Jul 19, 2013

    Count on S'poreans for National Day songs

    Foreign Editor

    EVERY year, Singaporeans participate collectively in an annual exercise that ignites their patriotic passions and showcases their talent...for complaining (or, some say, constructive criticism).

    I'm not talking about the National Day Parade per se, but the now-familiar litany of jeers and derisive comments rained on the National Day theme songs, which seems to have reached a crescendo this year.

    This year's song, composed by National Day Parade (NDP) 2013's music director, Ms Elaine Chan, with lyrics written by creative director Selena Tan, has been put through the online wringer.

    A sample of the "feedback" on the Internet that can be printed in a newspaper includes:

    "If there are earworms, then this is its pesticide," said a netizen with the username Darren Lee 39.

    "The sound of a nation trying desperately to sound hip and cool. Yo," netizen Ilkanta quipped.

    "Just sing the same songs for heaven's sake, why do we need to keep reinventing our songs?" lamented one known as Edwin Heng.

    Is it really that bad? I will leave you to judge for yourself. Musical taste is, after all, subjective.

    While the song, titled One Singapore, lacks the polish that a generation bred on K-pop and Beyonce seems to expect, is there a need to disparage a home-grown creation like this?

    In a uniquely Singaporean way, I think many people are demonstrating their patriotism with this mass display of outrage.

    If they didn't relate to the NDP, and did not feel that the theme song was part of our national identity, they would hardly be so effusive with their emotions (which we, as the most emotionless country in the world, is in short supply of).

    We have also been vocal in singing the praises of unofficial efforts such as "I still love you", a National Day-themed video produced by a group of hobbyists that went viral last year.

    Among the stings and barbs for this year's song, there are some suggestions: From bringing back the old classics - most notably Kit Chan's Home (1998) - to submitting a petition to can it altogether.

    On a more positive note, a few have said that we should have a song-writing competition for the theme song next year.

    There were netizens who wrote that they were from the music industry, and, despite their scorn for this year's effort, at least one offered his services to the NDP team.

    This year's song is already partly a ground-up effort, being performed by Sing A Nation, a choir made up of 68 Singaporeans who won their places through two rounds of auditions.

    Why not go all the way and have a competition for the theme song itself? Not only will this silence the cacophony of criticisms, but it may also unearth creative talent that we never knew we had.

    National Day is a birthday celebration for the nation, but most citizens are usually the audience - cheering, and - in this case - jeering, from the stands.

    In this age of crowdsourcing, I think Singapore should be able to count on us to create songs that we - one people, one nation and one Singapore - can all be proud of.