The 2018 NDP theme song is out. And normally, I reserve my thoughts about arts and music to myself and those closer around me because I claim no authority on these matters. But there is a certain excitement in my heart after watching the music video as I begin to discover why I like the refreshing honesty it presents.
I cannot help but see how Charlie Lim’s self-penned introduction in this remade version of ‘We are Singapore’ captures the zeitgeist of today especially in the first 4 lines, which generates the emotional connection necessary to make the last 3 lines genuine, a sincere call to action. I want to reproduce it here:
How many times have you heard them say
The future is uncertain and everything must change
Well, all of my worries and all of my fears
Begin to lose their weight, when I hold you near
If all that we are is what we believe
Then I know I’ve got to be the change I want to see
How easy we forget everything takes time
No, nothing’s ever perfect, I still call you mine
As a matter of fact, even as we criticise and complain about the country, as we travel and learn to appreciate the cleanliness, tidiness, the sense that everything just works here in Singapore, we ought to see some of those worries and fears fade away. Not in that complacent way that we once (sort of) had, but in the manner where we restore some faith in ourselves.
In contrast, Hugh Harrison’s original introduction has it reversed, where it ramps up to a high note from a low one; which of course also reflects the zeitgeist of the late 1980s. It speaks of a confidence that we have attained after two decades of nation-building and significant growth.
There was a time, when people say that
Singapore won’t make it, but we did
There was a time, when trouble seems
Too much for us to take, but we did
We build a nation, strong and free
Reaching out together
For peace and harmony
One may be tempted to put them together and say it illustrates how much we have ‘declined’ in terms of the confidence of our attitude and tone, our perspectives towards the future. But I’d rather say we have moved on towards maturity where we now no longer struggle with the same nation-budding issues but one of an established country. Where our diversity challenges now extends beyond race or religion to wealth and/or income inequality, social classes. Where our success have brought some of our capacities (such as transport infrastructure) to its limits.
Finally, in the NDP 2018 Theme Song music video, there’s also a sense of partnership between citizens and the government. It is brought out subtly through the ordinariness of the images, the people (with a diversity that extends beyond our traditional social constructs of the various groups). The simple reverberations of ‘We are Singapore’ do away with the intentional political correctness of heavily criticised NDP theme songs over the past decade. Political correctness tends to inject a subtle atmosphere of government towering over citizens and silently observing in the background, ready to pounce at any infraction. I’m really excited that we are a nation moving on from that.