IV of Spades vs Unique Salonga: Who has the better single?

When I first wrote about IV of Spades last year, I was already a bit behind on the curve. But then bigger things were just coming for them: the release of “Mundo” catapulted the four-piece to crossover success, their song acceptably playing in both indie kids’ Spotify playlists and masa radio stations. But then, even bigger things happened: vocalist Unique Salonga suddenly left the band – well, not suddenly, because there were weeks of arguable drama, which saw the band’s three remaining members continue to perform before an official departure was announced in the middle of the night – and suddenly, we have two entities, creating music separately. Today, both the new IV of Spades and Unique released new singles, and because we love ourselves traction, we’re pitting the two up against each other.

 

On the gothic corner, IV of Spades’ “In My Prison”, now with Zild Benitez up front, although they did perform this song as a four-piece. (I know this because there’s a video of it on YouTube lying about.) That’s something for familiarity, but recent events mean the change in sound – still funky, but a little more synth-y – makes for a more obvious “new chapter” narrative. Now it screams “post-millennial BeeGees” to me, but I like this new version more. Maybe it’s the way Zild glares at me through the screen. Vocally he oozes charisma; visually he lures you in. Musically, it’s still strong, but then, you already knew that.

 

On the minimal corner, Unique Salonga’s “Midnight Sky”, which shows a completely different tactic – unsurprisingly, considering Unique’s strength is his songwriting, and judging from “Mundo”, how affected he sounds. Kudos to Unique and producer Kean Cipriano (of Callalily fame) for sticking to what works, and for stripping it down to the most basic. It screams “post-millennial Jeff Buckley” – I am keeping a theme here – but we don’t really have a lot of these stripped down songs that you cannot put on the “light acoustic pop” box, and here it really, really works for him.

 

It’s interesting how the two entities went in completely different directions – and proceeded to unveil them to the world on the same day. Comparisons are inevitable, but frankly, impossible. Each are playing to their strengths, which just serve to illustrate how strong the original IV of Spades is – and makes me wonder what could have been if the drama did not happen.

On a shallow level, the new IVOS single might gain more traction, because we tend to like our fun stuff, and the name recognition is still there. I thought “Midnight Sky” would be a harder sell, but then, don’t underestimate the “people feeling lonely and looking to curl up in bed” market. But then, the indie kids (to simplify that demographic) would like both approaches, as it oozes artistry and authenticity, as much as those two are tired tropes.

What I’m thinking about is how these songs would fare on the mainstream side. The original IV of Spades managed to be everybody’s – on the back of one song, sure, but that can be enough – and these two songs could be a bit challenging for the ordinary listener who’s not into following the drama. Between “Midnight Sky” and “In My Prison”, who will go out on top? Both songs feel more upper-middle class to me – not a criticism, just an observation – and whether these will be embraced by a wider audience will remain to be seen. Which of these songs will you hear on Love Radio soon?

But, yeah, there will be more to come, and that, I think, will be a more interesting battle. I’d love to listen what albums both will end up offering, all while thinking, “we will never have an OG IVOS album ever”. In a nutshell: I have no answers as to who will be on top. Thank you for clicking. [NB]

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