Which National Day song gives you that warm and fuzzy patriotic feeling? (Photo: Wikimedia)
Whether you’re young or young at heart, National Day songs are part and parcel of growing up in Singapore. You hear it on the radio and television in the weeks leading up to National Day on 9 August.
If you’ve been through the primary school system, you would have had to learn the song and sing it at weekly assemblies and at National Day celebrations in school whether you like it or not.
Some schools will even play it over the school broadcast system, so that you have no way of saying you haven’t heard it.
Yes, there are usually plenty of groans and complaints heard every year when an unbearable song is released, but when a good one is written and carried off by a capable singer, that patriotic feeling swells up in even the most nonchalant of Singaporeans.
Here are some of the better ones in past years that have stood the test of time to be all-time favourites.
‘We Are Singapore’ (1987)
One of many memorable National Day songs, this is catchy and has a hook to its arrangement, with lyrics you would sing along to with sincere Singaporean pride.
Forgive the cheesy 1980s drumbeat that lands on every syllable in the lyrics. It was, after all, the ‘80s then.
One would think that inserting the entire national pledge into a song would be plain tacky, but somehow, it works in this song. Or it could be just that we’ve been brainwashed by time now.
It even has a fun, climatic finale that has you repeating the refrain, heightening that sense of “ending on a high note”.
This one never gets old.
From 1991 to 1997, National Day songs faced a bit of a dry spell because there were seemingly none in those years. As for why, we would like to know too.
Maybe there was no National Day Parade organising committee in those years trying too hard to pull off the event, or maybe people got tired of being made to remember a new song every year – all not a bad thing, if you think about it.
Then after the dry spell, Dick Lee composed this simple, lighthearted number, with Singapore singer Kit Chan on vocals, and it was like seeing the National Day song phoenix rising from the ashes.
It had meaningful lyrics and genuinely resonated with Singaporeans at home and abroad. It’s hard to find fault with this song because its words still ring true today.
‘We Will Get There’ (2002)
Combining patriotism with pop sensibilities, this is a National Day song you can listen to without cringing or feeling embarrassed about it.
Singapore singer Stephanie Sun sung both Mandarin and English versions of it in her 2002 album, ‘Leave’. The album sold more than 4.3 million copies in Asia and was named one of the ‘Top 10 Selling Mandarin Albums of the Year’ at the 2002 IFPI (International Federation of the Phonographic Industry) Hong Kong Album Sales Awards.
’What Do You See’ (2009)
This song polarises Singaporeans.
As the first and only National Day song written and performed by Electrico, a popular indie rock band, it veered away from the gentle, tried-and-tested pop hooks to showcase more indie rock elements.
Unfortunately, the song didn’t resonate with the mainstream audience.
Still, for a homegrown indie rock band to be chosen by the National Day Parade organising committee to helm the year’s National Day song was a brave move. This song gets five stars (and a moon) for daring to be different.
’Count On Me, Singapore’ (1986)
You can certainly count on Singaporeans not to forget about this one. Another gem from the early generation of National Day songs, this song – penned by Hugh Harrison and sung by Clement Chow – is one that is belted out year after year every National Day.
Yes, it is a bit ridiculous that the original music video opens with a man looking into the sunset while standing up and paddling a sampan (boat), but for older Singaporeans, the song (and music video) is a reminder of the old Singapore that stirs up feelings of nostalgia.
It is an evergreen golden oldie that will probably outlast many generations of Singaporeans.
Read also: 5 worst National Day songs