Josh Cullen Finds a Way of His Own on Nefarious Solo Debut, 'WILD TONIGHT'
12 minutes. That's all it takes to understand the ethos of Josh Cullen.
It's midnight in Manila when the Pinoy pop star joins a Zoom call with me to discuss his debut single, "WILD TONIGHT," but it's hard to tell. He's perfectly polished, clad in a sleek leather jacket and stacked with silver jewelry. He's more awake than I am, entering the video chat late in the morning from the United States. His nocturnal energy is fitting, considering he takes on the persona of a king-of-the-night vampire in the track's music video.
This project has been brewing for a long time, and Josh initially wanted the braggadocious rap debut to premiere on Halloween. It does have a plethora of elements that seem appropriate to unleash on the most haunting night of the year: his occult transformation; a devilish, thundering bassline and a sinister black-and-red color scheme. But, the fact that "WILD TONIGHT" doesn't release until late February feels more true to Josh's spirit. He doesn't play by anyone's rules, and he's quick to push the boundaries.
(Image Courtesy of Sony Music Philippines)
His brazen temperament makes it easier to take on the daunting challenge of a solo release—a battle that's only become more intimidating for him after comfortably settling in the familiar presence of four other members with Filipino boy band SB19. Josh realizes this moment is something he has unintentionally prepared for since the start of his career. "I've always been involved in SB19's projects, but I have to adjust for the people around me. 'WILD TONIGHT' is the first time I was able to be fully in control of my work," he explains to Sweety High. This time, he had the final say, working on the song's lyrics, melodies, production, choreography and creative direction for the music video.
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This creative freedom isn't just a display of Josh's artistic prowess. It's also a vessel to expose the inner dialogue that might get lost within the SB19 noise. "This is me embracing my authentic, personal style. 'WILD TONIGHT' is a reflection of my life experiences, whether good or bad," Josh says. "I just wanted to feel what I'm feeling."
If the lyrics of "WILD TONIGHT" are indicative of Josh's current era, he's ready to paint the town red—literally and figuratively—in celebration of his success. In the track's chorus, he sings in Tagalog, "Going up like a Boeing, we fly/ Ain't nobody gonna blow my high/ I'm at the top of my league/ But I forced myself down to come say hi," acknowledging his skyrocketing fame alongside SB19.
One of the most revealing lines also doubles as his favorite: "I sleep in my own grave," he states in the intro verse. "People aren't able to get on my nerves because I've been through a lot. I'm way too strong to be shaken. If you want to bother me, you'll have to try harder," he explains as the meaning of the lyric.
And Josh is no stranger to pushback. He swiftly recalls a time in his childhood when people laughed at his dreams. "I joined this pageant, and they asked me, 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' I said, 'I want to be a doctor, so I can resurrect the dead.' Then, everybody laughed at me!" Josh laughs. Eventually, he did realize resurrection wasn't in his cards, but here he is, almost two decades later, rising from the dead as a vampire in his music video.
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The vampy music video is an homage to Josh's longstanding history with gaming. "Growing up, I really loved Dance Dance Revolution. I think that's where I really got hooked on performing," he says, reflecting on his frequent visits to the arcade. Since then, he's built a prolific career live-streaming games like Bloodhunt on Facebook. (He emphasizes, "I love Bloodhunt.") The vampire-themed battle royale game was the inspiration for the concept of "WILD TONIGHT."
He hopes to intersect his love of music and video games more in the future. "I would love to have my own skin for a game. 'WILD TONIGHT' would fit a lot of great games, especially shooters," he beams. For now, he's grateful that he can entertain people with both of his ventures, but until then, enjoy the process. "It's been a dream in itself to create a song that people can just vibe to, whether you're in a club or you're alone," he says. "'WILD TONIGHT' is meant to uplift the believers of my music and provoke the people who are getting to know who I am."
(Image Courtesy of Sony Music Philippines)
With the rise of SB19 over the past few years, it's very likely that the entire world will know who Josh Cullen is soon. In their five years together, SB19 has already received nods from the Billboard Music Awards and the MTV Europe Music Awards. In 2021, the president of the Philippines named the quintet a Youth and Sentro Rizal ambassador for promoting Filipino culture globally. Josh credits his knowledge of English as one of the contributing factors to the group's surging stardom, but also his inclination to take risks. "It's one of the things I truly have besides working hard. I know I can work smart in everything I do," he declares.
"WILD TONIGHT" may only be the beginning of his solo work, but there's still a lot more of Josh Cullen to share with the world, as a member of SB19 and as a single entity. "I know that I'll always want to continue making more good music. That's for sure," he teases. "I don't think many people expected me to release something with this kind of vibe. Continue to expect the unexpected. I'll be surprising you more than ever."
Want to learn more about our favorite artists? Click HERE to read our interview with JUNNY from his blanc tour.