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What is the difference between P-pop and OPM?

Did you know that P-pop and OPM are not the same?

Yohan Yuki Xie

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For more than ten years now, the label P-pop has become a terminology used to refer to a new genre of music. Often than not, it is used to mean the rising Philippine idol groups and also compared to OPM or Original Pilipino Music.

But what is it exactly? Is not P-pop Pilipino popular music by definition?

An Internet search for P-pop will give different definitions of it, what it covers, and what it represents. There are those who use it to mean the idol groups. There are articles written wherein it was used interchangeably with OPM. While there are also those who use it as an umbrella terminology for everything Filipino made. It can not all be correct, right?

Simple answer?

P-pop, or Pinoy Popular music, is all music composed or performed by a Filipino.

How about OPM?

OPM, or Original Pilipino Music, is every original music composed by a Filipino.

It can not get any simpler than that.

But wait! There is more to it than meets the eye.


P-pop, or Pinoy Popular music, encompasses all music composed or performed by a Filipino. It is not the successor to OPM. It is not a subgenre of OPM. P-pop is simply another term for the entirety of Pinoy music regardless if the music is mainstream, indie, underground, from Filipinos abroad, or was performed by a foreigner.

It also should not be confused with the genre known as pop music. While pop music as a genre and pop music as popular music are similar these are not interchangeable. Pop music as popular music is defined as music which is most in line with the tastes and interests of the urban middle class 1 or music with a wide appeal typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry 2 and typically have easily singable melodies 2. While pop music as a genre has primarily come into usage to describe the music that evolved out of the rock and roll revolution of the mid-1950s 1.

Still confusing? It is. There is a big overlap between pop music as a genre and pop music as popular music. Just remember that pop music since the mid-1950s has usually been identified as the music and the musical styles that are accessible to the broadest audience (emphasis mine). 1

1960s and 1970s

Philippine music, or P-pop, started in the 1960s, acts and artists like Jose Mari Chan (1966), Nora Aunor (1967), the Juan de la Cruz Band (1968), and APO Hiking Society (1969), to mention a few, were the early acts in the growing Philippine music industry.

Deep in My Heart

The work shown above is Copyrighted to Jose Mari Chan - Topic.

They were then followed by popular songwriters, singers, and bands like Ryan Cayabyab (1970), Boyfriends (1970), Hotdog (1972), Freddie Aguilar (1973), Rico J. Puno (1975), Asin (1976), Sampaguita (1977), VST & Company (1977), Lea Salonga (1978), Sharon Cuneta (1978), and Hagibis (1979).

1980s: the rise of dance-pop and the beginnings of Pinoy hip hop

In the 1980s, the legendary Gary V. brought dance-pop to the mainstream.


The work shown above is Copyrighted.

This was also when Pinoy hip hop or rap started, since then the Philippines have been known to be the first in Asia to have a hip hop music scene. 3

1990s: a music revolution and the 1st Generation of Modern P-pop

Finally, the 1990s saw the biggest revolution in Philippine music history.

Pinoy hip hop / rap broke into mainstream led by Francis M. (1990 mainstream), Andrew E. (1990 mainstream), and Michael V. (1991).


The work shown above is Copyrighted to THe Clouds TV.

Pinoy rock also entered mainstream with the discovery of acts like Eraserheads (1989), Rivermaya (1994), and Siakol (1994), thanks to radio stations NU107.5 and DWLA 105.9 who broke the accepted rules, and the payola system, on how and when to air music. 4

Pinoy reggae and Pinoy ska also became mainstream with acts like Tropical Depression (1990), Put3ska (1993), Brownman Revival (1994), and Blakdyak (1997 mainstream).

These major changes in mainstream Philippine music marked the 1st Generation of Modern P-pop.


If P-pop is all music composed or performed by a Filipino, OPM is an Original Pilipino Music composed by a Filipino. We can say that all OPM are P-pop but not all P-pop are OPM. A music composition or performance by a Filipino is P-pop but for a music to be considered OPM it must be composed by a Filipino.

Is OPM an era?

It is true that OPM as a classification appeared after the end of the Manila Sound era. In the late 1970s, there was a strong call for more original Pilipino music. The country’s first songwriting competition, the Metro Manila Popular Music Festival (1977), or Metropop for short, became the platform to encourage and produce more original Pilipino music. It was then that OPM became the nation’s national pride.

If OPM is an era, then how about original music composed by Filipinos before the “OPM era”? Are those not original Pilipino music?

Is OPM for Tagalog songs only?

This is still a common misconception today: “a song is OPM if it was written in Tagalog”. However, there were already songs in Taglish (Tagalog and English) as well as in full English during the early days of OPM.

To mention a few notable English OPM songs, in the 5th Metro Manila Popular Music Festival (1982) Give Me A Chance won second place in the amateur division, with Memories and Coming Back as finalists. In the professional category, songs Don’t Deceive Yourself, What Are You Doing On A Rainy Sunday Morning, and You Made Me Live Again, were finalists. 5

In the 6th Metro Manila Popular Music Festival (1983) the competition have seen My Love, My Soul, My Everything, We’re In Love, and Still Got Love, in the amateur category as finalists. While in the professional division, the grand prize went to Till I Met You with finalists Away From You and Be My Lady. 5

A Smile in Your Heart

The work shown above is Copyrighted to Jam Morales - Topic.

The 7th Metropop in 1984 produced A Smile In Your Heart as the grand champion in the amateur category, with Fallin in Love Again in the third place. Finalists in both the amateur and professional divisions were all English OPM. 5

Language is not a qualification for what an OPM is. From these annual competitions, there is no doubt that an OPM is an original music composed by a Filipino.

Is OPM about using native instruments?

Another misconception about an OPM, though rarely talked about today, are the instruments used. In this line of thinking, an OPM can only be an OPM if they used native instruments. But consider this: if the use of native musical instruments is what makes a music OPM then those without it are not? Or, if a music composed and performed by a foreigner used a Philippine music instrument, does it make their music OPM?

Is OPM truly original?

It is also of importance to remember that Philippine music was highly influenced by foreign music during the colonial era—333 years from Spain which was followed by 48 years under the USA. Popular music genres in the Philippine music scene are pop, rock, hip hop, reggae, blues, R&B, jazz, ska, and soul, however, all of these were only brought in the country. Strictly speaking, the only original Pilipino music genres are those which developed or were composed in pre-colonial times—folk and kundiman music.

If this is the case …

What makes an OPM original?

What makes an OPM an original Pilipino music? It was composed by a Filipino because only a Filipino can capture and express the Filipino sentiment and music style. It is why there are genres like Pinoy rock, Pinoy hip hop, Pinoy R&B, Pinoy jazz, and Pinoy reggae. The Filipinos took these genres, experimented with it, and added the Pinoy touch and made it their own.

OPM is not about the language it was written in, not about the instruments used, not about the genres, not about when the music was composed. OPM is Original Pilipino Music because it was composed by a Filipino to express his/her Filipino heart as well as to showcase the Filipino style.

All OPM are P-pop but not all P-pop are OPM.


Is this an attempt to redefine P-pop and OPM? Far from it. This is an attempt to shed light about these two misunderstood labels. This is important because of the growing Philippine idol industry which many Filipinos are confusing as the entirety of P-pop, and supposedly not a single one is OPM.

In All P-pop are idols, Not, the confusion between P-pop and idols is disentangled.

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