It’s a ‘surreal’ world after all—at least, according to Justin de Dios

Any starry-eyed daydreamer with a life story worth telling can bring out a heedful ear in people, but only a lucky few can make the world stop to listen. SB19’s resident aesthete Justin de Dios is one of them. 

The multifaceted idol is earning his stripes as a solo artist and self-made musician with his debut single “Surreal.” With Justin at the helm of the song’s writing, production, and creative direction, his keen eye for beauty in the mundane shines through. He pens a heartfelt affirmation that Pinoy pop music is still an art form that nurtures creative freedom amid the scene’s prolific and fast-paced nature.

READ: QUIZ: Which SB19 member matches your vibe?

“Surreal” is a high-spirited entry point to Justin’s imagination. Grounded on childlike wonder, the song adds a slice of life to the P-pop genre and reawakens the once dormant thrill-seekers in all of us. 

It doesn’t keep you shackled to reality and the impending doom that weighs you down but frees you from them in a way that’s never jarring or startling. When real life stretches you too thin, “Surreal” offers a place of solace you can rest in with fellow dreamers before finding your sparkle again.

“These scenarios will unlikely happen in the real world, but you find them as an escape from reality, so you continue to dream and dream,” Justin muses. “And surprisingly, you’d find someone who enjoys imagining as much as you do.”

Justin beamed with pride at the “Surreal” private launch, expounding on how his first solo project aligned with his long-standing artistic philosophy. He stocked up on core memories and words of wisdom at his disposal that helped “Surreal” come full circle. “I turn to whatever I find creative and inspirational, much like my favorite films and personal experiences.” 

When reflecting on his single’s breathtaking visuals—courtesy of Benguet’s mountain ranges and Seoul’s blankets of snow—Justin also ponders on his affinity for the great outdoors that reflects in his work. 

This rings true even to his interests in foresty vacation spots, grass-type Pokémon, and nature-centric cinematography. “Doon ako nagsisimula. From the things I like, naghahanap ako ng movies, photos, and videos na related sa nature [to get inspired].”

“Surreal” captures tranquil surroundings through Justin’s wandering spirit. It’s a spectacle that can make the toughest realists and buzzkills believe in magic. You won’t find the same uplifting words and melodies in the real world, precisely because you’ll have to dig deeper—in the margins of your school notebooks, floating around your dreams every night, and between the pages of your favorite folktales and fantasy novels. 

Even Justin’s debut logo looks straight out of a whimsical cartoon. Another fruit of his vision board is a rugged boot with a sprout stemming from it, a symbol of his journey as a solo artist. 

“The sprout stands for growth and new ideas while the boot is about my journey, ’yung tatahakin ko pa lang. It also reminds me to keep my feet on the ground. ‘Di rin perfect ’yung outline niya because it represents beauty in imperfections.”

Speaking of growth, Justin didn’t have any experience producing music prior to becoming an idol. He wrote “Surreal” two years ago, but only revisited it recently with his fellow SB19 members. “I started appreciating music [upon entering the industry] because I finally got to do so many things with it.” 

Since then, he’s become a recording studio regular. He’s taken the reins of writing lyrics and conceptualizing stories for both his group’s and his own musical endeavors. 

“Surreal” may be Justin’s introspective brainchild, but sharing it with the world wouldn’t be possible without the bright minds who fostered an uplifting environment in the making of the single. Radkidz’s sibling duo Josue and SB19’s Pablo produced “Surreal,” while 1Z Entertainment’s creative manager and Justin’s college batchmate Xi-Anne Avanceña conceptualized the music video. P-pop girl group YARA’s leader Gelou was on the song’s backing vocals, too. 

“There’s no negativity when you produce content you’re satisfied with,” Justin says, looking back on his biggest takeaway from the months-long creative process behind his solo debut. “You’re working with a team, so you need to understand and be there for one another, not just yourself.”

A’tins know Justin as a man of many talents with hats for every individual pursuit. He diligently seeks growth as a performer, content creator, actor, aspiring filmmaker, and now, a visual artist in tune with his lifelong dreams. But his debut single shows that above all, he’s a storyteller on a quest for self-discovery just like us. 

There’s no telling where his adventurous heart will take him next, but his surreal realm is definitely a great start.

Photo from Justin de Dios on X

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Andrea Posadas: Andrea is a perpetual daydreamer who hopes to pack as many punches in her voice as there are in her words someday.