Neon Lights headliner Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna wants to make music with K-pop's BTS

Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna, 31, told The Straits Times that the idea for a collaboration came a year ago, but nothing has been firmed up yet. PHOTO: NEON LIGHTS

SINGAPORE - Los Angeles-based Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna caused quite a stir among her fans when she recently tweeted her intention to make music with South Korean pop juggernaut BTS.

Nothing is firmed up yet though, she tells The Straits Times in a telephone interview ahead of her headlining set on Friday (Nov 9), the first night of three-day music and arts festival Neon Lights 2018 at Fort Canning Park.

Yuna says the idea for the collaboration started a year ago when BTS member Jungkook added Mannequin, a song from her 2016 album Chapters,to his Spotify playlist.

"Maybe it's something we should explore. I'm a huge fan (of BTS) and if you're already a fan of my music then why not," she says from Kuala Lumpur.

The 31-year-old is no stranger to high-profile collaborations.

Another song from Chapters, Crush, was a duet with American R&B star Usher. The song peaked at No. 3 on the United States' R&B charts, while the album was included in Billboard and Rolling Stone's best R&B albums of 2016. She has also done songs with acclaimed hip-hop/pop producer/singer Pharrell (Live Your Life, 2012) and pop singer Owl City (Shine Your Way, 2013).

The singer, who moved to the US eight years ago to launch her international music career, is excited about her Neon Lights show as it marks her first major concert in Southeast Asia in two years. She also performed at the festival's last outing at the park in 2016. This year's festival features other acclaimed indie acts such as American band Interpol and home-grown bands Riot !n Magenta and Sobs, as well as live art performances and roving entertainers.

And while she has been busy touring the US as well as Europe, she also returns to Malaysia often to visit her family as well as to sing at private events once every few months.

Her Neon Lights setlist will comprise songs from Chapters as well as her two other international releases, Yuna (2012) and Nocturnal (2013).

She has been working on new songs and promises to play a new track off her next album, which she reckons will be released in March next year.

"I've been writing a lot of songs which just didn't feel right yet, but now the album is finally coming together."

Like Chapters, it will also feature guest stars but she is keeping mum on who they are. "It's going to be another surprise."

Born Yunalis Mat Zara'ai in Kedah, the law-school graduate first made her name as an indie singer in Malaysia through social media platform Myspace in the mid-2000s.

She moved to the US soon after her first Malaysian album, Decorate, was released in 2010.

Her music has since been used in 2012 Hollywood crime thriller, Savages, as well as television shows like medical drama Grey's Anatomy (2005 to now) and superhero series Arrow (2012 to now).

She also grooms rising Malaysian artists through her own record and artist management company Yuna Room Records.

She recently directed a music video for Alone, a song by one of the acts under her label, Hani & Zue. It was her first experience at directing and she had help from her husband, Malaysian director Adam Sinclair. The couple tied the knot earlier this year.

Marriage has made her more comfortable in being herself, she says.

"In the past I was holding back my creativity. My husband is super supportive, he's my best friend, we bounce ideas off each other and discuss work and creative stuff, so it's fun to have someone who is super understanding."



WHERE: Fort Gate, Fort Canning Park,

WHEN: Tomorrow, from 6pm, Saturday and Sunday, from 2pm (Nov 9 to 11),

ADMISSION: From $25(children three to 12 years old) and $99 (13 years and above). Go to


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