by Patricia Siswandjo on

Reimagining a classic is a daunting task. Many a remake has failed to live up to the original, and even Madonna’s American Pie was panned by critics in 2000.

Add to that the sky-high expectations of millions of quick-to-complain Singaporeans, and you have a sense of the pressure that local singer-songwriter Charlie Lim was faced with when tasked to refresh the 1987 classic, We Are Singapore.

But Lim refused to be intimidated. He worked for a week straight. The result? A melodic blend of contemporary and nostalgia which features a chorus of multiracial local acts such as Vandetta, Joanna Dong, Shak’thiya, and Aisyah Aziz singing mellifluously, and a rap of Singapore’s pledge by TheLionCityBoy for an extra twist.

In an interview with The New Paper, Lim, who performed a live acoustic rendition of the song for the media at The Float @ Marina Bay, said: “They wanted to refresh the song, which was written in 1987 and was relevant in its time, but I think now we want to look at things from a younger generation’s perspective.”

So, what does the younger generation think of the song?

Undergraduate Constance Ng, 22, a lover of music and the arts, said: “It’s nice that they used a mix of local artists and genres to remake the song – from the neo-soul beginning to the R&B rap. The rap really reinvigorates the song and bridges Singapore’s national identity to its youths, by being more relevant to us.

“The remake does a good job tying the old and new Singapore together – the use of synth is a good utilisation of modern music technology, and putting a spin on an old classic is a great way to reference Singapore’s past and progress, and show how forward we’ve gone as a country, while still acknowledging our roots.”

Hong Chen, 28, who admitted that he isn’t very nationalistic, said he enjoyed the tunes of past National Day songs without connecting to their meanings. With this remake, however, he said: “I actually liked the ‘less-than-perfect” introduction, where he talks about uncertainty and change.”

Retiree Lani Tjoa, in her 50s, had fond memories of the original song, which came out when she was in her 20s.

“It made me think back to the past, and all that Singaporeans have achieved together, from prosperity to happiness,” she said of the original version.

“In the years leading up to 1987, Singapore’s economy was progressing quickly. The country was no longer in its infancy, or struggling to establish itself. I felt that Singapore, and the 1987 version of the song, was very confident, almost boastful.

“This new version no longer has that overconfident feel. Instead, it feels gentler and more encouraging – encouraging Singaporeans to be brave, and confident that our future will still be good, despite difficulties that are guaranteed to come in the future. It’s a good remake, and I hope this encouraging message is well-received by our youth.”

Netizens who heard the new song also had plenty to say.

The song helped Zoe T focus on Singaporean’s similarities rather than differences. The diverse cast and modern beat of the updated song help her realise that even as Singapore grows, Singaporeans still work together in harmony.

Aisha Ramat, 37, loved the song due to its nostalgic elements, as it reminded her of her primary school days.

Personally, I enjoyed Lim’s remake. It was refreshing to see the showcase of local artistes, especially the touch of rap, which I have never seen in a National Day song before. I also think it’s poetic that the journey of this song shows the journey of our nation – refreshing the song, and our national identity, and staying relevant in effervescent times.

This year’s NDP theme, We Are Singapore, hopes to capture the unity of Singaporeans. In an interview with The New Paper, NDP 2018 executive committee chairman, Brigadier-General Alfred Fox, said: “The theme is enduring, clear and direct.”

A lot has changed over the past 53 years. Being Singaporean has changed, too.

This national identity is what the music video hopes to explore. It starts with Lim watching a man fiddling with his camera lens and gazing at a typical Singaporean family portrait.

As their photoshoot and the video progresses, it is obvious that there is no one way to define what makes someone Singaporean when we are so diverse as a people.

The video also offers portraits of friendship, love and laughter.

Singaporeans of different races, religions, ages, and walks of life – from an interracial wedding photo, to foreign workers getting hair cuts from Singaporeans – are featured in this video. This celebration of inclusivity helps to drive home the message that we are all Singapore. It even includes a cheeky shot of a couple with their baby son… next to another couple cradling their two fur-babies – their cats.

In this socially-inclusive light, race, age, religion and class are put aside as Singaporeans smile and embrace each other, thus capturing a snapshot of Singapore’s multicultural identity.

Shot island-wide, a mix of local landscapes are portrayed beautifully in this video. The glitzy and iconic Marina Bay skyline – featuring the sleek Skypark and rugged Esplanade – is juxtaposed with many a local’s favourite eatery – the humble hawker centre.

What does this year’s National Day song mean to you? Or more importantly, what does being Singaporean mean to you? For me, the song is a reminder, as Singapore turns 53, that no matter what the future holds, Singapore is our country. And, as the song says, it is our future, our lives, our family and our friends.

We are Singapore. We are Singaporeans.

All images and gifs are taken from the official ‘We are Singapore’ 2018 video.