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 Slowdown, Bohan Phoenix, 9m88, Annette Lee, WUKONG, Houg, Opus Renegade and Xavier Lim.
9m88, Bohan Phoenix, Slodown - ‘ORIENTATION’
‘ORIENTATION’ is pure collaborative artistry – bringing together three prominent hip-hop artists, the track is an unreserved gaze that permeates the thin veil that usually, comfortably separates art and social commentary, and takes a hard look at the perennial orientalising narratives in mass media. All this, while still remaining a banger.
Slodown cuts to the heart of the issue, no holds barred, and carves the template for the discussion. Bohan Phoenix believes “everyone got good in their hearts”, while 9m88 is more assertive, spitting out lines that directly confront and challenge cultural denigration: I’m not your Asian fantasy in pop-up screens / don’t fool around with me, trying to colonise my feelings.
This culminates in a keenly self-aware celebration of identity and Asian pride - keep love in your heart, but don’t take chink jokes lying down.
Xavier Lim - ‘Paper Doves’
‘Paper Doves’ is a dreamscape. Its psychedelic textures paired with the somnambulant synths are immediately dislocating, letting it occupy a vague, liminal space. The music slips over the voice and – intentional or not – it evokes a sense of desperate nostalgia, akin to a buried ache sitting at the tip of your tongue.
“Just say what you wanna say”, Lim almost begs, coating his words in a tender wistfulness that feels like a punch in a gut. This debut single is an incandescent reverie that lights the way for the tracks to follow.
Annette Lee - ‘Song for the Underdog’
Spunky and upbeat, ‘Song for the Underdog’ is a dogged exercise in optimism and perseverance. It speaks directly to the underdogs who have been overlooked, cast aside and never properly acknowledged, always on the periphery of popular consciousness.
Annette Lee pushes the underdog to center stage this time with her latest single, celebrating everyone who has ever felt out of place, like a stranger in their own skin. “I’ve got good news - you qualify”, she sings this with all of her heart, and in doing so, allows others to do the same.
WUKONG, Moon Rush – ‘Angel of War’
For the past year, Singaporean EDM wunderkind WUKONG has quickly been climbing the dance music ladder, steadily growing his following with every release. Now, he’s caught the attention of some of the biggest players in the game, as he releases his latest jam on Dutch trap kings Yellow Claw’s highly esteemed label, Barong Family. A collaboration with Moon Rush, ‘Angel of War’ shows the producers at their best, as they traverse multiple sub-genres to create a future classic. The first drop features WUKONG’s patented psytrance mastery, while the second, takes on a life of its own as the two tackle drum & bass for a refreshing and powerful closing to an incredible track.
Houg – ‘Boy’
Houg’s work can be described in a plethora of ways: Dreamy, other-worldly, sensual, the list goes on. His latest track, ‘Boy’ however, is the amalgamation of every one of those descriptions. ‘Boy’ is smooth, charming, and personable; it’s everything you could want from Houg and more. But just when you’re getting settled into the calming tune of the track, a record scratch cuts through, and you’re left with the rhythm section jamming in isolation. Not long after, everything comes full circle, and you’re back to swaying with Houg’s full-bodied vocals. This is by far one of Houg’s most interesting pieces of work, and a good Indication of how he’s growing and maturing as a musician. Nothing here is one-dimensional.
Opus Renegade – ‘Move It Back’
Opus Renegade has shown his ability to cater his sound to a plethora of hip-hop sub-genres, with his previous releases traversing the realms of boom-bap, and new-school, so it should come as no surprise that his latest offering is a mixture of several sounds: boom-bap, backpack, and old-school rap. The old heads will like this because of its fidelity to boom bap, rap’s most sacred parchment. The new-school kids will like this because its lyrical gravity paints a compelling picture of the fractured times we live in and how we all wish we could go back to simpler, easier times. Yes, ‘Move It Back’ is a rare one – a rap song for everyone. With this, Opus Renegade throws his hat into the ring, making it known to everyone that he’s a key player to look out for in 2020.