68 ordinary Singaporeans can’t save the NDP song

From ‘Netizens slam NDP 2013 song’, 18 July 2013, article by Lok Jiawen, TNP

It’s a birthday song that’s supposed to bring a nation together. But this year’s National Day Parade (NDP) theme song, One Singapore, has become the target of criticism, even before it is officially released.

“On par or even ‘better’ than Rebecca Black’s Friday”, “horrid” and “jialat (terrible in Hokkien)” are some of the online comments on the song, released online by The Straits Times on Tuesday.

Written by NDP creative director Selena Tan with music composed by local music director Elaine Tan, it is sung by a choir of 68 everyday Singaporeans.

Ms Tan has shrugged off the criticism, saying that music is subjective and that even she has songs she likes and dislikes. Local music icon Dick Lee, 56, who penned the NDP theme songs in 1998 (Home) and 2002 (We Will Get There), questioned the need for a new song each year.

Getting theatre people to write NDP songs is probably a bad idea. Selina Tan of the acclaimed Dim Sum Dollies may have written the decent ‘Love Your Ride’ jingle, but put her creative talents under the cloak of patriotism and you have a disaster waiting to happen. The same NDP curse befell playwright Haresh Kumar Sharma, who conceptualised the ‘Fun Pack Song’. There’s something about the crescent moon and stars that regresses artistic people into children, because that is exactly who the annoying cheerleader vibe of ‘One Singapore’ appeals to. Some have commented on the ST page that it belongs on the Kids Central channel, or should be celebrated as a Children’s Day song. The rest talk about comas and bleeding ears.

There’s even a rap thrown in the mix, which goes:

Yo, I may look like I’m a tiny thing, here I am I can bravely sing!
For sure I’m gonna give you my everything, that’s how I play when the recess bell rings
I’m gonna give it my all, cos this is my home, I love (x4) my Singapore

To my knowledge this is the only ever rap composed for an official NDP song, though there have been rap ‘remixes’ of NDP classics. The ‘recess bell’ line doesn’t even make sense, because how kids ‘play’ during recess has nothing to do with nation-building. When kids that age ‘give their all’, it’s almost always for PSLE, not for the nation. Furthermore it’s 2013, not 1993 folks, nobody starts a rap with ‘YO’ anymore. I forsee inverted baseball caps if there’s ever a video for this ( I was wrong. There were caps in the MV, but not inverted).

But to me the biggest culprit of this track is not the recycled lyrics (even the song title is recycled, see below), the forgettable tune or the sheer waste of 68 voices, but the ‘stuck in the 90’s’ production. It sounds like they’re reusing the same TV theme instrumentation from the days of ‘Under One Roof’. There’s nothing resounding or sweeping about ‘One Singapore’ like an anthem should be, it just sounds like a 90’s opening theme for Moulmein High. The ‘Woah-oh’ chorus is something our grandparents may relate to, though.

Dull and uninspiring without the cheesy bombast of the songs of the past, some patriotic soul ought to save this mess with a simpler acoustic version (my prayer answered below), because the current orchestration belongs more on a direct shopping channel or The Pyramid Game ending credits than on a grand stage with millions watching, or ANYWHERE from the 21st century.

It’s not the first time we’ve used an anonymous choir for NDP songs. Some of the most memorable songs were not sung by local celebrities, like Stand Up For Singapore and We Are Singapore. In fact, there’s a far superior NDP song with the same ‘One Singapore’ theme sung by a bunch of nobodies, with more rousing melodies, better production and an emotional climax that will put the whimper of an end of the 2013 song to total shame. It’s the underrated  ‘One People, One Nation, One Singapore’ from 1990. And that’s, believe it or not, from TWENTY-THREE YEARS AGO.

With so many years of experience in NDP songwriting you’d expect these songs to get better with time. Sadly, the reverse is happening. For once, this is one NDP song that is in desperate need for a REMIX. Any takers? (There’s a acoustic version already as we speak courtesy of local boy/girl indie crooners The Animal Parade. Now this is what I call music. Selina Tan, your salvation is here and she wears a Minnie Mouse hat.)

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4 Responses

  1. Check out Pitch Feather’s cover version!

  2. Without watching the MV and understanding the background to singanation, your write up is flawed in its perspective and belies your shallow thinking. Count on me, singapore? You belong to an era of brainwashing…time to get on and get a life, JW.

  3. Massive necro here, but I have to point out that it was Haresh SHARMA, not Haresh Kumar, who wrote the lyrics to the Fun Pack Song.

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