BY MC GALANG
There is one thing I miss about MTV (which, I realize, is a terrible lede to reveal my age): its idents, which range from trippy to macabre, many predating Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” music video, the ultimate visual interpretation of Kurt Cobain’s fascination for all things kitsch. Its recent iterations, while still visually compelling, are more tempered and sleek. Gone are the coarseness and oftentimes obscene excesses we can feel through the screen, even on standard definition TV.
I keep visualizing these old idents like a film reel while listening to “Delubyo,” the interlude track to Filipino singer-songwriter Unique Salonga’s sophomore album, Pangalan. There is no rhyme nor reason to it, neither does it beg for deeper introspection—it’s all background noise, louder and more disruptive.
There’s plenty of talk about Unique’s flair for the avant-garde, the weird, or the strange, sometimes used interchangeably, and quite frankly, oftentimes lazily. I’d argue that the ideas he’s presenting are not the least novel: self-identity, self-doubt, isolation, frustration, and insecurity—individualized and magnified through social criticism. These feelings may be ensconced within the parameters of fame, one that proves to be the strangest space of all. Maybe “Delubyo” is his way of tuning out that heightened neural noise. His music isn’t too weird, the rest of us just haven’t kept up.
MTV’s earlier idents often played between music videos, reinforcing identity and favoring experimental animation (made by small studios and independent animators) over empty, tacky commercials. They’re striking, memorable, and weird—but what they did was drown out the noise and taught me long ago, and now again with “Delubyo,” that there is comfort in strangeness.