NDP song’s rhythm is awful and unpleasing the ear

From ‘NDP song leaves much to be desired’, 3 June 2017, ST Forum

(Joe Teo Kok Seah): Despite listening to this year’s National Day Parade theme song – Because It’s Singapore! – on several different occasions, my peers and I cannot help but find the rhythm awful and unpleasing to the ear.

Apart from the lyrics, whether a song endears itself to the public is largely determined by its rhythm or melody.

The importance of the rhythm cannot be overemphasised.

… When compared with other NDP songs, it becomes all the more evident that this year’s song is poorly composed.

It is quite unnecessary to create a new song every year for NDP, just like no one contrives to produce a song for every Christmas and Chinese New Year.

What impresses me about this letter is not the writer’s brutal honesty, but the fact that he and his poor friends had to listen to ‘Because It’s Singapore!’ MORE THAN ONCE. I couldn’t make it past the 2 minute mark, knowing that not even a chest-thumping, horns- blaring, harp-ripping, soprano-screaming crescendo could save this mess. I’d imagine this would be the official toilet-break song during the NDP parade, smack in between Munneru Valiba and Chan Mali Chan. Or you could play it post-parade, so that attendants would run away in panic and our foreign workers could clean up everyone’s shit and go home early.

As grating as this sounds, it’s also a deceptive piece of work, not because of the video’s hidden propaganda, but because its title has an EXCLAMATION MARK! in it, which gives us the expectation that it should sound as uplifting and catchy as Tubthumping by Chubawamba. Disappointingly, it’s as enervating as putting wet surgical gauze on an oozing groin sore.

It also reminds me of a tune more deserving of the exclamation mark (and an NDP song) – one that has a similar chorus that goes ‘Because In Singapore’. Singapore Town is an underrated gem, lively and full of ersatz tropicana. Then again, everything else is a gem compared to this earfuck. You could put ‘Home’ on autotune and it would still make you weep with pride. This drivel just makes you look for the ‘Next’ icon.

NDP video for cardboard, fun loving hipsters

From ‘Video for NDP theme song lacks inclusivity’, 22 June 2016, ST Forum

(Liew Kai Khiun): Although the music video for this year’s National Day Parade (NDP) theme song is made in a novel way, I am disappointed with its overall theme, which lacks purpose and inclusivity (“NDP theme song captures spirit of S’pore’s future“; Monday).

It gives the troubling impression of a Singapore of the future as a flimsy and boxed-in cardboard consumerist city-state, instead of a nation built upon real concrete and steel achievements, which characterised previous productions.

What I found more disturbing was the lack of representation and inclusivity in this production.

Although the featured band 53A has a multiracial make-up, and the performers are also multicultural, the actual footage focuses principally on lead vocalist Sara Wee. The rapidly shifting camera lens pays only passing reference to the rest of the cast, who are mainly young and able-bodied.

Over the years, there has been heightened consciousness about inclusivity in Singapore. We celebrate the achievements of female fighter pilots, scientists, Paralympians, as well as a female Speaker of Parliament.

With the elderly population growing, we are adjusting not just physical infrastructure, but also mindsets, so that seniors have a place in the Singapore of the future. Sadly, the music video for this year’s NDP theme song gives the impression that Singapore is only for the young and beautiful – defined narrowly as the cardboard, fun-loving hipster.

It is good to try out innovative artistic directions, and the production is certainly outstanding as a commercial music video. But as the video for an NDP theme song, it should encapsulate the social fabric and achievements of its citizenry, and be able to connect to the larger public in more intimate and memorable ways. One must not forget this more solemn purpose.

Another year, another complaint about an NDP song. The last time a pop-rock band tried their hand at NDP-composing (Electrico), the end product ‘What Do You See‘ was labelled as boring as Coldplay. To be fair, ‘Tomorrow Here Today’ is catchier than Dick Lee’s SG50 offering last year, though it’s clearly inspired by the rousing tracking-shot jamboree of Feist’s 1-2-3-4 only with recycled lyrics. Yes, it’s full of fun and spontaneity and if you feel oestracised by this video because you’re a grumpy introvert and shit at dancing, then that’s just too bad.

Without making any judgement of song quality, the complainant gives a scathing review of how the video is way too ‘hipster’ for his liking, and is clearly using classic propaganda fluff of the 80s and 90s as a benchmark. Videos like Count on Me Singapore and One People, One Nation, One Singapore have obligatory shots of our ‘steel and concrete’ achievements like new HDB blocks or a cruising MRT train to the tune of faceless singers. Not to mention goosebumps-inducing montages of families of different races hanging out against an unrealistic blank background with no context whatsoever. The NDP video has since evolved, from covert propaganda tool dead set on drilling multiracial harmony into your brains to something with more pop culture leanings, yet still struggling to keep up with the times. At least we try.

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The ‘cardboard’ reference is also taking things way too literally. What’s intended as a stylish prop is viewed as a metaphor for our ‘flimsiness’. It’s an NDP video, not contemporary art. I’m not going to watch it and go ‘Hmm, that stool floating in the air is a symbol of how we have become ‘unseated’ from our roots’. For every viewer who associates a shot of our MBS or our MRT network with progress there are others who’re given a sombre reminder of the raw wilderness that we’ve lost for the sake of dollars and cents instead.

But do we really need another video full of stereotypical ‘solemn purpose’? Does anyone still care about NDP songs anyway? Why can’t we have some sass for change, like this super non-inclusive video featuring 3 divas competing for everyone’s attention. By the way, hard to believe that this video is 17 DAMN YEARS OLD!

If Singaporeans need an annual reminder in the form of an all-inclusive NDP video to connect them to the ‘larger public in more intimate ways’, then it would be a pretty sad affair. For all the social media slugfests that we have to deal with, the occasional 1 minute video of ordinary Singaporeans helping each other out in situational crises is far more meaningful than a supercut of all the NDP videos in history lumped together, an audio-visual monstrosity best utilised in a cold interrogation chamber to dig info out of people who breach Cooling Off Day.

Besides, if you want to put in a token shot of old people doing taijiquan or a Paralympian blazing past the finish line, why stop there? You can’t call for catch-all inclusivity and cherry-pick Singaporeans from specific walks of life.  You need the good, the bad and the ugly to provide a complete ‘representation’ of society. Here’s a list of people noticeably absent from any NDP video, even if they’re as Singaporean as you and I. I’d be only too happy to be proven wrong.

  1. Cardboard collecting aunties
  2.  Cat-feeding aunties
  3.  Ah Bengs with tattoos/ex-convicts
  4.  Cross-dressers/LGBT
  5.  Opposition party members
  6.  Instagram Influencers
  7. Lawrence Khong
  8. Street artists
  9. Motorcycle gangs
  10. Actual hipsters

So if this year’s focus is on ‘the young and beautiful’, then so be it. Because that is exactly what Singapore is – a still young, beautiful nation. Next year, let’s have Uncle Sim leading the chorus shall we?

Uncle_Sim_s_So_simple_visit_to_7_Eleven

 

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.)

NDP songs pointless

From ‘Pointless to have new ones every year’ 29 July 2010, ST Forum

(Victor Khoo) Is it necessary to compose new National Day songs every year?

My sense is that these new compositions seem to be written to promote the artists singing them rather than as a song that Singaporeans can truly connect with.

There is nothing wrong with the two classics, Count On Me Singapore and Stand Up For Singapore, which are inspirational and tug at the heartstrings.

It would be wrong if the organisers’ intention is to cater to the young generation because this would suggest that older Singaporeans are left out.

It would be better if the creative sparks organising this year’s National Day Parade re-record a fresh, uptempo version of the two classic songs. Then they will be recognisable and easy for all to sing or hum along to.

With the kind of criticism thrown and enormous pressure faced by National Day song performers, e.g Electrico, what on earth makes Victor Khoo think that our local artistes would use this as a platform for stardom? Bland lyrics, boring videos, limited overseas appeal, people watching it for free on TV and not buying CDs, not being able to perform the song at concerts because it’s lame. It’s practically career suicide! And not all uptempo remixes of Stand up for Singapore are easy to hum to, as you can see from this clip of a rap entourage taking a classic, pulverising it with phony hip hop grooves, disemboweling it of all meaning and nostalgia, and scrapping its bloody innards on the ground off the sole of their Timberland boots.  As for its exclusive appeal to youth, don’t you know it’s totally not cool to listen to National Day songs? If anything, NDP anthems like the irrepressible Stand up for Singapore belong on the mixtape of any Line Dancing tournament.