QUEZON CITY ⸺ Bolstering their arsenal of talents, local music giant Cornerstone Music (CS Music) launches two fresh up-and-coming names to look out for in the ever-evolving music scene. 23-year-olds Nikko Virtucio, with his artist name “NKO”, and Kenjirou Exaltacion, or simply “kenji” (stylized), debut their first single February of this year under Just Music, a special record label under CS Music that concentrates in handling independently produced music by their auspicious roster.
NKO's debut single "Langit" (“Heaven”) brings us the ethereal and the sensual with its supercool 80’s funk and lyrics that flirt with the imagination. NKO wants the song to communicate an underside of every love story: the reconciliation after a fight, which, to him, is "langit sa feeling (feels like heaven)", he said in an interview.
With hip-hop as his staple on-repeat, NKO expressed that composing "Langit" was a challenge because its retro-pop daze is something he only grew up hearing from his dad who is an avid fan of 80’s music. Taking modern inspirations from Lauv, Lany, Conan Gray, and The 1975, NKO made it his goal to ultimately own the song (“Langit”) by making it inventive, innovative, or, in his words, “indie”, like deliberately omitting a distinct chorus.
"I don't want my music to be simply listened to... I want my songs to be an experience (for the listeners)... Like (they are) in a movie."
Throughout the years before his debut, NKO spent his time finding his own sound, while keeping a nearness to his audience, writing songs that capitalize from common human experiences, such as the mentioned theme with "Langit".
Meanwhile, Cebu-based music rookie, kenji, invites us to an emotion-charged acoustic mellow with the tender words of his debut song “night and day” (stylized) that tells a story of departure and the numbing ache of letting go.
Lyrics like “Never gone are the memories I had and I shared with you. And so now I’m finally letting go of the rope that leads me back to you,” will poke through listeners’ hearts, as the gentle lilt of strings ease them back to comfort.
To kenji, exposing his rawest, most honest emotions with his guitar is the concoction of his genre, greatly inspired by British acoustic icon Ed Sheeran and local singer-songwriter Moira Dela Torre. With pretense out of his vocabulary, kenji expressed in an interview, “I want them to take the honesty and the story of my songs. Every song that I write, you can always (hear) the honesty of a 23-year-old kid.”
He took the lockdown caused by the pandemic to his advantage, utilizing his time to fine tune his songwriting, which has been his passion along with singing since he was only 10 years old. According to kenji, it only took him 15 minutes to write “night and day” after watching and being extremely moved by the 2018 film “Through Night and Day” (Alessandra De Rossi, Paolo Contis). Read kenji's night and day full feature here.
Both NKO and kenji were part of G2B Boys under Star Music way back 2013. They sang the song “Ikaw Na Na Na Na” composed by Jonathan Manalo as the official love theme of the series Got To Believe (Daniel Padilla, Kathryn Bernardo).
STREAM: NKO’s “Langit” and kenji’s “night and day” out now on all digital platforms.
Words by Gab Torres