Singapore music reviews: Richard Jansen, Joie Tan, brb., Don.a.a.ron, H!zzy, YRFN, Ębønÿ, BIGDBANGLA and HarithZac

Singapore music reviews: Richard Jansen, Joie Tan, brb., Don.a.a.ron, H!zzy, YRFN, Ębønÿ, BIGDBANGLA and HarithZac

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 Richard Jansen, Joie Tan, brb., Don.a.a.ron, H!zzy, YRFN, Ębønÿ, BIGDBANGLA and HarithZac.

Richard Jansen – ‘DISGUISE’

“I’ve faced adversities / Never shied away” – Richard Jensen emerges from a world of snakes and plastics in disguise a hero.

But more than triumphant, the dominant mood of ‘DISGUISE’ is anger. Over menacing production, precision engineered to evoke a patently nocturnal mood, and slick trap hi-hats, Jensen details his battle with the fakes and haters that are invested in seeing him fall. Balancing his fury is guest artist AY Lawson’s airy, gentle hook, which falls on the hyperactive sounds like a ray of light.

Invoking Eminem, Jensen’s nasal delivery is both an asset and a weapon. It allows him to weave through the beat like a bloodthirsty ninja, making each word more interesting and each line more deadly than the last.

There’s no need to beat around the bush with a song like this because its purpose is simple: To get the blood surging through your veins.

H!zzy – ‘IronSide’

With ‘IronSide’, H!zzy beats his chest hard . A painfully honest track where he raps about his struggles in the business over the years, this song is amongst the hardest ones out in recent months, in terms of its flow and lyrics. Laid over prominent synths, H!zzy’s cut-throat confessional tells the tale of his journey through the music industry.

“I got dropped by two deals cause I kept it too real”, raps H!zzy as he pulls the curtains back on the industry that is “shady [and] full of misery”. In a world dominated by music labels and 360 deals, it’s hard enough for an artist to even get the motivation to continue making music that is true to their story. Here, H!zzy stands his ground and speaks his mind – without any filter.

Joie Tan – ‘Higher’

Thus, Joie Tan makes her first foray into the club.

In this new reveal, the Singaporean chanteuse, known for her guitar-toting singer-songwriter veneer, lends her sweet, feather-light coo to the luxe world of tropical-accented house music. Where she used to exude a warm, sincerely empathetic measure of soul amidst analog instrumentation, she now radiates dance floor-ready transcendence.

But there’s also the sense that the paradigm shift in sonics is but a mere cosmetic foil for her enduring project to make emotionally resonant music. Even though this new soundscape is slick, stylish and trending, Tan is still the beating human heart at the centre of it all. When she sings, “I’m higher than I’ve ever been before, with you”, she reminds the listener of the music she has dedicated her life to making and testifies to the anything’s-possible outlook of digital realm.

A new future beckons at the end of this beat.

Don.a.a.ron – ‘DON’T DIE’ ft. Mark Bonafide, Buvan

‘DON’T DIE’ is a departure from Don.a.a.ron’s staple ‘80s synth-pop sound. While still retaining much of the vapourwave elements he’s known for, it features elements of trap production and more of a hip-hop sound. It’s a highlight off his new album F A C T S. A collaborative effort with Mark Bonafide and Buvan, this new Don.a.a.ron performance is a refreshing change.

Sleek vocals stand prominently in the foreground as digital, occasionally 8-bit-like, beats pound irregularly throughout. The song discusses the fake and the insincere, and the chorus bids everyone, “Don’t die as fools”. The catchy chant and electronically-crafted beats make it an easy song to turn up to.

brb. – ‘Whoops’

This song is it. It immortalises the moment when its makers have captured lightning in a bottle and discovered the essence of what makes their sound distinct and impactful.

Like a lot of next-gen pop groups, brb. exists at the confluence of pop and R&B. But its output has been consistently and emphatically outstanding. The tide of indistinguishable pop&b has been relentless but in a brb. song, the sweet spot is sweeter, the hooks more crystalline, and the bounce just irresistible – and this song is best testament of its powers yet.

This time, the trio hones in on the one girl who annihilates all doubt. She’s the one who’s worth it – her charms are so intoxicating, she’s likened to alcohol. She excites your senses and she keeps you thirsty for more. Like this song, she’s singular.

YRFN – ‘Pain’

In ‘Pain’, YRFN’s soulful and rounded voice brings listeners through a melancholic journey – one that is easy to get lost in, as he discusses a strained familial relationship. Most R&B songs orbit around romantic relations, so to have a song about family fights and strained marriages gives a new definition to the sound.

“Why just get married just to breakup?” and “You sacrifice this family / Just for the sake of your insecurity” are sentiments echoed by many children stuck between their parents’ turbulent quarrels. YRFN admits that watching his parents fight drove him to a dark place, where even thoughts of taking his own life take root.

Having said that, it takes courage to come out and publicly admit the effects of such circumstances in a song. There is strength to be gained from weakness, and that is the beauty of ‘Pain’.

HarithZac – ‘Give It Back’

Future bass is so big, it’s become homogenous and alienating. But HarithZac has an answer for how it can redeem itself.

This is a maximal song that also contains emotional multitudes. Bass, drums, synths, all in titanic in scale, soundtrack the end of a love that was pure and intense. “Your touch will leave me breathless / Let me give it back to you”, he sings, as the sounds swirl around him. It’s not so much a lament as it as a declaration of purpose. He accepts the finality of the outcome and he’s aware of the need to move on. But he’s haunted by the memory of what once was, and the teeming, screeching synths affirm that. There’s a level of tension and grit here that complements the track’s cold electronics and underscores his need for deliverance. Sometimes, you can find humanity in EDM. This is one of those times.

Ębønÿ – ‘Hoe$’

This bass-heavy track by Ębønÿ is simply one to get turnt and have fun to. There isn’t much to discuss regarding the topic that ‘Hoe$’ revolves around – it’s quite self-explanatory. In his deep voice, Ębønÿ’ raps about exploits with his female counterparts over rumbling bass and clicking trap beat. This track is one best played on a Friday night on the ride to the club with your homies.

“She say I got game then she asked me for my fuckin’ name / Tell her I can’t be tamed, that’s my real name”, grumbles Ębønÿ. The song exhibits Ębønÿ’s wild side – contrastingly different from ‘Vibes’, one of his prior singles. With ‘Hoe$’, the rapper-producer delivers a message: Everyone has a wild side, and it is completely okay to let it come out and play.

BIGDBANGLA – ‘Bengali Sauce’

Much like Yung Raja’s omnipresent anthem ‘Mustafa’, ‘Bengali Sauce’ is a celebration of brown-ness and cultural identity. There’s humour, culturally specific wordplay and enough ethnic signifiers to situate it in the multi-cultural moment that hip-hop is now having.

BIGDBANGLA knows how to get a laugh – the song’s hook is literally, “I got a rickshaw full of hoes” – but it’s when he reps Bangladesh that the listener picks up the nuances of his flow. Even when he’s being funny (“I got the juice like anarosh” – anarosh is Bengali for pineapple), he gives the listener a sneak peek into the dots he is connecting in his mind. And when he’s running “through Dhaka with [his] woes”, he affirms the cultural continuum that connects ‘Know Yourself’ to anyone who’s ever had a cloud hanging over them as they go about life in the city.

He’s having fun and the Internet is enjoying it. He now has the momentum to marry his humour with social commentary and insight in his subsequent releases.