Last week, we celebrated the latest songs from the canon of Made In Singapore music to reach the ether. Now, we dig deeper into our national anthems with a critical eye. Read our review of the latest songs by THELIONCITYBOY, Jasmine Sokko, MMLD, Young Pineapple, Dnl., Daren Yuen and China Jam Reunion.
THELIONCITYBOY – ‘2 THE MAX’
“The way I rep the block / It’s 100 2 the max” – Make no mistake: This is THELIONCITYBOY’s most- on-brand song, ever.
The best rap songs are self-aware, emotionally contagious and transcendence-evoking. On his latest transmission, a triumphant, all-annihilating anthem of self-celebration, THELIONCITYBOY fulfils this metric to underline in red why he’s one of Made in Singapore hip-hop’s most important voices. You can hear it in his flow – words follow each other with serrated intensity and ferocity. This is tunnel-vision, you-against-the-world music of the best kind. Over a brooding, speaker-stretching Wyane Hausley beat, he gives the listener an irresistible reminder of his resume. He’s the “hottest on the track”, “running with no stress”; “he’s “got the juice”. And he dares you to disagree.
MMLD – ‘Gaya feat. Subhas’
Finding that balance of putting out music that would be publicly appealing and sticking to your own brand of sound is not an easy task. But MMLD proves that it can be done. Listen to its new EP Chivalrous Love and you’d know what I’m saying. By beautifully combining different elements of Indian music, jazz, soul, funk and R&B in its 5-track project, the band makes the best of its 20-minute runtime, turning in a cohesive-but-varied listen from start-to-finish.
Introducing the listener to the grandeur of Indian music and the silky smooth vibes of jazz, MMLD closes out the record in spectacular fashion. Frontwoman Abby Simone does a remarkable job of matching the funky notes of the keyboard by slightly changing her inflections, while guest rapper Subhas raps over an emphatic bassline. Chemistry and flair reside here.
Jasmine Sokko – ‘TIRED’
This is a stand. A raised fist. Negation manifested in sound wherein the word “No!” is poetic and powerful.
Jasmine Sokko’s first song since her impressive stint on the online Chinese electronic music reality show Rave Now, begins with a sigh. An exhalation with a intent. From then on, it takes an uncompromising course to making one thing clear: “I’m tired / But not because of my sleep / I don’t like nobody / And nobody likes me”. This sentiment is more arresting than its accompanying production because it’s an unmistakable fuck you – to the fakes, users, hypocrites and liars of the world. The artistry of singer-songwriters’ is often predicated on giving the listener a front-row seat to their psyche.This one of those times when that view isn’t cliched or predictable.
Dnl. – ‘High Low’
Dnl.’s latest track ‘High Low’ is perched on a precipice of manipulated soundscapes and straightforward delivery. He sings over a clever combination of elements from dreamy, trance-tinged melodies and hip-hop bounce. And the result compels the listener to groove along and bop their head. This is another bright spot in Dnl.’s portfolio, which holds only three singles released, so far. This is most definitely a promising start for him.
Young Pineapple – ‘Broken Families’
This is not for the turn-up. This is infinitely more urgent than vainglorious boasts or party-hardy concerns.
“Mommy busy working / Daddy spending that cash / Making mommy crazy / She just wanna do the dash” – that’s not a hypothetical scenario but the devastating reality of many, captured by an endlessly despairing statistic. In exploring and spotlighting this narrative, Young Pineapple transcends everything he’s done before. This is his best song. Its lyrics have a weight that enriches the sonics. Over a beautiful and tragic sample of angelic guitars buoyed by rolling swells of bass and drums, he shows how “ride or die” means something else entirely when applied to a marriage on the cusp of an implosion. This is one of those rap songs whose value stems from something larger and realer than how much of its words you can use as flex-worthy Instagram captions.
China Jam Reunion – ‘Just Another Girl’
It’s true what they say: Rock ‘n’ roll will never die. In this day and age, where genres are fluid, and getting a song out there is just a click a way, is a mammoth task.
But this young band should be applauded for its reverence to tradition and how it manifests it outward. The band doesn’t stray far from the grounding quality of the immortal genre, thus producing a wildly uncompromising entry with ‘Just Another Girl’. Gargantuan drums, kinetic basslines, live wire guitars and growly vocals seal the deal. And it’s all done masterfully. The track is, no doubt, a great head-banging, arms-flailing addition to anyone’s playlist.
Darren Yuen – ‘onceinawhile’
After all is said and done, after the dust settles, what more is there to say? What follows is exhaustion of a metaphysical bent. “No matter what I do / They say I’m too this / I’m too that”, is a heartbreaking lament but Darren Yuen’s airy, reverb-laced delivery belies the larger current running through his heart: Resignation. When he implores, “What more can I do / What more can I say?”, he knows he’s already lost. That awareness behind the soft-focus sounds is what gives them their power. There is no resolution or emotional escape route here; only the shudderingly undeniable finality of The End. And this song tells you to just live with it. Heed.