Forever is the most criminally underrated, if not the best, song in “Palm Dreams.” The lyrics are easy enough to understand. For example:
You are all I want
So much that I put it in a song
Can we just stay home
We can take turns on the PlayStation
The lyrics, written by James Reid allegedly a month into his relationship with Nadine Lustre last 2016, read like a diary entry. The entirety of “Palm Dreams” shares the same sentiments of desire, excess, and youthful energy bedded in vibrant, relaxed R&B groove. But “Forever” settles in that sweet spot of vulnerability that catches you off-guard. Out of all of the songs in the album, this track in particular doesn’t exactly call to the fact that the album was made by famous celebrity and one half of power couple JaDine, James Reid.
It shouldered the idea that the album would be listened to by anyone who isn’t familiar with James, which makes “Palm Dreams” not your typical run-of-the-mill artista album, which earns it some artistic merit. While a lot of albums earn acclaim simply because of the name attached, Forever and the rest of “Palm Dreams” pointed out that albums could stand on their own two feet. No other artista could have replicated James’ vulnerabilities in “Forever,” much more the rest of the album.
Actually they could, but they didn’t. Only James took the leap. Only he, in the world he lives in, could and did something different.
But “Palm Dreams” wasn’t just a contractual obligation nor was it a passion project. When one of the biggest young celebrities in the country is being given full creative control of his own music label and does what James Reid is doing, that’s a flex. That’s finessing. Careless Music Manila, spearheaded by James and Bret Jackson, have been signing potential artists across the country left and right, and have been slowly gaining interest among discerning music fans in the country about what they are up to.
Right now, Careless are attempting to pull one of the biggest flexes for the foreseeable future, if everything goes well. James didn’t expect his latest solo album to garner so much acclaim, but it sparked something in him to make a move and create his own label. What we’re seeing here is a possible game changer in the making, a force to be reckoned with that is slowly realizing its trajectory. With one foot in the dominating and controlling showbiz industry, and the other in the fringes of the music scene, Careless might just have what it takes to change the local music industry.
That is, if everything goes according to plan.
The name Careless began as an inside joke between friends after hearing a dubstep remix of “Careless Whisper.” “At first it was just some adlib,” James shared. “And then, it just kind of grew.”
“We were in Boracay [a few years ago] and we were doing stupid stuff on the beach and one of my friends said, ‘Ang careless mo gago.’ And we just laughed about it,’” shared Bret Jackson, otherwise known as the frenetic, energetic rapper KingWAW in Careless. “And then biglang everyone in Boracay was saying it. They would see us and yell ‘Careless!’ We’re like okay, what’s going on?” That’s when it stuck. When James was recording “Palm Dreams,” he was asked to give a name for the label. He came up with “Careless.”
James and Bret met onstage as contestants in “Pinoy Big Brother: Teen Clash” last 2010. They quickly became friends after sharing their interests in music, and both signed contracts with Viva Artists soon after. You can still see remnants of their old band WE ARE WHATEVER online–a reflection of their inspirations at the time, including Never Shout Never, whom Bret covered as well.
Seven years after Pinoy Big Brother, the two are together again in a label under their creative control with one project each under their name. Joining them are: the equally talented and fellow renegade Nadine Lustre, Dubai-born model and rapper Luke Hassan a.k.a. AstroKidd, Dumaguete-based half-Ghanaian, half-Filipino Haissam “Massiah” Morton, 19-year-old Tacloban native Sofia Romualdez, and rapper-entrepreneur Mito “Curtismith” Fabie. Some of them have only been on the spotlight as early as July’s Scout General Public, and yet as early as now, their actions indicate that they are onto something, and that they are onto something big. Probably something even bigger than all of them put together.
“We only work with people we like,” Jeriko Tan, COO of Careless, said while casually sipping coffee. Sharing images of Careless’ recent work trip to Macau and of his motorbike, Jeriko stressed that Careless as a group maintain a strong foundation of friendship to build on.
Sofia, the youngest in the group at 19, joined Careless after a chance meeting with Bret in the studio. The two would later work on a song that was never released, along with the rest of the songs from Sofia’s debut project, but the encounter would later bear fruit. “It was over a year ago. He [Bret] introduced me to James and Nadine; they heard my stuff and wanted me to get there.” ”Thinkin’ Of U,” Sofia’s latest track, shares the same pop-R&B sensibilities and lo-fi aesthetic that Careless currently breathe in.
Bret was also responsible for bringing in Massiah and Astrokidd, who add trap-influenced inflections to the table. Before they joined Careless, the two were on different trajectories. While AstroKidd has double degrees in aircraft engineering and marketing management, Massiah just recently shifted from engineering to creative writing in Siliman University.
“[Before joining Careless,] I was underground; nobody knew me,” he shared. “I was just making music on the low.” – AstroKidd
AstroKidd garnered attention after releasing the music video for “Skyfall” feat. Dalla and Pzycho Sid. “[Before joining Careless,] I was underground; nobody knew me,” he shared. “I was just making music on the low.” While working on music and enjoying modeling stints, he’s also set to work on his own clothing line in the near future.
Meanwhile, Massiah quietly settled in the Dumaguete underground scene working with Midnasty, one of the biggest Bisaya artists. Out of everyone in Careless, he might have one of the widest musical tastes and is approachable and easy to talk to. “YouTube is really my drug. I can watch YouTube for hours.”
Curtismith joined Careless “quite organically,” as he put it. The past year, he has placed his energy on things other than music: opening a restaurant in La Union and learning more about financial matters. He put his music career to a stop after imploding on Twitter in lieu of allegations of misogyny and being a Marcos apologist, both of which he has categorically denied. Regarding the issue, he has only this to say: “It’s useless to fight it. I need to just channel my energy where I would want the things that I can control, doing more good work, regardless of people noticing, and sticking to my values.“
His polarizing image notwithstanding, his lyricism and penchant for laidback beats proves an interesting addition to the posse. IDEAL and Soully, Yours were both projects that inked Curtismith’s name in the local music scene, and which contributed to the growing appeal of music that had none of the hallmarks of local formulaic pop, but had still the capability to be recognized internationally.
When it comes to dealing with the media and the general public, no one in Careless knows more than Nadine and James.
When it comes to dealing with the media and the general public, no one in Careless knows more than Nadine and James. For the past few years, the two have been basking in the limelight, both together and as their own respective artists. Trust me when I say that their fans are as all-consuming and all-judging whenever their names are mentioned anywhere online. And the two are very well aware as well.
When the name “Careless Music Manila” surfaced as the name behind the Nadine-directed music video for Palm Dream’s “The Life” on Dec. 15, 2017, there was some backlash on the name. “There [were] a lot of haters, bashers, and they started calling me careless,” James shared. “I thought it’s funny; it gives me no guilt because for me, careless is I don’t give a f*ck.”
For James, music has always been his first passion and with helming Careless, he’s set to make his mark for himself. When he started with “Palm Dreams,” he “was just making music that he thought was cool.” But with the album’s release, the decadent, indulgent music videos, the lustful lyrical content–it changed his public image. It was like uncovering a mask. For him, that’s catharsis.
“There [were] a lot of haters, bashers, and they started calling me careless,” James shared. “I thought it’s funny; it gives me no guilt because for me, careless is I don’t give a f*ck.” – James Reid
We live in a country where music, cinema and television are strictly identified as entertainment. Actors sing and dance on Sunday noontime shows while singers and dancers land roles in movies and teleseryes. For the same pool of people to venture into politics wouldn’t be surprising. It’s all too normal for us.
To disrupt this line of thinking, this status quo, is to be labeled improperly as “indie,” and as different. But the butchering of the word “indie” aside, different is fine. It’s great. It’s in this ambiguity that Careless thrive in and are able to create. Careless aren’t D.I.Y. by any stretch–they are under Viva, after all–but the group represents a shift in taste when it comes to what and how people consume media.
Careless aren’t D.I.Y. by any stretch–they are under Viva, after all–but the group represents a shift in taste when it comes to what and how people consume media.
While some would conveniently dismiss James and company as a mere industry plant, as another iteration of the showbiz industry’s glacial step into what the kids are into, Careless, the label, the group, the sum of its parts could maybe give the man a middle finger by throwing the rule book out the window and potentially changing the landscape of what constitutes as OPM. I mean, JaDine is already doing that in the film industry, right?
James, Nadine, Bret, Sofia, Mito, Luke, and Haissam aren’t just the members of Careless; they are joined by graphic artists, photographers, and producers–artists that know the score when it comes to what the kids are into today. People who would have had to grind for years before earning a break. The attitude to collaborate with young, deserving artists is already a move that would contribute as to why Careless have been dubbed as “pushing the culture.”
Pushing the culture. A phrase in some social circles, particularly the hip-hop, skate, and indie scene know all too well. What does it mean? James’ take is a personal one: “It is not the type of culture that gets to be put on TV. I think now’s the time. The generation now is like. . .Filipinos are hella cool. They’re hella stylish and there’s so much talent but it’s just not getting out right.”
Also read: Nadine Lustre: Stargirl
For far too long, the entertainment industry in its intentionally myopic vision maintained its perpetual chokehold on its artistas while maintaining their “para sa masa” rhetoric. Maybe it does take someone who knows the system well enough, someone with the machinery and public image to take it down. But it does take more than one person to build it back up, and Careless–the name they call themselves now a misnomer–are well-equipped, and more importantly, not lacking in any foresight.
“Palm Dreams” was one of the few albums from an artista that caught my attention last year, and their debut mixtape–tentatively dubbed “Careless Music Vol. 1″–will be a whopping 15-track project that’s technically been years in the making; a result of collaborations between numerous talented individuals working on a singular vision. After that, each artist is set to roll out their own individual project. They’re also in talks to do a tour in the United States, and in time, sign more artists. They’re not limiting themselves to the neon-lit, moody pop, trap-flavored mix they currently have. Bret mentions hoping to sign some rock bands next year, some of which he has already scouted.
They’re not limiting themselves to the neon-lit, moody pop, trap-flavored mix they currently have. Bret mentions hoping to sign some rock bands next year, some of which he has already scouted.
By the time this story gets published, Careless–all them rowdy, calculated boys and girls–would have already been celebrating the release of their debut mixtape. As “Palm Dreams” and “Island City Poems” indicated, the most promising quality from this group is their willingness to act on what they think is good, supplemented by their peers and informed by their capacity to make their projects happen.
Whatever their next moves are, they are a force to be reckoned with. They already have the eyes of both the local music circles and the bigwigs up in corporate media. I think they’re well aware of that, which is why they’re anything but careless.
By Lex Celera
Photography by JP Talapian
Styling by Hideki Ito
Hair and makeup by Pam Robes
Grooming by Janica Balasolla
This story was originally published in our 33rd issue and has been edited for web. The digital copy of Scout’s 33rd issue is accessible here.