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 Nathan Hartono, Jasmine Sokko, Gareth Fernandez, The Cold Cut Duo, Maneloren, AngelK, Sha, Foxela, H!zzy, Shahrizal, Kalou, Elrim and BOYINSPACE, Zadon, Tristan Levi, JP, and Hourstone.
Nathan Hartono – ‘排过的队 / Make It Right’
Nathan Hartono’s ‘Make It Right’ is a Mandopop song that displays Western music influences more prominently than a lot of its counterparts. The track kicks off with resounding piano chords and soft arpeggiated acoustic guitars, giving the impression that it will go down the path of a ballad. But that is totally not the case for it quickly morphs into a danceable R&B tune. Boasting groovy basslines and keys, the catchy song is supported by jazzy beats and electric guitar chords.
The toplines and the instrumentals come together to present a Charlie Puth-esque product. The Sing! China alum’s vocals grace the ears of the listeners as he tells of his struggle to maintain his individuality while surrounded by all the unnecessary noise in his life. The delivery is smooth and controlled – as if he is calmly explaining to his fans that he has decided to take some time to focus on himself.
Jasmine Sokko – ‘噓 / SHH’
Following the smashing success of ‘Tired’, Jasmine Sokko makes her triumphant return with ‘SHH’ – a track dripping with attitude and sass. The recurring chorus “I don’t owe you SHH” suggests one thing: She is sick of her kindness being taken for granted, and what you get now is a girl who has turned her heart into stone. Jasmine is conveying to the naysayers that they can continue being stuck in their delusions and fantasies, but she will tear them down regardless.
As with all other songs of hers, the production value of ‘SHH’ is stellar. Produced by Jasmine herself alongside Felix Snow, the trembling synths and subtle metallic percussive effects give this track the mysterious edge that the she is known for. Pair that with the subject matter of the song and you get a track that is an impressive representation of the enigmatic entity that is Jasmine Sokko.
Sha – ‘B Side Halos’
In ‘B Side Halos’, Sha rehashes his sound in the best way possible. This single is the rapper’s first official release following his heart-on-sleeve EP Dreamstate, and it builds onto the EP’s sound with an added chaos. The track starts off slow, like most of Sha’s previous works. As the track progresses, the instrumentals intensify and get progressively dizzying – rumbling drum beats, and distorted vocals enter the arena, adding a dose of disruption to the flow that Sha has established.
‘B Side Halos’ is more intense than his other songs – he takes something that he knows works, and slowly shapes it into a soundscape that is familiar but with a twist. This track is atmospheric, until the disruption comes and catches you off-guard with a whole new side of Sha that no one has ever seen before.
Foxela – ‘No Halo (Remix)’
Foxela’s spin on the Minute Life Club and Sjokan track, ‘No Halo’ takes the poppy, melodic track and dials it back into a subtler and more laid-back tune. The remix boasts a sound that is significantly more animated, courtesy of chiming synth melodies and atmospheric lo-fi bass.
To the unexperienced ear, the differences between this remix and the original might not be as evident. But once you pay attention, you’ll notice the different layers Foxela has respectfully added to the song. A remix does not have to be completely different from the original song. A fortified and enhanced version of a song can also be a remix, and perhaps it is in the minute details that you see the workmanship of the producer.
Zadon – ‘为什么 / Why’
With ‘Why’, Zadon returns with his first original release since 2018’s ‘你完美 Ft. Tosh Rock’. This new track is an infectious collaboration between the Grizzle Grind artist and Jordan Jackson, as evidenced by its cinematic piano chords seamlessly integrating with a trap/hip-hop sound that boosts the melodic rapped vocals. As a whole, ‘Why’ is a relatively positive-sounding one with uplifting instrumentals and lyrics that exemplify perseverance.
The subject matter of the song explores the hardships of Zadon’s life. The lyrics cover his days in the army all the way up to the pretentious people that he has to deal with, even today. ‘Why’ is his story of conquering the obstacles of life and coming into his own, and with that, he encourages the masses to always keep fighting no matter what.
GARETH FERNANDEZ – ‘Let You Down’
R&B is an amply florid soundtrack for matters of the heart of a particularly intense significance. GARETH FERNANDEZ, one of Singapore’s most crucial pop voices, understands this savvy. Over the last couple of releases, he harnessed the expressive depth of the form with his own expansive range but this is the song where, he, an established presence, shows how much more full a trendy sound can be in the hands of a masterful driving force.
For starters, he’s an incredible singer with a savvy about how to maximise the blast radius of his voice. His vocals seamlessly add volume to the digital sonics, bestowing upon the low rumbles of bass and trap hi-hats a warm, soulful glow, accentuating the narrative of redemption the song bears. If it’s an apology, it’s a sincere and exquisitely poignant one.
Kalou, Elrim and BOYINSPACE – ‘Perfect Now’
“If you ain’t real / There ain’t gonna be an us” – This is the death sentence of the syndrome that Drake outlines as ‘Fake Love’.
But why this song hits so hard is because it unpacks how dealing with a ruptured relationship is so much more complex than just moving on. ‘Perfect Now’ is many things: It’s a sincere wish waiting to be granted, a promise for the future, and a pat on the back that says you’re done with the person who’s been holding you back the whole time.
The three voices on the song chronicle each of those three states but the dominant theme hews close to the first sentiment. “When the smoke settles, baby we can work it out / ‘Cos if I thought you perfect then / Then you perfect now”, is the what the spacey, shrouded R&B leaves the listener with as it ends; three perspectives culminating in one sweet, devastating plea.
AngelK – ‘Keep It Flawless (Acoustic Version)’
“Ladies, keep it flawless / All this energy is faultless” – AngelK’s first official transmission is a femme-first empowerment anthem that is topical and timeless.
Songs like this are an intimidating proposition: Stripped down, as they are, every word counts even more. There is no sonic cover under which a lazy verse or chorus can hide. But AngelK passes this test with supremely flying colours. Her earnest flow is a powerful complement to her approach, which outlines broad issues women face and furnishes ways they can transcend society’s regressive mores and that more formidable obstacle, self-doubt.
“Let’s redefine what the word “flaw” means / Take its definition, rip it at the seams” is the cure for, “How many ladies look in the mirror and see what they think is an imperfect figure” and maps out the parameters of AngelK’s critical eye – as well as her hope for a better future. With this raw material in her arsenal, she can count on a more polished version of this track sounding incredible – and necessary.
Shahrizal – ‘Always Been for You’
It’s a truism that heartbreak is fertile creative ground for art. But the less-advertised flip side of that is the fact that a sincere, down-on-your-knees love song, that isn’t a requisitely cheesy ballad the listener has been conditioned to love, is a rare thing. With this new song, Shahrizal shows why he is the rare singer-songwriter ably capable of both.
This new song is the most unabashedly in love he’s ever been on record. He bows to conventional wisdom that the ultimate signifier of love is total surrender: “You’re the light of my life / The one that I need / The one that I breathe”. This worldview is articulated in a sing-rap flow buoyed on a bed of light percussion and shimmeringly playful synths, minimal by Shahrizal’s usual standards. In stripping production down, his messaging is ever more in the forefront – and how much he loves the addressee of this song burns brighter and more palpably.
H!zzy – ‘Check’
At 1:42 minutes, ‘Check’ is a heat-seeking missile that spares no one.
What’s interesting about this song is that it’s too pure to be club fodder. In comparison to songs that are typically considered “bangers”, this one doesn’t play like it was meant to soundtrack miscellaneous revels. It’s too unrelentingly menacing, too mean, too proudly self-affirming to be background noise. It’s its own celebration; it’s a war cry, one that you scream out as you step into the fray that is life.
The Cold Cut Duo – ‘#Addicted’
Staying true to its name, #Addicted definitely makes the list of bangers released this year that you absolutely cannot get out of your head. This is the third single The Cold Cut Duo 雙節奏 has released in 2019, following ‘I’ll Keep Loving You’ and ‘Take Flight’ earlier this year. As singer-songwriters heavily influenced by electronic and dance music, they remain dedicated to their sound in this catchy bop.
With the help of lyrics like ‘There is no antidote to falling for you / There was no warning to this addiction’, the duo paints a rose-tinted picture of love and its dizzying effects, at the same time captivating listeners with a playful beat that reminds one of the sensation of tumbling head-first into infatuation.
Maneloren – 'Silver Lining'
Perhaps taking a brave venture into solo songwriting and production is Maneloren’s 'Silver Lining' - or perhaps not - but it has definitely paid off. With his background as a guitarist, Maneloren brings a fresh voice into the local soundscape with ‘Silver Lining’, solidly carving out his brand of indie and alternative rock with a blend of swirling melodic riffs and impactful, intense beats. This could be his own way of resistance and his attempt in calling out all the cynics out there today. Wryly, he reminds us that in life, sometimes all we can do is hold out as long as we can for the silver lining.
JP – 'Dear Haters'
JP’s first single is an intense, cutting one that makes no attempt at subtlety. The impact of this song lies not in explosive rap, but rather disguises itself in his cool tone and well-written lyrics, the combination of the two belying the red-hot anger that bubbles just beneath the surface. JP directs this at those who ever doubted him and told him to give up on his dreams. ‘Dear Haters’ ends with JP’s lingering frustration – still tangible at the last second, but it is definitely a powerful track that speaks for itself.
Hourstone – 'Counting Down to 2'
Hourstone’s music can be described as the faint ray of light that bursts through a seemingly endless darkness; a phenomenon that moves something deep within our cores. This song perfectly embodies what his music stands for: Strength in darkness. It is a gentle, blossoming sound, with ’But there was you / you were with who / you were with me / counting down to 2’ repeated over and over. Building with increasing layers as the song progresses, it mimics the careful arrival of hope. One can expect to be swept away in the relief and lightness that this song ends with.
Tristan Levi ft. Vaughn – 'Alone'
Tristan Levi’s lament of one’s loneliness and his explicit diss to fake friends are made even more effective with his crooning voice riding effortlessly on the chill beat that is almost reminiscent of city pop. This track is a relatable one, especially for millennials today, who share an alienating experience in modern life as they often find themselves with no one to fall back on.