In defence of the new NDP song

NOT BAD: A screen grab from the video of this year's National Day song, One Singapore.

SINGAPORE - Here we go again. Again.

It seems that every year around this time, just as the annual Great Singapore Sale comes to a close, it's open season on the new National Day theme song.

Like the parade, fireworks and Gurmit Singh yelling at NDP spectators to "make some noise", hating the new National Day song has also become a great annual Singapore tradition.

Remember how the video for Love At First Light was mocked last year?

This year's song, One Singapore, appears to have transcended tradition and achieved a whole new level of loathsomeness.

The Straits Times' headline, "National Day song hits a few sour notes", is the definition of understatement.

The New Paper's headline was more to the point: "Netizens slam NDP 2013 song".

One common complaint is that it's cheesy. That's like complaining that cheese is cheesy.

It's a National Day song! It's supposed to be cheesy!

What do you want? Lyrics about staying up all night to get lucky?

Another criticism is that the song, sung joyously by a choir of 68 Singaporeans, seems to be aimed at very young people.

So I asked two very young people I know - my kids - what they thought of the song.

My son, 16, said: "I hear High School Musical with a Singaporean twist. It's almost better than the Fun Pack Song, but that's not really saying much. The lyrics also don't seem to fit the melody, not poetic at all. The rap lyrics especially. Do I hear the word 'recess'?"

Sure, it's only "almost better" than the Fun Pack Song, but then One Singapore composer Elaine Chan didn't filch the tune from Lady Gaga.

Perhaps my son isn't young enough to appreciate the song. So I asked my daughter, who's two years younger.

She said: "The singing isn't very good. Whether or not it is on purpose is not clear. The hook sucks. What do they think they are doing - 'woah woah'? The rapping? Sucks. Children rapping is one of the most annoying things ever."

Now that's just mean.

Well, being young at heart (but middle-aged at every other body part), I like the song.

And I don't mean ironically.

I wear polo shirts and watch the Miss World telecast ironically (if not simultaneously), but I genuinely enjoy this year's National Day song.

I love the high part in the verse where they sing, "Together, we can reach for the stars."

I even dig the "woah woah" part which my daughter detests.

I'm not so keen on the rapping though.

Just because Shigga Shay can rap his way to the top of the iTunes chart with LimPeh doesn't mean we want rapping in our National Day song too.

Hey, maybe LimPeh should be our National Day song!

Either that or the theme song from Ah Boys To Men Part 1.

Or the one from Ah Boys To Men Part 2.

Rapping aside, I believe One Singapore would've been better received if it had been released together with the video, which appeared on YouTube a few days after the song.

Without the video, the group vocals sound like a mess. With the video, at least you know why they sound like a mess.

There's a cover version by a local band called Pitch Feather that's more stripped down with decidedly fewer singers, which listeners prefer over the original.

This would suggest that the problem is not with the song itself but with the arrangement.

By the way, the cover also eschews the rap about recess.

But I'm grateful that NDP music director Chan and lyricist (and NDP creative director) Serena Tan didn't go the mellow route with their song.

Otherwise, netizens would've groused that it's boring, like the dreary ballad-type National Day songs of the last three years, which were basically failed attempts to recreate the magic of Dick Lee's sentimental favourite, Home.

(The 2009 song was What Do You See by Electrico, which was more "rock" and my favourite, along with Mr Brown's Hokkien version.)

What I find ironic is that after slamming One Singapore, some of the haters would praise the "classics", Stand Up For Singapore, Count On Me Singapore and We Are Singapore.

I'm old enough to remember that when these songs were introduced in the 80s, they were also slammed for being cheesy and meant for children. Of course, there was no such thing as "netizens" back then.

Perhaps in 30 years, One Singapore will also be regarded as a classic.

Nah, I'm kidding. Nobody even remembers the National Day song from three years ago - although it seems people will remember the Fun Pack Song from 2011 for a long time to come.

And that wasn't even the National Day theme song that year.

You know what was? In A Heartbeat.

Which was probably how long it took you to forget the song.

And the tradition continues.


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