MANILA — Among the performers for the upcoming “The 90s Live,” Lei Bautista might not have a name that may be the most recognizable, but when you mention her band – Prettier Than Pink – and their best known song, “Cool Ka Lang,” then you go, “Ah.”
Prettier Than Pink gigged relentlessly, made the television show circuit, and appeared on radio to promote their music. And if you’ll pardon the bad pun, “Cool Ka Lang” was one of the cooler songs of the 1990s. It was even used for a commercial.
“We weren’t a ‘girl band’ who just sang,” clarified Lei. “We all played instruments.”
The band had a second hit single, “Baby” for which they received a nomination for an Awit Award. Yet at the height of their career, Bautista packed up her bags and left for the United States.
“I had so many things going on in my life back then,” Lei explained. “I separated from my husband. I felt burned out. For several years, almost on a daily basis, we were performing, making all these appearances on television and radio, we were touring. Going to the US was like a breath of fresh air.”
“I was on vacation and decided to stay,” she recounts of Prettier Than Pink’s eventual breakup. “By then, the band was in its second and third generation and every one had things to do. I guess, it was all right. I left music for five years thinking a chapter of my life was done.”
Time does heal all wounds. Lei found her way back to music five years later. “I was active in the Fil-Am scene in Los Angeles where I had a band. If Wency (Cornejo of After Image) has a lot of songs in the baul, I too have songs in the baul.”
Now back in Manila for good, Lei looks just as radiant as she did when she first burst upon the music scene. Time, getting sorted out, and happiness can do all that to you. And Bautista radiates it. In a dress and sporting heels, she walks the walk of confidence and brims with contagious excitement.
During the presser for “The 90s Live”, seated alongside heavyweights like Cornejo, Color It Red’s Cooky Chua, and True Faith’s Medwin Marfil, Bautista is effusive.
“For one, I am excited to be a part of this – alongside contemporaries and friends who I have tremendous respect for,” she offered. “As soon as Wency asked me to be a part of this, I immediately said, ‘Yes’. Some things are a no-brainer. I would have almost done this for free. The good thing is – I get paid too.”
While in the US, Lei re-discovered her passion to perform once more. Eventually, she moved back to Manila and only recently re-married. “My husband who owns his own gaming development company has graciously allowed me to sing again. My kids are grown up. I can now pick up from where I left off.”
It isn’t easy though. The musical landscape that Bautista immersed herself in the ’90s is radically changed. One no longer needs a record label to release an album, one doesn’t need to go on a noontime show to promote a record, one doesn’t need a record deal to say they have arrived and so on.
Now anyone can release their own music in whatever format they want. They can even make it available — for free. Furthermore, attention spans are short. “Let me amend that,” she pointed out, “much shorter.”
In the thick of the digital revolution, Bautista has learned to cope. “You have to speak the language of the people today which is social media and streaming. You have to compete in a different battlefield.”
“The 90s Live” is the start of her comeback. She re-signed with Viva Entertainment which released Prettier Than Pink’s albums all those years ago. “We hope to release songs, new songs once more. Pa-isa isa lang muna before we think of an album. We want to test the waters.”
And she was offered a spot in a musical. “I love that opportunity,” she gushed. “My father, Allan Bautista, was in theater and I am exposed to it. So I am really looking forward to that.”
She isn’t daunted by the task ahead of her considering all the changes of today?
“Not at all. The ’90s bred tough people because dadaan ka sa butas ng karayom noon para makapag-perform and release ng album. The ’90s was good training ground.”
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