What a busy week it has been. with Olympics and National Day Parade coverage back-to-back! (Also, one niggling rumour was confirmed on August 9, which we’re glad was put to, er, rest.) This year’s National Day Parade theme song, “Love at First Light” sung by Olivia Ong and Natanya Tan, received polarising remarks from the Internet. Some praised its sweet touch and message while others commented on the song’s forgettable ways. We can’t blame the detractors: living up to previous successful songs like “Home” and “Where I Belong” can be a pretty daunting task. However, the powers of YouTube have galvanised some Singaporeans to create their own National Day songs and covers this year. Here is a look at four of them who displayed heartwarming and cheeky messages. Hey, at least we don’t have to keep going back to Iskandar Ismail year in, year out.
To be fair, “Love at First Light” is a pretty nice song. Natanya Tan delivers the cute factor in the opening verse and is the one responsible to squeeze the “awwwwww” from the cheesiest lines in the song. (Only a kid can pull off lines like “I wake up refreshed, renewed. Seriously, imagine an adult saying that. You’d be all “What are you, 10?” on him/her.) Olivia Ong however, is a pale comparison to her earlier bossa nova days. Since her switch to the Mandarin pop market, she had traded in her bluesy, too-cool-for-school vibe and her signature drawl for a lighter, breathy tone that is as delicate as the song’s score but never really peaks in the chorus. The songwriting though is great here; gone are the tired home-family-friends trio of references. Paul Tan manages to start on a clean slate with lyrics that are heartfelt and patriotic as they are fresh and new to the ears. The video is a typical multicultural production one would expect from an official National Day clip and looks beautiful and dreamy but, at its core, is just a montage full of fluffy, idealistic scenes. Director Aaron Tan shoots beautifully, but the direction is weak and the plot is staid.
“I Still Love You” is an adorable production. Set to a gleeful ukulele melody, the premise is simple enough yet impactful: a tongue-in-cheek look at Singaporeans’ commonfolk grouses. That is about where the refreshing look on Singapore ends, as typical scenes of multiculturalism and happiness (yes, we’re suckers for a cynical plot) in the second half make the music video blend in all to well to NDP scripts. Grace Ong and Hazel Tan sound chirpy yet grounded in their delivery, but John Rajan Nair could use a little less reverb as his voice feels ‘off’ in the mastering, as compared to the girls. Lyrics-wise, “I Still Love You” is a reflection into the shortsightedness countrymen have towards our land’s faults and urges citizens to think back on the things they love most about Singapore. An apt call-out (I still love you, loved you for the longest while / My love for you will never grow out of style) is the refresher in the song and is succint and powerful without being preachy or bordering on cloying cliche.
A hilarious take into Singapore’s low birth rates (geez, just let the LGBTs adopt already!) is the focus of this suggestive booty-smasher by Mentos (look ma, giving Mentos free publicity!). Rosh G and Michaele Therese come together in this ditty to put the fireworks in your pants and start making some babies for the country. With corny lyrics like “Like a government scholar I wanna cram real hard / tap you all night like an ez-link card” and a chorus that vaguely sounds like an 8-bit version of Lana Del Rey’s “National Anthem” chorus, this song is every bit catchy as it toe-curling. (Imagine actually having sex after listening to this! Ewwww.) Here’s where this could be our unofficial National Day song: it is everywhere in the Internet. io9‘s on it, SourceFed‘s on it, even CNN is on the action. Much like the hip-thrusting mascot making eyes every so often, National Night is one that will sneak up in your head after one too many listens. Heck, whatever works in the bedroom, go with it.
P.S. Rosh G and Michaele Therese need a single for radio airplay. Like, NOW. 987FM, get on it! (It’s not as if we can rely on 91.3FM to play anything local, sheesh.)
“Smile and Love Will Grow” is a ballad by Lorraine Tan that is definitely more powerful than the floaty vibes in “Love at First Light”. Lorraine’s angelic vocals soar at the chorus and yet are grounded in the verses, where we hear the depth of her talent. Kudos on a choral hook that peaks at the right point in the second half of the chorus. Lorraine is the only saving grace in this production though, with scenes that are heartfelt but nothing out of the ordinary. Lyric-wise, the song seems to have take a leaf out of the book of traditional NDP vocabulary, with the trifecta of home, family and friends making far too many appearances here. However, as compared to the try-hard nature of “Love at First Light”, “Smile and Love Will Grow” is musically better and will be a wiser option for the parade, if it is looking at a ballad to choose.
Project “We Are Singapore” is what you would expect from teenagers, with the rock-band formula and plenty of face-time in this cover of “Where I Belong”. A 90-second montage of Singaporeans speaking about what they like most about family opens the video, which then transitions to a shot of a girl walking down Orchard Road. (Speaking of which, that place is so iconic but so under-utilised in National Day videos.) She then stops to a keyboard in the middle of the walkway and is joined by the vocalist and other band members as they stroll down the famed walkway, instruments in hand. Shot in one take without any cuts in between, this cover is visually stunning although sadly lacking much in plot save for a mid-song duet and a meeting with friends capping it off. It is the sort of video that the young set would relate to, with a devil-may-care direction and cool people fronting the band. If there were a choice for the National Day Parade to produce a second song to reach a different audience like what was done with “Will You”, doing a similar video to reach out to teenagers would be a good idea. This project is dope, but not encompassing of a bigger audience. (Not like it needs to.)