Singaporean music track reviews: Joshua Simon, yawa, Oya Paya, YETI PACK, $aint, Stephycube, DJ Lean and Ernest

Singaporean music track reviews: Joshua Simon, yawa, Oya Paya, YETI PACK, $aint, Stephycube, DJ Lean and Ernest

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 Joshua Simon, yawa, Oya Paya, YETI PACK, $aint, Stephycube, DJ Lean and Ernest.

Joshua Simon – ‘Drive’

This is not hyperbole: Joshua Simon’s new single is one of the best songs to enter the canon of Made In Singapore music. It’s many things but where it matters the most is as a cultural totality – because its merits extend beyond the fence around “music”.

‘Drive’’s allure derives from the thrills  it brings to electropop. Its teeming, nails-in-a-blender synths and Simon’s Dave Gahan-esque drawl count as an expansion of the lexicon of digi-age pop sensibilities as well as the canon of Road Music. There’s a sense of danger here, but knotted up with it are seething feelings of fear, paralysing yearning, regret, and, when the rubber hits the road, deserving liberation. With this song, Simon, already an ubiquitous voice on the airwaves, has made a case for himself as a necessary one.

Yawa – ’How Do I’

Yawa has had a great start to 2019, having released tracks such as ‘Get Away’ and ‘Fall’ over the past couple of weeks. His latest release, ‘How Do I’ brings his previous singles together to tie up an EP, titled Straying Thoughts. The track builds upon the beauty that the artist had established with ‘Fall’, making the entire EP a piece of work that listeners can easily get sucked into. It’s enchantingly beautiful and captivating.

$ain’t – ‘Pocket Rocket’

This the second entry of 2019 for the Myanmar-born rapper follows the release of a full-length studio album Lived Loved Wonder Heartbreaks last year. He steps away from the heavy bass, which he featured a lot in his earlier singles, and puts a lighter touch on what followed after his latest album. In this track, he opens with a mix of intermittent low-tempo synths and tingling jingles and follows with his breathy unspooling of short but sharp lines. And as he reaches the chorus, he ups the momentum against a background of lush R&B beats and pounding drums. It’s easy listening with the simple lyrics but his use of more sensual sounds slides perfectly into the overall sonic direction he took after his latest record.


Oriental trap is a global proposition now. This means you get a helping of both halves of that equation. Experiments like these very often trip on their conceptual potholes and come off as gimmicky and insincere but YETI PACK avoid such shortcomings here.

Powered by four distinct voices and four different personalities, the song drips with charisma. Chest-thumping, irreverent bars interlock and coalesce into a thoroughly contemporary and victorious anthem. All the while, menacing, twinkling Eastern synths hang above it all like a defiant banner.

Oya Paya – Fly’

Oya Paya returns with a new single ‘Fly’, which makes a strong case for why it's one of the best Singaporean singles of 2019 so far. The track starts of slow, with a few simple chords, before the drums and bass guitar chime in, and the momentum revs up. A hypnotic bassline takes centrestage during the chorus against gang vocals. The song is aptly titled, as well, seeing that it accomplishes what it sets out to do: Make listeners feel like they’re flying. Beautiful musicianship, thoughtful lyrics and composition prove why Oya Paya is band to keep a look out for.

Stephycube – ‘Departure’

Stephycube’s first-ever single, ‘Departure’, sets a high precedence of what’s to come from her. She’s no stranger to the music scene having performed at various events such as *SCAPE’s Glowbeat Festival and Artist of the Month for Library@Esplanade, In Youthful Company, to name just a few. There is a resoundingly magical, almost fairytale-like essence within the harmonious melodies of the piano, violin and drums and it complements her endearing vocals as she woefully reflects on thoughts of leaving a relationship before she is ready to grasp the reality of it. The lyrics are easily relatable, which makes it easy for the listener to revel in the pain and sing their heart out.

DJ LEAN – ‘Why Should It End?’

The debate around the necessity of National Service will never be settled. Every time something tragic happens to a National Serviceman, answers are more urgently demanded from the powers that be. ‘Why Should It End’ doesn’t waste any time in addressing the recent passing of an NSman but its tone is poignantly personal and commemorative, rather than interrogative. Over a spectral Balinese-sounding beat, DJ Lean raps an elegy for the dearly departed. He recounts the times he shared with his brother-in-arms, his last words and ponders the fundamental unpredictability of death. His loss is palpable and monumental – the listener can’t not feel it. And the question posed by its title continues to echo in the ether, this time more painfully. Why Should It End?

Ernest – come out and play’

Ernest’s boyish vocals and hushed mumbles steal the spotlight on this melancholic track. While the song is immaculately crafted with a great instrumental ear, the true star of the track is Ernest’s songwriting, particularly, his ability to portray and convey feeling through his lyrics and singing. The song may mean something different to anyone who hears it, but it’s guaranteed to spark emotion, maybe even tears. If anything, that’s the mark of a special musician.