National Day song hits a few sour notes

SINGAPORE - Childish, corny and cheesy.

This year's National Day theme song One Singapore, instead of uniting people, has divided opinion. Officially launched by organisers last week, it has already been slammed by several listeners.

"It was probably intended to be catchy, but it comes across as too upbeat," said law student Lee Kang Lin, 22, adding that the creators were probably trying to appeal to a younger audience.

Netizens on music sharing site SoundCloud bashed the song for "trying too hard" and sounding too much like a "kids' song".

One Singapore was posted online by The Straits Times on Tuesday. By Thursday evening, it had been played more than 80,000 times and attracted over 300 comments, not all of them good.

"Singapore's worst natural disaster, coming 9th Aug," one user quipped.

Actress Selena Tan, who is the creative director of the National Day Parade show, wrote the song's lyrics. Her long-time collaborator and award-winning composer Elaine Chan, came up with the music for One Singapore.

Said Ms Tan: "I've been working in this industry for so many years, I think everybody is entitled to a comment... If they don't like the song that's perfectly fine."

Previously, the theme song was performed by local artists.

This time, it is being sung by a choir made up of 68 ordinary Singaporeans. Ms Tan explained that the song was written to reflect the diversity of the choir members, and that a ballad would not have allowed this.

"Also there have been many National Day ballads already. We wrote a song that is aspirational in sentiment and I believe every line to be simple and true."

One of the choir members, university student Irwin Fua, 26, said he was "disappointed but not disheartened" by the negative comments. He hopes people will listen to it a few times and not be "quick to make an opinion".

Said another choir member, student Ruth Mathews, 15: "When you keep listening, you'll hear different parts... and you'll realise it's so meaningful."

This year's National Day tune has the feel of an upbeat pop song, with a rap section in the middle. Some have questioned the need to have a new theme song every National Day.

"This year's song is too cheesy. I miss Home," said student Tow Ying Si, 15, referring to the 1998 National Day hit, sung by Kit Chan and composed by Dick Lee.

Added sales director Sharon Chew, 34: "We should build up the old favourites and use what works. At the same time, we can have super-creative songwriters, but their hands are tied if the people approving the songs have passe taste." 

But One Singapore has its fans.

University student Lim Yan Chun, 22, said: "Although the song is not quite like what we have been used to, I did enjoy it. I could feel Selena Tan's creative direction in the style."

The song even inspired human resources executive Tan Siling, 25, to do a solo cover version for a YouTube page belonging to her band, The Animal Parade.

She said: "While this year's NDP song is neither like an anthem nor an emotive ballad, it is meant to be uplifting and on some level, overly happy. It's probably not your average disgruntled Singaporean's cup of tea."

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