano felt the time he was trying his luck in Manila some years ago,as heard on “Itutuloy.”
“Anumang bundok ay handa kung akyatin, tuktok lang ay marating, ‘di ako titigil / Gaano man kalayo handa kong dumayo at kahit na matalo” he sings upfront, then that proud exhortation of his roots, “Bisdak, bai, di basta-basta mag-surrender.”
The song kicks it with old-school rap and lists a litany of his self-doubts. The rest of the song has gospel music-type choruses amid neo-soul keyboard motifs.
As for the “love” aspect of “Amgo,” John shared in an interview that being the observant-type, his themes do not necessarily reflect his experiences but of others around him.
The observations have led to several songs here. Piano-decked lead single “Andiyan” is a melancholy tale about remaining steadfast through overwhelming odds. The track also officially starts the “hugot” works on his set. Likewise, acoustic guitar-driven “Muli” is in-season with it’s themes of wanting. The “Oks Lang” singer experiments a bit with colors and gets moody on the slow “Lagi.”
But it’s on the infectious and playful soul-pop and lyrical hooks of “Natatangi” that we get to appreciate John Roa. Sunshine wrapped in Tagalog pop, Roa got assistance from young hip-hop-R&B producer Nexxfriday. The result is a thematically cohesive, yet loose sounding record.
John is one of the best tunesmiths of his generation and it’s exciting the type of songs he’ll do next.