There has never been a better time to make music in Singapore than now. With a burgeoning social media scene and radio stations finally giving Singapore music the support it deserves, a plethora of artistes have sprung on the scene offering something more than just lo-fi tunes and acoustic covers. Granted, the stalwarts have been holding their own for quite a while but we all need a little bit of freshness in our lives. However, I have been observing how our Singapore music scene has still not caught on the entire mainstream electronic-pop wave even though there are signs that is petering out and making way for too-cool-for-anything options like indie pop starlet Lana Del Rey. Indie pop – how ironic does that sound?
Listening to Singapore-born, Toronto-raised artiste Eli T.‘s debut album, Revolt, is a sure sign that he could very well be the breakout regional star with his kitschy brand of indie-pop. The crossover from songwriting to singing is something we hear quite a fair bit in the music industry but it is highly liberating yet strangely off-form to switch from getting into the minds of other singers to espousing your brand as your own artiste. Fortunately, Eli has had quite some time to get used to the spotlight here: you may remember him wearing a snazzy black-and-white striped Depression top in the short film for last year’s Singapore Arts Festival, I Want To Remember by Royston Tan. He also made headlines by being casted in summer theatre flick Beauty Kings in that same year, as Don, the himbo part-time model that exists in circles of friends 3 degrees away from us.
Thus, taking a listen at title track Dancin’ With Fire is a sign that Eli is ready for the big time (I’m chillin’ with my boys / makin’ lots of noise / can you see the intention). From the get-go, the scat intro takes your mind straight to the club where Eli sings about “standing right here watchin’ you watchin’ me baby”. Eli’s cocky bravado is whipped out and swung around as he sings over a slightly ’70s-inspired beat and threatens to pay for love in flames. Hell has never been sexier. Now, imagine the music video for this.
Here’s what I think about some of the other standout tracks in the album:
“Hear Me”: A ballad over some loopy synth tracks – I was suddenly reminded of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own”. Eli rips through the rousing chorus as he tries to get his other half to just shut up and listen for just one goddamn time. The intro hum was a good switch up from the pace of Dancin’ With Fire but I was not a big fan of the trippy 8-bit effects flying through the lead-ins and the overly-dubbed vocals. I can imagine a music video in the studio with Eli tied to chains and a slow-mo of him breaking through them, amongst other semi-metaphorical scenes. I can only dream.
“Fallen”: Now that we’ve heard the man trying to seduce and then win back his love in under 10 minutes, he’s wooing possibly another one in this track that sounds unapologetically campy. Even then, the lyrics sound insanely atas (It’s a wonder how you’re so astute / sagacious plunder of my love for you) which is a good sign, considering all that LMFAO crap out there right now. This is also the first time we hear Eli switch up from his hard-hitting low voice to a silky smooth falsetto as he pines over a wicked chorus. The catchy hook is so addictive, I guarantee you will keep humming it over and over again. I couldn’t get it out of my head for 3 days. Not kidding.
“Imaginary”: This track has probably the most potential to make it on radio play and craft a killer music video out of. The violins play in the background as Eli nails the song’s message of standing up to filling lies “with empty finds” and rising above hypocrisy and perception to be one’s true self. Just the message alone is enough to make this track a slow-burn anthem for listeners needing a song to shed their veneers and knock down those walls. Eli gets into true form in his runs on the second chorus as Justin Low’s electric guitar strums in the back. Would have loved a tad more power for the song could very well afford less sentimentality and float in the end, but if there was ever a defining song for Eli T., this is it.
“Gibberish”: Don’t we all love a naughty bad boy? Eli unleashes his inner tiger and makes a strong statement about music’s current state at the same time with a song aptly titled Gibberish. It’s practically a hodge-podge of conspiratorial whispers, a Chipmunk pre-chorus and a slow drum beat over the epic chorus line “Uvugi thuvugick yuvugou uvugare”. (Yes, I dare you to try saying that out loud.) I didn’t know whether to get in the mood or laugh out loud with this song even if Eli did not intend to make such a statement. The track was more of a here-is-my-message track than a let’s-get-down-and-dirty ditty, so for that, I give it props.
“Prototype”: Reminiscent of Madonna’s single “Give Me All Your Lovin'”, Eli’s final track is an infectious ditty that mocks insincerity in the face with a tongue-in-cheek cheer (U R the prototype / P.r.o.t.o. prototype / Oh be A different / P.r.o.t.o. prototype) and a sexy drawl to boot. Tracks at the back of the album usually never see the light of day as singles, but I think Prototype is worth a shot at local radio for its irreverence. Eli’s voice sounds particularly crisp here, a stark contrast from the mastered vocals in previous tracks. More importantly, Prototype ends the tracklist on a streak of sheer playful independence, which describes Revolt’s cheeky-yet-unfettered take on music, people and life. Frankly rad.
Revolt’s two bonus tracks surprisingly, are the dealbreakers in this album. The electro-pop remix to “Hear Me” is, dare I say it, f*cking brilliant. Remixed by DJ Felix Hoo, the track definitely felt less kitschy and more straightforward as Eli’s vocals soar over the beats. Add in an orgasmic dubstep breakdown on the second verse and you have a track that, if played right, could be a winner on radio and in the clubs.
I (partly) take back what I said earlier in this article – the acoustic version of “Fallen” has us sold that Eli’s not just another flash in the pan pop star. The track sounded more organic as we hear Eli sans whistles and bells. It’s an affirmation that Revolt is the middle finger to a music industry preoccupied with finding the next Taiwan sensation or Western boyband: that someone like Eli with a unique appeal and powerful pipes can stand strong in the mainstream and say “f*ck you, this is who I am and I’m not going to play it safe”. It may not be your normal pop ditty, but we have faith Eli will be accepted into the mainstream.
We have 2 copies of Eli T.’s new album, Revolt, to give away courtesy of his awesome team. Simply look out for our Facebook post on Wednesday, April 4, to see how to win. Stay updated on our Facebook page for updates: www.facebook.com/popspoken