Before making a name for herself and gaining traction across the country, BP Valenzuela was an idealistic rookie who wasn’t sure of the things she would eventually encounter as part of the independent music industry. In the years she’s been active, BP has joined and eventually left music collective Logiclub; spoken out about various issues revolving around politics, the LGBT movement, and intersectional feminism; and called out other artists online, the most prominent instance being her feud with SUD and the group’s infamous Pulp magazine cover portraying a male gaze for a lesbian couple. “I got very emotional about it, mostly because, ’yun nga, the Philippines is a very Catholic country that also sees women like that. I got frustrated and it led me to let go. A lot of people’s toes got stepped [on] because of what I was saying [online]. But then other people started to talk about it and I’m not sorry about that. I’m not sorry because people need to talk about it.”
Internet feuds, especially with celebrities involved, cause people to take sides and put certain personalities up on a pedestal, which is what many did with BP against other “less woke” artists. Once, she found herself in an unwanted comparison with rapper Curtismith (who’s gained infamy for his public friendship and support of Sandro Marcos, grandson of the dictator) in a tweet that gained viral status. “With the political climate of today, everyone’s a little riled up, a little angrier so they look for saviors. I don’t like being put on a pedestal, as a musician, as a person, as a human being, but I feel like it’s necessary for people to [have role models]. I mean if you have a platform, why would you use that just for self-preservation? I’m also not careful as I should be. I can be very impulsive. I used to be very cautious and mild-mannered. But as I grew older, with the circumstances of what I did, I had to question myself, my goals, my beliefs, and what was necessary for me to just be an artist in the Philippines right now. I just wanted to be the kind of person I would look up to when I was young.”
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In 2013, I was about to enter the latter half of my third year of college, working under my school’s official publication and media outlet, when my senior gave me a set of videos she wanted me to edit. Ateneo de Manila University’s The Guidon had just started a new web series online called Pub Room Sessions, where the staff would invite a campus musician to perform inside the org’s space (named the “pub room,” hence the series’ title), and then put out the acoustic concert’s video on YouTube. My first editing assignment for this particular Pub Room Session was an episode about a university freshman called BP Valenzuela.
Video editing is tedious work, but editing BP made it less so. Her quiet vocals held an allure that’s hard to resist. She tinkered around with foreign-looking pedals and knobs while playing guitar at the same time. She smiled and shook her head to herself whenever she made mistakes on camera, but determinedly continued with her covers of “I Can’t Make You Love Me,” “Teenage Dirtbag,” and “Electric Feel.” Instantly, I knew this girl was going to make it big, announcing to my friends outside school that they just had to listen to her. Staff members who were watching the day it was recorded could sense her potential.
Back then, BP wore her hair short and sported glasses and loose clothing, with a pair of headphones perpetually around her neck. She made music at home solely for herself. Since then, she’s released an EP, grown her hair to waist length, put out a critically acclaimed album, performed countless gigs around the country, experimented with makeup and style, scored major motion pictures, became a social media icon and digital influencer, and cut her hair short yet again. At the time of this writing, she is preparing for her much-anticipated sophomore record.
It’s 5 p.m. when BP rushes into the studio late, right after shooting with two other magazines the entire day. Her expression is wildly remorseful and she profusely apologizes to the team as soon as she shows up. The shoot goes well as BP gamely poses, following all the unconventional directions our artist gives her. We laugh with her when her eyes tear up from all the makeup and when we wrap her in cling wrap.
BP still enjoys giggling at all her awkwardness (she does this a lot during the shoot itself) but holds herself more confidently, staring at the camera lens with a boldness I hadn’t witnessed in the girl I saw in 2013. This artist has grown up. This BP Valenzuela has gone and will continue to go places.
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Her sophomore LP Crydancer, due out in the latter half of 2017, sonically shuffles a bit further from her previous album, The Neon Hour. While her highly successful debut focuses on a more fixed pop sound, Crydancer is spaced out and far more experimental, with BP regarding her music for this album as a shared experience with her listeners rather than an outlet for herself.
“It’s my form of therapy, so I made music with that mindset. Of course, when I started out, I didn’t know the amount of shows I would be playing. I didn’t know the amount of attention I would get. I didn’t know how many people would be listening,” she says. “This time, I don’t want any fillers. I want [an album] that people will enjoy because I really enjoyed [making it]. A lot of the music I wrote before was just for myself and whomever it was directed to, just so I could manage my emotions. Now it’s different because I know what it feels like to connect with an audience. I know what it feels like to play music, to listen to music, and to just really feel it. I want to share it, and for people to feel the same way when they listen to my songs.”
BP has been teasing the album over the months leading up to its July release, putting out “bbgirl” and “Cards” as its first two singles—both of which have music videos portraying and representing the LGBT community, which BP is a proud member of. Both songs have gained praise from netizens identifying with the movement, earning the young musician role model status online. “I didn’t have stuff like that growing up,” she says. “[The videos] weren’t made with representation in mind, but that’s really who I am. The kind of thing that makes people happy would be that kind of thing where they can see themselves. I’ve never felt that before, but now that I see it—it’s always going to be important to me.”
“As I grew older, with the circumstances of what I did, I had to question myself, my goals, my beliefs, and what was necessary for me to just be an artist in the Philippines right now. I just wanted to be the kind of person I would look up to when I was young.”
Considering everything she’s been through, has her views on the indie scene changed? All it takes is some compromise, self-awareness, and empathy, in her opinion. “At the end of the day, everyone puts up with shit. Everyone has a bad day. We work with people we don’t want to work with and it’s in any industry. It just so happens that this industry is on a platform and people are listening,” BP elaborates. “Everyone wants to get along, of course. Nobody wants conflict. But conflict is necessary and discussion is necessary, and the people who push back against you… it’s like, why? Ayoko yung parang, ‘Ano, tayo-tayo na nga lang.’ I mean, yeah, tayo-tayo na nga lang but that doesn’t give you the excuse to do whatever the fuck you want and expect that people won’t question you.”
Many media outlets have called her a wunderkind and one of the most prominent female artists of this generation, all before she’s even reached her mid-twenties. But as a woman in local music, BP has battled misogyny, having gone through scrutiny on her image and sexual orientation and even learning production on her own after not being taken seriously by a recording engineer. In the age of social media and digital music, she is one beacon of light for female artists, unafraid of fighting for her beliefs and flipping a big, fat middle finger to anyone discriminating against what she decides to represent.
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But amid all the craziness within the past few years, BP is still very much a regular girl who simply enjoys immersing herself in different hobbies outside music. She’s recently taught herself how to skate and has also started getting into K-pop. She still plays video games and likes taking videos of her three pets (one dog, one cat, and one bird often seen perched on her shoulder) at home. Her dreams as of now are humble—to put out Crydancer, and just keep touring and playing shows, possibly outside the country.
Regardless of all the change and the things that come and go, what really remains constant is her love and passion for music. What used to be her safe haven turned into a communal experience that she’s more than willing to share with anyone who wishes to listen, and surely, there are many who do. This is what keeps BP going.
“When you put something out there, it’s not yours anymore. It’s everyone else’s. When I play at shows and then I hear people singing along or spot a couple holding hands, it’s like, shit. Whoa. It’s incredible that [my music] could even be synthesized into something else. The fact that it could help someone go through hardships is so important to me. To watch people commit and appreciate and connect and relate to it… iba na ’yun. That’s some good shit. I love that.”
Photography by JP Talapian
Styling by JL Crespo
Stylist’s Assistant: Edward Joson
Makeup by Nicole Ceballos
Hair by Bullet Reyes