2022 has been an exciting year for Singapore's music scene.
With numerous new tracks to listen to every week since January, music lovers have been spoilt for choice. As with previous years, 2022 saw established homegrown artists strengthen their repertoires with their latest creations and rising acts enter the fold with unforgettable songs of their own.
The sheer quality of this year's releases made it a real challenge to decide which ones would make it onto Hear65's final list of best songs from the Little Red Dot in 2022, but after much deliberation, here are the seven tracks that stood out to us. Read on to find out if your favourites made the list.
Rubáiyát Kavithai - Shabir
It took Shabir two years to make ‘Rubáiyát Kavithai’ but the end product more than justifies the time it spent in the gestation phase. Inspired by the 19th-century book Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, which comprises English translations of poems by Persian philosopher Omar Khayyam, the track is sung from the perspective of a poet who has fallen in love with a classical dancer.
In ‘Rubáiyát Kavithai’, instruments such as the acoustic guitar, the electronic drum, and the bass are combined with a Qawwali (a type of Suffi Islamic devotional singing) vocal sample in a beautiful marriage between the traditional and modern worlds. Lyrically, it tells its central love story through three languages — English, Tamil, and Urdu — something that any songwriter or vocalist will agree is no small feat at all. According to the official press release for the song, the “overall vision was to gain up the sound design and the sound quality” of ‘Rubáiyát Kavithai’, and the quality of the final mix is a strong testament to the meticulousness of Shabir and his team.
Of course, one cannot talk about a Shabir song without highlighting the singer-songwriter and composer’s vocals. In ‘Rubáiyát Kavithai’, his vocal performance is nothing short of outstanding, as we have all come to expect from Shabir by now, and completes one of his finest releases so far.
Love Quizzes - rhyu
rhyu is one of those artists whom you can’t help but be mesmerised by when she starts to sing. Just from the two songs she’s released so far, it is clear they carry such a personal touch to them, which lets her audience feel connected to her and her music. ‘Love Quizzes’ touches on her experiences with scouring the internet for love and relationship quizzes and completing them only to manipulate the responses again to get the result she truly desired in the end. At the back of her mind, rhyu already knew the answers to her questions.
The jazzy number starts softly with an introductory saxophone instrumental sequence. Throughout the song, we hear rhyu artistically transitioning between warm vocals and a breathy falsetto. As we enter the second verse, it is evident that rhyu’s confidence grew, and so does her vivacity, which shows in the rest of the song. What strikes the listener is definitely the ingenious lyrics that simulate the options you would find in a quiz. The song takes you through an actual love quiz as you follow along with rhyu’s deep yet soothing vocals and dwell on options A to E together with her. It’s easy to relate to the exploration of emotions showcased in this one song. Chances are by the end of the track you, too, would agree that the quizzes show the promise of love.
black hearts - Daniel Sid
When he is not performing or recording music, you can expect the jovial Daniel Sid to crack you up with his jokes and antics. But once he starts singing, you will want to have a box of tissues on standby. Following Daniel’s little detour in 2021 in the form of the light-hearted and playful ‘‘Golden Ratio’, ‘black hearts’ sees the singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist return to his usual introspective self.
The track starts off quietly, with minimal instruments and a verse in which Daniel wonders what “knowing somebody who knows you” would feel like and expresses his disillusionment with his relationships with others. But when the chorus kicks in, he finds a glimmer of hope. “I’m dropping my defences. For you I’ll learn to trust,” he sings. As ‘black hearts’ progresses, more instruments are added and Daniel’s voice grows not only louder, but also a lot more optimistic. His vocal performance in the number ranks among one of his best to date and makes it difficult for listeners not to root for him as he inches closer and closer to the light at the end of the long and dark tunnel he is in.
love from afar - Umar Sirhan
Being apart from someone you care deeply about is never easy, but in his third single of 2022, after ‘If’ and ‘Feel’, Umar Sirhan tells us that when the love between two individuals is strong, not even distance can keep them apart.
In the short time since its release, ‘love from afar’ has already been streamed over a million times on Spotify, and it is not difficult to see why it has found its way into the hearts of so many. Euphonious and romantic, the R&B number is everything you could hope for in a love song. The song also doubles as a stage for its vocalist to flex his vocal prowess. As Umar pours his heart into his delivery, he also exercises remarkable control over his vocals while professing his love for the special individual who is his “sunlight on a rainy day” and has “beauty [that] radiates through broken glass”. It’s safe to assume that it is only a matter of time before ‘love from afar’ finds its way into Valentine’s Day playlists everywhere.
Air Guitar - Sobs
‘Air Guitar’ is, without question, one of the biggest earworms to come out of Singapore in 2022. Being the indie pop outfit’s first release since their 2018 album Telltale Signs, the title track from their second studio album, Air Guitar, was responsible for announcing the band’s return, and it certainly did not disappoint. When it was launched in October, the upbeat number heralded the coming of Sobs’ new album in style and delighted fans who had been eagerly awaiting new music from the trio.
If you are listening to ‘Air Guitar’ for the first time, you might mistake it as a simple and cheerful love tune thanks to its catchy melody and lead vocalist Celine Autumn’s distinctively sweet vocals. But upon closer inspection of the song, you will discover that it is much more complex than you were initially led to believe. A reflection on interpersonal differences and the way in which individuals think about themselves, the story told in ‘Air Guitar’ sounds like something you would find in a more somber song, yet Sobs have seamlessly fused it with buoyant instrumentals to create an unforgettable addition to their discography.
Wasted - lewloh
The latest single from Singapore’s very own lewloh sees the talented singer-songwriter shedding light on a heartbreaking relationship. Known for his intimate songwriting abilities, ‘Wasted’ is definitely a lyrical masterpiece that so aptly captures the essence of being in a love that has unfortunately expired.
The artist has proved himself to be every acoustic lover’s dream time and time again. His crisp yet breathy vocals beautifully complement the tender acoustic instrumental of the track. The sweet melody continues as the song enters its chorus and features harmonies that exquisitely accentuate the soothing track. When he sings “I loved you more than you ever loved me, and that was a hard pill to swallow", listeners immediately realise the song's underlying message. ‘Wasted’ takes listeners through lewloh’s innermost emotions and thoughts as he reminisces about lost love in the form of a lyrical work of art. Perhaps it is the songwriting magic that lewloh so clearly possesses, which shines through in his carefully crafted words, for somehow anyone will be touched by the song even if they have not experienced a similar situation. As much as it’s about heartbreak, lewloh certainly makes this a song to put on repeat with just how entrancing it is.
growing pains - RRILEY
As humans, we will undoubtedly encounter highs and lows at some point. We may feel anxious as we traverse individual journeys filled with uncertainty while growing up. RRILEY’s latest single sees her taking a step back and sharing her feelings and journey with anxiety in a highly personal track, a notable contrast from the material she has released thus far. The track itself is a pleasant, uplifting, and joyful number with melodic backing vocals that echo the important messages of the song. However, a closer look at the lyrics will reveal the frustrations one feels while growing up and the reassurance that eventually comes in the end.
RRILEY is no stranger to putting out music that her audience can relate to. The song offers comfort to listeners facing the same ordeals in their own lives. Whenever we are facing adversities, ‘growing pains’ reminds us that we are not alone, and that we just have to pick ourselves up and await better days that are coming. We realise that, just like the key message of the song that repeats towards the end of the track (much like repetitive, difficult moments in our personal journeys), growing pains aren't easy, but everything is just as it should be.