2015 – THE YEAR SINGAPORE ENGLISH POP RECLAIMED MAINSTREAM STATUS?

image001SamWillowsTakeHeartTrick

There were three emails from major labels that I received in this past week that indicates that Singapore English pop may just be turning a significant corner. Three releases from Singapore bands that have already made an impact on a pop fan base in Singapore. That is something that has not happened since… the 1960s and the 1990s?

Granted, there is not much rock ‘n’ roll evident from the new batch of popstars-in-waiting but perhaps that is a reflection of the audience’s taste more than anything else. In any case, what we have are three singles viz. “Sixty Five” by Gentle Bones, “Take Heart” from The Sam Willows and Trick’s “Some Girls” with their obligatory accompanying videos. So let’s take a look, shall we?

First off, Gentle Bones’ “Sixty Five” is a musical tie-in to the upcoming 1965 movie and is rather downbeat and dramatic amidst its lush orchestration. The video matches the somewhat sombre mood showcasing obtuse dancing and moody lighting, capturing the tone well. Look out for a cameo from producer Leonard Soosay (with cat).

Next, The Sam Willows’ “Take Heart” emphasises all the manifest strengths of this lively quartet with the video deftly highlighting energetic dancers as the song’s hybrid hipster folk/EDM hedges all bets well enough. With its bright rainbow colours, it’s seems to provide an interesting counterpoint to the Gentle Bones’ video. Coincidence or design? Mm??

Finally, “Some Girls” finds Trick hoping to emulate their American hip-hop cousins with some T&A and risque lyrics. Somewhat daring by staid Singapore standards, at least one cannot accuse Trick of not trying to provide a visual representation of the song itself. Considering how popular hip-hop is worldwide, it’s a commendable effort.

Watch the video

Taken in the context of mainstream pop, these singles can stand up to anything out there and hopefully with a certain amount of marketing muscle from the major labels involved, these pop star hopefuls will become household names in Singapore and beyond!

… still there’s more … 

SAVING THE SINGAPORE MUSIC SCENE 2015

rock-n-roll

The recently concluded All That Matters conference (which includes Music Matters) once again brought music industry stalwarts and luminaries to Singapore, a city notoriously unfriendly towards its own music industry. It’s always eye-opening for a Singapore indie artist like myself to appreciate the sheer size of the global music industry even though it’s no longer what it was say twenty years ago.

And whilst, the music industry has always been Western-centric, that is slowly changing as Asia begins to assert itself strongly as a consumer base and down the line as content creators and drivers. But unlike USA and Europe, Asia is not culturally homogenous music-wise and to this day, the industry is trying to make sense of the Asian market. This dilemma is exacerbated for Singapore where we have neither quantity nor quality of audience to justify any kind of attention from the global players.

And this point was hammered home by none other than Sandy Monteiro, (President, Universal Music South East Asia), who at the Music Matters Academy could barely hide his disdain for Singapore music artists. Don’t waste time if you haven’t got what it takes to be a successful music artist was his message. Go back to your day job, in other words, if you haven’t got what it takes!

But seriously, can you blame Monteiro for having this negative attitude towards Singapore music artists? From his corporate music perspective, it’s all about bottom line and results, especially in these challenging times. The fact that his label only signed Gentle Bones because of a grant from the Economic Development Board (EDB) was particularly telling. But fair play to Monteiro for admitting that he had never heard of Gentle Bones until the hits starting appearing at #1 on the iTunes Charts. I found his candour and straight talking at once disturbing and refreshing but exactly the sort of bitter pill needed to wake up our moribund music scene!

So it’s no point for Singapore indie artists to whine about how major labels ignore them. The goal is to create a viable mainstream of Singapore music so that an alternative can thrive. By whatever means necessary! So yes, it’s fantastic that the EDB is incentivising major labels so that the likes of The Sam Willows, Trick, Sezairi (SONY) and Reuby (Warners) can be at the forefront of a new Singapore pop mainstream. Add to this THELIONCITYBOY at BMBX and of course, Gentle Bones at Universal and we have the beginnings of something new and something different in Singapore!

(Kudos again to Branded Ltd for making all this possible!)

… still there’s more …