Saturday, May 20, 2017

Because It's Singapore: Analysing the NDP 2017 song

When I heard first heard this year's National Day Parade 2017 (NDP 2017) theme song performed by Jay Lim, I thought to myself "what an awfully cheena song" with straightforward cheesy piano arrangement.

Later learned the song was written by Lee Wei Song and Jay, so ya. Here's the video of the performance:


More at Channel NewsAsia.

Am surprised the lyrics didn't include "nut to nut" or "steal your lunch". "Living in harmony" rhymes with "Mandatory Death Penalty". So, just like our laws, I guess this song needs some improvement.

The song is a decent straightforward ballad, but I personally couldn't stand the "whole" semi-choral singing of Jay... Too much "lungs" for me, and I think a more "throaty" vocal might make the song more updated. To each his own. I've no intention to shit on the singer or the singing.

When I watched the video, I heard it was in Bb (B flat) key signature, but Jay seemed to play it in C on the piano - ah, the wonders of technology, doing the transposing for us. I like to play in C too bro.

One part of the song that stuck out like a musical sore thumb was the end of the first half of the chorus, where the lyrics go "living in harmony". (1) The vocal melody should have gone up, not down, and (2) the use of the 2nd chord (C chord) made the song sound like a hippopotamus with five legs tripping over itself in the muddy water (A four-legged hippo is enough! Less is more!).

I get the musical intention to make this bit hooky, by introducing the rare 2nd chord. But it just doesn't fit into the entire musical motif of the song.

The whole song has been quite a wholesome song characterised by the major scale and all its 7 constituent notes, and tightly strung together. But then enter the E note (4th note sharp in Bb key signature), which made it 8 notes in all.

That part was made worse when Jay sang it low, which is the only part of the song that ends the line with a low and not a high (i.e. vocal melody going up). The first half of the chorus needs to build to the second half of the chorus, considering the verse is a slow build to the chorus.

Instead of singing "living in harmony":
C C lowG D C lowA....
A ??????? You seriously sing that note to end the chorus? Musically, I absolutely hated that choice. And I think it's sloppy songwriting/arrangement for the vocals. This is safe for-the-masses pop/ballad songwriting and it just feels like the wrong choice of notes.

Why not sing:
C C lowG D F D C
Here, by going a little Oasis/Liam with the D F D C vocal melody, it shortens the bridge of the first half of the chorus to the opening line of the next half of the chorus which begins with D. C is closer to D whereas A isn't. In singing A at the end of the last line of the first half of the chorus, it cuts all momentum and kills the maintenance of the climax (chorus) of the song.

Back to the chords. I feel the E note doesn't have a place in this song; the songwriters could have gone for Cm (C minor) instead.

And given this motif, I personally believe Gb (G flat) will have a better impact. The song is built with only one minor chord in Gm (the 6th chord minor). It could do with C minor or even Eb minor. Bb moving to C is a big jump here, considering the rest of the song has been tight like the living conditions of most new HDB flats.

Instead of:
Every [Eb] one is [F] family, [Bb] friend and neighbour 
[C] Living in harmony [F]

Why not use G minor as the chord that transits to C, if you die-die want to use C:
Every [Eb] one is [F] family, [Gm] friend and neighbour 
[C] Living in harmony [F]

Or use C minor so that the move from Bb to Cm is less rough:
Every [Eb] one is [F] family, [Bb] friend and neighbour 
[Cm] Living in harmony [F]

Oh yea, there's also the pause at the end of the chorus, before "Because it's Singapore"... This formula is tried and tested, i.e. play the chorus, keep building it to the climax, then pause, then sing the soft ending. It feels odd, since it's the same ol' shit most of the NDP songs have. Or maybe it's the same ol' people who approve the song - kinda make you want to yawn like Corrinne May.

On the bright side, the parts of the song I like, musically, is the use of Bbsus4 and F/A (which doesn't mean Fuck All in this context) in the chorus. These is the subtle songwriting trick that makes the song sound simple and fluid to the average listener, well... fluid until we got to that first damn C chord. As almost inconspicuous and smooth as Jack Neo in his Alphard, these are the little things that make the song a decent composition.

Since "Home" is the barometer of NDP songwriting, and I'll also like to give more credit to the songwriting in "What Do You See", I don't think this song "Because It's Singapore" will get songwriters excited, never mind making Dick rise again to the subsequent NDP songwriting challenges.

Here's a suggestion: Get Wormrot to make next year's first ever grindcore NDP song la!

Here are the chords of the song "Because It's Singapore". Don't forget to say thank you ah!

INTRO DOODLE
Bb | Gm | Eb | Bb F

VERSE
[Bb] Step by step together we'll build our [F] dreams
[Gm] Heart to heart together we'll stay as one [Eb] nation [F] undivided
[Bb] Back to back together we'll brave the heat, the cold, the storm
[Gm] Hand in hand together we'll grow this [Eb] land we call [F] home

CHORUS
Nothing [Bb] in this [Bbsus4] world [Bb] compares [Bb/A]
It’s our [Gm] Singa- [F/A] -porean [Bb] life
Every [Eb] one is [F] family, [Bb] friend and neighbour
[C] Living in harmony [F]

Nothing [Bb] in this [Bbsus4] world [Bb] compares
[Bb/A] To this [Gm] island [F/A] where it’s [Bb] home
Where we [Eb] love and [F] know we’ll [Bb] never be alone [C] [Eb] [F]
Because it’s Singapore [Bb]

Bb | Gm | Eb F

VERSE

CHORUS

[Bb] Just Believe
[Gm] We Can Be
[Eb] The world will see [F]
[Bb] We are Singapore [Bbsus4] [Bb]