MANILA, Philippines – If there’s any Filipino artist that has mastered the art of hugot, it’s Ben&Ben, who are digging deep into the feels with the release of their latest single, “The Ones We Once Loved.”
The song is a piano-driven ballad addressed to a former lover. It’s an unabashed outpouring of emotions, that, according to vocalist and songwriter Paolo Benjamin, came as he processed the end of his own long-term relationship.
“I myself, am both excited and terrified to share it with you, as it is one of the most personal, and vulnerable songs I’ve ever written,” he said in an August 25 Instagram post.
“As most of you may have known, a few years ago, I was in a long-term relationship which you’ve known much about, ‘cos we shared a bit of our journey with you. And then, it ended,” he explained.
“The time that passed since then has been an incredible journey of self-discovery, healing, and growth for the both of us, individually. Eventually, peace, acceptance, respect for the past, and closure came. It wasn’t easy, and there were many emotions that went into that process,” he said, saying that those emotions went into the song.
In a media conference on August 23, Paolo said that the song “is actually a letter to the people who have come and gone in our lives and it’s something that we rarely express but we wanted to verbalize it a bit more in this song than we usually do, na parang ‘uy (like hey), thanks, sorry, goodbye.”
The song was produced by Johnoy Danao and Jean Paul Verona. As guitarist Poch Barretto shared, they took a different approach when it came to producing and recording the song. He explained that with their other songs, they usually start with the “heavy” instruments like the drums and bass, and progressively lighten up.
“But for this song, we started with recording the keyboard, the piano first, that was the base of all the instruments, then guitar, violin, then voices on top of it. It was a different take compared to our usual recording process,” Poch said.
The result is a slow, tender track with Paolo’s soaring vocals giving life to emotional lyrics that will, for sure, be quoted repeatedly by the band’s listeners. It’s a breakup anthem that would make Adele proud – and in fact, Paolo shared that they would love to perform the song with her someday.
Poch shared that as heartbreaking as the song is, their recording sessions for it were fun.
“Ang saya ng energy in the studio even if the song is like that, nakakaiyak siya, parang uplifting ‘yung vibe in a way. In a sense may hope pa rin siya and nakakahumanize ‘yung song,” Poch said.
(The energy in the studio was happy even if the song is a tearjerker, the vibe is uplifting in away. In a sense, it still has hope and it humanizes.)
Anchored in hugot, the song is bound to be a hit with an audience that is, for the most part, obsessed with sad love songs. But as vocalist Miguel Benjamin said, the band doesn’t make music to chase the hits.
“I think the key is to just keep making songs for the sake of making songs and for the love of it because you’ll never know when a hit comes I guess,” Miguel said.
“It’s definitely easier said than done because of course the pressure sometimes gets to you that you have to follow this up with something,” he said.
“What’s nice about us being nine and us being a group, a family, is that we always remind ourselves of the reason why we’re doing this and ground ourselves in what brought us together in the first place which is the love of writing music that we love performing and we love sharing to others. So I guess that’s how we’ve gone through writing the songs that we have over the years,” he added.
The group is currently gearing up to perform for their biggest live audience in over two years: their send-off concert for their North American tour.
With tickets almost sold out, the band is expecting a crowd of 30,000 or 40,000 people, and they’re already preparing for it.
“It’s gonna be explosive, tasteful, it’s gonna be colorful, musically. We’ve been rehearsing a lot,” violinist Keifer Cabugao said.
“Ngayon pa lang, while we are rehearsing, iba na ‘yung energy…. Usually ‘yung energy namin, it’s really a reflection kung kamusta din ‘yung audience…. Excited na ako magplay na may ganoong kadaming crowd who knows our songs,” bassist Agnes Reoma added.
(As early as now, which we are rehearsing, it’s a different kind of energy…. Usually are energy is really a reflection of the state of the audience…. I’m excited to play to a crowd that size who knows our songs.)
The send-off concert is set to happen on September 3, while their North American tour kicks off on September 23 in San Francisco.
In the meantime, listen to “The Ones We Once Loved” here: