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, ShiGGa Shay, Vandetta, Haneri, ABANGSAPAU, LATRO, FingerFunk, Trevor Wong, Cinnamon Persimmon, Yasai, Young Pineapple, and the Singapore Symphony Orchestra.
THELIONCITYBOY – ‘Halimah feat. Akeem Jahat’
This works on multiple levels.
It almost seems written in the stars that an artist christened “THELIONCITYBOY” would pen something of an ode to our current President Halimah Yacob. But this song isn’t a mere hymn to her. It’s a chest-thumping, hustle-celebrating, Singapore-loving statement of purpose. Over a pounding beat, the first name of the President gets elevated to a “state of mind”. TLCB encourages you to “say it all the time” because it’s a signifier of an uncompromising attitude, one that marries steely-eyed resolve with the surety of success: We will make it; you will make it; I will make it.
This is one of those rare songs that’s both a banger and an anthem. It’s a gloriously loud and rowdy time but threaded with a message that hits home about home. And it features two of Singaporean hip-hop’s most vital voices.
Vandetta – ‘Hold It Down’
Pop’s most common tribute to love is a soaring, closed-eyes ballad designed to make you weak in the knees. But Vandetta isn’t having it.
The golden-voiced chanteuse’s latest song is a paean to a ride-or-die lover – the one who was “there from the start”, the one who had held it down for her through thick and thin. But it’s not the everyday I-love-you, easy to bestow, no matter how sincere the sentiment. Vandetta’s declaration of love – “You know I got ya” – comes after hard-earned realisations from a lengthy period of time. She privileges sensuous soul over treacly sweetness, cooing in an impassioned half-whisper that belies a burning intensity. In the directness of her message, in her unblinking conviction of her faith in her beloved, in her simmering soul-blessed voice and the spare-but-luscious beat it rides over, there’s an all-too-rare glimpse of love’s more exquisite and timeless veneer that we are lucky to behold.
ShiGGa Shay – ‘if i,’
Make no mistake: This is the most unadulteratedly direct and emotionally honest ShiGGa Shay has ever been. There’s no comedy here. Instead, ShiGGa raps about IRL struggles with a tremendous weight: His gift is that he articulates his reflections with a sneering confidence, asking himself a stream of “What If”questions that deconstruct the trajectory of his life, over a soul-accented, funked-out Shorya beat.
Self-motivation is one thing. To be tender yet vigorous about it – and achieve that while the world is watching, is something else, entirely. In laying out his hopes and dreams, fears and anxieties – the very essence of his emotional DNA – this way, ShiGGa accomplishes just that.
Ari – ‘Identity feat. Haneri’
The metaphorical connection between dance music and freedom is both crucial and obvious. In this regard, ‘Identity’ is proof of why, for all its inarguable ubiquity, the signifying power of digitally conceived, bass-proffering, topline-heavy electronic-pop, in invoking that breathless, anything’s-possible head-rush, is still formidable today.
Songs like this resist unpacking. They are precision engineered to do one thing and do it well: Lift you up. Haneri’s beautiful, sugar-sweet voice is a supremely articulate vessel for the words, “I want to be free”. Both (wo)man and machine are one in this adrenaline blast of pure kinetic energy.
LATRO – ‘Raincheck’
In LATRO’s latest offering, the rapper delves deeper into the sound that he has crafted for himself thus far. Produced by KaotiK386, 'Raincheck' boasts pristine production as well as LATRO’s signature Auto-Tuned vocals. Having said that, the vocals are manipulated just enough to keep it from sounding unrecognisable.
The pounding bass and clap machine beats in the song are further highlighted by the contrast from the simple piano melodies in the background. The musical choices made by the artists exhibit their knowledge of what sounds good – these are people who know what they’re doing.
ABANGSAPAU – ‘BUAT APE?’
“You sit and reflect on the cake you made / But you eat it for yourself, you won't share no slice”
Loving thy neighbour and helping out your fellow human beings are things that are encouraged, but, unfortunately, not practised as often as they are preached. In ‘BUAT APE?’, ABANGSAPAU expresses his frustrations towards the fact that there are more established individuals who not only refuse to help those on the come-up, but also wear a coat of off-putting arrogance around them.
The subject matter of the song explores how someone might have helped shape a certain area, but when it comes to handing over the torch, the death-grip they have on said torch can expose the ugliness in them. This track conveys, that, yes, one should respect the pioneers – but only when they have earned that respect.
Trevor Wong – ‘Long Quiet Street’
Trevor Wong’s debut single, ‘Long Quiet Street’ is a simple, soothing guitar ballad accompanied by a cappella beatboxing. Produced by fellow musician Daniel Sid, ‘Long Quiet Street’ tells a poignant tale of lost love. There are not many things more heart-wrenching than seeing a good relationship between two people get pulled apart by life and its unfortunate circumstances.
Lyrics such as “On an empty street I sang a quiet word / could she tell that I’m searching for her?” highlights the melancholic nature of this song – a young man yearning to see the love of his life again, but never being certain if he’ll ever meet her. He’s still holding onto hope, as he waits for her on a long quiet street.
Fingerfunk – ‘Gypsy ft. Fathin Amira’
Following its tropical-themed ‘Ilha’, Fingerfunk offers up ‘Gypsy’, a sensual sonic experience documenting the intense feelings of desire when one is held in the embrace of love. Lyrics such as, “You like my style I like your taste / Same humour then I'll send you links / You watch your shape, I watch your shape / We've got things in common girl don't you think?”, encapsulate the going-ons of love and attraction in the 21st century – where links are commonly used to link up with the people you are interested in.
The band marries the beats of modern hip-hop with ‘70s synths, creating a fresh new sound that is uniquely Fingerfunk. Additional vocals by Fathin Amira act as the cherry on top – her soothing voice gives a different dimension to the track, adding another layer on an already-diverse track.
Cinnamon Persimmon – ‘Reverse This or Cancel’
“Nobody ever hears the singer / She could be cursing but the blinkers on your eyes / Keep you staring at her figure”
Cinnamon Persimmon masks an ugly truth behind a seemingly positive track – it points out the irony of no one being able to hear the singer, as the audience is too preoccupied with her physical appearance. ‘Reverse This or Cancel’ delves into the mind of a singer as she contemplates the pros and cons of being a performer, and whether it’s worth it to remain as one.
This track is a contradiction of itself – the dark and thought-provoking subject matter hides behind the facade of happy and upbeat instrumentals. The surf rock-influenced track boasts clean-toned guitars and swing-driven light percussion, painting a beautiful picture of a day out at the beach. Unless one is paying attention, they might not notice that the picturesque beach was painted over a brooding and slightly sinister mural of an artist interrogating society.
Singapore Symphony Orchestra – ‘Vanda Miss Joaquim ft. iNCH, Hong Hin Fun, Joshua Tan’
In celebration of National Day, the Singapore Symphony Orchestra (SSO) teamed up with Warner Music Singapore to present Truly, SSO, an album of reimagined National Day classics. Among the 14 tracks is iNCH’s recreation of ‘Vanda Miss Joaquim’, which originally appeared in the Sing Singapore ’92 cassette album. A representation of Singapore as its national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim symbolises the “tender yet tough” qualities of our city state – and this song pays tribute to that.
iNCH’s light, airy vocals and the SSO’s extraordinary instrumentation do justice to the original. Originally composed by Hong Hin Fun, this remake is conducted by SSO associate conductor Joshua Tan and breathes new life into a 27 year old-song. As National Day is just around the corner, this track arrived at the perfect timing to introduce this timeless classic to a younger crowd.
Young Pineapple – ‘TRIP’
In the hardest song of his career, Young Pineapple captains a ship which is set on a course to the top, with stops to celebrate the ascent to various peaks along the way.
As far as turn-up club music goes, ‘TRIP’ ticks all the boxes fantastically. It’s a non-stop thrill ride punctuated by heady pounds of bass, synth squiggles and rapid fire hi-hats. The whole thing is patently nocturnal and intoxicating. This is one of those times when there’s no need for nuance and subtlety.
Yasai – ‘Don’t Matter’
“You be doing good but I’m doing better” – That’s how you know you’ve moved on. That’s how you know you’re no longer shackled to the past-life romance with an ex. New you. Who dis?
On this cut off its new EP White Walls: Strings of Another, one of Singaporean hip-hop’s most exciting crews heralds this new beginning, armed with stylishly dark trap sonics. The flows of its various mouthpieces outline how good it feels to be free of the burden of a bygone love. Interlaced with this narrative is the drive towards transcendence that makes living life an ever-forward process. “I know she ain’t loyal / But she made me better”, is a line uttered by one of the members just past the track’s midpoint. It’s an underlined-in-red affirmation of what the point of all this is: To be better. To grow from that experience and be a whole different kind of unstoppable.