SINGAPORE - How does one write a National Day song that tops Home, the most beloved of them all?
The magnitude of the task is probably bigger, rather than smaller, if the assigned songwriter had also composed Home.
Indeed, Dick Lee is already feeling the pressure, although there is a year to go before next year's golden jubilee National Day Parade.
The all-round entertainer and creative director of this year's NDP has been tasked with coming up with a new National Day song for the milestone birthday.
Having previously written the well- loved Home (1998) as well as We Will Get There (2002), he knows that expectations are high. "It's very stressful, I must say, because everyone will be waiting to hear it with a bunch of stones behind their back and you're putting yourself out there," he tells Life! with a laugh.
In a text message, he is already referring to the tune he is working on as The Song.
Since Home found its way into the hearts of many Singaporeans following the 1998 NDP, he has been asked to pen a song each year the annual national celebration comes around. He says he considers the offer each time it is made, but adds: "I always realise I have to top my own song which is a ridiculous sort of thing to be doing. I don't need to write another one."
Ironically, the pressure he is feeling now might not have been as great if he had agreed to one of those requests before the Golden Jubilee. He says wrily: "If I had written a theme song for this year, there may not be so much of a push for next year."
He took a break from tradition by not having an NDP theme song at this year's parade, but, he points out: "You can say that Big Island was a theme song as it was used throughout the show as a motif. But because we didn't promote it, there was no pressure to love it." Lee wrote Big Island.
At this point, he does not know what the theme for next year will be. By definition, a theme song has to tie in with the theme of the celebration.
Dave Tan, 38, frontman of local band Electrico, who wrote the 2009 NDP theme song, What Do You See?, says: "The new song for next year should be one that invites thought and inspires, not dictate."
Lee also has other ideas he is considering. As next year is Singapore's 50th birthday, he is interested in getting a few songs to celebrate the occasion, rather than have attention focused on one theme song.
The other issue he is thinking about is the lead time - he may introduce the song earlier than the traditional one month before National Day, as a theme song becomes popular through exposure. "If we treat it as more of a celebration of an anniversary and promote it earlier, then it has a chance of becoming known."
After all, Home was not composed as an NDP theme song. Lee wrote it in 1997 for Sing Singapore, a biennial song festival organised by the National Arts Council in the 1990s. Singer Kit Chan then performed it at the 1998 NDP.
Even as Lee wrestles with The Song, he gets a vote of confidence from Hype Records' Ken Lim, who wrote and produced Together for the 1999 NDP and produced Reach Out For The Skies for the 2005 NDP.