The 5 best NDP theme songs, from The Road Ahead to Home
With the recent launch of 2023’s National Day Parade (NDP) theme song, Shine Your Light, The Straits Times shines the light on the five best NDP anthems out of the more than 30 that have been released in the past three decades.
Who knew these earworms could make people smile, sing along and swell with Singapore pride year after year?
1. The Road Ahead (2021)
The Road Ahead is a bittersweet tune that hits you right in the feels.
There are melancholic bits that get you emotional, yet it boasts an uplifting chorus that gives you hope, no matter how bad things get.
Released at a time when the country was coming to terms with living with the Covid-19 pandemic, it perfectly captures the zeitgeist.
Jointly composed by indie singer-songwriter Linying and music producer Evan Low, and sung by Linying, Sezairi, Shye and Shabir, the song’s electronic pop touches also sound modern and current.
The Road Ahead works not just as an NDP anthem, but it also fits perfectly as a contemporary pop tune.
2. Home (1998)
Home often takes the top spot in polls about Singaporeans’ favourite NDP song.
It is a memorable classic that has near-universal appeal – easy enough for school-going kids to remember and sing along to, but with the right amount of sophistication for adults.
The grand ballad has a timeless arrangement that still sounds fresh 25 years later.
Its beautiful melody cuts through no matter how the song is presented, whether you are listening to the official fully orchestrated version performed by singer Kit Chan, or the stripped-down piano rendition crooned by composer Dick Lee.
Perhaps one of the reasons Home, well, hits home is its comforting lyrics, which reassure that your fellow countrymen will be there to support you when everything goes south.
3. We Are Singapore (1987 and 2018)
We Are Singapore is so good, it has been used as an NDP theme song twice. An ode to togetherness, it encourages Singaporeans to take ownership and be proud of their country.
The original 1987 version, with its orchestral pop-rock production and rah-rah vibes, worked at a time when the nation was revelling in its rising confidence. The song was written and composed by Canadian Hugh Harrison.
In the 2018 update, home-grown singer-songwriter Charlie Lim added a contemplative slant, with a new intro that offers the current younger generation’s perspective of what it means to say the words, “We Are Singapore”.
Also featuring the voices of Vanessa Fernandez, Aisyah Aziz, Joanna Dong, Shak’thiya Subramaniamm and TheLionCityBoy, the song’s music video celebrates diversity and inclusiveness by featuring a motley crew of Singaporeans from all walks of life.
4. Our Singapore (2015 and 2019)
The original 2015 version of Our Singapore brought together two of the country’s most accomplished music talents – singer JJ Lin and composer Dick Lee.
In 2019, the revised rendition took the concept even further by assembling a cast of 300 that included other prominent musicians such as Stefanie Sun, Ramli Sarip and late guitar maestro Alex Abisheganaden. It also included parts from two other NDP songs composed by Lee, We Will Get There (2002) and Home (1998).
Seeing so many artistes from different genres and generations assemble to make music together in the music video – directed by award-winning, home-grown film-maker Royston Tan – is a reminder of how rich and varied the local music scene is, and an apt reflection of Singapore’s diverse population.
5. Shine Your Light (2023)
The youthful exuberance of the newest NDP theme song and its music video is infectious.
The celebratory mood is timely, coming at a time when the country is back to Dorscon Green and forging ahead after three years of living with Covid-19 restrictions.
Composed by music stalwart Don Richmond, Shine Your Light features another ensemble cast of contemporary home-grown musicians: 53A, Olivia Ong, Shigga Shay, The Island Voices as well as first-time NDP acts lewloh, Lineath and Iman Fandi.
Like many songs on mainstream charts today, the tune is genre-agnostic. Music styles blur into one another, and you can hear shades of pop, stadium rock and pop-punk in the verses and chorus, and hip-hop/R&B in the bridge.
In this case, the mash-up succeeds, buoyed by the artistes’ unbridled enthusiasm.