Following Benjamin Kheng through his artistic journey has been an energetic, roller coaster ride. The multi-hyphenate has played a diversity of roles. From acting as army recruit, Ken Chow, in Ah Boys to Men to Romeo in Toy Factory’s production, being a vocalist with The Sam Willows and hosting their first full-fledged concert in 2016; to most recently, venturing into comedy with Hirzi as part of the Benzi Project that makes use of satire to shed light on social issues in Singapore.
His latest release “Lovers Forever” is the first time he gets comfortable with wearing his heart on his sleeve. Benjamin’s buttery smooth vocals, coupled with the visual imagery of a spaceman transcending time and space, like “two lovers cased in a rotating music box, stuck in their own glass universe, stupidly in love forever” shows true emotional vulnerability towards his fiance, Naomi.
Forever may seem like a scary concept. Though, when it comes to celebrating the purest essence of it, a “giddy feeling of young love” and the idea of seeing a future that could not exist without the other in mind, it is most certainly worth treasuring every bit of and celebrating.
Popspoken: Tell us more about your parents’ love for you as you were growing up. How did they embrace fun and joy in yours and Narelle’s lives, and how that contributed to the person you are today.
My mother was the kumbaya, emotional centre of the family. A hipster mom, before it became uncool. She was vibe IC and the vibes were always on point.
My father was more of the traditional Asian parent. Pragmatic, math tuition on demand. He wouldn’t hesitate to throw your textbook across the living room, but he also wouldn’t hesitate to apologize after. We had it pretty good growing up.
Popsopken: Congrats on your engagement with Naomi. Could you share with us how your newfound partnership with her might have indirectly inspired this track?
We always get songs about shawty throwin’ it back, but we don’t get songs about men getting pumped up for a wedding or a forever-type of love. Maybe we’re conditioned against it, but I wanted to bring it back. It was a scary thing, dropping this track, because I guess the inspiration is pretty obvious.
I’m usually not so comfortable with being open about the “love life” thing, but when you really love someone, you want to honour and celebrate them. If you’re a musician, that means writing songs about them. As much as this track is about her and — don’t get me wrong, I can’t wait to see her walk down the aisle — but it’s really also about that giddy feeling of young love and celebrating it in a classy way.
Popspoken: Love is about working out differences and communicating clearly with your partner. What is one thing about Naomi that annoyed you at the start but you’ve gotten to love.
Template cop-out answer, but nothing really annoys me — yet. We’re vastly different. We’re the opposite ends of every personality test.
She’s practical, I’m very floppy. I cry like mad in movies and she makes a habit out of predicting when I cry. I think an earlier version of me wouldn’t have registered our differences as not only good, but super essential. The trick, I think, is to love someone the way they need to be loved, and to let them know how you would like to be loved. Nothing is worse than the opposite, but nothing is better when you get it right.
Popspoken: We are seemingly heading towards something similar to the “Great Depression”, even Ray Dalio says it’s so. During that period, it was a time when jazz and swing added a ray of light to the lives of folks. For those who aren’t in love, are there any tips for them to welcome love into their lives?
This shitstorm that we’re swimming through now, in a warped way, is a blessing in disguise.
It sits us down with our families, it makes us treasure the little things, and it teaches us what’s really important. We also have the arts, the storytelling, the sense of escapism. When was the last time you had your favourite record or song on, and it wasn’t background music, but it was the sole thing you were focused on? I know all this doesn’t remove the paralysing hit on us economically, but it does give us time.
Popspoken: What is one thing you hate about being famous, but have grown to embrace and be comfortable with.
I wouldn’t say I’m famous, I’m just relatively known. We often live in our own social bubbles anyway. I hated that people would throw my name around like I was a product, but then again if I’m making a living from my name, I’d better get used to it. The small upside is I’m now able to pivot and focus on work that matters, and bring about change in a more tangible manner, in between doing stupid Tik Tok videos.