Thoughts on BTVfam & FAP2.0

There's been a lot of talk recently about what exactly BTVfam is and what The Featured Acoustic Playlist (FAP) is about. As a BTVfam member that has been there from the very beginning (without a single hiatus) and one of the organizers of FAP, I've heard it all.

In hopes of clarifying who we are, what we're about, and elaborating on what was posted on the BTVfam Tumblr, I want to share my thoughts on everything.

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Unexpected Harmony

by Josh Kun, NY Times

OVER the last few months the four Filipino-American R&B singers from the San Francisco Bay Area known as Legaci have appeared on some of the biggest stages of American pop. There they were, belting perfect four-part harmony on "Saturday Night Live," finger-snapping and line-dancing like the Temptations on "The View," "Ellen" and "Today," and crooning to a hysterical, sold-out crowd of 15,000 at the annual KIIS-FM Wango Tango blowout in Los Angeles. (They took the stage just after Kesha and Adam Lambert, just before Ludacris and Usher.)

If you've never heard of them, chances are you have heard of their boss, the teenage pop heartthrob Justin Bieber. Legaci's members are his backup singers, which means that their camera time comes in blink-and-you'll-miss-them flashes. Onstage they live between bursts of spotlight and the shadows of their perch at stage right. As they performed behind Mr. Bieber on "Saturday Night Live" in April, Ahmir Thompson, better known as Questlove, the drummer for the hip-hop tastemakers the Roots, singled them out on Twitter. He gave Mr. Bieber "cool points" for having "the Asian New Edition" as his backup singers.

They just might be the most visible yet invisible pop figures in the world.

Before joining Mr. Bieber's touring group, they were rising stars on YouTube, now a crucial launching pad for Asian-American artists seeking the kind of exposure rarely afforded them by the mainstream recording industry.

"The stereotype is that we're violinists or mathematicians," the cultural critic Oliver Wang said. "So for a lot of industry executives there's this disconnect when they see an Asian-American singing R&B. But YouTube is chipping away at that. It's becoming a much more common sight."

Micah Tolentino, 30, started Legaci with Jason Atencion (who has left the group) under the influence of R&B acts like Boyz II Men and Shai, in 1997, while in high school in Vallejo, Calif.

"Even if most people just know us as Justin Bieber's Asian backup singers," Mr. Tolentino said, "we're proud to be out there, to show the world that Asian-Americans are talented."

While the pop charts are a familiar home to African-Americans and Latino-Americans, they've been less hospitable to Asian-Americans in the United States.

"Asian-Americans are locked out," said Phil Yu, who runs the pop-culture blog "There are definitely elements of racism, but it's also that audiences are not used to seeing Asian faces on the pop charts or on music videos, and record labels won't take a chance on that."

Legaci can list its fellow travelers on one hand. There's the Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger (her father is Filipino), the fledgling Filipino pop star Charice (who sings a duet with Iyaz on her first United States single, "Pyramid") and most famously, Allan Pineda, a k a, of the Black Eyed Peas.

"Mostly when you see Asian artists, it's as D.J.'s or producers," said Mr. Pineda, who was born and raised in the Philippines and immigrated to Los Angeles when he was 11. "You don't really see people up front as singers or musicians. We're always part of the background scene. We're like the quiet storm."

Mr. Pineda has sneaked two songs in Tagalog, "The Apl Song" and "Bebot," onto Black Eyed Peas albums. "It's going to be hard for a Tagalog song to ever be a single for the Peas," said Mr. Pineda, who has started his own Asian-focused record label, Jeepney and recently recorded "Take Me to the Philippines" under the auspices of the Philippine Tourism Department.

Christine Balance, a professor of Asian-American studies at the University of California, Irvine, points out that while Latin and black music have longstanding currency in the industry, there's nothing comparable for Asian-Americans. "How do you market an Asian-American star?" she said. "African-Americans are foundational to U.S. popular culture, and for Latinos there's the adjective 'Latin' music that's used to describe a variety of musical forms. But Asians are still seen as foreign or alien to mainstream America."

Yet the one place where Asian-American artists flourish in contemporary pop is on YouTube. The ninth-most-subscribed YouTube musician channel — basically a video home page that fans can subscribe to — belongs to the Korean-American pop singer David Choi (one spot behind Taylor Swift and 12 ahead of Beyoncé). Of the 50 most subscribed music channels at press time, 4 belong to Asian-American artists: AJ Rafael (178,117 subscribers), Kina Grannis (177, 560), Gabe Bondoc (143, 881) and Cathy Nguyen (140, 904). Since posting her rendition of "Airplanes," the hit collaboration between the rapper B.o.B. and the Paramore singer Hayley Williams, a little over a month ago, Ms. Nguyen's version has been viewed well over a million times; her take on Jason Mraz's "Lucky" from a year ago, which begins with her declaring "My nose itches," has topped five million.

"I never imagined for anything to happen when I posted my videos," Ms. Nguyen wrote via e-mail. "Although I did secretly want to be a YouTube star."

Other Asian-Americans with a notable presence on YouTube include singer-songwriters like Melissa Polinar and acoustic soul aspirants like Jr Aquino, Dawen, Jennifer Chung and Melvin Gutierrez.

"Asian-Americans want to see people who look like they do, who reflect their lifestyle, who speak English the same way they speak English," Mr. Yu said. "Now for a kid growing up the most famous personality for them is not necessarily Lady Gaga but David Choi. That's a big shift that wouldn't have happened without YouTube."

The Asian-American influence on YouTube has even been credited with bolstering the success of Andrew Garcia, a Top 10 finalist on this past season of "American Idol." Mr. Garcia is Mexican-American, but he is married to a Filipina, and before the show he was on YouTube and had collaborated with Ms. Nguyen and Mr. Rafael. In early April, Legaci posted a video urging its fans to vote for Mr. Garcia.

"It was kind of like Andrew was repping for the Asians," said Dominic Manuel, 28, of Legaci. "The Asian community is very supportive. Once they're fans, they are rabid fans."

The members of Legaci contend that many Asian-Americans turn to YouTube because they are unable to break through to the mainstream music industry.

"It's very rare to hear an Asian-American on the radio," Mr. Manuel said . "So we all had to find somewhere to go. YouTube levels the playing field. It was our chance to have our voices heard."

It's certainly a strategy that has worked for Legaci. The group tried the traditional route when it emerged in the late '90s as part of a larger Filipino R&B boom in Northern California that included groups like Pinay, DNH and Kai. It performed in clubs and on college campuses, and released two albums of polished throwback R&B that mixed its own songs with covers ("Little Black Book," from 2006, and "Sessions," a year later). The group also auditioned for television talent competitions with open calls: "American Idol," "The Sing Off," "America's Got Talent" and MTV's "Top Pop Group."

"We tried them all," Mr. Tolentino said. "And they all said the same thing, 'You guys are great, you have great voices, but you're not what we're looking for.' The first couple times we were like, 'O.K., maybe we didn't hit it that hard,' but the more we heard it, we couldn't help wondering: 'Is it because of who we are? Because we're Asian-American?' We decided that if TV wouldn't give us a chance, and major labels wouldn't give us a chance, we would turn to YouTube."

The amateur aesthetic at the heart of YouTube — singing somebody else's songs in your bedroom or living room — had long been part of Legaci's own upbringing. Its members all grew up singing pop and R&B hits on the karaoke machines of their Philippines-born parents.

"Filipino culture is based on performing," Chris Abad, 28, said. "In the Philippines there's a cover band in every restaurant, in every club. Everybody knows how to play guitar. You are raised to have music as part of your life. Our parents put that into our minds at a very young age."

In 2007, Legaci began posting videos of itself doing mostly a cappella covers of Top 40 pop and R&B hits in the living rooms of its members (or of their parents). They were encouraged by the success of another Filipino from the Bay Area, Jeremy Manongdo, known professionally as Passion, who in 2006 went from being an unknown to racking up thousands of subscribers in just a few months.

"We actually had a meeting," said Delfin Lazaro, 28, of Legaci, who had been a member of another '90s Filipino R&B group, Next Phaze. "And we said, 'O.K., we want to be the first Asian-American group to really make it, so how are we going to do this, since we didn't have any money?' We dedicated ourselves to our YouTube videos."

The group has covered a few Boyz II Men classics, slowed Jason Derulo's sparkling hit "Whatcha Say" into a plaintive, heart-melting ballad, and when it took on Iyaz's "Replay," Mr. Tolentino recreated its rhythms and studio effects using old-school hip-hop beat-box vocal techniques.

But it was Legaci's version of "Baby," the ubiquitous spring smash by Mr. Bieber, that changed everything. Joined by Ms. Nguyen and the rapper Traphik (another YouTube mainstay), the group stripped "Baby" of its slick production and re-arranged it into a passionate slice of pop.

The video was barely up for one day when the group received a call from Scooter Braun, Mr. Bieber's manager, who just three years ago had discovered Mr. Bieber in much the same way, watching him perform his own cover versions on YouTube. Mr. Braun was so impressed with Legaci's take on the song that he invited the group to join Mr. Bieber.

"I absolutely loved what I saw," Mr. Braun said by phone from the Bahamas, where Mr. Bieber and Legaci were rehearsing for a summer tour. "I really wanted someone to be in the band who was from YouTube, so that Justin could give something back to the community that gave so much to him."

Only a week after receiving the call Legaci flew to New York for rehearsals and then joined Mr. Bieber live on MTV and on New York's top pop radio station Z100. The group has been pleasantly surprised by just how much it has been embraced by Mr. Bieber's fans, many of whom now follow Legaci on Twitter and subscribe to its YouTube channel. The connection is not lost on Mr. Braun, who is working with Legaci on a record deal.

"The amount of exposure they get on the road with Justin is more exposure than they'd ever get working a single with a major label," he said.

During the tour, which begins on Wednesday in Hartford and comes to Madison Square Garden in August, Mr. Bieber has made room in his set for Legaci to perform one of its own songs. It's the kind of support that Legaci hopes will help let a generation of young music fans see that it is not unusual for Asian-Americans to be in the spotlight.

"We know how long it's taken African-American groups to be totally accepted by the mainstream," said Mr. Lazaro. "That will happen for Asian-Americans too. We want to open that door, and then we'll bring everyone with us."

Source: NY Times

How I Spent My Year 2009

I don't expect you guys to read all of this...but I hope you take the time to answer this survey yourselves just to reflect on the past year. If you do this, answer truthfully and with meaningful answers that you can look back on several years from now; it's amazing to look back on how you've grown.

This is my 7th straight year of doing this, and it's an absolute TRIP looking back and my old posts. Anyways, here it is.

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Thoughts on FAP'09

So this is how it feels. The greatest feeling of accomplishment in my life. I've never done ANYTHING like this before...but after months of driving to San Diego, TokBox meetings, promoting, hair-pulling hair-receding stress...everything fell into place.

And it was EPIC.

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This is what I've been working my ass off for:

Big props to Scott Yoshimoto and MOVeMEDIA Productions for this amazing vid!!

Featured Acoustic Playlist '09 *Official Promo Video*

This is what I've been working my ass off for:

Big props to Scott Yoshimoto and MOVeMEDIA Productions for this amazing vid!!

How to Install Love

Tech Support: Hello "¦ how can I help you?
Customer: Well, after much consideration, I've decided to install Love. Can you guide me through the process?
Tech Support: Yes. I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?
Customer: Well, I'm not very technical, but I think I'm ready. What do I do first?
Tech Support: The first step is to open your Heart. Have you located your Heart?
Customer: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay to install Love while they are running?
Tech Support: What programs are running ?
Customer: Let's see, I have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge and Resentment running right now.
Tech Support: No problem, Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but it will no longer disrupt other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem with a module of its own called High Self-Esteem. However, you have to completely turn off Grudge and Resentment. Those programs prevent Love from being properly installed. Can you turn those off ?
Customer: I don't know how to turn them off. Can you tell me how?
Tech Support: With pleasure. Go to your start menu and invoke Forgiveness. Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge and Resentment have been completely erased.
Customer: Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Is that normal?
Tech Support: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You need to begin connecting to other Hearts in order to get the upgrades.
Customer: Oops! I have an error message already. It says, "Error - Program not run on external components." What should I do?
Tech Support: Don't worry. It means that the Love program is set up to run on Internal Hearts, but has not yet been run on your Heart. In non-technical terms, it simply means you have to Love yourself before you can Love others.
Customer: So, what should I do?
Tech Support: Pull down Self-Acceptance; then click on the following files: Forgive-Self; Realize Your Worth; and Acknowledge your Limitations.
Customer: Okay, done.
Tech Support: Now, copy them to the "My Heart" directory. The system will overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching faulty programming. Also, you need to delete Verbose Self-Criticism from all directories and empty your Recycle Bin to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.
Customer: Got it. Hey! My heart is filling up with new files. Smile is playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves all over My Heart. Is this normal?
Tech Support: Sometimes. For others it takes awhile, but eventually everything gets it at the proper time. So Love is installed and running. One more thing before we hang up. Love is Freeware. Be sure to give it and its various modules to everyone you meet. They will in turn share it with others and return some cool modules back to you.
Customer: Thank you, God.

This Year I'm Thankful For...

I have a ton of things to be thankful for these past few months. Lemme start from the beginning...I'm thankful that:

  • a couple years ago, Meliss showed me some random vids of Gabe Bondoc, her YouTube Idol.
  • back in July, I did a spontaneous weekend trip to San Diego after our plans for a beach day in Huntington fell through.
  • back in August, Meliss showed me her favorite rendition of Getting Stronger performed by Cathy Nguyen and Randolph Permejo.
  • Meliss flaked on some guy last minute one Saturday night in September so we could eat at The Boat instead.
  • Meliss recognized Cathy and I recognized Gabe eating a few tables down from us that same night.
  • I added Cathy on Myspace on couple days later.
  • Cathy posted a bulletin on Myspace about broadcasting live on this new thing called
  • a few days later, Jeremy "Passion" Manongdo was in Gabe's channel and took over when Gabe stopped broadcasting.
  • That same night, Jeremy co-hosted Nessa, who is an amazing & beautiful talent. She invited everyone to see her perform at an It's A Grind coffee shop (IAG) in my area.
  • I logged onto BlogTV during a slow day at the office and started chatting with bkeeeezy (Bryan Keith).
  • Chris P. rolled with me to the USC Mabuhay performances where I bumped into and chilled with Bryan Keith & Cathy. If Chris hadn't rolled with me, I wouldn't have gone.
  • I met a bunch of BlogTV people at IAG and In-N-Out the Friday after, including Adoboy, Janice, JecJec, Katzy, Kinh, Nessa, Nicole, Nina, Richard.
  • I met even more people at Oktoberfest the next night and I got to introduce Meliss to BK and everyone.

The thing I'm most thankful for is how all the stuff mentioned above is just the beginning. Since Oktoberfest, there's been a bunch more things to be thankful for like:

  • Halloween at Adoboy's
  • Watching Emily Rose at BK's
  • BK's Birthday Surprise at The Getty Museum
  • the Expressions of Faith show
  • the FAMS show...and how people came in from NorCal, SD, Chicago and even Alaska!
  • Barkada Got Talent at Cal Poly
  • Jam Sessions at In-N-Out
  • Korean BBQ runs
  • "Skype Orgies"
  • everyone saying "goodnight" and then 30 mins later everyone is back online again. :rofl:

This list keeps going on and on...

And just to think, all this madness just started at the end of September! I've met more people in the past 2-3 months than I met all of last year. Just this morning I was rewatching that video of Jeremy co-hosting Nessa and it trips me out seeing all these names in there that I didn't know back then but I know so well now.

So much has happened since that recording, it feels like that was several month ago! It just goes to show how much can happen in just 30 days, and how even the smallest, most trivial things -- like Meliss flaking out on that one guy that one night -- can have such a profound affect on a person's life later on.

I'm lovin' every bit of it.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Much love to my BTVfam: (in order of when I added them as friends)

  • gabebondoc
  • lilcdawg
  • ron_palustre
  • nessarica
  • listen2passion
  • tl2eesa
  • 0summerbreeze0
  • randolphpermejo
  • ajRAF
  • yourstruly_melissa
  • raelynnerosales
  • johnsy204
  • elwoodespiritu
  • UrbanGermany
  • krismark
  • Reii
  • bkeeeezy
  • Adoboy
  • HuskyboyDrew
  • JaniceXP
  • heyyclifford
  • gotkatzy
  • hazelb
  • cynthiaroseyoung
  • FranklinGervacio
  • itstoofragile
  • Mquerol
  • TPM_Music
  • dj_keeno
  • RTran
  • thatsajudy
  • adrieee
  • Jackielyn
  • genethis
  • heyitsloris
  • iknowrenato
  • kl0v3
  • ajiiizzzle
  • Kinh4theNguyen
  • akachrisTOPS
  • 9natran
  • alerissasasa
  • elyag
  • lOrangutan
  • Infamiz
  • fallenxANGEL
  • jecjec
  • JPElchico
  • ChristineL
  • Nivette
  • Jonjcp
  • JayMarquez
  • r0ckingreen
  • n1kk117
  • stanisms
  • Marlo_T
  • Moinz
  • jaypwnsyou
  • japstaboi
  • whatevalex
  • Genix
  • LovAL
  • natlielatanuy
  • filpgal77
  • JanelleDoes
  • GummyBearsGalore
  • chaaaany
  • itsjamilerr
  • janne
  • Jaqqtmolina
  • blinktwice4y
  • JstNDuN
  • mr_lalepa
  • anthorny
  • philchao
  • stephbaloy
  • njthepenguin