5 reasons why I love the NDP 2018 song, 'We Are Singapore'
How many times have you rolled your eyes at the music video that accompanies an NDP song? So much so that it's become a national embarrassment — at least for us folks who have led ourselves to believe that we're the purveyors of good taste. But hey, we know talent when we see it, and our short attention span definitely dictates what's entertaining and what falls into the abyss of mediocrity. The 'We Are Singapore' drop came without warning, all three minutes and 40 seconds served on a platter for the common man to both appreciate and tear apart. Taking liberties yet staying loyal to the 1987 classic written by Hugh Harrison, this year's NDP 2018 song is a nod in the right direction. It isn't faultless by any means, but it does a lot of things right. If this is a taste of what's to come, I might just tune in to the National Day Parade come August this year.
1. It has a preface written and performed by Charlie Lim
Enter Charlie Lim, son of Singapore (and to some extent, Melbourne), one of our nation's most prominent, emotive voices — with songwriting talent to boot. This dude's made me cry in the past ('Light Breaks In' is a tearjerker), and while I didn't shed a tear this time, I'm totally feeling Lim's preface to 'We Are Singapore'. It seems to perfectly encapsulate the inner dialogue of every other Singaporean millennial everytime an MP makes an inappropriate or insensitive comment: "The future is uncertain and everything must change" and "How easy we forget that everything takes time". Of course, there's that one-line love letter to Singapore: "Nothing's ever perfect, but I still call you mine". Yep, you're functional, clean and pretty, Singapore, but nobody's perfect.
2. It's diverse and contemporary
"From the arrangement of a classic song, to the beautiful poetry Charlie sings at the beginning, the diversity of the people involved, how it looks and feels — it's authentic and so well done," commented Vandetta when I reached out to her for a comment. And that's exactly it. It's real. The narratives are honest portrayals of our society's changing times, but they also reflect traits synonymous with certain ethnicities. As a Malay myself, I laughed at the Malay makciks with their honest-to-goodness obsession with cats — I certainly know a few. There’s the young barber from Geylang Adventures who’s working with non-profit organisation HealthServe to help migrant workers, a young family owning a hawker business, a plus sized beauty pageant winner and a Singapore Airlines stewardess representative who's not of Chinese descent, for once. They've even updated a Malay wedding from the void deck to the confetti-throwing, dry floral bouquet-holding hipster dream that it's become. This music video is a huge win for representation in Singapore that's inclusive, without lazily narrowing Singaporeans down to stereotypes.
3. It features talented folks
Like, seriously talented. How many times have you heard someone groaning about the lack of local talent? Firstly, look beyond whoever's 'Instagram-famous' and seek out events and individuals that aren't normally pushed by mainstream media. Go to gigs! Buy albums! I digress. Buro 24/7 Singapore has raved about the likes of Lim, Shak'thiya, Vandetta and THELIONCITYBOY from the get-go, lauding them for their unique sound and for daring to be different — there's simply nobody else who sounds like the lot. I'm equally psyched to see Joanna Dong and Aisyah Aziz. The former's a jazz singer and musical theatre actress singing primarily in Mandarin who'll be performing her first solo concert on 30 June at Esplanade Concert Hall, while the latter was the first Singapore artist to win the Best Anugerah Planet Muzik Song last year for 'Senyum Saja', her duet with fellow Singaporean singer Haikal Ali. Bonus: Evan Low (also known as Evanturetime) co-arranged and co-produced the song.
4. It's directed by a filmmaker with a good eye
I had the pleasure of meeting Wee Li Lin in person at the post-screening dialogue of Lady Bird in February, where the filmmaker talked about the realities of being a female in this business. Gender aside, Wee's a notable name in Singapore's film circles. She recently mentored secondary students who created music videos based on their perspectives of life beyond the year 2020 for the 20/20: The Temasek Short Film Project. With two feature films to her name, her most recent short film work is Areola Borealis, a story about a bride who suffers a wardrobe malfunction on her wedding day. Premiering at the Singapore International Film Festival last year, it's produced by Bobbing Buoy Films, which she co-owns.
5. It stays respectful to the original
Basically, it's contemporary enough to lure the youths, while still keeping the loyal, older crowd engaged. Instead of kowtow-ing to Top 40 trends and going the EDM-heavy or full-on rap routes, 'We Are Singapore' opts for percussion and electronic beats, with supporting vocals provided by ITE Show Choir. They've also set aside Singapore's pledge for rapper THELIONCITYBOY to put his own twist, without butchering the message.