NDP songs: time to call it quits?

If you’re like me, your social media feeds from last week were inundated with wave after wave of people making fun of the latest NDP song, “One Singapore”. To be honest, I thought some of the comments were quite harsh, but also really funny. I mean, parts of the song really do sound like someone went out of their way to make the cheesiest song possible:

Some of my friends even when so far as to wonder if we really need a new song every year; if it’s only going to be mocked and criticised, why not stick with the ones that people really like?

Even Dick Lee, who wrote the NDP songs for 1998 (Home) and 2002 (We Will Get There) has said so in the past: “It’s like Christmas carols. Every year people only sing it once and all they want to sing are the old songs. Do we need a new one every year?”

I understand that having a new NDP song is by now something of a tradition, much like people singing “Happy Birthday” at birthday parties. But if every time people openly laughed at whoever sang “Happy Birthday”, we’d stop singing it, wouldn’t we?

It’s almost as if the making fun part has become its own tradition!

Anyway, let’s talk about the new tune… or shall we rap about it? (Sorry, I couldn’t resist)

Even before its official release, the leaked track had already triggered much undesirable online bashing. The Straits Times suggested the song was akin to “a national disaster”, and reported that it was being blasted for being “worse than last year’s Fun Pack Song”.

Other netizens called it “on par or even ‘better’ than Rebecca Black’s Friday”, “horrid” and “jialat”, “your auntie and uncle trying to be ‘hip’ and ‘cool’”, “cheesy” and “childish”.

Well, there is no such thing as bad publicity right?

Songwriter and Dream Academy owner Selena Tan doesn’t seem at all flustered by the criticism, saying that music is subjective and that even she has songs she likes and dislikes.

To her credit, it couldn’t have been easy to write lyrics that haven’t been done a hundred times before while coordinating local music director Elaine Chan and a team of 68 everyday Singaporeans from all walks of life (known as the Sing A Nation choir).

Hard work is hard work and should be recognised as such regardless of the catchiness of the end product.

And the song does have its supporters!

Also sympathetic were some of the past contributors of NDP songs.

Dave Tan from local band Electrico pointed out that “the public needs to realise that the final representation of the song can be nowhere near what the artist produced due to a lot of red tape and many rounds of fine-tuning. The authorities also have to recognise that people have the necessary sophistication and maturity to appreciate music so the songs don’t get dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.”

Local musician Kevin Lester also agreed with Dave’s sentiment. “I think the composer (of ‘One Singapore’) would have got it spot on if it was for a National Day theatre show. But for a National Day theme song to be judged on its own, I think they need to cater to what the public wants.”

So just what does the public want?

Some of the haters have actually called for a return of classics like “Stand Up For Singapore”, “Count On Me Singapore” and “We Are Singapore”.

While I remember those tunes fondly from childhood, I think they’d need some heavy and skilled remixing to fly in this day and age.

My favourite was actually Electrico’s “What Do You See?” in 2009, but that’s because I liked Electrico to begin with and Indie music is right up my alley.


I thought it was very progressive of us to have a Coldplay-inspired-sounding NDP song, but even those catchy riffs had their detractors and earned an apt spoof by Mr. Brown—LEKUASIMI (translated “what do you see?” in Hokkien). I guess the song title was begging for it.

“What Do You See?” was also criticised for not mentioning Singapore enough…

You can’t please everybody, really—too much national identity and it’s called cheesy, too little national reference and they’re also not happy.

Anyhow, several musicians have gone and recorded their own versions of One Singapore instead of just complaining about it.

Here are some acoustic and ballad renditions of the campy show choir tune.

This one is by Tan Siling of The Animal Parade…

This one is by Eli T. from New York…

And this is a cover by Pitch Fever…

Since these actually sound pretty good, I’m inclined to agree that the problem is not with the song itself but with the arrangement—as one blogger cleverly remarks. I won’t deny that the video might have also made it worse…

And finally, here’s what Stephen Chow thinks of this year’s National Day song. Bravo!

About the author

Rizal Azlan

View all posts

Share your thoughts!