Our 25 best OPM songs of 2022

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Following loosened pandemic restrictions, a lot of songs that have more vigor to them, perhaps a direct result of newfound freedom or them channeling the human spirit to overcome crisis. In photo: Sarah Geronimo in the "Dati-Dati" music video. Photo from SARAH GERONIMO/FACEBOOK

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — After two years of virtual gigs and concerts, 2022 was finally the year that pandemic restrictions were loosened, enabling artists from all over the Philippines to play their music live. From large scale arena concerts to open-air festivals (and campaign rallies), it’s been quite a year for the live music scene.

With this transition, there’s been a bit of a shift in the sound of OPM. While there’s still a fair share of mellow beats and indie dream pop, there’s also a lot of songs that have more vigor to them, perhaps a direct result of newfound freedom or them channelling the human spirit to overcome crisis.

We heard a lot of danceable bops and studio projects adapting to a live setting with more full band arrangements. Lyrically, it seems that artists were more open to express their feelings in their music looking inward and moving forward. Viral TikTok hits notwithstanding, there were some unprecedented moves, like when a campaign jingle (“Rosas” by Nica Del Rosario ft. Gab Pangilinan) topped iTunes and Spotify charts, or how there was a sudden abundance of P-pop groups.

In no particular order, here are our top 25 OPM songs of 2022.


“Submarine” by Polyphonic Vision

Flashback to last March: the lockdowns were gradually lifting from Metro Manila, and people were seeking music that spoke to a nightlife reawakening. Polyphonic Vision dropped their debut EP “Sudden Pictures” that featured mesmerizing, intercepting analog synth-propelled songs crafted by Mario Consunji and Micaela Benedicto, who were both on influential indie electro label Number Line Records. It was electrifying, not like a strike of lightning, but a steady current that rises in amplitude. Back in April, our Music Roundup of the month said that it was “here at the right place and the right time,” and looking back, it also stands as a vital encapsulation of a collective inclination to seek the pulse of life, no matter how long it takes. — MARIAH REODICA

“Beach, etc” by Spacedog Spacecat (feat. Megumi Acorda)

Why does “Beach, etc” sound like a concentrated distillation of indie rock’s most invigorating sounds — fuzzy-as-hell rhythm sections and twinkling leads, vocals run through the filter of megaphone gravel, the whole Joy Formidable shebang? Filipino indie rock supergroup Spacedog Spacecat does it best —that’s just what happens when the alumni of some of the genre’s savviest acts get together. The song really sets the tone for the rest of the band’s 2022 album “Fuzz Sounds.” And to hear from Megumi Acorda again after “Unexpectedly” is a blessing. What you get is a track that aims straight for the nervous system, fit for both a seaside daytime and a bar gig night time. — JAM PASCUAL

“Dekada ‘70” by Zild

With live performances back on the table, 2022 witnessed members of the (currently on hiatus) IV of Spades wasting no time catching up to the acclaim brought on by their pandemic-era solo projects. This year had Zild fully leaning into his Gen Z rock star status, carrying himself with an air reminiscent of '90s to '00s OPM rock legends. “Dekada ‘70” was initially released as a demo on May 10, 2022, a day after the presidential elections that reinstated a Marcos back into the highest position of the land. Over heavy synths and a cadence of a friend telling a story, Zild voices out the injustices of the martial law era — the lack of free speech, the extrajudicial killings, the arrests (and subsequent disappearances). “Dekada '70” is a timely callback to that time and the novel of the same name; a warning to all that history could repeat itself.

The song's full impact is felt during his live performances — particularly his Paniki Nights — where you witness the singer-songwriter's full command of the room (in my case, a dingy basement bar) and a crowd dressed in goth garb screaming its chorus with full gusto. — GABY GLORIA

“KING OF THE NIGHT!” by Ena Mori

It’s not very often that we hear empowering pop tunes about young women standing up for themselves against their bullies. On “KING OF THE NIGHT!,” Ena Mori embraces her inner “Carrie” Rae Jepsen with a groove that thumps with relentless confidence, and a persona so big and massive, it’s enough to build a shield with a thousand different shades. Instead of resorting to a revenge narrative to silence her unruly critics, the Filipina-Japanese artist sends a strong, positive message for all the outcasts out there to walk with their head held high and sashay the night away. She chants, “I am the fire that no water can please” over thumping, electronic beats and marching drums as if she’s ready to take over the gymnasium stage in her flashiest prom outfit. Truth be told that confidence isn’t a costume that you can wear anytime of the day, but on “KING OF THE NIGHT!,” Ena Mori reclaims it gracefully from a place of newfound power and acceptance. The battle scars may show from time to time, but she’s singing the same tune without faltering this time around. — IAN URRUTIA

“We Like Speed” by O.I. Research Partners

O.I. Research Partners’ debut record “Speed Milk” was a psychedelic interstellar odyssey straight out of Nueva Ecija featuring boy-girl vocals and frantic guitars under the premise of these being uncovered transmissions emanating from another dimension. The album’s lore was further expanded by the various exhibitions that the duo held around Metro Manila, featuring found artifacts of a device called a “Magniflux Frequency Generator, and a zine filled with cryptic technicolor ideograms. When it comes to projects as fully realized as this in scope and worldly concerns, “We Like Speed” is quite a gun-slinging introduction that morphs from cowboy rock into a seedy swing that’s compelling enough to hear the album in its entirety. – MR

“Seryoso” by SOS

SOS' new song “Seryoso” sounds carefree and impulsive, throwing caution to the wind with an arresting blend of candylike grooves and bohemian madness. At its core is an intricate level of infectiousness that sounds freeing from the expectations of modern society. The simmering confidence in Roberto Seña’s vocals transforms arcane enlightenment into a dancefloor mantra, while the pulsating bass and tropical synths drift through a nourishing space where the sun shines, and everybody seems to be having a great time. “Seryoso” is everything you need in a summer jam: a funky little bop that insists on letting go of worldly ambitions for something far greater than anything tangible. — IU

“Honey” by Rienne

A fine addition to Off the Record’s roster, the queer West Virginia-based artist gave us “Honey” this year, a track that revels in the inherent sweetness of being shy and the joy that comes from quietly sitting with a love still unconfessed. Rienne’s hook-craft is on full display in “Honey” — dynamic cadences and effortless melodic arrangements aid in the song’s earnest conceits. The world is just never going to get tired of good love songs, and “Honey” is a good love song. — JAM PASCUAL

“1965” by Ligaya Escueta

While living in the wrong decade is often something young songwriters muse about, Ligaya Escueta’s one of the very few who have considered going back as far as ‘65. From singing about “get[ting] punch stains on my dress,” she abruptly turns to enumerating different decades that have sat outside collective nostalgic radars, even today. Her album “Laughing in Milk” is incredible, not in spite of, but because of her young age, at which she is already writing sharp zingers like “Living is a Dying Art.” There’s plenty of indie pop that captures what it’s like to come of age, yet what makes her special is that her lyrics already glimpse at a rich, whimsical inner reality that most grown-ups have already shunned away. Then again, one of the great mysteries of the pantheon of indie rock is where the rock star fountain of youth is. Escueta’s probably already found her own. — MR


It’s hard to believe that SHNTI was a relative newcomer to the scene in 2019. Starting out via the traditional hip-hop Soundcloud rapper route, the young LIAB Studios signee turned into a highly anticipated act when gigs started opening up again this year. The single “ELMNT,” part of her six-track EP of the same title, has SHNTI waxing on about embracing her oddball personality and ignoring the haters. The trap beat and spacey synths create a plain canvas for SHNTI to color with her unique vocal attitude, made even better with the mixing and mastering by labelmate, the rapper-producer Calix. It’s less of a diss track and more of an anthem for self confidence, a confidence we hear in the nonchalance in which SHNTI slips through the Filipino and English verses. — GG

“We Should’ve Walked But We Ran” by UJU

Shoegaze and dreampop are the most identifiable sonic signposts, but what about contemporary emo? “We Should’ve Walked But We Ran” by UJU wields a kind of melancholy that turns the tones of your immediate surroundings cool and blue. Judy, David Chu, Kenanaiah Jo, and Diosem Dagaas are very good at utilizing hypnagogic textures, as evidenced by their 2021 release “Dream of Better Days.” “We Should’ve Walked” shows the artists finding more solid footing in their sound. It’s only more momentum from here. — JP

“Signs You’re Getting Older” by Cowboy Country Club

Cowboy Country Club wages a wicked war against the changes that happen in our bodies and emotional and mental states as we age and enter post-adolescence. While there’s nothing about “Signs You’re Getting Older” that reflects the puns and polka of a standard goofball scripture, its good timing and effortless wit are a step ahead of the curve. The fuzzy country rocker outfit points us to a direction that not everyone is comfortable to navigate without fear of being judged: poking fun at our desperation to conceal our imperfections. It’s novelty gold that bears the mark of a drunken humorist — a quality that seems amiss in a worldview shaped by curated content and self-centered projection. — IU

“Dati Dati” by Sarah Geronimo

“Dati Dati” is in many ways, a study in contradictions. Beneath the dazzling sunburst of disco beats and modern city pop arrangements is an admission of emptiness from the inside: a song specifically made to dance or numb your pain away. Sarah Geronimo tries to mask her yearning for the simple joys of the past with an escapist anthem that transcends as it dissipates. But perhaps part of the charm of “Dati Dati” lies in the juxtaposition of quiet darkness and striking lightness, embracing the changes in her life but longing for the comfort of the place or people she once called home. Honest and hurtful as its sentiment may have been, Sarah is no longer afraid to tell her story on the mic. She utilizes the dancefloor as an outlet of expression, and by doing so, she has finally found freedom in the unhinged. — IU

“Adorned for Loathing Pigs” by Basalt Shrine

In “Adorned for Loathing Pigs,” Basalt Shrine cracks the code of what makes doom and sludge metal so potent. Pummeling power chords stomp in with a guitar tone that is both grizzly and elegant, while lich-like growls announce violence. For a moment, sustained rasps and Cliff Burton-esque bass notes are present in the arrangements, before the track continues its pallbearer march. Where angels fear to sonically tread, Basalt Shrine walks, hooded acolytes of a heretic sound. — JP

“can't get enough” by Jason Dhakal

Singer-songwriter Jason Dhakal has been compared to Western contemporary R&B acts like Frank Ocean and Daniel Caesar, but his recent releases are proof that he is carving his own name in the Filipino neo-soul space. What starts out as a sensual ballad has Dhakal switching gears just a bit past the one minute mark, when the drums (℅ Pat Sarabia of Apartel and Oh Flamingo!) kick in and it becomes a blissful romp through the joy of being in love. Dhakal’s use of loud trumpets and winding piano arrangements are a nod to the ‘70s, but are especially felt in the music video which displays queer love at its freest. — GG

“Matahari” by Subsonic Eye

Singapore’s Subsonic Eye is part of our list because their guitarist and co-songwriter Daniel Borces was born in Cebu, which accounts for his affinity to the archipelago. The band is a Philippine indie darling, always drawing in crowds whenever they have their mandatory stop here on Southeast Asian tours, not that Singapore is very far. Their split EP “Dijangka / Matahari” is the band’s first release in Malay, which is the Filipino language’s close linguistic relative. The lyrics’ cadences are familiar enough to spark a synapse of recognition, and even if it evades literal understanding, the band speaks for itself through the impeccable indie rock arrangements. Within the last decade alone, independent music scenes across Southeast Asia have reached out to each other, shaping currents of exchange that also transcend language barriers. – MR

“Chewing Gum” by Ruru

As a project, Ruru is hard to pin down. The moniker of multidisciplinary artist Denice Quimbo takes a mosaic approach to music, incorporating dream pop, funk, R&B ala The Internet, and a little bit of nu jazz. “Chewing Gum,” the track that kicks off her 2022 full length “Glorious Miscellanea,” is brilliant. Bright flute riffs lift up the rest of the arrangement as Ruru’s vocals sail through a steady, breeze-blown beat. A brief rap section evokes the cheekiness of Haru Nemuri. Ruru is left-field, askew in the best way. — JP

“Dalawa” by Kaia

While their contemporaries are busy exploring maximalist trends and technicolored visuals, Kaia (stylized as KAIA) offers a minimalist perspective on pop music with the release of their Y2K-indebted single “Dalawa.” Completely ditching the loud and brash spectacle of their previous tracks for something that is uncharacteristically subdued and whimsical, the five-member girl group fleshes out the sounds of slow-jam nostalgia with inescapable hooks and soft-focus textures. But what makes the song extra special is that it has no agenda to reclaim the glory of the past as echoed in its lyrics and warm, enveloping soundscapes. It works within its limitations fluidly and cautiously, making sure that the youthful sheen matters the most, and is the front and center of its showcase. — IU

“Can I Try Again?” by Andrea Obscura

Andrea Obscura’s debut track “Can I Try Again?” is a callback to simpler times, when the only worries I had were about grades and if I could make it home from school in time to watch my favorite show. To hear this coupled with lyrics about loneliness and the feeling of getting left behind in your mid-20s is strange, but also somewhat comforting. Obscura counts Avril Lavigne and Michelle Branch as some of their childhood favorites, which is something that’s clearly reflected in the introspective quality of their track. Best to listen to this in the car on a road trip, fully immersed in the idea that you’re the main character of a mid-’00s chick flick, at a crossroads in the movie that is your life. — GG

“Isip at Kamalayan” by Ang Bandang Shirley

When Ang Bandang Shirley released “Isip at Kamalayan” on the eve of the elections, their Facebook post read: “Maging masusi sa pagpili ng iboboto natin bukas. Ihalal natin sa puwesto ang mga kandidato na may malasakit sa bayan at uunahin ang kapakanan ng taumbayan bago ang sarili.”

While the group is loved for their tenderly cathartic songs about romance and attraction, their knack for crafting anthems that build up over the course of a pop tune is still here: in how the instruments steadily enter the room, and how Shirley’s new vocalist Debb Acebu is joined by more and more voices articulating a certain collective anxiety, and amid that, an inextinguishable hope. Then again, many love songs are hardly ever just about love alone. They’re about empathy. And here, Ang Bandang Shirley delves deeper into what keeps love on its feet in these turbulent times: a sense of being part of something bigger than one’s self, and the choices people make to stay together through thick and thin. — MR

“Lagi” by BINI

The arrangement of “Lagi” by BINI, one of the best P-pop girl groups right now, is a parade of ebullience. Choral vocals kick us off, then an arrangement of bubble synth riffs that lend buoyancy to the whole track. The lyrical journey is direct and classic, wondering aloud what love is before launching into a cascade of romantic proposals. When all aspects converge, the result is euphoria. Quintessential bubblegum. “Lagi” is on-point, beat for beat, note for note, and represents the standard BINI sets. — JP

“Switch on U!” by Kindred

Meant to be a boy band project, Kindred hit social media by storm after a year of planning, debuting with a ‘90s-inspired promotional rollout and a tour across Greater Metro Manila. Their debut single “Switch on U!” is the result of a well-planned collaboration between the group’s roster composed of nouvul, fern., Slomo Says, VINCED, cavill, firegod, and dot.jaime. It was definitely ambitious to put seven artists with different sonic directions together in one track, but in the spirit of the boy band, all the pieces come together perfectly in an over three-minute electronic bop — one I envision could be played at many a party in the coming new year. — GG

“Future Fossil” by Turncoats

The driving rhythm of “Future Fossil” by Turncoats feels like going down a long, quiet road at 80 miles an hour while memories burned at the edges replay over and over in the brain. Indie rock and dream pop are good at evoking these kinds of melancholic thought processes. But Turncoats really nails it when the instruments take a step back, and echoic vocals go: “I wish I was better/ I wish I wasn’t so unsure/ I wish I wasn’t angry all the time.” In the face of a feeling perfectly articulated, everything else falls away. — JP

“Ephemeral” by Nikki Nava

Nikki Nava’s desire for short-lived connections is admirable at best, even if it doesn’t guarantee closure or merit a reward. “Ephemeral” is her ode to spectacular but fleeting memories. Singing sweetly atop jangly guitars and dreamily plinky tones, Nava lectures listeners that not everything has to be photographed or taken home with. She finds contentment in living in the moment, no matter how mundane the experience is, and how in an instant, everything could all fade into oblivion. Summery, nostalgic, but with a hint of bittersweet flavor, “Ephemeral” makes it impossible not to appreciate the beauty of impermanence in a world that fails to notice the little things that often go unseen. — IU

“All My Favorite Songs” by The Geeks

As writer Mariah Reodica put it in our March music roundup, Quezon City-based indie band The Geeks were so so rude for writing a song that could blindside you on a regular afternoon by forcing you to confront change and all its consequences. Released early this year, “All My Favorite Songs” is a tale of a world moving on and our struggle to not get left behind. And while not a direct call out to the pandemic, the song’s cheery “paparararas” and harmonizations hammered in me the idea that we had lost two whole years of our lives to COVID-19 — two years that we are never getting back, and we just have to accept that. — GG

“Woozy” by Svvell.

There must be something about the waters that lie between Central Visayas and northern Mindanao for the region to cultivate some of the Philippines’ finest dream pop bands like Loop and Sheila and the Insects. Svvell. carries on this tradition as exemplified by “Woozy,” which wears its influences on its sleeve while also conveying youthful sentiments of longing and aimlessness. The band is also an exciting offshoot of Cagayan De Oro’s blooming independent music scene, which you should be keeping tabs on. — MR

Here are our favorite albums and songs that we wish made the list:

“My Kosmik Island Disk” by Blaster, “Don’t Blame the Wild One” by Ena Mori, “Diary of a Pretty Savage” by Cathy Hobi — GABY GLORIA

“Hate Mail” by Synthia, “sunday’s best” by Tidal, “Laughing in Milk” by Ligaya Escueta, “Speed Milk” by OI Research Partners, “Fuzz Sounds” by Spacedog, Spacecat, “Sitcom Theme Songs” by The Geeks — MARIAH REODICA

“Don’t Blame the Wild One!” by ena mori, “Glorious Miscellanea” by Ruru, “Fuzz Sounds by Spacedog, Spacecat,” “ELMNT” by SHNTI, “Feel Good” by BINI — JAM PASCUAL

“Don’t Blame the Wild One!” by ena mori, “Sitcom Theme Songs” by The Geeks, “Fuzz Sounds” by Spacedog Spacecat — IAN URRUTIA


“Headcount” by Pry, “Anino” by Oh Flamingo!, “Blurred Lines” by August Wahh, “Palibot-libot” by Rico Blanco, “3:15” by Syd hartha x kiyo, “Aftermath” by Synthia

“Aswang” by Alamat, “Inna Says (Too Many People)” by Keith Human, “Dust Collector” by Identikit, “Paumanhin by No Lore, “Di Inakala” by Paul Pablo, “Astral Bodies” by Manic Mundane