Being Part of Nadine’s Wildest Dreams
A visual and aural delight, Nadine Lustre’s visual album, Wildest Dreams, has to be the Opus Magnum of this young star’s career
On the occasion of her 27th birthday last Saturday, October 31, Nadine Lustre decided to do a neat inversion of roles, and was the one who gifted us all with a stunning package—her Wildest Dreams music album. Not just a collection of songs, Wildest Dreams, produced by James Reid’s Careless Music and created by Zoopraxi Studio, is a concept visual album. It’s a 32-minute short film that artfully ‘umbrellas’ her six new songs. And the way it’s been executed, it may very well be a first for the Philippine recording industry.
Each music video is a cunning mix of location shoots, studio set-ups, animation, CGI’s, and special effects. Rather than have 2-3 ideas edited on to and running in one video, this one goes all out, and there are 5-6 different things happening within each song. Then there’s the framing of a story, complete with plot line, dialogue, and animation, to stitch the six songs together. There’s the cameo of James Reid on the 4th song; but it’s a Nadine vehicle through and through, and she takes full advantage of the opportunity.
The visual album’s director, Zoopraxi’s Dominic Bekaert, was all praises for her enthusiasm, dedication, and willingness. “Quite often, Nadine herself would come up with ideas and suggest ways to do twists on sequences we had already shot. I welcomed this as it meant she was really involved; and for the post-production and editing stage, it gave me so many more options to play with, which was a blessing!’
“What we were trying to achieve was a visual album that had world class ideas and production values, while weaving in Philippine elements, such as the albularyo, the agimats, and a play on the Maria Makiling folk legend. Quintin Cu-Unjieng and I collaborated on the dialogue, and Sarge Lacuesta turned some of the passages into Filipino.”
“As a progression, the songs mirror the interior journey of Nadine. She’s racked with doubt and questioning in the first song; but gradually finds her true identity and worth, gaining confidence and a more secure sense of Self by the last song. We’re hoping this journey of self-empowerment—of discovery—something everyone will enjoy and appreciate.”
First reactions would seem to shout a resounding yes to that hoped-for outcome. Kudos and praises were flying all over the net after the album ‘dropped’ on the Careless and ABS YouTube platforms. From ‘game-changer’ to ‘seamless and dope’, to ‘This is art’—it’s evident that Wildest Dreams is marked to be an award-winner. Hopefully, not only for the music award-giving bodies; but even for film awards, as Best Short Film. It’s that deserving.
The concept of a visual album is not in itself a new one. The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night and Help could be considered forerunners of the concept; and more recently, we had Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Black Is King. But here in the Philippines, we’ve not seen a recording company put the kind of commitment and investment that was required to turn this Wildest Dreams into a reality.
Dominic and Zoopraxi were behind James Reid’s “Fiend”, which copped this year’s MYX’s Best Urban Video; and he readily admitted that they were first approached to do one or two of Wildest’s music videos. But they came back with the concept of tying in all the new Nadine self-penned tunes into one visual album. And candidly, Dominic admitted he was surprised when Careless gave it the green light. At fever-pitch, Dominic had to scramble on the pre-production stage, and along with Clem Comoy (his partner) secure locations, get health and safety protocols attended to, and shoot throughout July and August, in the midst of the community quarantine.
Zoopraxi is a lean team, and Dominic was laughing about the different hats he had to put on—director, conceptualizer, scriptwriter, DOP, editor, and creator of special effects. Quintin Cu-Unjieng co-wrote and was second camera; and Clem was line producer. You’ll recognize the lobby of The Manila Hotel in “Dance in the Rain” (the 5th song on the album), and the beach scenes were shot at Caylabne Resort.
Wildest Dreams is a testament to Nadine maturing into a triple threat, as she sings, acts, and dances in this visual album. Hers is a magnetic presence throughout the short film. While I mentioned Beyoncé visual albums earlier, the music of Nadine here echoes Solange more, and I loved how the second number has strains of Madonna’s Vogue-days. Visually and musically, the lively gray skies (“Dance in the Rain”) is my favorite, as it perfectly encapsulates the spirit of sheer celebration that runs through the album.
Nadine and Careless can be very proud of this accomplishment; as it sets a new Filipino benchmark for how to release music. As one other reaction on the net put it, “Ang ganda, I can watch the whole album again and again, and catch new things to love each time.”
(Happy disclaimer: Dominic C. Bekaert is my nephew, and Quintin Cu-Unjieng my eldest son. But as they’ll readily attest, I’m their harshest critic, and I’ve always been the tough love advocate. On Wildest Dreams, Dominic has literally hit it out of the ballpark, and I’m impressed with the abundance of ideas, and how it all makes ‘tahi’ with the music.)
Photos courtesy of Clementine Comoy, Black and White photos courtesy of Zon Lee