S-Pop Hurray!

What do songs like 《我要的幸福》, 《假面的告白》, 《天黑黑》, 《你知不知道》, 《木乃伊》 and 《一人一半》 have in common? Well, if you didn’t already catch the hint from the title, these songs were written by Singaporeans. While we constantly listen to Mandarin Pop, it is seldom that we recognize and remember the songwriters. While we probably know the Li brothers and Lin Junjie, there are also “quieter” songwriters like Xiao Han, Wu Jiahui and Huang Yinren who ply their trade successfully in the competitive music scene in Taiwan.

So S-Pop Hurray was probably conceived to tell the masses about Singaporean music or rather, music created by Singaporeans. There is a slight difference which you’ll understand later. At the same time, it was also to coincide with a national-level songwriting contest to discover new talent and new creations. And yes, I’m thinking there is a greater power who is pulling all stops to promote S-Pop.

So I was on assignment yet again with youth.sg to cover S-Pop Hurray. The programme started with an introduction of all the artistes who will be performing in the 4-and-a-half-hour long live recording. There were plenty of the hot-at-this moment artistes as well as those who were all nearly forgotten until their names were mentioned. Some that had moved on to business arenas, others to teaching and journalism.

The programme proper started off with a good dose of nostalgia with Deng Miaohua singing an old SBC drama serial theme song. For the uninitiated, SBC was the former name of TCS, which in turn was the former name of MediaCorp. Deng was probably one of the first popular local artistes from Singapore thanks to drama serial theme songs. At the that time, the likes of the young Li brothers were still schooling along with contemporaries like Zheng Zhanlun. It was the same recording company that Deng was under that discovered the Li brothers’ songwriting talent in the beginning. The twins then went on to write many other drama serial theme songs.

Next introduced were the works of Liang Wenfu. To describe him as a songwriter would be an understatement. Liang’s lyrics resonated many aspects of life in Singapore with songs like 《我的朋友 我的同学 我最爱的一切》and 《太多 太多》. The former being a song about friendships and school life and the latter being song that complains of too much of everything. Perhaps predictably, only《我的朋友 我的同学 我最爱的一切》was performed by Wu Qing Kang, yet another pioneer in the Xinyao movement. One notable thing on stage during his performance was the use of the “in-house” back-up dancers that was as cheesy as the days of the old television.

While still on Wu Qing Kang, it was surprising that he had won an award at a prominent Taiwanese song writing competition for a single he composed. As the programme progressed, there would be many of these snippets to “unconsciously” remind us that Singapore got talent.

Right after Wu Qing Kang came Zheng Zhanlun, yet another long-lost singer from the 80’s. It turns out that he had left the entertainment circle to tend to his businesses back then. Now he’s specially back to perform his hit song from then, 《我用真心添满你的孤单》. Zheng was also one of the small group of local musicians involved in the Xinyao movement during the 80’s.

Perhaps it would take more than just a few works to convince audience that the genre of S-Pop exists. So specially brought in from Taiwan are Chinese music’s heavyweights like Xiao Chong, Yang Qian as both had took local talents under their wings. One had commented that he was touched by the local flavours in our Singapore-written songs. I guess that’s an important tip for all aspiring musicians – maintain the local flavour!

Which brings us to showcase some successful songwriters from Singapore. Namely, Huang Yinren, Wu Jiahui and Xiao Han. Based in Taiwan, the three of them some of the successful but relatively unknown songwriters from Singapore. Probably with exception of Wu Jiahui, who’s is hot locally at the moment for the 881 hit, 一人一半.

What makes an effective songwriter? The trio answered that a well-written song should be visual and connected to its audience. How? Well, I can’t be sure, I don’t write songs.

Wu and Huang then took the stage with 一人一半, to which the audience clapped to the beat. Somehow songs with Hokkien origins are very popular here. Stefanie Sun had 天黑黑, now this…

The show then whisks the audience back again to the era of Xinyao with Ah Ben, Ah Ben and 我们这一班 (originally by Xu Huanliang and his band) performed by Project Superstar finalists. Like all good shows that talks about past, present and future, the producers managed to find incriminating video footage of the much younger Xu Huanliang with flowing locks of hair, a sharp contrast with his bald pate today. Best of all, he was performing together with Eric Moo in bad English! If you need to see those early days, you must watch the show on TV!

Also on stage reminiscing their early songwriting days were Eric Moo, Li Feihui and Wu Jiaming. The bunch of them shared a flat and often sang late into the night with their guitars, sometimes earning applause from their neighbours. They joked that Eric was the more successful among them because he was the only one presentable enough for television, and subsequently had to be the “breadwinner”, earning measly sums of money for every TV appearance. Eric also revealed that one of his early songs was about that period where they bunked together and shared everything, particularly a vest he always wore for performances.

Thereafter, Eric Moo took the stage to sing and talk about his long musical journey. He shared how his first song came about after listening to a Hong Kong singer’s simple but beautiful lyrics. Why couldn’t the local scene produce good works like that? He thought he needed to prove that Singaporeans could come up with quality works and subsequently wrote his first song. At that time, songs were simpler, reflecting the simpler way of life in Singapore. These songs were about life in Singapore, and thus gave birth to Xinyao. Unlike music today, this genre did not set out to sell albums. Instead, it was meant to prove that we can write and sing.

It is apparent that these early musicians started out humbly, a contrast from music school trained artists of today.

Li Feihui then joined him for a few more songs before taking over and bringing in his students to perform his most memorable songs, 等你等到我心痛 and 说走就走.

The pioneers and the new talents sharing the stage played up the notion of the old bridging to the new. Different generations sharing a common passion. The contrast of the new and old musicians also showed how they had progressed throughout the years. While it wasn’t moving in leaps and bounds, it was steadily moving forward.

It is with much credit to the pioneers in the industry that our new artists can successfully break into the ultra-competitive market. They proved to Taiwan that there are discoveries of talents and potential to be made in Singapore, such as Kelly Poon who emerged from Project Superstar.

Consequently, the show moved the spotlight to the industry today, Lin Junjie shared the stage with his mentors Xu Huanliang and Xiao Chong to share about his road to success in the industry. Unsurprisingly, the subject was on the necessity of multiple talents to be successful. JJ’s reply was that The JJ fan club went absolutely wild at the appearance of their idol performing his piece on piano.

And then an up-tempo number.

The show then moved on to showcase our local bands. First up was 迷路兵 (Milo Peng?), the product of Project Super Band. Honestly, I could hardly hear their singing with all their loud music. There wasn’t really a follow up interview with them, so the show moved on to 梦飞船, Dreamz FM.

Dreamz FM only released one album as a band. One single, 不值得 became a runaway hit solely viral marketing online and reached as far as China, where the band never set foot on for publicity. They only came to realise it when one of them noticed their song being played as background music in a restaurant. Thereafter, they sort of went into obscurity. Dreamz FM unfortunately, was a tragedy of bad timing. A month before their album release in Taiwan, the 921 Earthquake sent the country into a different state of mind, relegated entertainment to the lowest priority. Album sales consequently suffered. Around the same time, the boss at their record company passed away, diverting all attention away from the band. When asked if they’ll make a comeback, their response was, “only if we have support from the audience.”

The show then moved on to yet another nostalgic segment paying tribute to Liang Wenfu, with singers that either haven’t appeared for the longest time or crossed over to other realms.

I have to say that I would likely have forgotten names like Pan Ying and Hong Shao Xuan if not for their performances their unique voices as they delivered Liang’s compositions. Hong in particular had a really unique voice that was near Fei Yuqing’s.

Another memorable voice from the Xinyao era was Huang Hong Mo, who sang his songs with gusto. You could describe that his works has a very strong folksy flavour to them, which melded beautifully with his singing technique. He performed 野人的梦 much to the audiences’ delight as they “hey-ed” to the beat of the song. Perhaps, you could even say that Huang has his own genre that might be called S-Folk. Needless to say, he and his music stood out during the Xinyao era.

Nostalgia went into overdrive as the following segment showcased old TV drama theme songs. (For anyone who would like a fix of those oldies, tune in to Channel 8 in the late evenings. Everything then is still entertaining even with minimalistic production) Cai Lilian performed her song that is permanently etched in every Singaporean’s heart, 关怀方式.

Followed by Jeff Wang and his song, 最高点 for that-show-about-Christopher-Lee’s-bleached-hair.

Last in the TV Drama segment was Deng Miaohua performing 温柔的夜, a hit theme song from an 80’s local TV drama.

Whenever we talk about Singaporean songwriters, the Li Brothers stand out. The twins started out locally, writing songs for TV serials. Xiao Chong saw the potential in molding the twins into an image of two multi-talented and suave brothers and brought them into his company to polish them. (For actual shots of their image then, watch the show!) Much credit has to be given to this mentor as the brothers cemented their talent and place in the music industry.

Together, the twins wrote hit songs for Jackie Cheung (你知不知道) and Jolin Tsai (假面的告白) as well as our very own Stefanie Sun (我要的幸福,天黑黑). As a special delivery, the twins co-composed a tune specially for the host Quan Yifeng, which very much proved that she was indeed musically challenged as she always claimed.

Their compositions were then performed by Project Superstar finalists.

With established songwriters introduced, interviewed and showcased, the show brought on Eric Moo yet again. As mentioned before, Eric Moo was one of the first Singaporean to successfully break into Taiwan. This time on stage, he performed works that established his place in Taiwan, namely, 爱那么痛 and 太傻. The recording for the second song brought an awkward silence to the whole theatre as he never started singing. He then requested that his original track be used instead. He reasoned that it was a particularly special song that he would demand to deliver with his original track so as not to shortchange the audience. The nervous silence was only broken thanks to the quick thinking by Quan Yifeng commenting that she must have mixed up her horrible karaoke disc with Eric’s. Thereafter the recording resumed.

After the solo performance, Lin Junjie came on stage much to the delight of his rabid fans. He would perform with Eric for 你是我的唯一 unplugged, with the latter on his guitar.

The piece was quite magical. It was a moment of the new coming together with the old and creating something familiar yet remarkably different. The duet was more about succession and hope in S-Pop, of continuity for a genre of music that we can call our very own and it took over four hours to convey that thought.

The stage was then passed over to Chen Weilian, the visually handicapped winner of Project Superstar. I guess the producers of the show are still riding on the message of hope, especially when he was the perfect poster boy against all odds after winning the contest. Subconsciously encouraging people not to be limited by their environment or disabilities and take a leap of faith for their passion in music.

Finally, JJ comes back on stage yet again to perform a medley of his songs as well as S-Pop Hurray’s theme. But before that the hosts requested for JJ to perform beatboxing, imitating drums, bass and even an er-hu. It most definitely pleased the fan club especially since they got to see their idol showing off his many talents for free at one sitting.

Oh, just in case I missed out, JJ is the ambassador of S-Pop Hurray, that’s why he’s performing the theme song.

The 4-hour performance recording effectively took the audience through Singapore’s musical journey. While what we see on stage and TV are the successes that only came along with lots of hard work. For me, the bring home is a renewed attitude to take notice of Singaporean works and artists, and then to take action to support their works.

So remember to catch S-Pop Hurray! on Monday, 26 November, 7pm on Channel U

Support local artists!

(official website: http://spop.mediacorptv.sg/)

By the way, I have been nominated for ping.sg’s blog awards, running for The Best Photoblog and Best Photo Post. If you liked what you’ve found on my blog, please take a moment to vote for bLog by Pixels. Thanks!

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