Writing A Hit National Day Song For Dummies (Not Approved By Dick Lee)

There’s something endearing about National Day Songs.

While I often struggle to remember my name and age in front of a half decent-looking girl, I’ll never forget the lyrics to Kit Chan’s Home or Tanya Chua’s Where I Belong.  

“What’s your name?” she asked.
“I can’t wait to see my sunny island in its glorious greenery,” I replied.
I never saw her again…

Anyway, I think I might have figured out the reason for my extensive knowledge of National Day Songs lyrics — these songs all pretty much say the same thing.

To confirm this, I listened to 15 years’ worth of NDP Songs before I wrote this article – and yes, I get paid to do this.

What I found was a concoction of clichés – and more importantly – a proven formula to writing a successful National Day song.

So one day, if Dick Lee walks up to you and asks, “Eh bro, can help me a write a NDP song or not?”, don’t fret.

There are only five easy steps to writing these songs.

Step 1: Start off by reminiscing about our past

“It started with a dream” – NDP 2015, Our Singapore

“Look how far we’ve come” – NDP 2014, What Do You See

“We make our history” – NDP 2003, One United People

It’s imperative to look at our past and be grateful for what we’ve achieved in the short span of 53 years.

After a bad break-up with Malaysia, we’ve moved on and done some amazing things.

The hard work and perseverance of our forefathers have given us shiny skyscrapers, MRT lines, a competent army, the world’s best airline and Steven Lim.

We obviously need a few lines in our National Day Song to remind ourselves of this.

Step 2: Remind people that the future is bright. Reach for the skies

“Future is an open book” NDP 2014, What Do You See?

“Together we can reach for the stars” – NDP 2013, One Singapore

“Reach out for the skies” – NDP 2005, Reach Out For The Skies

Since we are done going down memory lane, we now have to shift our focus to the future.

There are two ways that you can go about doing this:

  1. Skies and/or stars as a metaphor for a better future
  2. Singapore’s story as a storybook — with pages left unwritten

Step 3: Show Singaporeans that there’s no place like home

“Wherever we roam there’s no place like home” – NDP 2012, Love At First Light

“Wherever I may choose to go” – NDP 1998, Home

“Wherever I may be, I never will forget her” – NDP 2006, My Island Home

This part of the song is blatantly aimed at overseas Singaporeans.

The main aim here is to make them miss home — so that they can come back and contribute to the economy.

Imagine the doctors in Britain, the computer engineers in Silicon Valley and that 1 football star born in Thailand — we want them all to come back home to Singapore.

Step 4: Prove that we are one big family

“You’re my brother, you’re my sister” – NDP 2010, Song For Singapore

“Hand in hand, we’ll find new strength” – NDP 2012, Love At First Light

“Work together hand in hand, towards a future so bright” – NDP 2001, Where I Belong

National Day Songs tell us that Singapore is one big family. They tell us that Singaporeans can achieve anything if they work together, united as one people.

Also, at this point in the music videos, you’ll probably see a scene of multi-racialism.

We need to take this into account while we write our verse.

Step 5: Sing about how sunny Singapore is

“I can’t wait to see my sunny island in its glorious greenery” – NDP 2001, Where I Belong

“Our Island in the sun” – NDP 2003, One United People

“Look around at our faces, they shine brightly in the sun” – NDP 2009, What Do You See?

Honestly, I have no idea why this even is a thing.

I get that Singapore is sunny and all, but why does that warrant a name-drop in almost every NDP song?

Putting the pieces together

All that’s left now is putting together the pieces.

Pick one of the themes we’ve discussed, for the chorus — rinse and repeat.

This is our amateur attempt.

[Verse 1]

We’ve come so far
We were poor, now we are rich
Malaysia didn’t want us
But now they wanna be us
We do jumping jacks
Reaching for the distant sky
Writing our story on an open book
That we bought from Popular

[Pre-Chorus]

The future is bright my fellow Singaporeans

[Chorus]

Our island in the sun
Gets hotter with global warming
Who cares about sea levels rising
Singapore is sunny AF

[Verse 2]

London’s Tube might be royal
New York’s Subway metropolitan
But for more MRT breakdowns than knife attacks
Come back home overseas Singaporeans
One Singapore
We’re all Machas and Bros
With 5Cs in hand
We’ll walk towards the promised land

[Pre-Chorus]
[Chorus] x2

If you need some helping words to get started, here are some safe choices.

Do join in the chorus – and the comments section – with your own creations.

Featured image from YouTube.