Friday, July 19, 2013

WOAH WOAH WOAH One Singapore


An orgy of vocals excreted from the necks of decapitated chickens running around in a burning farm.

That’s an understatement for something we dare pass off as a song, never mind the intention of celebrating nationhood.

I thought it was a prank when the link to the song for the National Day Parade 2013 was shared.

I've listened to it about 20 times. The first listen was the most painful actually. First impression counts, like the first date with someone with nauseating body odour and unwashed morning+cigarette+stale coffee breath. Musical tastes and opinions differ, to each his own, and you might find certain breaths nice to smell. Whatever.

To be fair, I won't talk about the lyrics in detail, because the song is so musically compelling it churns a cow’s stomach(s), so I missed the lyrics.

It starts off with the synthetic hi-hats signalling the time signature, that 4-beat intro into the song. Sounds like it came off a demo. I went "uh oh", but it'll probably compel any Jade Seah to go "oh fuck".

The guitar work, while sanitised, stutters with awkwardness. It’s like walking into a party with your panties hanging at your ankles – and you’re a man.

The song shows an attempt to make it a fun and carefree sing-along – given the collage of vocals. The repetitive chordwork may polarise opinion, but I thought it was ok (was thinking about those whimsical Smashmouth songs).

This NDP song still sounds pretty cluttered, and that’s because of it overlapping, overflowing and overwhelming vocal delivery, not helped by the wordy lyrics. The tempo of the song may be fixed, since it gives the impression it's done on some cheap computer mixing software, but more justice could have been done by pacing the melody. It moves at one pace - frantic, like an ugly Singaporean at a buffet.

The production is paper thin and plasticy. The arrangement and orchestration are awful. I think the Mayans were right in their prediction.

While the vocals and lyrics are emphasised, as are in most songs, they came at the expense of the instruments, which came across as synthetic and amateurish. And there are far too many unnecessary musical and instrumental touches. Not a wall of sound, but a wall at which various types of animal faeces are thrown, some of which sticking, other pieces sliding down with the pull of gravity.

No comments on the chords and chord sequences. I’d normally look at the chords of the song, but didn’t bother this time. Gave up half way trying to figure out what the hell was going on.

C-F-Am-G (repeat… repeat)
Bb
C-Am-Bb-F (repeat… repeat… repeat) or C-Am-F-C/E-Dm-F whatever
Transpose to D? Whatever…
For the bridge… just take some hallucinogen

What's up with the bridge? It sounds like that part was conceived in one blurry potty cokey episode in a residence at Seletar Airbase. That part of the song is a little bit out of this world... well, maybe some epic 1980s song... hmmm.. never ending story, any one?

The song has got some clamouring for Dick Lee to right/(re)write the wrongs. Never mind Dick Lee’s “Home”, even the dreamy simplicity and organic-ness of Electrico’s “What do you see” is what this year’s song lacks. Place "One Singapore" next to "What do you see" and you'll think "What do you see" is best thing since Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture.

Children rapping – nice touch… of musical death, murdered in the most contrived and constipated way.. Awkward pause included. Don’t think putting children in the production will render you immune to criticism, hor!

"Oh yes! For sure the inclusion of children so absolutely represents the future. I get it! So poetic, excellent metaphor... and the rapping, wow, it sooo resonates with every Singaporean who's young and young at heart!"

Is there an NDP songwriting checklist? Transposition… Check! Multi-ethnic instrument tokenism… nah, not this time. No er-hu this time, or maybe it's there but drowned out by the chaos.

One decent part of the song is the “woah” part, because at least the song got its fundamentals right, i.e. a catchy chorus. Another portion worth mentioning is the bass - nice arrangement, nice touch, and it probably has done the best it could given the constraints.

The singing is very Singaporean, and that’s something we can be proud of. It’s ok to have that Singaporean twang, especially the music we’re exposed to are pretty westernised.

Most folks will want something that evokes (positive) emotions, sense of (be)longing, nostalgia, pride, etc. In this respect, “One Singapore” sounds frivolous and clumsy. Even if it was intended to sound so bad it becomes good, it may very well sound so bad it is hated.

Songs like "Count on me, Singapore", "Stand up for Singapore", "Home" are not good and loved because of nostalgia and folks wanting to live in the past. They're just well-written by legit songwriters. And in each song, you can tell the pedigree of the songwriting and craftsmanship.

If you're looping four chords like Corrine May's "Song for Singapore" to give an NDP song a contemporary spin, the quality of the arrangement and delivery matters. Corrine May's song was decent and very organic, sounds personable and relatable, but the strings could have been played down a little.

Well, who knows, maybe "One Singapore's" live performance will be provide a visual feast that will compensate for its audio and musical brokenness.

1 comment:

Tran Huu Kien said...

Wow you write a lot :)