It is that time of the year when Singaporeans young and old, kiasu and kiasi, turn into bona fide music critics.
It doesn’t matter if our musical repertoire is limited to off-pitch screamo sessions at Teo Heng, or the ability to play a lao hong rendition of Chan Mali Chan on the recorder.
All that matters is that a new theme song is released for the year’s National Day Parade, and we’re united, as one people, one nation, one Singapore, to tear it to shreds.
Fortunately for this year’s challenger homegrown musician Charlie Lim, the song “We Are Singapore” has attracted some rare plaudits from
picky ordinary Singaporeans for its thoughtful, modern take on the 1987 classic.
It was all going so well, until a cringe-worthy video of Keppel Corp employees performing a bastardised haka war cry went viral. The performance was a submission for a cheer competition held by NDP organisers that was shared on the NDP Facebook page. Panned by netizens and New Zealand media alike, the video has unsurprisingly since been removed.
If anything, this goes to show that when it comes to NDP as well as the tributes and parodies it inspires, there will always be some good, some bad, and sometimes, some ugly.
And over the years, we’ve had no shortage of them. Which of these do you remember?
1. Home, forever and always.
No NDP-related listicle is worth reading without a mention of this 1998 classic. Whether you’ve lived abroad or have had your share of grouses about life as a Singaporean, Home, with its rousing lyrics of building dreams and overcoming troubles together, has a way of beckoning you, well, home.
The song is so good that local singer Kit Chan was asked to perform it at the parade again in 2004 and 2010.
Every NDP song produced after 1998 has since had the misfortune of being expected to live up to its standards.
2. Wooh oh-oo-oh woh-oooooh
In life, there will always be highs and lows.
And with songs designed to galvanise Singaporeans in a once-a-year show of unreserved patriotism, you have Home, and then you have One Singapore.
While it seemed to be a nod to the style of musicals, its kiddy lyrics and repetitive melody failed to hit the sweet spot with Singaporeans. To its credit, however, its chorus managed to worm its way into our ears, and had a knack for staying there whether we liked it or not.
3. We live in Singapura
The world never asked for a five-minute musical lowdown on Singapore’s history and culture, but still, composer Edmund Tan delivered.
From the time when Sang Nila Utama first spotted what he was wrongly advised to be a Merlion to the tumultuous post-war years, to our more recent obsessions with Hello Kitty and food, the song races through it all in breathlessly engaging fashion.
First performed by actor Hossan Leong at a stand-up comedy show in 2006, it went viral after animators NCHProductions released their animated version of the witty and quintessentially Singaporean lyrics.
4. Le Kua Simi
It was the year when NDP songs went hip, or at least more hip than usual, with a rock-pop theme song by local band Electrico on the shining possibilities of Singapore’s future, entitled What Do You See.
However, that was possibly overshadowed by blogger mrbrown’s parody of it, in a song that documents the life and trials of an ah beng on the roads here, as he challenges other drivers with the catch phrase – le kua simi (Hokkien for ‘what are you looking at’).
Potentially triggering if you’ve ever been caught in a staring incident with an ah beng, but otherwise a catchy tune you’ll find yourself humming to later on.
5. This is Singapore
This is Singapore’s response to American artist Childish Gambino’s gritty music video for his song This is America. And while Gambino’s work serves as a statement on being black in America today, this parody by local performer Hirzi is a straight-talking perspective of life in Singapore.
Don’t let the eye-catching theatrics distract you from Hirzi’s lyrics, which poke fun at rat race-obsessed Singaporeans, our ‘fine city’ culture, and even our ERP woes.
Because sometimes we learn best about ourselves when someone tells it like it is.
6. Of nasi lemak, and our shared dreams
Tapping on familiar icons like our favourite HDB aunties to the familiar tastes of nasi lemak and or lua, musical duo The Freshman effortlessly manage to call on Singaporeans to meet at the coffeeshop to la kopi, while asking them to work together to build a better future, in the same breath.
Their energy is so infectious that we dare you not to smile, watching them.
Singapore got no talent… says who?
7. Home, again
There’s no local act that’s been as successful as The Sam Willows in recent times, and they proved just why with this modern, heartfelt, and some would say hipster, take on Singapore’s favourite NDP song.
Complete with aching violin strains and a bright, folksy melody, the band managed to make the song their own, leading to some fans even requesting for them to perform it at the parade – which they duly did the very next year, in 2015.
Once more with feeling – Singapore got no talent… says who?