Shai is a Fighter | Fighter, by Shai Othman

Fighter starts off powerful. A powerhouse vocalist, Shai starts off slow and steady. Fighter’s progression is beautiful. It does not start off soft – because, well, Shai already is a fighter from the beginning – but at a comfortable pace. Her syrupy voice bleeds love and power straight into one’s ears, and I’m so lucky to call this talented vocalist – my friend.

Fighter is a special song. I mentioned its progression briefly in the start, but it is one of the biggest make-it-or-break-it factors of a song, so I must elaborate. What I particularly enjoy about Fighter’s progression is that it starts off slow and of a lower-level power than what Shai – the queen, the goddess – is fully capable of. And this aids in the gradual anticipation built up towards the chorus, when Shai unleashes her magnificent voice, hitting a splendid high note that shows off how much fight she has got.

The syrupy quality of Shai’s voice is brought out in its introduction. With no deliberate pause between lines of the first verse, Shai plays up impact of each word, hiding the full magnitude of her voice until the song’s climax – until her voice scales octaves in the chorus. When it comes to the second chorus of Fighter, the backing instrumental diversifies from piano, providing listeners with the delightful experience of hearing the immense strength in Shai’s voice contrasted with beats of the drum and gentle clashing of cymbals.

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Let’s talk about her lyrics. Shai’s lyrics have a life of their own, standing up like grass, bending in the way Shai wants as she sings them in her a voice that shimmers. Don’t start something you can’t stop / I’m not gonna let them tell me what to do / how to dress / how to look / You are not gonna make me fall – these were my favourite lyrics from Fighter, for they make dents on the narrative that victims need to comply with what had hurt them in the first place, in order to move on. The motif of being stronger and having a braver outlook is highlighted with pre-chorus. “Don’t start something you can’t stop”, and for that, the song truly encapsulates what it means to be a Fighter.

Listen to Fighter here.

Edson Charntor’s YOU is a real Charmer

YOU starts off with a bombtastic, stunning, vibing introduction that yanks one’s heart towards the direction of Edson Charntor’s voice. A true crooner, the silky quality of his vocals melds perfectly with electronic elements and beats that seem incredibly well-layered to create an exquisite melody. Then there’s the harmonization, and the na na na that is to die for – Edson Charntor manages to successfully serenade one- right from his studio.

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You is a song that talks about his true self during a party or a moment stuck in his happy bubble. “If I need somebody I would party with you / If you need somebody I would accompany you – company you” – besides a unique and stunning voice that adds a dreamy lilt to everything, the lyrics form part of an intoxicating collaborative narrative formed between him and his companion.

The 21 year old’s latest electropop song aptly encapsulates the dreamlike fun and enjoyment associated with a transition from youth to adult. The focus on You is important in drawing listeners into his dream, into the coming-of-age of a young man and a blossoming relationship. This is a refreshing take on romance and a night; You is rich with smoothly layered vocals and unpredictable throbbing beats.

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Edson manages to strike a balance between the grandeur of an overly-polished piece and the accessible, eternal summer electropop melodies that youth audiences can’t get enough of. It’s a beautiful, treacherous journey into a good night out, and you thank the Heavens you were invited by Edson. Listen to You here.

 

ONE OK ROCK’S SONG ‘STAND(S) OUT [FIT IN]’ for being too perfect

Perhaps there is no perfect song. But there is a song that conveys the perfect message.

Yeah, and the latter is not ONE OK ROCK’s latest release – Stand Out Fit In. Because that  -song from their 2019 album, Eye of the Storm – That’s actually a perfect song. The former is wrong; Stand Out Fit In stands out as the most perfect song in my playlist, both Japanese and fully English versions.

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The first thing that gets me is the solid guitar work, a strong build-up to a verging-on-tribal “chant” of a chorus. A powerful chorus for a powerful song and impactful message – that perhaps we’re all little paper cut-outs blowing in the wind that society deems is most “acceptable”. Since ‘ Lost and Found’ by the band, I haven’t cherished a song that much.

The narrative starts with crisp vocals, and a rising melody to paint a clear picture of an “I” being disliked. There’s a hoarse tint to opening vocals that erupts into sheer, energetic, powerhouse volume that makes every cell in your body become mitochondria (#powerhouse #punintended: not biologically possible but for the sake of this pun and the crashing of symbols, let this slide).

 

Of course, being me, I need to gush over the lyrics. They are, simply put, beautiful. ONE OK ROCK is extremely clever, aptly creating strong associations with society’s stereotypes of both genders, “Big boys [don’t cry]”/ “Good girls [don’t fight]”. Hi, I’m here for this intelligent use of sign-posting to open up an avenue within their song for clear relations of ideas belonging to gender stereotypes.

 

But let’s talk about the not-so-normal references, like “Try to live a life by design”/[…]”Eat up, stay thin”. Firstly, listeners need to thank ONE OK ROCK for their ever inventive lyrics that keep our palette for variety satiated. I didn’t catch why they were singing about living life by designs – then I got it. And it conveys a powerful message – perhaps we “have designs” on a certain life we want to lead or character we want to be, but the truth is we live life by society’s apparent ‘perfect’ design. We’re architects of a favoured sculpture, but we can’t all fit into one mould. “Eat up, stay thin” sent out a flurry of emotion in me because it’s in the imperative voice. But secondly, it’s because of the intense juxtaposition of eating and staying thin – we typically view these as contradictory events (a dangerous view; eating doesn’t lead to not being thin in every case and context). The way they string it together here sheds light on the fact that often times, people – particularly girls – may sometimes be held to an odd expectation that we can eat our healthy and suitable amounts and yet must aspire to be an unhealthy size after for aesthetic appeal. Wow, fuck, thank you to the band for draping light-bulbs over over-looked messages with careful and clever arrangement. 

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Thank you, ONE OK ROCK, for putting together such a masterpiece. I enjoyed listening to Stand Up Fit In for around fifteen times. Listen up, I won’t stop. #ANTHEM!

 

Disco Hue: RIGHT ON TOP of the music game

RIGHT ON TOP features a pleasurable eclectic wash of shimmer, pop-funk and an intensely fun build-up. With lyrics that make one’s heart soar with the boldness of it all – like “All my love was meant for you” and “Our love’s no secret”, us listeners are treated to a glorious, rich display of love that never truly leaves our bodies and minds.

I enjoy Disco Hue’s music (I nearly fell off the staircase seats at Funan Showsuite after seeing them walk around during Alec Benjamin’s showcase). Time after time, their songs are a bop.

I’ve listened to them at various festivals and music nights in Singapore, catching their smooth energy and catchy, unique melodies live (thank you for a wonderful time always, Disco Hue!). The release of Right On Top (Back to You) was teased as a ‘heist’, and the song perfectly exudes an 80s-90s era romantic thrill. However, as expected of one of Singapore’s leading acts, Disco Hue incorporated interesting ‘electric’ elements in the introduction (first eight seconds) and such an innovative twist on the pop-funk style mould the song is levied into creates an amazing, refreshing sound that keeps listeners intrigued for the next verse, the next chorus — and this curiosity keeps us listening until the song finishes.

What sets them apart are the direct lyrics “I can’t help it”, “Hold me in your arms / Bring me back to you”  in an imperative voice. The band utilizes such imperatives to build on a ‘ brave, strong love’ sort of narrative that is much needed in Singapore currently, a flash of daring light in a society darkened by caution. Right On Top (Back to You) was beautiful, poetic yet instructional, sort of contemporary, yet sort of a soda-pop throwback. Of course, the immensely talented and versatile band has done it perfectly.

Where was Charlie?: Pulling together a Winning Sum

Charlie Lim (@wherewascharlie) and Jasper Tan (@vilecorpses) have been two people that I admired for a long time. And I was having a long (re: shitty as hell) day, thinking that I’d end up living life as a zero-sum game.

I’ve listened to Charlie Lim before – he’s a fixture on my Spotify ‘favourites’, ‘quiet’, ‘study’, ‘please $ave me jamz’ (etc) ever since I fell in love with “Hollow”. Zero Sum from his latest album, CHECK-HOOK, is another song that I am in love with. How did Charlie create a masterpiece of a song that straddles the lines of dream-like and harsh realityI don’t know, but the way he croons out hard-hitting lyrics that declare hopelessness and nostalgia, in an artfully melancholic and reflective manner, is extremely captivating.

There  has always been an enchanting quality to his songs – whenever I listen to Zero Sum, I relish in the way Charlie places refreshing emphasis on lyrics that I feel fit comfortably in the palm of my hand; like I’ve heard them before. With clean layers, a perfect melding of beats and surprisingly soft strain of his voice, Zero Sum is a win-win game for those who listen.

In this day and age, it’s remarkably hard to find songs which escape the story-telling arc of a persona falling in and out of love with a person, hobby, or life in itself. There is  nothing wrong with incorporating such a narrative, because us humans listening are able to inevitably relate to the piece. Charlie, however, consistently bridges the gap between comfortably familiar and this idea of a new-age artist using alternative or undiscovered paints or technology to decorate a narrative with. In Zero Sum, imagery of religion is skillfully transposed onto the individual protagonist and his/her actions towards another person. We can immediately picture the relationship and the struggle that the protagonist is going through – so we aren’t just jammed into a random love story, but one of specific exhaustion, trial and tribulation. From the lyrics to the melody, Zero Sum sends heaven down on Earth once listened to.

The release of Zero Sum’s music video was perfect. The reason was because Jasper Tan – master of unique and quaint visuals that leave the viewer craving for more unfolding of the narrative – directed and produced the video. I have ‘full desire to light that bridge’, perhaps the Helix bridge, up with numerous screens displaying Zero Sum.

 

 

 

 

 

THE WAY THIS GOES IS [PERSONAL]

Oh my goodness. After a good six days of book-marking any Instagram post promoting Ffion’s ‘PERSONAL’ – I did it. I listened. I do  not regret.

PERSONAL has a consistently ‘boppy’ melody, layered cleanly with electro-pop beats and a strong guitar backing. Ffion’s voice melds perfectly with the melody, creating a song that radiates the dreamiest vibes. Listening to PERSONAL feels like stumbling through sand at a beach, on a not-so-sunny day, with waves lapping gently along the shore and a dripping ice cream in my hand, leaving drips on my shirt that only I can see. It’s PERSONAL in meaning and in melody.

I have not listened to Ffion before, and PERSONAL has me wanting to go a binge-listen of all of her music. #ILoveHerSoMuch

Now looking back can we say we even tried? 

Usually, I’d feel that a song with prominent use of first person pronoun leans more towards an angstier, self-revolving meaning. However, Ffion artfully weaves in the use of ‘I’, ‘we’ and finally a ‘ya [you]’ to matter-of-factly state that both parties shouldn’t “take it personal”. The progression is subtle yet warning of an individual’s not-so-smooth end to a relationship. What really stands out is the narrative she creates, which is not immediately telling of a jarring, tragic romance – but rather an introspective, almost cursory glance on one’s rushed crawl out of a harmful romantic pursuit.

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PERSONAL is such an enjoyable listen because of Ffion’s delicate story-telling, coupled with a melody that, at first listen, seems glazed with sugar – like the character is trying to sweep remnants of sharp-as-glass pain under a thick carpet.

Listen to PERSONAL here: wmsg.lnk.to/ffion-personal

SOLO

SOLO starts off strong – one would assume that Jennie is already past the phase of tears and anguish that forges gaping holes in the beautiful girl’s heart after a tragic break-up. In the build-up leading to the chorus, there’s an almost orchestral sound of “oh, oh oh oh, oh” marking out each new verse before the beat drops. It’s glorious and magical when contrasted with the singer’s charming vocals.

Whistles feature prominently in the SOLO by Jennie, a member of the immensely popular KPOP quartet, BLACKPINK. They mark out beat drops, signal an epic chorus and breakdown, and lend a charismatic and nearly hypnotic quality that is present across BLACKPINK’s discography – except this is Jennie in a solo song, belting out powerfully that she’s “tired of pretending. I’m done”.  Coincidentally, BLACKPINK released a song entitled “Whistle” in their debut year, 2016 – which captured  my heart as well as SOLO.

The choice of declaratives, “I’m done”, “This is not a touching love story” to describe the possible post-breakup situation Jennie is in makes her voice strike clearly and powerfully across one’s ears, in that she shapes a narrative of growing through pain, with clarity. The lack of metaphors and usage  of direct references to concepts of a love story in the beginning draws this out for listeners very nicely.

The line “No romance, No sincerity” makes Jennie’s SOLO all the more powerful, for it unites the song with raw emotion of a broken hearted individual – This is a song about past love, and ironically: There is sincerity, in the pain sung about going “SOLO”.

I especially love the line

You’re sitting on your feelings / I’m sitting on my throne,

for this use of figurative language in “sitting on your feelings” that depicts the annoying and indecisive actions of an ex-lover is transposed onto reality, with the physical power-move of “sitting on my throne”.

SOLO is true Jennie, who remarked that her music was “part of BLACKPINK’s”; in that the song bothers to capture both the strength of a character moving on, yet features an underlying softer strain that seeks to highlight the vulnerability in her.

I’m referring to the heart-breakingly raw time-stamp (2:13) of the music video, where Jennie is sobbing, and the lyrics reflect a brief moment of chink-in-her-armour:

I like being alone, because I should be true to myself.

❤ for Jennie and SOLO.

TAKE ME TO MARS by pop!SUGAR

pop!SUGAR signs off their email with Yours SUGARly. Has there been a more perfect band-brand dynamic?

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pop!SUGAR had reached out to me prior to the release of their debut single, “Taste the Rainbow”, which charted on the Spotify playlists of New Music Friday Singapore, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam. The trio’s first adrenaline-charged, energy-high single also clinched a spot on Apple Music’s Best of the Week playlist.  “Take Me to Mars” enables listeners to continue riding the fun, electronic wave that is fuelled by an outpour of energetic production styles – courtesy of the pop!SUGAR trio.

2“Take Me to Mars” is a song about long-distance romance, featuring an adorable animated character who has to overcome this LDR struggle. Any follower of their Instagram (@pop.sugarmusic) would have been wondering what the dramatic reveal  of kid!FLOSS – one-third of the genius members behind pop!SUGAR – had to do with the release of their latest single.
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On 26th October, we find out that kid!FLOSS isn’t just any old animated character, but our favourite long-distance runner in the race of love. ❤

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The release of the song is accompanied by a funky and bright lyric video. Watch it here.

YOUTH 2030

IT IS SO IMPORTANT and BEAUTIFUL to use your influence for good, especially when you are in a position that enables the words you speak to be heard by numerous people, who typically follow the theories or ideas you bring up in your speech.


My name is Athena Tan, and I am a young person chasing an impossible dream, My dream is to be hired by Conde Nast and work under them. I dream to head a creative video series where I travel to different parts of the world – namely countries and lands where children are in need of help from issues of violence, substance abuse and poverty – and I want to create things with the people there. I know it is a cliched thing to say that I want to change the world and make a positive difference, but I don’t want to just bring aid to the people – I want to help the people achieve their own goals. Hence, I want to work with people living in uncomfortable and unsuitable living conditions by engaging them in the process of empowering themselves.

I want to be a lawyer, retain my abilities to design and produce Carpe Bloom, and be hired by Conde Nast, and above all – make a positive difference to the world. That’s a lot of ands, and I’m adding another one:

And, I can’t do it.

I say this because I’m working very hard on my end to make Carpe Bloom a quality publication and collective, I’m trying to fulfil my responsibilities as a student, and I am creating a better atmosphere for my own family. However, I am struggling with deep-seated anxiety and stress that comes with insecurities about my personality and body image.

I am not having a good time, and I constantly  feel weighted down by numerous things.

This morning, at 6am, I downloaded the audio recording of BTS’ address at the United Nations conference on September 24th. I listened to the recording on the bus ride to school. There was no guarantee that I would become a better person or be able to achieve my goals, but Kim Namjoon constantly brought up the idea of “embracing yourself as hard as you can”.

Despite being someone who touts the ideology of loving your self before taking care of the other things in life, I do not know how to actually ’embrace’ myself. It is very hard to do so when I, like  Hamlet, set myself up in a mirror to see right through the good and instead focus on all the imperfections and mistakes that I have made, or that I am. BTS addressed this in their speech today – that even as idols and artistes they are ordinary men, and even though they are ordinary men they are human, and it is because they are human that mistakes were made and worries are re-surface, but that it is okay.

They have achieved a lot. I hope to achieve a lot. The mind-set they carry with them is one of self-love, having developed this strong mentality after facing much hardship before reaching this stellar point in their careers. All  I carry with me at the moment is self-doubt tinged with self-hate.

I often write about passion and productivity to my readers of Carpe Bloom. I link both, stating that if you have enough passion and drive to take the steps in your journey that will make it easier for  you to achieve your goals, then you have mastered productive action – because this productive action is enabling you to feel confident, better about yourselves, as you eventually will be able to hit a certain target you have set for yourself. I remember writing back to a contributor about how I was proud of their passion for their craft and the productive steps they took to produce a piece of work that other people, like myself, can cherish.

But this idea of passion fueling productivity does not necessarily hold true when I  keep let lingering self-doubt and hatred and pity pool in my palms. Even if I grasp at my keyboard and my pens and my notebooks and work my butt off to write, and design, and edit, and email – I will not feel that I have achieved anything if I do not rid myself of the self-induced negativity.

So the question still remains – how do I become more secure about myself, my flaws, my fears and my ambitions? It isn’t so easy to find the answer.


But I did find the answer – and the answer was in this historical event of a South Korean boyband addressing the United Nations assembly.

The answer was to look at how far my role-models have come, and who they stand for. It is about applauding them for bridging the gap between youth and societal issues and harm, and looking at the people who are listening to them attentively. It is about looking at people as people, and admiring them as a fellow person, for making it very far, and for using their position of power and influence to generate positivity.

It is about aspiring to be in that position, so we can impart the same love and confidence onto more people in the future, too.

 

The Last One Standing

We’ve been waiting for this far too long.

What? What is it? Can you tell me, Mother Earth – Mother of the Seas, Mother of the Pearl, Mother-of-the-World-is-Your-Oyster?

I am going to tell you that you’re a special one.

No, man – you say that to everyone.

And that is the truth. Everyone is special in their own right.


She was not much older than I was, yet she was sitting in a swivelly chair with cushions and elbow pads. Across from me, in a consultation room. “While I had stooped so low, you had soared so high…” I smile at her. “I’m just amazed at how far you’ve come.

 

She offers me a wry smile in return. “Well, why, thank you? But honey -”

 

I cringe. She notices. “Sorry, is that too much?

YES. IT IS. “No, it isn’t.” I grab a tissue anyway. Her eyebrows raise. The foundation is set tightly on her face, perfectly primed – I could never do a full face of make-up like her so perfectly. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

My wrists turn in as they start to wring, my lips dry and chucking out the next words like unwanted profanity. “I – I’m so sorry, but I can’t do this. Like, this is what happened with each and every other session. I don’t answer to cliche questions of what’s wrong because I don’t fucking know what’s wrong. I’m aware that I sound like a hopeless, spoiled brat – no, I don’t expect you to bend to my whims and ask me some abstract, absurd question that messes up my stupid mind even more – but – but – please. Anything but that question.” I feel the snot start to gather in my nose. The lady around my age, sitting across from me, with a face full of perfect makeup, starts to fold a piece of paper neatly in half. She folds it into quarters.

She looks up. “Why don’t you look at it from another angle? I’m not asking you what’s wrong in general.” She stops folding the paper. She slides it towards me. “What is this? A piece of paper. But when we use our brains and fingers to nimbly and deftly fold and crease and kiss corners, what becomes of it? Some could call it origami; some could call it the creator of living organisms from the dead piece of paper. It depends  on how you look at it.”

“So I was actually asking you this, alright – what’s wrong with calling you honey?’ I feel my tongue curl in. “I mean…don’t you find it wrong?

 

She snatches the piece of paper back. “I don’t, because I can’t see what you’re seeing. What exactly is wrong with it? Explain, because I’m seeing the paper blank while you’re seeing it as quarters of a crane about to be born.” My eyes flicker down to the paper, her nails skimming the surface of the paper. Nice  role reversal. “I’m not seeing it as quarters, though – I’m seeing it as blank”, I offer a chuckle, “I can’t see it as anything else other than dead.”

The lights turn off. My shoulders jolt up, peaking like mountain tops along a mountain range. Instantly, the temperature turns lower. I’m trapped in not only  my brain, but a horror movie plot? Seems legit. I’m done with therapists and consultants and the constant ocean of pain and shame over me. I’m ready to surrender. I do not mind. I do not mind.

“Mother Earth”, I start. There’s an invisible, lingering whisper in the air, tugging my tongue towards the rise and fall of their slow intonation. “Mother Earth, Mother Nature, Mother of the seven seas and twelve months and every rock on this world”, can you help me? just let me go.

I sit there and wait. I even cross my legs, straighten my shoulders, make sure my pony-tail hairs are in a uniform brush down my back. I am your good student, Master Universe, and I am ready to be dislocated and disjointed and torn from limb to limb and peeled fifteen times over and wrung, up, with a clothes peg, on a star, in your great galaxy. Just floating, just nebulous, non-negotiably gone from this place.

The lady across from me appears in the darkness. Her eyes are gone and her neck has grown longer. I am staring at a crane, but somehow, I know that she is the woman I saw before. Her paper flesh ripples  to surface a pair of lips. I instinctively poise my body to follow any instruction.

“My human.”

Wet. Wet, wet, wet the tears are. They skim down my face like a pair of ice-skaters – Olympians – in their home: ice.

“Just look at yourself in the great  chain of being. You are my precious human, and you are near the top. And you have earned that place.”

So has everyone else! Why is my heart-beat worth more than theirs? Why? Why? WHY?

“My human. You keep falling  into this cycle. You need to stop understanding what others think of you, why you’re unequal to others – superior or inferior – because all of you are equal and each to be cherished. I love my humans.”

I anticipate a hashtag #LOVEYOURSELF. The crane continues, in the dark.

“We’re in the dark now because it is easy to see yourself like this. You often let your imagination run wild when it’s dark, right? Because you can see anything, even though it isn’t there. So imagine yourself. What do you want to be.”

It’s strange…

I find it strange that when I close my eyes, all I see is myself. A mirror image. An identical twin. “You see yourself. My job is done.”

My eyes are still closed, but I can see her disappear. The lights turn back on. My body feels an unwelcome heat.

The lady is seated across from me. I half expect her to pat me on the shoulder and tell me that I’ve fallen asleep and drool is making its way down my chest.

Instead, she turns to me and speaks with light in her eyes,

“Everything was real. You looked at yourself and saw you were real. All you need to do is go home.”

Home  I went. I paid the bill without flinching or cursing at myself inside for withdrawing such a large sum of money out from the bank to pay for this medical treatment.

Because I understood that I had needed it.

And I was here, now, standing, solid flesh, real.

All  I needed to do was understand myself. If not, who else would?

The last one standing for yourself, willing to understand you, is YOU.