The Freshman tried to make Provision Shop theme song not sound like NDP tune

The Freshman, comprising Chen Diya (left) and Carrie Yeo, are behind the theme song for The Provision Shop.
The Freshman, comprising Chen Diya (left) and Carrie Yeo, are behind the theme song for The Provision Shop.PHOTO: TNP FILE

The Freshman say they wanted to highlight similarities, not differences, in their theme song for The Provision Shop

When they were coming up with the theme song for the telemovie The Provision Shop, local music act The Freshman faced one major hurdle.

"The most difficult part of writing this song was trying to make it not sound too much like an NDP (National Day Parade) song," says Chen Diya, 30. She and fellow Project Superstar alumna Carrie Yeo, 34, make up The Freshman and they have recently released their second full-length album, Growing Up.

The brief given to them by the Ministry of Communications and Information was "integration and diversity".

The Provision Shop, which aired on Channel 8 on Sunday, was filmed by director Royston Tan in collaboration with advertising agency Tribal Worldwide Singapore and the ministry. It shows the tensions which arise in a community between locals and foreigners and how they are resolved.

We put a lot of effort into the lyrics and it's nice to know that someone spent the time to try and understand. Not just anyone, but PM Lee.

CHEN DIYA of The Freshman

The duo had to work in the themes without the song coming across as "propaganda-ish" or sounding like Hao Gong Min, a Good Citizen textbook used in primary school.

Yeo says: "We're not copywriters, we're not songwriters who write for others. And we're the ones singing it, so it has to be personal."

 
 

The resulting upbeat Mandarin track, You Kong Ji De Yue Wo (Remember To Ask Me Out When You're Free), struck a chord with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who shared it on his Facebook page on Monday. It has garnered more than 4,200 positive reactions, while the music video, which is on the Gov.sg Facebook page, has chalked up more than 170,000 views. The clip has more than 6,400 views on YouTube, suggesting that most people watched it by clicking on the link in Mr Lee's post.

Getting his stamp of approval was "like striking lottery ah", exclaims Chen.

They have since shared the glowing testimonial on their own Facebook page with the hashtag #achievementunlocked.

Mr Lee said in his post that he enjoyed the song and even played the video twice, "first to absorb the lyrics, then to enjoy the images".

Chen says: "We put a lot of effort into the lyrics and it's nice to know that someone spent the time to try and understand. Not just anyone, but PM Lee."

She composed the music and wrote the lyrics with Yeo after reading the script for The Provision Shop.

"I wanted to bring home the fact that instead of thinking about the differences, let's think about the similarities we have," she says.

"And it's very simple. We live in the same place. This is not just one person's home, but our home."

The chorus of the song goes: "The same place, this is our happy home/ The same corner, an accumulation of little acts of care/ Had once thought this was all changing too much/ Looking back, discovered that I've grown a lot too."

Ironically, fans are saying it is the sort of NDP song they would like to hear.

User Hu Tianfa gushed: "Gosh, this could possibly be a better NDP song! We need this kind of song!"

The duo have embraced the suggestions and are planning to release an English version of the track, titled Call Me (Not Maybe), on YouTube and Facebook next week.

Chen says of the tongue-in-cheek tribute to past NDP songs: "A lot of people texted me, saying we should have an English version."

Adds Yeo: "So we wrote a Singlish version for fun."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2016, with the headline 'Singing about a happy home'. Print Edition | Subscribe