Who doesn't listen to music from streaming platforms these days? With '80s and '90s Pop ruling the radio airwaves, it's tough to discover new music in Singapore. Hence, music buffs turn to digital music services like Apple Music and Spotify for the latest jams and curated music playlists.
But with countless new tracks vying for your attention constantly, it's hard to keep track of the best new music. Welcome to Mixtape Mondays, a curated recommendation of three new songs each week by the Esquire Singapore team that will help you maximize your listening time. Only the best sounds. So stay woke and press play.
Week of 17 May
'Gone' — Jorja Smith
Loss results in laments and regrets. On Jorja Smith's returning anticipated EP Be Right Back, the British soul singer-songwriter mourns a lost love. This lush electro-tinged bluesy single features Smith's stirring vocals backed by a velvety piano loop and glitchy drum beats that certainly expressed passion and pain.
“There’s something about being able to write about one thing and for it to mean so many different things to others,” Smith said of this song via a press statement. “I love that this song, well any of my songs really, will be interpreted in different ways, depending on the experiences of the people listening. This one is just me asking why people have to be taken from us.”
In addition, Smith spoke about the inspirations behind her recently-released EP. “It’s called [Be Right Back] because it’s just something I want my fans to have right now. This isn’t an album and these songs wouldn’t have made it. If I needed to make these songs, then someone needs to hear them too.”
'Motorbike' — Leon Bridges
Bonnie and Clyde—but make it on two wheels. Texas-born American soul musician Leon Bridges achieved this with the help of pal Anderson .Paak. The latter directed the music video for Bridges' newest single 'Motorbike', which is included in his upcoming album Gold-Diggers Sound. Curious? It showcased the sepia-toned R&B track on background while engaging in an intense relationship.
“The inception of the song started with this afrobeat-type instrumental that my homeboy Nate Mercereau made,” Bridges said of 'Motorbike' in a press statement. “Prior to the session, I was in Puerto Rico for my 30th with some of my best friends, and the energy of that trip totally inspired this song. ‘Motorbike’ is about living in the moment and escaping with someone. It’s the personification of that unspoken chemistry you have with that person. A special thank you to my man Anderson .Paak for the stunning visuals.”
The new album was named after the Los Angeles studio Bridges recorded in. “I spent two years jamming in what often felt like a musician’s paradise,” Bridges said. “We effortlessly moved from the dance floor to the studio. We would be finishing our tequilas at 10:00 a.m. and waking up with coffee and getting to work at 10:00 p.m. It was all for the love of R&B and musicianship. This is my most sensual and confident album to date and I cannot wait to unleash it.”
'I Can't Sleep' — YAØ
Insomnia is indeed real. There are various reasons that induce it but most usually caused by stress and anxiety. Universal Music Singapore's newest artist signee YAØ addresses everyday anxiety with this soulful ode. In addition to being the first single from his upcoming album, Broke Pop Kids, the multi-talented singer-songwriter and self-producer wrote this 'anthem to sleepless souls' as a form of necessary self-care.
“I think, sometimes, it’s important to take that frustration and put it into something more positive,” YAØ says, “like taking care of oneself and appreciating the simple things in life.”
Accompanying this lush track is a music video directed by Jasper Tan of Vadbibes. In detail, the visual diary depicts YAØ through the night, moving with a shuffling drum ‘n’ bass heartbeat between the relentless game of seeking connection and the dire need for rest.
“We are all influenced by worldly things that distract us from being able to find peace,” explained YAØ. “On top of that, we are surrounded by a very status and money-driven lifestyle here in Singapore. I think that’s one main reason why I decided to write this song as well: to highlight this problem that’s happening in our society.”
Week of 10 May
'One Breath' — Empress Of
It's important to keep on breathing. But take deep breaths whenever possible. Alt-pop musician Empress Of aka Lorely Rodriguez conveys this message with a new song released as part of the Sound It Out youth mental health campaign. In addition to focusing on education around discussing mental health with young people, this campaign also provides a voice to real-life experiences faced by teens.
'One Breath' was made in with a 14-year-old Honduran-American teenager Marianne, who incorporated her experiences into the song's lyrics and creation. In a behind-the-scenes video, Rodriguez and Marianne spoke about how it feels to be pulled between two different cultures. "What I felt like as a kid," Rodriguez says, "I would go to school and it would be a totally different life. You're American, and then you come home, and you're Honduran."
'Lights Up' (feat. Channel Tres) — Flight Facilities
Been awhile, Flight Facilities. The Australian electronic production duo, best known for 'Crave You', is back with a glistening mirrorball-esque disco number featuring American rapper-singer Channel Tres. Aptly titled 'Lights Up', the mood sets up with "some 90’s and 00’s elements to give the song its own character", Flight Facilities mentioned in a press statement.
Furthermore, the duo praised Tres' punchy refrain of "got the whole city blowin' up" and that "his voice has a magical ability to make songs that are made for strutting."
'Jupiter' — KHAi
Always look on the bright side of life, and love. But Singapore-based Alternative-Folk Pop singer-songwriter KHAi heads towards the solar system instead. An uptempo jam that embodies an emotional rollercoaster, KHAi expresses a blend of impulse and obsession that comes with newfound infatuation.
“I know I write a lot about love, but my understanding of it changes each time. I would know that I did it right when people who listen to this track feel the awkwardness and conflict that has been displayed so clearly, but are still able to bop along to it”, KHAi explains.
Week of 3 May
'Daniel' — Will Young
Song covers are convenient to perform but rarely do they best the original. Will Young's 'Daniel' is a exception. The original Pop Star winner certainly delivers a passionate and sensitive rendition that'll do Bat For Lashes' Natasha Khan proud.
Recorded as the first single from his upcoming Crying on the Bathroom Floor LP that sees him working with Richard X again (after Lexicon), this album is a covers-only project which features songs from alt-pop musicians.
In a press note, Young says: “I’ve always enjoyed singing other people’s songs. There is a liberation to it. It’s how I feel when I approach a script. I have reverence for the piece of art and the artist who created it…”
“After 18 years of recording and performing a lot of original material, I loved the idea of creating an album that celebrates some of the modern female artists I so admire in pop. In today’s times it’s so much easier and accepted to occupy other genders, ideas and explore new avenues. I wanted to understand what it might be like to sing their lyrics; a song about a boy called Daniel; crying on the bathroom floor, feeling like Elizabeth Taylor. This is not a covers album as such, well certainly not in the standard way. I wanted to bring songs from female artists who I admire into a new arena. I wanted to work with Richard X again and create a true pop record.”
'Please' — Jessie Ware
Can we 'please' declare that disco is here to stay? Jessie Ware keeps on dancing into 2021 with a deluxe edition of her critically-acclaimed 2020 smash What's Your Pleasure?. We wished it's an entire b-sides album instead ala Carly Rae Jepsen's Side B efforts but this is a consolation.
Produced by Simian Mobile Disco’s James Ford (Midas touch!) and co-written by Ware with Ford, Shungudzo, and Danny Parker, the single has a bouncy bassline that pairs with glistening synths.
“‘Please’ is full of optimism and ready to be played in a place where we can all be together and flirt, dance, touch, and kiss,” Ware said in a press statement.
'summer boy' — lewloh
Seasons come and go, but memories remain intact. You can't erase them, only reminisce. Local singer-songwriter lewloh penned a confession to pass lover for his first music release in 2021. This retrospective tune is filled up with his emotional vocal delivery through his vulnerable experience.
“I wrote ‘summer boy’ thinking about the finite time you had with someone, and wishing you were easy-going whilst you were in that relationship,” says Loh, as he laments the could-haves and should-haves of relationships past.
Week of 26 April
'Save Your Tears (Remix)' — The Weeknd & Ariana Grande
Although The Weeknd had conquered both radio and pop music charts with the original 'Save Your Tears', Ariana Grande lends her vocals for a remix to this breakup 80s synthpop-influenced track. Both The Weeknd and Grande are certainly no strangers to collaborating with each other. From My Everything's 'Love Me Harder' to Positions' 'off the table' (both on the latter's album), it's now Grande's turn to harmonize with The Weeknd on this glitzy remix of the After Hours track.
In the accompanying animated video directed by Jack Brown and produced by Blinkink, The Weeknd sports in his trademark red suit and sunglasses of his After Hours character that engineering an AI which looked unmistakably like Grande.
'He Said She Said' — CHVRCHES
Words kill, especially when served from a sharp tongue. CHVRCHES' frontwoman and lead singer Lauren Mayberry gathers nasty statements made by men and exposed challenges women faced in society, mansplaining in particular on this power-packed anthem.
“‘He Said She Said’ is my way of reckoning with things I’ve accepted that I know I shouldn’t have,” Mayberry explained. “Things I pretended weren’t damaging to me. It was the first song we wrote when we started back up, and the opening line (‘He said, You bore me to death’) was the first lyric that came out. All the verse lines are tongue-in-cheek or paraphrased versions of things that have actually been said to me by men in my life. Being a woman is fucking exhausting and it felt better to scream it into a pop song than scream it into the void. After the past year, I think we can all relate to feeling like we’re losing our minds.”
'Next Betta Player (feat. Gayle Nerva)' — Nat Ho
Never stop learning and being a personal best seems to be Nat Ho's goal these days. On the local multi-hyphenate artist's latest music single, it's all about empowering oneself to find a self-accepting tribe or homies who understands each other. Ho co-wrote this 8-bit retro-tinged pop-jazz song with Grammy-nominated Singapore producer-songwriter Tat Tong, and also features singer-actress Gayle Nerva who provides a guest verse.
“‘Next Better Playa’ was written at a place where I was becoming very intentional about my friendships and relationships, about who I wanted to work with or allow into my life,” Ho said. “The fact of the matter is, in this game of life, it is near-impossible to play solo, and whoever we choose to team up with matters.”
Week of 19 April
'Purge The Poison' — MARINA
We are our own worst enemies. This saying is entirely true. The human race definitely played a part and is responsible for global warming acceleration. Thus MARINA decides to tap her influence and develop awareness through her music. 'Purge The Poison' is a guitar-motivated alternative pop-rock anthem that warns about capitalism but still hopeful of healing ourselves.
Including this single and 'Man's World', the singer-songwriter has announced her fifth studio album Ancient Dreams in a Modern Land, will be released on 11 June. The self-penned new album also sees MARINA co-producing six tracks alongside songwriter/producer James Flanigan (Dua Lipa, Carly Rae Jepsen, Hayley Kiyoko) and GRAMMY Award-nominated producer/multi-instrumentalist Jennifer Decilveo (Andra Day, Bat For Lashes, Hinds).
'You' — Regard, Troye Sivan & Tate McRae
A 'Ministry of Sound'-backed release means this song is an electronic dance bop. BRIT Award nominee (for 'Secrets') Kosovan DJ and producer Regard roped in Troye Sivan and Canadian pop singer-songwriter Tate McRae for this euphoric 80s-inspired sultry jam.
Speaking on the new track, Regard says “I’m so excited that ‘You’ is finally being released! The entire song gives me wavy emotions with the angelic vocals from Tate and Troye”. McRae also added, “Collaborating with Troye and Regard was an amazing experience. It’s a totally different vibe than any of my usual songs, but still has the emotional and lyrical depth that I always try to write”.
'RISE' — Axel Brizzy
When reaching new heights is the goal, one certainly has to be focused. Rising Singaporean alternative rapper Axel Brizzy documents his drive to success and major challenges he faced over the past few years relating to both his career and personal life in this determined personal track. From the hearsay, unsubstantiated rumours to the existing shenanigans in the music industry, the musician doesn't let himself falter or be distracted from his ultimate goal.
He drew parallels between himself and the polarising characters of the popular TV show Game Of Thrones, the score of which producer FreMadeThis’ rousing instrumentals were partly inspired by.
Brizzy shared more about this song: “With the release of ‘RISE’, I feel a great sense of accomplishment and relief that I’m able to make a song like this. I’ve finally let out the bottled-up emotions that have been suppressed for way too long. Alongside FreMadeThis, who captured the vision so precisely, we made something raw, memorable, uncensored and brave”.
Week of 12 April
'Kiss Me More' (feat. SZA) — Doja Cat
We can declare that this song is 'fiiiiyyyyaaaah' and will definitely be a contender for the song of summer 2021. Doja Cat teased the song in an interview for V magazine's March issue with SZA as the interviewer. Including writing credits by Travis Scott collaborator Roger TK and Doja’s team of Yeti Beats, TK and Dr. Luke, this breezy yet sensual jam contain a disco groove that'll make it into any party or chillout TGIF playlists.
Its accompanying Warren Fu-directed visual music video broke the Internet with the help of Grey's Anatomy's Alex Landi. The actor's role as an Earthling astronaut crash lands in another galaxy where Doja Cat and SZA's at. Hint: Keep your eyes peeled for the unexpected cheeky ending.
'Starstruck' — Years & Years
Another summer song contender is Years & Years' 'Starstruck'. Now fronted solely by Olly Alexander, former bandmates Emre Türkmen and Mikey Goldsworthy will still be involved closely behind the scenes. A bright and energetic tune that'll incite dance, this (obvious) pop anthem channels positive vibes in such bleak times.
"‘Starstruck’ is about the rush you get when you’re with somebody you’re really into, it’s about holding onto a good feeling and not letting it go. Like most of us, I’ve spent the past year at home, and I wanted to create something super positive and fun for people (and myself) to bop along to. Whatever we’re doing or wherever we are in life, I think we all deserve three minutes of interstellar ecstasy”, Alexander described the track.
'day/dreams' & 'tears' — yams
It's rare to encounter Double A-side singles these days, but yams delivered ahead of his full album release. The promising Singaporean producer and singer-songwriter penned his viewpoint on the aftermath of awakening between reality and dreams into brooding rock jams with ‘day/dreams’ and ‘tears’.
While ‘day/dreams’ confront the rude awakening on being pragmatic and grounded faced by the protagonist, ‘tears’ look towards the future instead. The latter acts as a self-examination, a self-confession, and a self-confrontation centred around materialistic goals. It ends with a declaration of inherent self-worth where listeners are left to decide whether this reclamation is ultimately successful or simply self-deception.
Accompanying these singles is a short film, titled ‘day/dreams + tears’, directed by Koh Zhi Hao and Dynn Othman, two emerging Singapore filmmakers. The film depicts the story of a protagonist, stuck in an idyllic, saccharine sitcom environment. The peace of the sitcom is disrupted when the protagonist is attacked by the actor playing his wife in the sitcom, eventually forcing him back into reality, into a twisted domesticity.
The directors who conceptualized the video along with yams were eager to explore the image of Singaporean success which yams discuss in his music: stifling, competitive, narrow. They were inspired by the raw emotion of yams’ track, and the way his lyrics speak to the disillusioned Singapore youth.
Week of 5 April
'The Melting Of The Sun' — St. Vincent
Gearing up for her upcoming highly anticipated studio album in May, St. Vincent aka Annie Clark dropped another cut to tease listeners on the LP's vintage throwback sound. In contrast to first single 'Pay Your Way In Pain', 'The Melting Of The Sun' exhibits Clark's psychedelic soulful side.
The sepia-tone track pays homage to artists that inspired Clark, including Joni Mitchell and Marilyn Monroe. “People tried to quiet them when they were saying something that was righteous or true or hard to hear,” Clark said to Rolling Stone of the song. “[This song] in particular is a love letter to strong, brilliant female artists. Each of them survived in an environment that was in a lot of ways hostile to them.
Besides providing an accompanying animated lyric video portraying her as a shining sun on the horizon of an abstract ocean, Clark also performs this wistful single and 'Pay Your Way In Pain' over the weekend on SNL.
'Song To The Siren' — SOHN
Doing justice to an iconic track can be daunting. But London-based electronic and alternative R&B singer-songwriter SOHN carved out a brilliant rendition of Tim Buckley's 70s folk classic 'Song To The Siren'. Ethereal and haunting, this reimagined dark ballad layers uncanny electronics on cushy bass.
'Song To The Siren' appears in the fourth and final instalment of the Bills & Aches & Blues compilations, consisting of 18 tracks. The album showcased the label’s current artists covering a song of their choosing from 4AD’s past: a creative experiment rooted in the spirit of collaboration and a snapshot of 4AD, 41 years after its inception.
'honeymoon' — brb.
Nothing's forever. Even honeymoons are temporary. Describing the phase in a relationship when everything is amazing and perfect but things are probably never gonna be the same again after it ends, the brb. trio laments on their pensive latest release. This is also the first time that all 3 members of brb. are singing on the track!
"We wrote this track during circuit breaker and really produced almost all of it together over zoom calls and discord chat. We’re experimenting with adding more voices to our songs. If you listen close, you can hear Zie and me in there on the backing vocals", said Marc of the track. "It started with that simple 2 chord guitar loop, the beat built around that loop was pretty much just hip hop but all along I wanted to incorporate some chill reggae vibes in the song and that basically came to fruition in the outro section."
Zie recalled, "I remember this song was half and half meeting up and writing over zoom/discord. The 1st verse came first and it was a bit more 'playful'. Yeah, we wanted to recapture the feeling when we were all individually in our honeymoon phase."
"It’s about the inner doubts, the push and pulls and the inevitable decision of moving on or moving on", revealed Clarence.
Here's a heads-up. Stayed tuned for more brb. compositions as they are prepping for their EP slated to release around June 2021 and an upcoming EP launch in collaboration with the Esplanade.
Week of 29 March
'Keep Moving' — Jungle
Disco's certainly not going away, it seems. Sticking to their strengths (aka mirror-ball glossy glam beats), British songwriting and production duo Jungle prolongs the genre and continue to deliver floor-fillers with 'Keep Moving'. As the first single from their upcoming third full-length studio album Loving In Stereo, it definitely exudes a chill groove while maintaining a danceable rhythm.
The accompanying West Side Story-inspired video, directed by Jungle together alongside their longtime collaborator Charlie Di Placido, follows different groups of dancers through several areas of a building before joining forces for a coordinated dance number.
“Our focus was to create a collection of visuals where we developed the narratives of the characters throughout the whole piece, giving the audience a chance to form more emotional connections to these inspiring people,” Jungle’s Tom 'T' McFarland said in a press statement.
“We had always been inspired by West Side Story and the idea of two groups working together and in opposition at times,” Jungle’s Josh 'J' Lloyd-Watson continued. “We worked closely with two of the best up and coming choreographers in London, Nathaniel Williams and Cece Nama, who both have their own distinct styles. The fusing of these two styles created a whole new approach for us where style and movement could be fluid.”
'Heart Storm' (with Nao) — serpentwithfeet
Every now and then a gem will emerge from the ever-saturated budding musician pool. Thus, we're betting on Josiah Wise as that gem. Better known as serpentwithfeet, the Brooklyn-based experimental R&B/gospel vocalist recently made shockwaves with his excellent sophomore album DEACON to critical acclaimed. PS. We had it on an endless loop and didn't want to press stop. Definitely a contender for 'Album of the year' with his intricate and vulnerable compositions.
This resonant record's title derived from the position in the Christian church. “I wanted to create something that felt calm and restrained. This was my way of tapping into the energy many deacons possess,” Wise explained.
On his third single 'Heart Storm' featuring British avant-soul singer-songwriter Nao, this stunning electro-pop soul showcased both singers vocal chops via melodic chorals. “I love a little magical realism. In this song I’m saying that there is so much love and power every time me and my man unite, even the heavens rejoice", said Wise of the single. “Here, we welcome the storm.”
'Shadow' (re-recorded) — Electrico
Remember local alternative rock band Electrico? They are pioneers in Singapore's contemporary music scene and rightfully so with their iconic albums We Satellites (2008), Hip City (2006) and So Much More Inside (2004).
Reuniting again due to spontaneity, the trio’s original members—David Tan (vocals and lead guitar), Desmond Goh (bass guitar) and William Lim Jr (drums) band together to breathe new life into past underrated cuts from those albums. This EP collection, titled B-sides Live at the Power Station, features live production that includes contributions from keyboardist-arranger Jonathan Shin, guitarist Daryl Tay, and a chamber group, which comprises violinist David Loke, cellist Stella Wu, trombonist Erwin Tan and French hornist Luke Chong.
“Rerecording the 4 songs ('Shadow', 'Little Girl', 'Only Where We're Going', Fabled Angst Machine') allowed us to introduce a deeper side of the band, which is more mellow and mature than before,” says Goh. Tan adds, “Doing this recording got our creative juices flowing. It also geared us up for performing.”
The live performance videos from B-sides Live at the Power Station will progressively be released from now till 23 April on Electrico’s YouTube channel with 'Shadow' currently available for streaming.
Week of 15 March
'On The Ground' & 'Gone' — ROSÉ
It's about time ROSÉ got to flex her ethereal vocals with a solo effort. BLACKPINK's New Zealand-born main vocalist unveiled two English-language tracks. A surprise for some who thought she'll deliver in Korean instead, but also a smart move. Lead single 'On The Ground' features a modern arrangement of guitar strums and an EDM-inspired beat. This song sees ROSÉ reflecting on her life as a global K-pop superstar and she realises what really matters in her life already lies within herself.
"Basically the song is kind of about looking for answers in life for a purpose in life, and I feel like people especially these days, can relate to it, sometimes when you’re always kind of on that roll, you kind of forget to take care of what actually matters to you most, and it’s just a song that says everything we need is already within us. There’s no need to go out and look for it. […] I talked to somebody the other day and they were like, ‘I’m surprised you’re coming out with a song like this because I expected you to come out with a song that’s more like, related to love.’ But I think it’s a very powerful song and I’m just excited for my fans to hear and get something out of it", explained ROSÉ on RELEASED via YouTube.
B-side 'Gone' showcased her indie cred—melodic ingenuity and remarkable soulful vocals. In this song, ROSÉ remembers a lover that is no longer around and the pain she experienced because of them.
Mark our words. ROSÉ indeed has the makings of a successful vocal-focused idol soloist, following the footsteps of K-pop legend, SNSD's Taeyeon.
'Streets' (Disclosure remix) — Doja Cat
The power of TikTok isn't to be underestimated. Fuelled by the 'Silhouette Challenge' and using the original song as the backing soundtrack, the silky smooth 'Streets' went viral. In the song, she sings about her woes from a previously failed relationship in the first verse and details her reasons for returning to her partner in the second verse. In addition, tt samples the instrumental to the 2003 track titled “Streets Is Callin'” by the R&B band B2K. Hence, the song’s title name.
Prolonging its exposure, an official music video dropped alongside its release as a single. In addition, two remixes are also made for 'Streets'. We're diggin' Disclosure's dancier take of the track by layering bouncy house beats and club textures while still retaining the L.A. rapper's sensual conveyance.
'buttercup' — JENE x DSML
Inspired by Joe Goldberg’s psychopathic tendencies in the Netflix series You, David Siow aka Dark-Pop producer DSML enlists aspiring solo singer-songwriter Singapore JENE (the last 'e' is silent) to interpret such obsession. The song is written from the perspective of an obsessed stalker and its lyrics progress with intensity—from the simple act of people—watching to the eventual kidnapping—there is nothing short of creepy and exciting.
The symbolic buttercup also played a vital role in the eponymous-titled track. Traditionally known as a weed, the buttercup is a beautiful, yet toxic yellow flower that symbolises joy and playfulness.
In this case, what started out as plain curiosity quickly turns into an obsession as the victim 'weeds' into the stalker’s mind and 'poisons' them (ironically). The victim sparks joy in the stalker, and the stalker plays with the unwitting victim through planned run-ins and masked friendliness.
Week of 8 March
'Leave the Door Open' — Anderson .Paak, Bruno Mars as Silk Sonic
This comes as a surprise. Critically acclaimed musicians Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars teamed up to form Silk Sonic. Although the pair had toured together back in 2017, they have yet to collaborate. Until now.
The 70s-esque slow jam doubles down on the funk and showcased both artist's silky smooth vocals over a catchy groove. In the accompanying video, both .Paak and Mars performed the song and harmonising with a backing band.
Fun fact: According to a press release, funk legend Bootsy Collins (who will also be featured on their album) gave the duo their Silk Sonic Moniker. Little is know about the collaborative album An Evening With Silk Sonic but it is scheduled to release later this year.
'Pay Your Way In Pain' — St. Vincent
Moving on from the sleek hypermodern latex electronica of Masseduction and the acoustic-driven MassEducation, Annie Clark looks back in time for her upcoming LP Daddy's Home. Inspired by Clark's father's release from jail in 2019, the first single 'Pay Your Way In Pain' highlights Clark's own struggles in life.
It's not a St. Vincent track with some indie-rock influences. Clark managed to inject that with an updated mash of 70s glam guitar strums and 80s New Wave with frequent collaborator Jack Antonoff. Guaranteed chills at the track's ending where she declares, “I want to be loved”.
Aesthetic-wise, Clark forgoes the polished power visionary for a throwback vibe but still maintaining an assertive presence.
'A Day At A Time' — Gentle Bones & Clara Benin
Technology, indeed, improves lives. Singer-songwriters Gentle Bones and Clara Benin worked on their collaborative track 'A Day At A Time' entirely through online means. Written during the lockdown period in 2020, the pair, in Singapore and the Philippines respectively, connected with each other after an online invitation and proceed to compose this track digitally.
The mid-tempo wistful song exudes laid-back vibes and features both musicians' tender vocals. A perfect way to convey its meaning of encapsulating positivity during a difficult time and see the beauty of taking life a day at a time.
“We went through many WhatsApp conversations and calls, also a lot of large files being sent through the web. It’s my first experience working fully virtually and I loved it! Clara actually wrote many beautiful parts to the song which unfortunately couldn’t be squeezed into the final track”, Gentle Bones spoke on the experience of working entirely online.
Week of 1 March
'Bussifame' — Dawn Richard
You may know her as a former Danity Kane member, but Richard has since emerged from the mainstream archetypal with a pivotal experimental alternative R&B sound after going solo. 'Bussifame' comes with news of a new album Second Line: An Electro Revival, out April 30 on Merge Records.
On the track, Richard pays tribute to her New Orleans origins while staying true to her artistry—genre-bending. Starting off with elegant old-school jazz notes, the vibe morphs into a punchy electronic-soul banger. #WerkingIt
Richard explains the single's title via a press statement: "The term 'bussifame' is a nod to the way New Orleanians run our words together when we speak (“bust it for me”). 'Bussifame' is a dance anthem celebrating New Orleans second-line footwork and second-line culture; it’s a request to move your feet no matter where you are in the world. A pandemic won’t stop the parade!"
'I'm Every Woman' — Tinashe
Yes. It's THAT song by Chaka Khan and later covered by Whitney Huston too. How does one follow-up on both legends? Tinashe's version definitely can join their ranks while holding its own. The multi-talented musician flexed her melodic finesse that still respects both recognisable renditions. TOKiMONSTA also assists by producing a contemporary deep house cut that highlights Tinshe's silky vocals.
Tinashe tweeted, “As we transition from black history month to women’s history month, it felt like the perfect time to put my own spin on this ICONIC classic song.”
This cover is part of ESPN project The Undefeated’s Music for the Movement Vol. II, which also features Freddie Gibbs covering Gil Scott-Heron and Tobe Nwigwe covering Melvin & the Blue Notes.
'uRight' — ShiGGA Shay x Jay Park
Communication and compromise. Both are essential in any relationships—from love to collaborations. For ShiGGa Shay, it's all about emotion. “If you really loved the other person, it wouldn’t matter who’s right or who’s wrong in an argument", the Singaporean rapper reveals.
This upbeat song is one of the rare tunes in the rapper's music catalogue that fixates on love. Produced by superjdoug (UK) with additional production from OkayJJack (US), ShiGGa Shay also roped in Korean-American Hip-hop and R&B artist Jay Park to add verses when the latter was coincidentally also in LA for work.
The music video, shot by Jay Ahn (US) and edited by Director Fish, also features Park and filmed when he was in Singapore.
Week of 22 February
'Caution' — KAYTRANADA
Recently nominated for three GRAMMYs, the Haitian-Canadian electronic musician and producer works with TikTok for his newest song. This groovy disco number premiered on TikTok as part of the platform's Black History Month celebration.
Although purely a brief (but bouncy) instrumental track, it's catchy enough to get the party started and make users show their moves while filming content on TikTok. Yes, 'Caution' is available as a sound for users to blend into their videos with.
'Lonely Cactus' — Dami Im
If you haven't heard of The X Factor Australia winner and Eurovision runner-up before, boy, are you missing out. The voice behind megahits ‘Super Love’, ‘Gladiator’ and ‘Sound Of Silence’, is back with another punchy original song. Solitary yet self-reliant, this captivating guitar-led track written together with Bri Clarke and Andrew Burford (aka One Above) reveals a personal narrative via a bluesy tone.
“While I was working on promoting my last single ‘Paper Dragon’, I became obsessed with cacti. I really wanted to write a song about a cactus and it started off as an idea about myself. On one hand, I feel lonely and want to be around other people, and on the other hand, I quickly get annoyed and prickly around people and just want to be left alone. I took the idea to our writing session and we tweaked it to mean it's about a friend rather than myself because everyone knows someone who is that way”, Im explained the inspiration behind 'Lonely Cactus'
'Timeframe' — Iman Fandi
Iman Fandi can now add singer-songwriter to her resume. From modelling, acting, to being an athlete, the only daughter of famed National Soccer player Fandi Ahmad passion for music has come to fruition with the debut of 'Timeframe'. This chill R&B-pop composition (courtesy of producer Flightsch and engineer John Hanes) matches well with Fandi's glossy vocals.
“When I go through experiences, I record them in my head like in a diary”, Fandi revealed her songwriting process. "'Timeframe' is about never being able to have someone close to you for long enough. I travel and I meet new people, but I don't always see them again. The idea [behind the song] is a wish that that person and you could be in the same place at the same time”.
Week of 15 February
'We're Good' — Dua Lipa
Not since Mariah Carey's The Emancipation of Mimi that studio albums get multiple variants. But Dua Lipa has managed to achieve this feat with Future Nostalgia. Capitalizing on the success of this entire music era, the British pop sensation expanded the acclaimed album with a remixes compilation Club Future Nostalgia and now, Future Nostalgia (The Moonlight Edition).
Besides its original tracklist, this deluxe edition also features brand new tracks such as 'Prisoner', a collaboration with Miley Cyrus, 'Not My Problem' with JID and 'Un Día' with J Balvin, Bad Bunny and Tainy. And it spawned another single, 'We're Good'.
"I don't even know how you explain it or how you would start to describe what a song like that is", Lipa described the tropical dance track on Apple Music to Zane Lowe. "I think the content of the song is really interesting. It's having that amicable breakup that I think everybody kind of wants. It's like that clean break isn't lacking, move on. We're good. You can't be upset if I move on. I can't be upset if you move on."
The accompanying music video sees Lipa as a flapper-dressed singer (very Prada) on a passenger ship, and unfold a 'love story' between two lobsters which contains semiotic references from Salvator Dali and Sigmund Freud. There are also visual references to the 1997 blockbuster Titanic.
'CANCELLED' (feat. Skepta) — slowthai
Finally, a musician tackles cancel culture head-on. And it's rightfully slowthai. The Northampton native roped in fellow British rapper Skepta for this revealing fierce collaborative track about the former's actions at the 2020 NME awards. Drilling deep into his behaviour, slowthai doesn't beat around the bush and detonate verses assertively.
"When you’re not a certain way and people tell you who you are, you doubt yourself,” slowthai said in a press statement. “If you’re fully against stuff and people are saying, ‘That’s you’—you can’t fathom it. So I’m sitting there, I’m in a dark headspace, and [Skepta’s] like, ‘This isn’t your defining moment, bro. Use this. Come out stronger, come out harder. Show the world what you’re about. Fuck all that worrying. Just be you and live your life. It’s rock & roll, you’re a rock star.’ From that, we just banged out that tune.”
Its music video reflects the song's message too. Directed by THE REST, slowthai and Skepta parodied a 90s Budweiser advert while on a phone call to each other. The pair delivered the phrase 'wagwan' instead of 'wassup', which was said in the original ad.
'Slow Down' — Tabitha Nauser
Don't get hasty now. Nauser's first single for 2021 stops the unfamiliar in their tracks with a warning. Firmed and assured, the R&B pop singer-songwriter delivers caution via booming bass and soulful EDM-tinged medley. This infectious arrangement, when paired with Nauser's sultry vocals, proves to be a no-nonsense dance-ready banger.
"So how about you slow down?/Keep your hands to yourself/Take your glass and turn around/Boy, you're talking too loud", signalled Nauser on the unwelcomed presence.
Week of 8 February
'American Cliché' — FINNEAS
Before you pass a judgement on this familiar tune, listen again. FINNEAS has finally released the studio version of this concert-only favourite upon fans' constant appeals. Always performed on his live sets, the Grammy-winning singer-producer officially released this upbeat pop track that's bolstered by big-band brass instruments ala a cabaret musical.
“‘American Cliché’ is out now and I just wanted you to know, your cyberbullying absolutely worked and is absolutely the only reason I went back to it and produced it,” he wrote. “I now love the song and am wildly proud of it, but the only reason I worked on it was you. Bullying me”, FINNEAS spoke about the track on Twitter.
'GLAM!' — Allie X
Going glam is a confidence booster. Allie X tapped on it when she started on her music career with her move from the Toronto suburbs to the bustling city of Los Angeles in search of a big break. Unabashedly 80s power synth-pop, the song was first intended to be released on her 2015 debut EP Collxtion I back in 2015 but it didn’t make the cut.
The lyrics on this electronic delight also reveals Allie X's music beginnings. Definitely matches a bold move taken by this determined girl with big dreams and hopes who has not 'made it' in the music industry yet.
'Prey' — Naomi G
Everyone has their own worth. Thus, oppression towards others must be abolished. That's the message Singapore-based singer-songwriter Naomi G wants to convey with 'Prey'. Presented in a dark gothic-pop vibe reminiscing to Banks and The Weeknd's brooding sentiments, she sought to dismantle structural behaviours and patriarchal pressures by casting a spotlight on them.
“I wanted to empower young people who are faced with unwanted or unhealthy sexual attention that causes them to psycho-socially feel like ‘Prey’. This song is an anthem of power to those who have been gaslighted, dominated, manipulated, harassed and controlled based on their gender and looks. This song is a movement about saying no quickly and firmly, whilst understanding all the microaggressions that be before getting into any kind of deception”, Naomi G emphasized.
Week of 1 February
'Alone 一個人' — Jackson Wang
Although Wang has released solo tracks like '100 Ways' with 88rising, now he is truly on his own. The global star recently ended his contract with JYP entertainment (along with the other members of GOT7, but they are still together as a group).
For his first music release for 2021 on his own label TEAM WANG, Wang went back to his roots and conveyed his emotions entirely in Mandarin. The hip-hop and R&B-inspired song's deeply personal as he composed and wrote it by himself while getting involved in the song's arrangement and production process as well.
'Alone' expressed the challenges Wang faced in his journey as an artist and even if it includes pain and hardship, the experience and outcome fulfilled his desired aspirations. Do spot easter eggs in the accompanying cinematic-like music video. Some notable ones are a fencing helmet, which is a nod to his Olympian background and a full-length mirror that represents his debut album Mirrors.
'Don't Judge Me' — FKA Twigs, Headie One, & Fred Again…
In current times, we can't define someone based on just first impressions. There might be more to uncover. But society is quick to jump the shark as always. So FKA Twigs addressed this pressing issue in her newest song with London rapper Headie One and producer Fred Again…
The trio followed on from their collaborative project, GANG, on an interlude with a similar name, “Judge Me”, which this song serves as the completed version of. On this articulate slick tune, the musicians fight against discrimination and this message is translated to its music video directed by Emmanuel Adjei, who also co-directed the Beyoncé film Black Is King and supported by global fashion platform FARFETCH.
Adjei themed the video as 'THE INVISIBLE OPPRESSOR'. "From someone’s appearance, we are unable to judge whether a person discriminates over colour, sex, religion, or gender. The oppressors within the people surrounding us, most often remain invisible until their abuse against others is revealed. This is one of the reasons why, for generations, discrimination is so hard to fight. Who must the victim fight against if it can’t identify the perpetrator?"
He continued: "In this audio-visual document we get to witness artists FKA twigs and Headie One, amongst other Black British influentials, fighting against invisible forces of judgement and oppression. Having the enormous Victorian-inspired fountain ‘Fons Americanus’ by visual artist Kara Walker—depicting the historical, sorrowful story of slavery and colonization—as our setting, and particularly as the spirit of the film, this important monument creates another layer of depth and meaning to an invisible yet shared history.”
'Oak Cherry Wine remix (feat. June 양중은 [Yang Jung Eun])' — Jean Tan
Some songs, like wine, ages well. Especially Jean Tan's 'Oak Cherry Wine'. Written in her distinctive, bluesy vein, this tune is a love song interwoven with Tan’s personal experiences. It tells the story of her personal health struggles with kidney disease, and of the man who stood by her in the celebratory and difficult moments alike. Like all truly good romance stories, the song’s lyrics have a bittersweet tinge, and is all the better for it—a love that is tried and true.
While the original track was taken off the Singaporean singer-songwriter recently-released 5-track EP, Blooms, this specially released remix see Tan collaborate with Korean Youtube artist 양중은Yang Jung Eun and features a synth-pop and soul arrangement. Pairing her lyrical sensitivity with Yang's dulcet vocals, listeners will definitely sway to the lo-fi beat, jazz-hop push and pull, and syncopated electric piano accompaniment.
“It was a surreal experience working with June on this track while we’re in different territories, and while the world was on lockdown for much of 2020. I think the collaboration took off really well because we were just trying to make music and the best out of a crazy year. He’s also an awesome guy and so easy to work with—he even taught me some Korean!.”, says Tan on working together with Yang.
Week of 25 January
'It's A Sin' — Years & Years
British synthpop trio Years & Years definitely did not commit a sin in covering this Pet Shop Boys classic. Recorded for a new Russell T Davies (Queer As Folk creator) TV drama which also stars frontman Olly Alexander, Years & Years delivered a stripped-down version of the significant upbeat track. The show, written by Davies, follows a group of gay men and their friends in 1980s London during the HIV/AIDS crisis.
"A portion of proceeds from this single will be donated to @georgehousetrust — an important charity that has been providing HIV support, advice and advocacy services to improve health outcomes since 1985", expressed the trio on an Instagram post. In this new show on UK's Channel 4, Alexander plays a lead role Ritchie, an aspiring actor who moves to the English capital for a life of hedonism after a quiet upbringing on the Isle of Wight.
'Lo Vas A Olvidar' — Billie Eilish & ROSALÍA
First teased as a potential collaboration through an Instagram post in 2019, Billie Eilish and ROSALÍA finally confirmed it with a music single. This bilingual track sees Eilish singing in Spanish for most of it. A first for the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter.
Included in a special episode of HBO's Euphoria ("Part 2: Jules"), the dreamy chill-tempo song showcased the duo's sterling vocals over the hypnotic FINNEAS-produced track. Its accompanying music video is filmed by award-winning director Nabil and shows both Eilish and Rosalía trading verses in a solemn frame.
"I remember when we were writing the song, I remember her saying something about, 'It should be in English.' And I was like, 'No, no, no. It should be in Spanish. It's so beautiful.' And I've always loved music that isn't in English," Eilish recently told Apple Music's Zane Lowe.
'Regina' — RIIDEM & Strange Alias
Cheers to the ones who always got our backs. Hence, Def Jam Singapore’s distribution artiste Riidem and Singapore’s newest R&B artiste Strange Alias penned a tribute to our everyday queens co-produced by Riidem himself and Flightsch.
This punchy trap love song exemplifies the convergence of Hip-hop and R&B while embedding a meaningful message of celebrates the strong women in our lives. Strange Alias' enigma is indeed intriguing. Equipped with savvy songwriting and sleek vocals, the budding musician wants us to focus on his one of a kind qualities. When paired with Riidem's skilled production, 'Regina' comes alive.
Week of 18 January
'Holy Feeling' — Greyson Chance
Sometimes we are surprised with the breadth and depth of our emotions. Chance managed to pen this sensation into a passionate tune that's filled with euphoric energy. Unabashedly bright yet cathartic, 'Holy Feeling' embeds a hopeful sentiment which conjures positivity over anthemic melodies.
“It was a daunting task to write an album in the middle of a pandemic year, I won’t lie", explained Chance in a press statement. "But ‘Holy Feeling’ came at a time when I felt the most stuck and the most unsure of myself; in that way, it served as an awakening. I crafted my entire album around the song, both sonically and narratively. ‘Holy Feeling’ is about being present and focusing on the beauty of what’s in front of you, instead of what lies unknowingly in the future. … I think it captures a more unpolished version of myself, and I am excited to share more of that person with this upcoming album.”
'Brighter Side' — Hoaprox & Haneri
Always look on the bright side of life. But there seems to be somewhere that has a better spotlight. Find that cloud nine through this affirmative Vietnamese producer Hoaprox and Singapore musician Haneri's collab. Combining Hoaprox's progressive house melodies with Haneri's sprightly vocals, you'll want to make 'Brighter Side' a daily morning anthem. This song is also Haneri's debut Monstercat release and will be featured on Monstercat Instinct Vol. 7.
While you'll recognise Haneri from her stellar EP Milliona released late last year, here's what you should know about the talented Hoaprox. Since becoming the youngest winner ever of the competition TV show ‘Remix New Generation 2017,' Hoaprox has been disrupting the dance music scene and rising to stardom in Vietnam. His iconic song, "Ngau Hung" collected over 2 billion streams, making him one of the top artists on China's streaming service NetEase.
'can't get you off my head' — RON x Foxela
Got a bugging issue that lives rent-free in your mind? Rising Singapore R&B singer-songwriter Ron documents the woefulness of missing a past lover on a chilly night when struck with unsuspecting loneliness and insomnia. By illustrating it through a lo-fi arrangement, this Foxela-produced track layers light keys and a droning beat with Ron’s whispery vocals. The overlapping mid-track harmonies culminate in the repetitive lyric ‘go to bed’ as a method of curing his sleeplessness.
‘can’t get you off my head’ is the first of two tracks that RON will be releasing under his music mentorship program with SCAPE. So keep your ears on alert for this earnest artist in 2021.
Week of 11 January
'Antidote (feat. Adekunle Gold)' — NAO
Vaccines wouldn't be enough for 2021. Considering the tension and chaos happened at the start of the year. We definitely need an antidote and NAO has the perfect one for it. Working with uplifting Nigerian hitmaker Adekunle Gold, the soulful English vocalist raises spirits with funky Afropop rhythms on the Sarz-produced track.
“‘Antidote’ is the remedy to 2020, it’s a song born out of lockdown which was something that affected everybody’s lives all over the world. Both Adekunle and I had daughters born weeks apart during this time, they lifted our vibrations and we wanted to share that good energy with the rest of the world,” Nao explains the song's inspiration in a press statement.
"This song is a perfect description of how I feel about my daughter,” Adekunle adds. “Love usually feels like a concept, sometimes invisible, but with her, it’s so tangible because she’s right there. I’m so obsessed with her that if she wasn’t around me, I wouldn’t be ok, I guess that’s what antidote is, a cure, a loving cure to the things that ail me.
'Come In Closer' — Rhye
With only weeks from releasing his upcoming studio Home, Canadian artist Michael Milosh decides to release a serene and assuring tune that calms the manic mood. Constructed with airy melodies from chilled dance arrangements and tender strings, feel soothed when Milosh recites the song title on repeat.
He reveals the song reflects on how when “relationships deepen and you invite someone into your world, your life, your home, layers of appreciation, vulnerability, and patience reveal themselves.”
On the accompanying music video, Milosh describes the visuals “is about inviting someone into your world, your life, your home. As a relationship deepens other layers are revealed like appreciation, vulnerability, and patience….the creation of a shared language. Children naturally embody so many of these qualities, and for the video, I wanted to come in closer to the tiny worlds they inhabit, living without fear or inhibition, wild with the joy of simply being.”
'Make Her Mine' — Jason Yu
Stories of crush and first love are often endearing. Hence, Yu channels this positive energy and emotion into his newest track, 'Make Her Mine'. Filled with zeal and merry beats, this bright bop would definitely cheer you up from a gloomy disposition.
“I had so much fun bringing 'Make Her Mine' to life because it’s so different from what my audiences are used to. It’s nice sometimes to be able to pause life for just a bit, and look back at the older, simpler days,” Yu mentioned in a press statement.
Week of 4 January
'Lose Your Head' — London Grammar
To rev up their much-anticipated album release in February 2021, the British indie-pop trio drops another single, 'Lose Your Head', that offers another preview of the long-awaited LP.
The track was announced via a tweet posted on January 1. Accompanied is a message featuring a brief clip of what appears to be band vocalist Hannah Reid standing on a ship’s mast and backed with sea sounds. This follows a recent teaser from the band in which they shared a photo of a page of lyrics laying on top of a recording studio mixing desk. Some of the lyrics in the photo include the lines: “Are you happy now?/Are you one in a million/Are you happy now?/Healing all my shame.” Sounds like a poignant contemplative tune, perhaps?
Reid said in a statement about the upcoming record is about her “gaining possession” of her own life. “Misogyny is primitive,” Reid said, “which is why it is so hard to change. But it is also fearful. It’s about rejecting the thing in yourself which is vulnerable or feminine. Yet everybody has that thing."
'2021' — Lauv
Nobody can deny that 2020 is an awful year. Thus, always look ahead and keep your hopes alive. After speaking to us at Esquire Neighbourhood last year, Lauv wasted no time in producing good vibes with '2021'.
This honeyed and mellow autotuned track describes the relationship with his current girlfriend, singer Silver Sphere, and affection they have for each other. By focusing on love, the song hints to a future that’s brighter and more hopeful than the past difficult year.
“2021 we could have some fun, maybe we could run,” Lauv sings. “I could be the one. It’s time to go hard for you.” In a tweet about the new track, the singer-songwriter wishes his fans a safe and happy new year: “Stay safe enjoy New Year’s Eve. See u on the other side.”
'Love is Back' — Celeste
Speaking of love, another individual who also believes it is Celeste. The rising L.A.-born, London-based R&B singer-songwriter chose to start the new year with an optimistic song.
Gaining attention with her double wins at BBC Sound of 2020 and BRITS Rising Star award through recent singles including the Finneas-produced ‘I Can See The Change’, the breakthrough artist channels positivity in this chill and rhythmic retro-soul tune which assures listeners to stay confident.
Celeste announced her debut album Not Your Muse (Out Feb 26) in December 2020 via social media and wrote, "I know it’s been a long while that I have been talking about this, but the day has finally come that I can share this with you. For me, it’s the beginning of finding my voice, the one that empowers me and hopefully those who it reaches. Each song that has been written can pinpoint a very specific moment in my life, so I look forward to you all hearing those stories…I hope you like it."
Week of 14 December
'Easy (feat. Mark Ronson)' — Troye Sivan & Kacey Musgraves
Originally included on his EP In A Dream, Sivan invited Kacey Musgraves to collaborate on a new version 'Easy' which she co-wrote with a bittersweet perspective. But it ain't just another soppy ballad. Also featured on this project single is Mark Ronson, who added his adding trademark energetic melancholy as demonstrated on Late Night Feelings.
In the accompanying official video, which received a YouTube Premiere, Sivan and Musgraves embark on a dark, aching journey with the grittier side of Nashville as the backdrop. As dawn breaks, they leave Music City as quickly as they came, with the next town in their sights. Bardia Zeinali, who helmed Sivan’s video for 'Dance to This' feat. Ariana Grande, directed this too.
'Time (feat. Rhye)' — SG Lewis
In-demand producer SG Lewis had a fruitful year in 2020. Working on hits such as Dua Lipa's 'Hallucinate' and ‘Impact’ featuring Robyn and Channel Tres, the British electronic artist is ready to usher in his new musical era with 'Time'.
As the first single from his upcoming album Times, Lewis is joined by Canadian vocalist Rhye for a euphoric future-disco tune that's dancefloor-ready.
“’Time’ is a song that is central to the album thematically and sonically. Rhye has one of the most unique and distinctive voices out there, and I’ve been a fan for so long. We wrote the song at Rhye’s studio after watching the sun set in Topanga Canyon, a memory which makes this song even more special to me,” he explains. “The beat initially started from a piano loop and a Dennis Edwards sample TEED had started working on with Julian, which I then turned into the instrumental late one night in Nashville”, Lewis revealed about his single.
'58' — Jean Seizure x DSML
58 seems like a random number. But for singer-songwriter Jean Seizure, it holds a spectrum of emotions manifests from unexpected circumstances.
Inspired by Jean’s personal experience with her much-hated exercise-induced panic attacks, 58 is a song about the aftermath—be it in relation to a physical manifestation of anxiety or an intense argument between lovers—where she’s got her heart rate down to resting and seeped deep in this eerie sense of helplessness, dread and confusion.
Jean says, “I hope to capture the sense of peace fused with conflicting thoughts that weigh down on someone during the calm after a huge storm.”
Additional handiwork from Dark-pop producer DSML brings brooding arrangements to the song, emphasising on confusion and anxiety.
Week of 7 December
'Dance Like Nobody's Watching' — Yuna
Unlike her previous laidback tunes, Yuna injects a danceable beat to this latest release that encourages one to groove. 'Dance Like Nobody's Watching' bolsters self-love and finding peace of mind through reflecting.
Composed as a feel-good track that uplifts one spirit, its bass-heavy deep house beat will get heads bobbing immediately.
The Malaysian R&B singer recently performed an astounding live-streamed concert broadcasted from Kuala Lumpur Aquaria KLCC best described as divine and serene.
'Warm On A Christmas Night' — HONNE
'Tis the season to be jolly. Thus, multi-talented English electronic music duo HONNE heats up the yuletide season with a festive twist on one of their first songs released 'warm on a cold night'. The fan-favourite track features a grand arrangement of violins, piano, Andy Clutterbuck's acapella vocals and jingle bells in the chorus.
By tweaking some lyrics such as 'rabbit' for 'reindeer' and 'Christmas' for cold, this familiar tune will definitely keep us toasty and tender.
Unwind after the celebrations with HONNE's special acoustic EP, no song without you: dream edits, which reimagined six standout tracks lifted from their no song without you mixtape out earlier in July.
'i'm fine, no' — Shye
Are we really coping well from the COVID-19 pandemic? Singaporean electro-pop singer-songwriter Shye stays true to her feelings and embraced vulnerability when being asked 'how are you?'. Written as a response to the restrictions of being cooped up at home during the pandemic, this purposeful track touches on the underlying pressure and social norm related to that greeting.
"When we get asked, “How are you?” we almost automatically reply we are fine even if that’s not the case. [This song] is about embracing the times when we don’t feel fine and that it’s okay to not be okay,” shared the 18-year-old. “It does cross my mind every now and then whether I’m good enough or cool enough, but who’s to say what cool even is? What’s the point of being cool if your friends don’t even recognise you anymore? It’s so easy to get sucked into it all when you try to fit into society’s idea of what’s cool.”
Shye is set to release her debut album days to morning glory on 11 December 2020 which sees her experimenting with genres like folk, techno and indie pop, R&B, modern rock and classical elements.
Week of 30 November
'Lucid' — Rina Sawayama
After making waves and getting acclaimed reviews for her self-titled debut album earlier this year, rising London-based singer-songwriter Sawayama continues to promote it with additional songs and packaging it as a deluxe edition. The Dirty Hit-signed artist will include 11 new songs, including 'Lucid', her latest single.
Produced by BloodPop®, hitmaker and collaborator of Lady Gaga, Vampire Weekend and Haim, the full-on spirited track fantasizes 'the could've been' and being with or as an ideal self.
"It’s about living a different life through dreaming, whether it’s to be with the dream girl or to be the dream girl. Me and Lauren Aquilina wrote this together on the floor of my tiny rented living room back in early 2018. BloodPop® sent us the beat and the melody flowed out so easily that I remember at one point I started hoovering cos I knew this would be easy to write lol. I’ve kept this song secret for two years so I’m so excited to finally release it to the world! 2020’s been a tough year so I wanted to finish it off with a dance bop to take us into a more hopeful 2021", Sawayama said of the new track.
'Dream of You' — Chung Ha & R3HAB
Besides BTS and Black Pink, another talented K-pop musician is bracing herself to conquer the west. Both charismatic and a skilled dancer, Chung Ha recently joined 88rising, the Asian-focused record label that's home to Rich Brian (she appeared on 'These Nights'), NIKI, and Joji, in a bid to amplify her presence beyond Asia.
The former Produce 101 top 4 finalist and I.O.I member enlisted Dutch-Moroccan DJ R3HAB for a collaborative single release prior to her upcoming first studio album QUERENCIA that's set to release in January 2021. Presented entirely in English, this snappy dance banger aptly introduces Chung Ha's vast potential and musicality.
'Legs' — Islandeer
Taking steps to new places and heights, Singapore indie-rock duo Islandeer uses their latest tune 'Legs' to explore unfamiliar emotions and feelings.
As their second of three singles leading up to their self-titled debut album drop in December, the self-searching psychedelic track describes the perspective of things that we're being intrigued by, which are legs.
Unorthodox and fun, look forward to the band's experimental-sounding songs on the LP which delves into societal issues like peer pressure.
Week of 23 November
'Chinatown' (feat. Bruce Springsteen) — Bleachers
In-demand producer and hitmaker Jack Antonoff knows how to impress with his slick compositions. Likewise for those done with his band, Bleachers, too. Serving as a taster for their upcoming album (to be released in 2021) along with '45', the location-based track is an ode to the popular NYC zone and his hometown New Jersey. This beat-driven anthem features fellow New Jerseyan Bruce Springsteen who volleys Antonoff on the chorus.
Its accompanying video, directed by Carlotta Kohlsees, sees Antonoff wearing a shirt that says 'Welcome to New Jersey, now go home'. Springsteen appears near the three-minute mark as the duo ride off in a Cadillac down the highway.
“‘Chinatown’ starts in NYC and travels to New Jersey,” Antonoff said in a statement. “That pull back to the place I am from mixed with terror of falling in love again. Having to show your cards to someone and the shock when you see them for yourself. Thinking you know yourself and where you are from….having to see yourself through somebody who you want to stay.”
“I started to write this song with these ideas ringing in my head,” he continued. “To further understand who you are, pushes you to further understand where you are from and what that looks and sounds like. There are pieces in that that are worth carrying forever and pieces worth letting die. ‘Chinatown’ and ’45’ are both the story of this—‘Chinatown’ through someone else, ’45’ through the mirror. As for Bruce, it’s the honour of a lifetime to be joined by him. He is the artist who showed me that the sound of the place I am from has value and that there is a spirit here that needs to be taken all over the world.”
'Man's World' — MARINA
Toxic masculinity is very much alive. Pop star MARINA (formerly known as Marina & The Diamonds) highlights its effects and declares to veer away via her newest single 'Man's World'. The British singer-songwriter critics the male-dominated society and the prevailing issues of misogyny and homophobia.
Written solely by her and produced by Grammy Award nominee Jenn Decilveo (who’s previously worked with the likes of Bat For Lashes, Hinds and Demi Lovato) and engineered by Emily Lazar (Haim, Clairo, Sia), who was the first-ever female winner of the ‘Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical’ Grammy, the empowering statement its accompanying visuals are created in creative collaboration between women and non-binary folks only.
'Apathy' — shy-c
The journey to mend oneself isn't as easy as it seems given how busy modern life is. Singapore electronic producer shy-c pens a personal ode that taps on the fractured relationship with himself. Struggling to learn how to love, 'Apathy' speaks of wanting to do more to feel better, to be able to push boundaries and finally be able to break out of his own comfort zone.
“During the time I was recording this track, I struggled a lot because I perceived my self-value, based on the quality of work and my productivity. At the same time, I recognized that there is a fine line between self-care and not caring enough to change the routine and break from your bad habits”, said shy-c in a press statement.
Merging electronic and math rock with a Midwest emo guitar solo, shy-c brought in elements of different genres that influenced his sound into this single. It's no surprise as he comes from a background of diverse musical experiences, from performing classical music, playing in rock and jazz bands, and finally, branching into music production. His background in classical and pop music interweaves with his predominantly electronic style to feature acoustic instruments in prominent parts of his songs.
As one who encourages, he also launched Springroll Records in the past year to support independent artists in music distribution and marketing.
Week of 16 November
'Therefore I Am' — Billie Eilish
Self-realization is indeed commendable. And Eilish expressed that she knows herself the best on this latest single. Setting the tone with brooding Dark Pop and peaking with an infectious confident chorus, the 18-year-old Grammy winner surges forward and counter detractors who craft assumptions about her.
"This song is very, very up for interpretation," Eilish said of the new track via a press statement. "I'm very curious to see what people get from it and also what they feel when they hear it. I don't know. But yeah, it's a little mean. I love it."
Accompanying in promoting the tune is an official self-directed music video shot entirely on an iPhone at the deserted Glendale Galleria shopping mall, a familiar stomping-ground for Eilish during her early teen years. Furthermore, she will take the stage on November 22 for a worldwide premiere performance of ‘Therefore I Am’ at the American Music Awards, where she is nominated for two awards.
'Feel Too Much' — JAWN
Many achievements can occur within five years. For soulful singer-songwriter Jonathan Chan, finding ways to uphold his music endeavours since debuting in 2015 has led to various experiences like performing at prominent blues and folk festivals including Byron Bay Bluesfest, Melbourne Music Week, and Queenscliff Music Festival.
Following a five-year hiatus, JAWN is back earlier this year with 'Simple' that features lewloh. And now, hot in heels to that is the energetic 'Feel Too Much'.
“I was really tired of having to enter that sort of melancholic emotional space as with all my other songs, having to constantly excavate in order to perform. I wanted to write something that made both me and the people around me feel good! Call it good aftercare after all the sad stuff, taking responsibility for the feelings and turning it around to something celebratory. I had just started a relationship at that time, and that sort of joy also translated in ‘Feel Too Much’. The song right now has turned into a personal anthem of new chapters and new beginnings. It also has that sort of nervous electric energy you get when you’re entering or starting a whole new journey”, JAWN shared.
'Can't Seem To Get Anything' — M1LDL1FE
We reap what we sow. But when there's no visible outcome, it's time to rectify the issue. The dudes of M1LDL1FE strikes back and addressed insecure circumstances and uncertainty with a heady guitar and synth medley. Combined with urgent riffs and an earnest chorus, this effort was written as a lament over mental health struggles and reflecting the current mood of a generation coming to terms with healing from a global pandemic.
Originally written before the pandemic, it was finished remotely with Melbourne-based producer Yeo during the lockdown.
"The song is a manifestation of some of the low points we have had in our personal lives over the past couple of years – personal losses, relationship issues, mental health struggles, in addition to the stresses of the daily grind. We're only human and sometimes it just feels like your mind is all seized up when it gets too much; you get paralysed with everything that's going on and you just can't do anything and can't get out of your own head. That's how the lines for the chorus/refrain came about. The song acts as a sort of cry for help, and an acceptance that something doesn't feel right. Music is a very powerful healing agent, and this was a way for us to express these things we were feeling," shared frontman Paddy Ong
The quartet is set to perform a live stream showcase for Bangkok Music City on 28 – 29 November. More details can be obtained from M1LDL1FE's Instagram page.
Week of 9 November
'Can't Wait To Be Dead' — FINNEAS
What a time to be alive! With the current happenings the world, leaving all your cares and worries behind is a luxury. On FINNEAS' follow-up to his single 'What They’ll Say About Us', the award-winning songwriter composed an ode to human strength and connection when faced with life’s tribulations. This buoyant energetic tune is fueled by hope while bearing its promising spirit.
"I’m happy for this song to mean anything to anyone who listens to it but to me, it’s a song about my relationship with the Internet,” FINNEAS revealed. “Especially in an election year. Especially during a pandemic. Sometimes, the internet makes me laugh, sometimes it makes me cry, sometimes it makes me hopeful. But sometimes, it really makes me wanna be dead."
'Vices' — Tabitha Nauser
Trusting your gut can be beneficial after all. Singapore pop star Nauser documented enduring hardship during her 'twenty-something' days on this 'rebellious'-induced track. Upbeat rhythms assert confidence and vigour while sticking her guns and instincts instead of blindly following ill-advised recommendations.
“It’s about putting your own mental health at the forefront and doing what makes you feel good despite societal pressures and expectations. That in itself is rebellion because it’s about making the choice to go against the ‘norm’ or to change the narrative of what’s acceptable. It’s a track that makes me feel free and empowers me in knowing that I do know what’s best for me", Nauser said in a press statement.
'Ashes' — Charlie Lim & Miho Fukuhara
The essence of time is precious. For both Lim and Fukuhara, they felt detrimental impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This collaborative single captures the feeling of longing and loneliness resulted from being forced to be at a distance from our loved ones. While it is a struggle to reconcile with loss and life’s ongoing changes, ‘Ashes’ serves to reignite one’s faith to hold on for the proverbial silver lining.
Featuring a delicate yet emotionally-charged piano arrangement from Chok Kerong, one of Lim's frequent collaborators who also co-produced this track, solace can be found.
"We wanted to keep the sounds organic; things that felt warm and inviting and meditative. But at the same time placing everything in a huge space, like a cave or a temple, where as if you could be alone with your thoughts”, Lim explained through a press statement.
Week of 2 November
'Fever' — Dua Lipa & Angèle
Future Nostalgia is definitely one of the noteworthy albums released in 2020. Hence, it's natural to extend the concept and sound further that'll retain listeners' attention. Recorded for the Bonus Edition of Future Nostalgia and featured on its French edition, 'Fever', this sultry track introduces 24-year-old Belgium singer Angèle to English-speaking audiences.
Angèle is no stranger to the French. She made her music breakthrough in 2018 with 'Tout Oublier' and released her debut album Brol later that year along with subsequent singles. On 'Fever', Angèle singes in French and trade verses with Dua Lipa over a flirtatious beat.
'Black Rain' — Rhye
Known for his chill and laidback productions, singer and multi-instrumentalist Rhye, also known as Mike Milosh, goes upbeat with this latest release, following earlier 2020 singles 'Beautiful' and 'Helpless'. “It has this Eighties version of disco, like the way Quincy Jones was interpreting disco,” Milosh explained in a press statement. Along with this is the announcement of his new album Home, scheduled to be out on 22 January 2021.
For its accompanying one-shot visual video, actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson stars in it and filmed dancing to the slow-funk track. His wife, British filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson, directed the homemade video, with Milosh serving as director of photography.
'Givin' It Up' (feat. Dr. Fink & Harts) – Dru Chen
We can always rely on Chen to bring on the funk and fun. The rising Singapore-based Soul musician is back with an electropop anthem for those infatuated with a certain someone and those who are willing to give it all up in the name of love. With influences of ‘00s pool-party electro-funk and ‘90s nu-disco, the buoyant tune features a cross-country collaboration with Harts from Australia and Dr. Fink from the US.
“I can’t believe I actually got Dr. Fink from Prince & The Revolution, and funk-rock genius Harts to guest on it too!” said Chen in a press statement. “This is as much a discotheque come-on as it is a tribute to the generations of funky musicians that have come before.”