A Peek at Josh Cullen’s Artistry through “WILD TONIGHT” and “Pakiusap Lang”
Flying solo isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Despite the confident exteriors artists put out on stage, it’s not easy to put your craft out there for the world to pick apart—bare, vulnerable, and without the comfort of your group members to back you up if sh*t hits the fan.
But, despite all of the fears, something about the process makes you still willing to push aside that part of your brain saying otherwise.
That’s what multi-hyphenate artist Josh Cullen has done, who laments, “I question myself a lot of times, and I’ve been questioning myself as of now too.” But, regardless of those inner thoughts, he still believes he was born to be on this path. Sure, we have our moments, but Josh says it’s a natural struggle for anyone; all you need to do is trust the process.
Back in February, Josh made his long-awaited solo debut under the monicker “Josh Cullen.” He does this in the wake of SB19’s fifth year in the industry, his seventh year in the scene since starting training in 2016, and at the age of 29 years old. Looking at all that, it may sound like a long time coming to be forming a new identity. Far too late for some. But who says you can’t reinvent yourself at any point in your life?
We’ve seen Josh through all sorts of faces in SB19. But who is he without all that nuance? Let’s take a peek at Josh’s artistry through the lens of his first two singles, “WILD TONIGHT” and “Pakiusap Lang.”
An introductory to the ‘Josh Cullen’ banner, “WILD TONIGHT” is the first single under Josh’s belt that he’s taken the full reigns on from songwriter, producer, to even creative director. The debut single may contain some familiar notes, but it’s not what one would have expected.
It has the EDM, pop, and hip-hop elements we’ve heard through the SB19 discography. And there’s a strong rap presence, as expected of the lead rapper. But who knew he’d take the Twilight-esque name to heart and create a Victorian, vampire-esque concept? When asked what made him go for this concept aside from the apparent name inspo, he exclaims, “Simple lang naman. Sino pa ba bampira dito sa Pilipinas?”
“It’s simple. Who else is [consired] a vampire in the Philippines?”
Coupling gothic-inspired violins and trap-laden beats, “WILD TONIGHT” is the type of song that’s just a little enchanting and alluring while also completely danceable for any club or party setting. I didn’t know what to expect from Josh, but something imaginative and campy wasn’t what was at the top of my mind. He’s mentioned he takes inspiration from video games, and I can see that with this, more than just the references.
With video games, you can imagine a world not tied to reality and its worldly “rules.” And instead of choosing a character like he’s done in his games, he made his own and even leaned into the running joke about his name.
When talking about “WILD TONIGHT,” he says, “Kaya siya ‘yung introductory song out of the songs I’ve made is, well, gusto ko kasi ipakilala ‘yung sarili ko as someone na may malakas na impact. Not as someone na, ‘Ah, si Josh ‘yun! Magri-release ‘yan ng ganto!’ Feeling ko kasi expected ng mga tao na R&B, medyo soft pero hindi pa nila nakikita kung sino talaga ‘yung identity ko.”
“The reason it’s the introductory song out of the songs I’ve made is, well, I wanted to introduce myself as someone with a strong impact. Not as someone that [one could say], ‘Ah, it’s Josh! He would release something like this!’ I feel like people expected that I’d do R&B or something soft, but they haven’t seen what really is my [artistic] identity.’”
“WILD TONIGHT” is chock full of personality and imagination while containing many of Josh’s inner thoughts through flawless rap bars. It’s honestly just a fun time while still keeping things seemingly effortless. A banger but not overwhelming in the slightest. Through the song, he metaphorically spits at the haters and allows himself to be free from their constraints—awakening the beast and getting wild tonight.
Two months after his first single, Josh released “Pakiusap Lang,” a relaxed, sensual rap song about the struggles of maintaining a relationship and holding onto your partner just a little too tightly. In other words, a complete 180 and flip to the script to “WILD TONIGHT” that it’s enough to sound like both songs came from two different artists.
If “WILD TONIGHT” was all fire, “Pakiusap Lang” was the water putting it out. It was soulful, emotional, and, most of all, personal in its lyrics and delivery. While both singles have been honest takes from Josh, this single was honest in a different way, as it felt like it came from the heart and would touch the heart of anyone listening to it. The single felt like it was the slowdown to the strong impact that came with the maiden single. At the same time, it showed a different side to Josh’s artistic style that’s more than just “wild.”
Still keeping his hip-hop influences, the rap-ballad fusion is reminiscent of Josh’s usual, edgy style while bringing something new to the table with its emotional depth and warm, inviting soundscape. I’d even argue that the sound is much more minimalist, as it lets the vocals and lyrics hang in the air just a bit more—enough to resonate with listeners everywhere.
As told by Josh, “‘Pakiusap Lang’ came from my influences sa local hip-hop and masasabi ko, for casual [listening] siya. Ito yung mga soundtrip ko usually din; parang very easy to listen to lang. Ganyan lang ang mga vibe ko.”
“‘Pakiusap Lang’ came from my influences in local hip-hop, and I can say that it’s for casual [listening]. These are the usual sounds I like; it’s very easy to listen to. This is my kind of vibe.”
Both “WILD TONIGHT” and “Pakiusap Lang” are charismatic tunes in their own right. And with how different they are, they serve as a great introduction to what Josh Cullen’s music could be and where it’s headed.
Through the songs, we learn the following about Josh: 1. He is all about variety and showing a diverse catalog, 2. He’s never going to skimp on the lyrics—always adding depth to his craft, 3. He’ll never fail to add a story and form a different character, and most importantly, 4. He’s always going to bring the unexpected as someone that marches to the beat of his own drum.
These singles only serve as a peek as to what Josh Cullen is capable of. So, what can we truly expect next? We’ll just have to wait and see in the album.
Want to know more about Josh’s path to music and going solo? Catch the full cover story in PARCINQ’s Second Quarter 2023 Issue. Pre-orders are now open via parcinqmarketplace.com.
Photography by Rxandy Capinpin
Art Direction by Joe Andy
CGI Effects by Edmar Tuazon
Fashion Film by Ian Francisco
Video Associate Pogs Francsico
Camera Operator Anghel Millar
Graphics by Ricardow
Makeup by Mac Igarta
Hair by Mark Familara
Styling by Team Rain x Em
Cover Story by Marielle Filoteo
Production Assistance by Arkeen Perez, Chicco Rodriguez, and Edmar Buenviaje
Set design by Jagger Studios
Special Thanks to Black Star Entertainment