Back when my band Syato was starting out in the early 2000s, and before being signed by a record label, one of the hit songs that made a strong impact on us is “Passenger Seat” by Stephen Speaks.
We always get a kick out of the point where the chorus and verse tunes run with each other in a delightful serenade that does not muddle the waters. Realizing that such an arrangement features two strong singers makes it more fun for us mates who like singing in harmony.
The two voices on “Passenger Seat” are not even harmonizing. They’re singing different melodies in the same way that John Lennon and Paul McCartney were toward the end of “I’ve Got A Feeling,” a nearly forgotten Beatles track that features the legendary songwriting tandem vocally collaborating on equal footing for the last time. The trick simply works.
Stephen Speaks turns out to be a rare foreign act that hit it big in the Philippines which, to say the least, is way bigger than anywhere else where their music is heard. To put that in context, Fra Lippo Lippi’s career is significantly marked by its huge popularity in the Philippines.
Checking the Wikipedia entry on Stephen Speaks shows that upon the Philippine release of their debut studio album “No More Doubt,” under Warner Music Philippines 20 years ago, it was declared platinum just 10 days after. It also noted that their songs “Passenger Seat” and “Out Of My League,” as expected, “received significant airplay atop Filipino radio stations.”
Small wonder that the Philippines has been quite a regular stop for Stephen Speaks, with its legacy carried on by singer-songwriter Rockwell Ryan Ripperger. The guy is currently in the country doing a series of shows, promoting a new single called “Tryin To Prove,” and working on the release of a greatest hits album on vinyl format.
He shared, “I was last here in 2019 and I was planning on doing a few more things but it got interrupted by the pandemic. I came back as soon as I could. I love the Philippines and I am glad to be back.”
That the latest release dropped on Valentine’s Day featured his collaboration with TJ McCloud, their first since “Passenger Seat,” makes this particular visit extra thrilling.
Filipino fans have already seen Stephen Speaks face to face for the first time since the Covid-19 pandemic. The act performed at Wish Radio’s event set in Solaire (February 12), the UP Fair (February 14), and Eastwood (February 15).
Today (February 16), the music goes to McKinley Hill, and then wraps it up in Ayala Bay (February 18) and Ayala Terraces (February 19).
“TJ McCloud is the co-writer of ‘Passenger Seat’ and I am excited about our new single. It is a preview of our new album that will be out either late this year or next year,” stressed Ripperger who’s working with local record label Eikon records for the vinyl release of Stephen Speaks’ best tracks.
The group’s other major hit “Out of My League” is one gentle piano piece that has made listeners “shiver but in a good way.” It also ensured they’re no one-hit wonder.
The album to be packed with hit songs should be available around October. A concert to coincide with its release is in the works.