IN-DEPTH MUSIC REVIEW: SB19 – Mapa (Original & Band Version with Ben&Ben)

I never saw this SB19xBen&Ben collaboration coming. But once it exploded on twitter, it certainly did catch my attention because it was such a pleasant surprise. What do I think of the song??? Find out as you read below.

I base all my in-depth reviews on a fixed criteria. Namely, lyrics and vocal arrangement, production, memorability, MV, and likelihood that it will be on my playlist. All of this will be tallied for an average total score.

For this song in particular, I will review both the original version and the band version which is a collaboration with Ben&Ben.

Watch the Lyric video of the original version here: https://youtu.be/DDyr3DbTPtk

Watch the Band Version live performance with Ben&Ben here: https://youtu.be/xIfWCE2ESuo

LET’S GET TO IT!!!

When the original version of ‘Mapa’ was released a few weeks back, I was pleasantly surprised that SB19 opted for a pop ballad as a follow-up to their single ‘What?’ because it was not something I saw coming from them.

Though I never doubted their vocal abilities given that they sing so well in their previous releases, it still remained as a surprise for me to see them release this as a single given their banner as a pioneer of the ‘P-Pop’ subgenre in OPM.

What do I think of the original and band versions? EXCELLENT! The lyrics, which is basically a lovecall and gratitude song to parents all over the country that work hard for their children, is both heartwarming and touching.

The subtlety in wordplay of the use of the word ‘Mapa’ is clever. It being used in its literal meaning of being a map and also as a conjunction of the ‘Ma’ (mother) & ‘Pa’ (father) to refer to parents.

But most of all, the ‘Lataratara’ part scattered throughout diffferent parts of the song easily makes it anthemic and memorable (something to look forward to in concerts!).

No issue with lyrics and vocal arrangement at all as it is excellent. (Plus I bet during SB19’s A&R meeting, they probably automatically thought that Ben&Ben were the perfect feature for this song and to that, I AGREE!)

The SB19 members (and Ben&Ben in the band version) delivered an excellent vocal performance in both versions. One that is standard to Filipino balladeers. Technical and rhythmic but also should reflect emotion and has fair use of melisma to emphasize certain words and highlight ad-libs.

For the band version, they couldn’t have picked a better collaboration than Ben&Ben who are known for their unique and excellent vocals as well as their mastery of delivery of lyrics.

And, it was also a pleasant surprise to see the other band members have singing parts given that we don’t often see that in their lead singles.

In terms of production in the original version, the subtle use of echo in the beginning was tasteful as it is resembles the sound of a lullaby, which parents often sing to their children to make them sleep. A clever use in order to prime the mind that the song is a ballad and also a comfort song for families.

The first verse of the original was well-crafted with how the piano is used to highlight certain syllables sung in the lyrics which is then replaced by subtle echo-y drums reminiscent of the drums used recently in Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Deja Vu’ to make sure that each word packs a punch and has a sentimental and dreamy vibe to it.

The first chorus made you feel like soaring into the air with how the piano was pulled back and cymbals were highlighted to give it that soaring feeling. The second chorus is meant to be more impactful with heavier use of the echo-y drums, piano and subtle incorporation of the violin.

It continues on to the bridge which is explosive and powerful. The subtle pullback of the chorus afterwards with the piano was good and it being sung an octave lower gave it an even more emotional and sentimental sound to it.

For the band version’s production, the signature deep drums and use of violin at the beginning is such a staple sound recognizable in Ben&Ben’s repertoire that you instantly know that it is them when you hear it.

That usage was genius and gives the song a new feel compared to the original. (Refer to Ben&Ben’s ‘Masyado Pang Maaga’, the intro here and the intro for ‘Mapa’ use the same arrangement of instruments but with different chords and keys).

Though the band version uses more standard Ben&Ben instrumentation and arrangement and is not super reminiscent of the original, it does not make the song lose its original sentimental touch precisely because it was Ben&Ben’s arrangement that was used. (As I said, this was the best choice for a collab on this song).

The production of the band version in the choruses are not as impactful as the original but are as high quality sounding because Ben&Ben’s live band elements are standard and good with mixing.

It also gives it that live element but still sounds like a proper studio recording (it is a proper live version that can stand alone on its own).

However, this is where we get to a subtle issue (IN BOTH VERSIONS). The key change. While the build up to it was good in both versions, the key change itself sounded so awkward in the first few seconds.

And it is probably because it was all too sudden and the build-up to it did not even show a sign that there was going to be a key change.

Not even Ben&Ben’s incredible violin and guitar pair prior to the huge drum-heavy build up of the key change in the final chorus could save it and make the first few seconds of the key change sound less awkward and dissonant.

And in the original, it was just too abrupt that no one was ready for it. Perhaps the song didn’t even need a key change at all? That’s probably a question up for debate with everyone.

Don’t get me wrong, key changes are pretty standard in pop music. It is used to lift emotions even more because higher keys tend to provoke and emphasize more of the emotions it is basing on.

But sometimes, such as with this song, the build up and the introduction to the key change itself can sound awkward at times leading to an unwarranted dissonance to the listener.

Good key changes in final choruses should not sound dissonant. They must sound like they flow properly and transition smoothly from the rest of the song (Listen to key changes in final choruses of Beyoncé’s ‘Love On Top’, BTS’ ‘Dynamite’, Bruno Mars’ ‘Leave The Door Open’ AND EVEN Ben&Ben’s own ‘Kathang Isip’ for reference.)

I don’t blame them entirely at all though, even I can’t think of any other way to introduce the key change without it sounding awkward and dissonant for the first few seconds.

NONETHELESS, after those few seconds, the ears get used to the new key and then the higher emotions which the key change intended to provoke begins to latch on and continues until the end.

This subtle ‘faux pas’ does not take away from the fact that this song is excellent and is a powerful pop ballad that will capture the hearts of thousands.

For the MV, the single only has a lyric video and for the band version, a live performance video at the Manila Metropolitan Theatre so I guess those do not count as proper MV’s?

But for me, they count as alternatives to an official MV because they were meant as visual interpretations of the song so that is why they will still be used for my MV criterion.

For the lyric video, the visuals and art direction were good. The illustrations are the main focus as it was masterfully created and looked so original.

It looks as if it came from a Filipino folklore fiction book which is intentional as it is reminscent to the books we used to get as children (drawing emphasis again on childhood experiences with parents which the song is about).

The band version live performance video is also good. The choice to use an iconic landmark that is the Manila Metropolitan Theatre, is a good and subtle nod to Filipino culture and history.

The camera work is pretty standard live band performance quality but some stills and wide shots with good usage of staging and lighting take it to another level and make it look like something you would see from those American late night TV show performances which makes it a bit new and fresh.

Overall, this was such a good song. I see it as a good moment for OPM. A collaboration with both such different yet iconic artists in different fields working together to just make good music for Filipinos. Though not super groundbreaking, is still such a pleasant and well-loved pairing.

In my opinion, both versions have their charm and it is all up to your mood as to which you’re going to play for each moment.

My Song Score (Original Version)

Production: 8/10

Lyrics and Vocal Arrangement: 10/10

Memorability: 8/10

MV: 10/10

Likelihood that it will be in my playlist: 9/10

Total Average Score (Original Version): 9/10

My Song Score (Band Version)

Production: 8.75/10

Lyrics (coupled with Ben&Ben’s Vocal Arrangement): 10/10

Memorability: 8.5/10

MV: 8.75/10

Likelihood that it will be in my playlist: 9/10

Total Average Score (Band Version): 9/10

Did you guys like this song? What did you think of my review? Let me know in the comments!!!

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