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 Narelle, Charlene Su, Perk Pietrek, Rangga Jones, Elsa Mickayla, Doppelgangerz, Jean Tan, Micki Jayy, Celestia and Lil Blanky, Moon Chew, Brannlum and Ocean's Children.
Perk Pietrek – ‘Bloodflower’
Perk Pietrek is one reason bass will never die.
His build-and-release Midas touch is the god particle keeping the sound relevant and exciting and most importantly dangerous despite its ubiquity in clubs and other bastions of Internet-cool (like sneakers stores). Even then, ‘Bloodflower’ is bass pushed to the nth degree. The approach to bass and drums is still weaponised but infinitely more inventive than its boilerplate manifestations. Within the maximal grandeur of future bass where several beat systems are pounding all at once, he furnishes a dance floor-quaking missile that, while stretching the speakers, carries the torch forward for the one of the most vital of dance music languages.
Narelle – ‘Blue’
There can be no doubt now that Narelle is utterly her own.
After spending most of her artistic life in The Sam Willows, who have been one of Singaporean pop’s most reliable founts of colouristic, danceable and animated transmissions, she turned in Part 2, a three-song EP of uncompromisingly lachrymose music. “Personal” and “vulnerable” are the most obvious veneer of those songs but what the emotional centrepiece ‘Blue’ makes clear, is that her emotional bloodletting reveals the most complete reveal of Narelle the individual, ever.
There’s a muted horn solo here that undergirds how cosmically sad and beautiful this song is. This is an invitation from one of the biggest names in the cosmos of Singaporean music to really sit with the gravity of her words and listen.
Charlene Su – ‘don’t wanna grow up’
Easy, breezy, beautiful and heavy – that’s the going in Charlene Su’s latest one.
‘don’t wanna grow up’ belongs to the kind of thoroughly contemporary single that can easily be classified as a “bop” – it has everything that furnishes an irresistibly catchy listen: A hushed, gorgeous voice both declarative and playful, a pulsing beat coursing on a voluptuous swirl of bass and lush, reverb-drenched textures kissed off by pastel hues. But all that belies the existential fear and trembling that comes with having to “adult”. Su winkingly dresses up some poignant and timely concerns in pop drapery: She sings about being “excited” by the “possibilities” on the horizon but also scared by them. Then, there are societal pressures and the burden of expectations that one has to decide whether or not to cast away or carry.
But, for now, there is this song. A wish to freeze time, live in the moment, “work on [her]self” and relish being “forever 23”.
Elsa Mickayla – ‘How Bad is the Rain’
‘How Bad is the Rain’ is a rhetorical question but what isn’t is the song’s central concern: “Do you even know how to love somebody other than you?”
The former question is the world within which Mickayla finds her footing and navigates her relationship with the addressee of the latter question. Her voice is rich, devoutly soulful and exquisitely warm. But it’s also hurt and searching. That’s the source of the track’s depth and tension – and power. In her expression, Mickayla affirms the song’s essence: healing. When she asks how bad the rain is, she’s looking ahead: To the future where she’ll pick herself up, shake it off and continue on.
Doppelgangerz – ‘Take My Hand’
Question: What makes a song an anthem?
Answer: A song that inspires a level euphoria that on the level of a spiritual experience.
In its two-and-a-half runtime ‘Take My Hand’ brings the listener on that proverbial journey – sound is the delivery system of the sublime. Yes, yes. There are massive drops, titanic slabs of bass and majestically ascending textures but all of those elements only manifest in almighty totality because of the savvy songwriting of their makers. At its most obvious, ‘Take My Hand’ is a love song. But on a deeper plane, ‘Take My Hand’ is a tribute to the intoxicating power of a flawless banger.
Rangga Jones - ‘That's What You Are’
Rangga Jones stretches the genre of R&B to effectively express what the pinnacle of music should – the soul. From uptempo acoustic tracks to lush, layered expressions of longing, his music is testament to his versatility as he shifts seamlessly across moods with masterful choices of instrumentation.
'That's What You Are', stripped-down and vulnerable, is pure emotion. Slow and deliberately dragged-out, it is simultaneously steeped in sensuality and a drawn-out tension that only resolves itself in the hook when the lyrics "That's What You Are" crash repeatedly over the 808s. He takes his time to croon about how his love makes him feel and he makes every word count.
Jean Tan - ‘Fly’
It’s easy to be lulled into the calming space of Jean Tan’s music. Consistently filled with an undeniable note of healing, her soothing blend of folk, indie and jazz assuages and relieves even the most knotted tension in our souls.
‘Fly’ is an uplifting ode to freedom. If her first EP Hide, which stems from a place of pain, introspectively interweaves the themes of mortality and renewal, ‘Fly’ is an unmistakable gift to the world. Tinkering piano synths, buoyant snaps and breezy acoustic guitar plucks galore, this track mimics an unrestrained frolic in a boundless meadow. The poetics of her lyrics, “Fly, go on dare defy / Trembling tide in the dark of night / See the world, see the world / Wild whirl, a wild whirl / A child’s world awaits”, and the jazzy piano interlude completes what this track seeks to convey: There is a magic in life that awaits if we just take the leap.
Micki Jayy - ‘No More’
Micki Jayy’s music is smooth, plushy R&B with messy emotions smushed in. Replete with heavy doses of atmospheric crooning and melodic hooks, it lies in the intersection between R&B, trap and soul, giving it a potent, sepia-tinted charm.
“I don’t wanna play no more” – Micki Jayy’s declaration and dedication to the one who’s worth her while in ‘No More’. Opening with shrouded, moody chords, the track quickly tumbles into a heady tangle of crisp 808 beats and her honeyed lilts. From start to end, she glides fluidly across the thrumming, melancholic sonic underbelly and constructs an immensely enveloping ambience that one can effortlessly sink into.
Celestia, Lil Blanky - ‘Millennial Life’
Moving away from her earlier acoustic tracks and arrangements, ‘Love Eternal’ and ‘Desert Moon’, Celestia takes to the lush canvas of R&B with ‘Millennial Life’, embarking on a wholly refreshing sonic trajectory.
The lighthearted mood of the track stands in stark contrast to the message she conveys: The crushing weight and the hustle of millennial life. Her saccharine, melodious voice melds seamlessly with the groovy R&B beats and warbling keys. Following her syrupy, layered verse, Lil Blanky’s entrance gives the deceptively serene track a dose of hard-hitting reality, spitting lines that burn: “I was low-paid all for exposure, right?”. Ending this track on an unblinkingly realistic note, Celestia sings, "Take all my chances, you gotta keep hustling / This is millennial life".
Moon Chew - ‘毒’
Moon Chew, Singaporean singer-songwriter, producer and mixing engineer, first gained recognition with her YouTube covers before releasing her debut single ‘你不懂’, a romantic ballad, earlier this year. Her second single, ‘毒’, is an unprecedented shift away from a sweet, starry-eyed image towards a darker, more intense mood as she sings of cyclical toxicity in love.
Tinged with minor chords and heavy electric guitar riffs, the track drags listeners through sluggish heartache. Her pure, mesmerising voice unexpectedly penetrates the dense instrumentation, pushing the track to a startling level of devastation. Keeping us within her bleak orbit from start to finish, she ends with a haunting line: "Forcing myself to forget you / Moving forward / Searching for my next, unknown addiction".
Brannlum, Ocean’s Children - ‘Last Train Home’
In the vast expanse of electronic music today, it is rare to find something that affects not only the corporeal state but also the spiritual, but Brannlum's music hits that sweet spot. Filled with thick melodic lines and glossy, splintering beats, his music transcends mere electronic elements and delivers something cutting, raw and real.
Leading in hushed, simmering and almost tender, ‘Last Train Home’ builds towards a lush, emotional peak before toppling over the electronic edge. At its climax, soaring, evocative vocals float above the electronic sheen packed with hammering beats and distorted melodies, embodying the pinnacle of human emotions – almost dramatic and yet wholly valid.