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 Axel Brizzy and YAØ, Stephycube, BOYINSPACE, Causeway Youth, Sharizal, Daren Yuen, Keith VVolf, Niine and Boi Boi.
Axel Brizzy and YAØ – ‘Wanna Know’
Making music is a risky proposition anywhere in the world. But two fledgling Singaporean artists turn the anxiety and uncertainty that come with that truth into a celebration of craft and hustle on their new collaborative single.
The imagery is familiar: “Grinding for the paper”; “Taking off like I’m on flight / I get it on sight”. But these tropes work. Over a bassy, animated beat punctuated throughout by a funked out horn sample worthy of Mark Ronson, the rapper and singer trade inspiring lines about the come-up. The hard-soft dynamic between the two is an effective vessel of their collective charisma and respective charms. There is an almighty measure of pep here; perfect fodder for going hard in any arena of life.
Boi Boi – ‘your kind of love’
Singaporean singer-songwriter and producer Boi Boi’s latest track, ‘your kind of love’ is an emotionally driven one, starting off with lyrics such as: “Love is so wonderful / Love is so beautiful / But love can be treacherous”. The song tackles toxic relationships and the good and bad that come with it, the vicious cycle of fighting and making up. With this single, Boi Boi is stripped down, and vulnerable, and it’s a good look for him as listeners get to know more about the artist through his music. The track features a piano and drum-heavy beat, and while it may be a minimalist approach to music, that’s really all the song needs. As the song progresses, the drums get louder and more aggressive, symbolising the lead up to a confrontation in the relationship.
Stephycube – ‘Most Of All’
In this #MeToo climate, self-empowerment anthems are more important more than ever. The ecosystem of support is kept alive through the people around willing to make a stand. No matter how minuscule the contribution, the effect will echo through thousands of people.
In Stephycube’s latest single ‘Most Of All’, she pushes her prerogative of being true to yourself and not be blinded by someone else’s charms with lyrics such as “I ain’t got to prove myself to you” and “I’ll be whoever I want to be”. Carried on a vehicle of elegant piano melodies, sensual guitars, which are backed by uptempo percussion, it’s a glittery smooth jam that might compel you to grab your friends and dance it out.
Shahrizal – ‘We’ve Had Ours’
“Fuck a wave, girl / Let me catch your whole tide”.
With every release, Shahrizal gets better at presenting a distinct kind of beauty: The transcendental kind that you can’t see or touch. It’s pure, a feeling through which you see the world he sings about. And though brief, this gorgeous song is a world unto itself. It’s an all-or-nothing song, where a sentiment such as, “No more excuses / Let’s make this last”, is a pledge of love and devotion that is life-defining. The pulses of bass and kick drums, the keys plinking in the distance and his measured sing-rap flow all serve Shahrizal’s bow to his beloved. But there’s an implacable sense of pain that cuts through the ecstasy that makes this song impossible to forget.
Daren Yuen – ‘Velvet Butterfly feat. Von Saxon’
'Velvet Butterfly' is a slick, groove-oriented R&B track, and a damn catchy one, at that. Featuring impeccable production and sound engineering, listeners can hear, upon first listen, that the song has been in the works for a good while. There isn’t a single note in the track that’s out of place, or unnecessary. Everything’s there for a reason, even the sexually charged and expletive-laced lyrics. The track begins with a hook that’s reminiscent of Pharrell’s signature sound in the early N.E.R.D discography. Before long, Daren Yuen takes charge, with a velvet-smooth rapped verse. The feature from Von Saxon makes an already good song a great one, elevating the second half of the track flawlessly.
BOYINSPACE – ‘RIGHT NOW feat. KARAN’
BOYINSPACE is on a steady ascent to be a hot commodity. His latest releases, including 2018’s EP SOMEWHERE IN THE HILLS, are blistering and fiery. He’s here and he’s thumping his chest, flexing with hard-hitting numbers. It’s no different in his latest single, ‘RIGHT NOW’ with KARAN. Both of them snarling and spitting high-spirited bars on top of bass-heavy, skittering beats. There are bold proclamations of flexing; boasting as in “throwing my money around” and “yeah we got it poppin’ right now”. They’re certainly not messing around and they want everyone to know it.
Keith VVolf – ‘Things We Used to Love’
Nostalgia’s universality as a human characteristic cannot be contested.
On his latest single, this local bluesman takes an immersive plunge into to the endless fount that is looking back. Through the magical mist of reverb, he sings of tentative phone calls that go unanswered, wondering what could be, hoping to moved along by time and the object of his love ending up in someone else’s arms. But the awe-inspiring palette of sounds, especially from the swirling eddies of pristine guitars and the drums pounding unobtrusively in the distance, suggest that the larger subject of VVolf’s labours is the past itself; the known but unreclaimable past. Fount of a life lived and kept out of the reach of time. Sometimes, it takes the shape of a woman. Sometimes, you hear a song like this that reminds you of why that’s beautiful and aching all the same.
Causeway Youth – ‘Ride The Waves’
No matter how we always think that we’re prepared for anything that comes to us in the future, we can never be fully prepared. No one can. Taking that scary thought of the unknown in their stride, duo Jazreel-Anne and Esther have decided to ‘Carpe Diem’, if you will. In their new single ‘Ride The Waves’, Jazreel lays out her adventurous spirit, singing “I’ll be out in the open sea/ so would you ride the waves with me”. Lead guitarist Esther, bolsters the song with preppy, pop-rock guitar riffs, in between the spaces Jazreel leaves. The mellow sound of crashing ocean waves capping both ends of the song, only serves to lull the listener peacefully, almost washing all the worries away.
Niine – ‘Pretend’
Niine didn’t release any music last year but he’s entered 2019 with the biggest sounds he has ever mustered.
Frankly, this is the standard. This is where everyone claiming to make “future pop” should be taking their cues from. The level of sonic detail in this song is matched by the frenetic activity within: Titanic slabs of bass descend like the wrath of heavens, warped vocal melodies coat the dynamically pulsing beat that never skews towards any one fixed rhythm for long. Niine’s message is urgent and imploring but the panoramic glory of the music sets him free. He sounds like he’s being saved by his own song. So much so that you feel like he’s already OK from the hurt he suffered.
Niine, we need more of this.