Anthems of Baybeats
By Gideon Lee and Ummairah Shariff
Since 2002, Baybeats has brought amazing local and international acts to the Esplanade stages. With a wide spectrum of alternative music available, we present to you the top 15 songs that are must-listen anthems.
Electrico - What Do You See
See the moon and the stars, look how far we have come | Look around at our faces, they shine brightly in the sun.
Singapore National Day songs traditionally tend to go in the direction of the mild, crowd-pleasing pop ditty. Sometimes it works, like with Kit Chan’s Home; sometimes it doesn’t, like whatever’s going on with this year’s song. But in 2009, the National Day Parade (NDP) committee decided to go in a totally different direction, commissioning Electrico – arguably the biggest band in Singapore at the time – to serenade the nation with guitars and alt-rock. And with that, they introduced local rock music to an entire nation.
The Pinholes - Sunshine
Will you wait for me a while, I should be there | You can make those funny faces, I don’t care | Oh you dingle dingle lang, don’t make this end
This song is quintessential Singapore - sunshine and Singlish. The Pinholes is the kind of band that struts in pinstripe tops and sunglasses and bowl cuts – think Singapore’s version of The Beatles. To them, music isn’t just a hobby or a job; it’s a lifestyle, with this anthem at its forefront – it’s bubbly, it’s infectious, and it’ll add some sunshine to your day.
Inch Chua & The Metric System - Rule The World, 2012
Someday you and I will save the world | And it'd be just you and me, the super tag-team.
Homegrown rocker chick, Inch Chua, began her singer-songwriting journey with zero background in musical training; yet that did not stop her from taking the Baybeats stage, not once, but twice. Backed by The Metric System, Inch’s Baybeats’ rendition of Rule The World saw her showcasing her addictive energy on stage with her guitar in hand, while urging the crowd to go crazy along with her. With her saccharine vocals and that catchy little chorus that we can’t help but bop our head along to, this song is definitely one for the books.
The Great Spy Experiment - Class A Love Affair, 2007
So come on, shine on | Shine all your love on us
The Great Spy Experiment was arguably the biggest band in Singaporean indie scene in the 2000s, with Class A Love Affair touted as their biggest hit. Layering a simple serenade over The Edge-like guitar work, this song is emblematic of the music of that period. Diving off the deep end of love, it almost sounds like a Hillsong praise and worship number, taking the indie kids to church with its catchiness. Although the Great Spy Experiment has since disbanded, the mark that they’ve left on the scene seems unlikely to fade anytime soon.
Take Two/m1ldl1fe - In Your Arms
Even though I never stay, I’m caught in your event horizon
Simply put: can you think of a more iconic guitar riff in the past year?
Stopgap - Bender
Bender, the way you groove doesn’t end | Your twists and turns have got me in a temperamental snare
I don’t have the forensics to back this up but I suspect this song might (at least on some level) be about the alcohol-guzzling, cigarette-smoking, fire-breathing robot from Futurama. Or maybe it’s about the wilful self-destructive archetype of youth that always seems to turn up at bars and gigs. Who knows? But when the crowd roars along to the chorus, you realise that it doesn’t really matter at all, does it?
Caracal - Welcome The Ironists, 2015
I hate that I love this chaos. Inhale. Exhale.
Hailed by hardcore fans as one of the most notable hardcore bands in the local music scene, Caracal’s Welcome The Ironists boasts the band’s essence - with KC Meals’ strong vocals coming to life over an aggressive guitar riff. The lyrics border on inspirational, reminding you that “the pain will be worthwhile”, so “rise with certainty of tides”. Leave it to Caracal to be positive while singing about the misfortunes of life.
The Fire Fight - Portrait Lover
But in the quiet beneath the trees, do you remember the days that were so beautiful to me?
Portrait Lover reminds you what it feels like to be in love, unconditionally. The track paints a picture for the audience: to feel so incandescently in love, that the rest of the world ceases to exist when looking each other in the eye. The Fire Fight called a hiatus back in 2010, but this song will live on forever as one of the great love songs made right here in Singapore.
Force Vomit - Siti
Don’t give up, Siti, don’t give up | For there’s many in the fishbowl | Even if it’s not too large
Siti is everything anthemic rock should be - catchy, relatable, and accompanied by a kickass music video. Before modern CGI made things pretty, bands had to find other ways to make their videos stand out, and Siti did that with flashy non sequiturs, opening with an inexplicable newsflash about a villain called StokinMan who is kidnapping socks and ending with the band parading the streets of Singapore in wrestling masks. And don’t even get us started on what a riot this song was live.
The Summer State - I do, I don’t
Can I change your mind | ‘Cos your heart’s telling mine | To leave this all behind | No I can’t, but I’ll try
I Do, I Don’t came out on top of a wave of pop-rock led by bands like Boys Like Girls and We The Kings. Playing on radio stations, it’s the song that first introduced many Singaporeans to the scene, with reactions invariably along the lines of “I can’t believe this is a Singaporean band”. Perhaps the most obvious indicator of the song’s commercial viability comes from its YouTube viewcount, which stands at an impressive 107,055 at the time of writing.
Cheating Sons - Ah Long On The Run, 2011
Ah Long on the run | Doesn’t make much sense to me | Ah Long on the run | If I’d known when I was seventeen
The severely pentatonic melodies suggest Asian roots, but the guitar screams suggest greasy, all-consuming Medusa hair. The combination of the two suggests the Cheating Sons. As I wrote in another article for this website, “from rock 'n' roll twists on Chinese-sounding melodies, accompanied by music reminiscent of classic rock bands of half a century ago, to folky Americana-ish songs that tell stories of the Singaporean heartlands, [the Cheating Sons’] music invokes an old and primal familiarity for listeners on either side of the Pacific.” Besides, there is an inexplicable pride that wells up when you hear a band singing about Ah Longs.
Cashew Chemists - What’s The Matter
Crack some bottles, sip some gin | You’ve got to flaunt that tan | We like you better when you rock & roll
Perhaps the Cashew Chemists say it best on their own Bandcamp page, “It’s about being on the beach. Having a great party, having a great time. We like you better when you rock & roll.” And what a rock & roll anthem this was – What’s The Matter makes you bounce and dance, with that kind of emotional sway that all great composers aspire towards.
I Am David Sparkle - Snarling Dogs
There is no actual David Sparkle in I Am David Sparkle - the five-piece band derived inspiration for its name from M. Daud Kilau (kilau being a term to describe shimmer and shine), an old Malaysian disco star. Yet, the instrumental collective’s music (shockingly not disco) is not accompanied by vocals, making it feel like akin to a soundtrack in a listener’s life. Adding influences of heavy rock into their surreal style, Snarling Dogs is the battle track - the one that gears you up for a fight, and makes you feel ready to defend yourself, no matter the circumstance.
The Caulfied Cult - Burden, 2015
And for the last nineteen years, I'm sorry.
Burden is a reminder of your teenage angst days while opening with heavy drum beats, before attacking you with heavily emotional lyrics – invoking questions on family, and the sacrifices we make.
Obedient Wives Club - Fragments
Obedient Wives Club’s aim is to “bring fuzzed out girl group indie pop that is missing from the Singapore indie scene”, and listening to frontwoman YinQi’s sugary-sweet vocals coupled with surreal indie Spectorgaze vibes confirms that it has done just that. This song’s one of the band’s gems from their retro catalogue.
Come down for Baybeats 2017, held on the 14th to 16th July, to catch more bands perform their hits, and spot an anthem or two, that vibes with you.