When I saw this song on the tracklisting, I immediately knew why DJ included it on the album. It’s one of Kathryn Bernardo’s favorite songs! I like the use of handclap sounds in the mix. You can hear those sounds most prominently in the beginning and during the la-la-la’s. I also hear a stronger guitar, which is nice. The Michael Bublé version has kind of a jazzy feel, and the stronger guitar sound transforms this song into something that’s a little more DJ’s speed. I also like DJ’s phrasing on this song—I thought the way he hung on the word “crazy” in the choruses was neat. I just think he needs to work on his enunciation because he tends to not finish words when he sings. Having said that, his take on this song is rockier and more youthful, but it’s still just as fun to listen to as the original.
This APO Hiking Society classic has been covered many times by different artists, so it’s really nice that DJ put his own spin on it. The new arrangement strikes the right balance between living up to the original and making this song youthful so it suits DJ and his young fans. I like the backup vocals—wouldn’t it be nice if Kathryn was the girl singing with DJ? I really like the way DJ sounds on this. He managed to sound earnest and exasperated (albeit playfully so) on these lines in the chorus, which adds to his version’s appeal: “Mahal kita, mahal kita / Hindi ‘to bola / Sumagot ka naman / ‘Wag lang ewan.”
“I Heart You”
This was written by Nathan Concepcion and it’s one of my favorites on DJ’s album. It sounds like a poppier, younger Mumford and Sons track. (If you’ve never heard of Mumford and Sons, check them out here. They’re really good.) Its lyrics and melody are cool and quirky, which makes the song perfect for DJ’s also quirky voice. Having a quirky voice isn’t a bad thing for a singer—that gives him or her a unique sound. I like DJ’s covers well enough, but I prefer it when he sings originals, to be honest. IMHO, his voice sounds best when it’s paired with songs that were written expressly for him. I hope he puts more songs like this on his next album. This sound suits him.
“In My Life”
One of the first things I learned about DJ when I met him was that his taste in music is different from the average teenager’s. He likes classic rock and the Beatles are one of his favorite bands. DJ once told me that he knows how to play most of their songs on the guitar—and he proved it by playing “Come Together” for me. DJ did quite well on “In My Life,” probably because he knew it by heart before he went into the studio to record it. Again, his take on this song is bannered by stronger drums and guitars, and has a rockier feel than the original, which was a piano-driven ballad.
“Langit Na Naman”
Yes, most of the songs on I Heart You are covers. Thankfully, DJ and Rox Santos—Kuya Rox produced all the songs—updated them with fresh new arrangements. But more so than the arrangement, I think a change they made to the lyrics of the first verse was what made this particular cover fresh. Instead of “ ‘Di ipagpapalit kahit kay Rio Locsin,” the line now goes, “ ‘Di ipagpapalit kahit kay Angel Locsin.” Actress Rio Locsin currently plays Eloisa Santiago, mother of Angel’s character Monica Santiago-de Villa on the Kapamilya teleserye The Legal Wife. Neat, huh? Speaking of Angel, I wonder how she feels about being namechecked in this song. Has she even listened to it?
“Next In Line”
DJ’s cover of this Wency Cornejo classic begins with a string intro that’s grand and haunting before the guitars and drums kick in. For me, that gives the song a cinematic feel. “Next In Line” is about a young man on the threshold of adulthood, wondering what the future has in store for him. I think it’s safe to say that DJ was able to relate to this song, so his take on it rings true. The lyrics are believable in his voice. Speaking of his voice, it sounds quite strong here. (Listen to DJ wail from 0:25 to 0:10.) This song can also be seen as DJ’s call to action—him telling his fellow teen stars that they are next in line, so they should all work hard to be worthy when their time comes.
“Sa Aking Piling”
I loved the lyrics of this song even before I knew Kuya Rox wrote it. It’s hard to pick out just one line in a song that’s one of the album’s best, lyrically speaking, so I’ll leave it at that. When I talked to Kuya Rox via Twitter DM, he told me DJ had some input on the way this song was produced. “May creative inputs si DJ sa instrumentation, kung paano magiging maganda yung tunog ng track,” said Kuya Rox, who, along with DJ himself, sang backup on this song. DJ’s inputs did make the song better. I really like the way he sounds on this song because he pushed his instrument as far as he could—listen to the choruses and the bridge—and in doing so highlighted the grit in his voice. However, I felt like he was a little disconnected from it. DJ’s good now, but when he gets better at connecting with big, angsty songs like this, he’ll be unstoppable.
“Sana Sya Na”
This song was contributed to I Heart You by Sir Jungee Marcelo, one of my all-time favorite songwriters. He’s the one behind DJ’s smash “Nasa Iyo Na Ang Lahat.” When I heard that Sir Jungee had written a new song for DJ, I couldn’t wait to listen to it—and when I finally heard it, I wasn’t disappointed. The arrangement has a summery feel to it. I can see myself jamming to this in Boracay while enjoying a fresh fruit shake from Jonah’s. I love how the guitar snaked in and out of the track. I also liked the do-do-do’s after the chorus. I can already see DJ getting his fans to sing along to that part when he performs this song at his April 30 concert at the Araneta Coliseum.
Originally by Pilipinas Got Talent season one discovery Ezra Band, this has a slight R&B-meets-rock feel, which I love. In this song, DJ sings about the difficulties of young love and how he’s willing to tough it out to be with the girl of his dreams. This is his own youthful take on the concept Luther Vandross sang about in “I’d Rather.” (Remember the “I’d rather have bad times with you than good times with someone else” song? Yeah, this one.) I can imagine DJ singing this to Kathryn as a way to get back in her good graces should they have an argument, which I hope never happens.
“With A Smile”
I Heart You ends on a high note with this song. I really love how DJ and Kuya Rox flipped it. They took a ballad and gave it a harder edge. Sometimes when an artist flips a song as well-loved as this one, it doesn’t work. Fortunately for DJ and Kuya Rox, they took a risk and it paid off. I’m a big Eraserheads fan, and I think they managed to strike the right balance between paying homage to the original and doing something fresh. I also think the harder edge and slightly faster tempo also made the song a little bit more uplifting, because the original had a somewhat melancholy feel to it. But the best things about this version—at least for me—are the instrumental motif at the beginning and DJ’s falsetto at 1:05. Brilliant.
Overall, I thought this was a solid album. Kuya Rox’s arrangements really helped DJ shine—not that he needed much help with that, as DJ sounds more confident here than he did on his previous albums. There’s also more variety here. His first two albums were composed mostly of covers of OPM classics, with “Grow Old With You” from The Wedding Singer being the lone English song. This time around, DJ broke out of his box and recorded five English songs (with one of them being an original). Good for him! Keep it up, Deej!
(DJ’s third album I Heart You is available on iTunes, Starmusic.ph and record bars nationwide.)