Singaporean music director behind J.Lo's performance at US President Biden's inauguration

Singaporean Lenny Wee was the music director for pop star Jennifer Lopez's live performance at US President Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony on Jan 20, 2021.
Singaporean Lenny Wee was the music director for pop star Jennifer Lopez's live performance at US President Joe Biden's inauguration ceremony on Jan 20, 2021.PHOTO: COURTESY OF LENNY WEE

SINGAPORE - A Singaporean was instrumental in producing pop star Jennifer Lopez' headline act at United States President Joe Biden's inauguration on Wednesday (Jan 21).

Mr Lenny Wee, who has been in the US music industry since 2008, was the music director for the pop star's live performance at the US Capitol.

He produced, arranged, orchestrated and directed the medley of folk and patriotic songs for Lopez's segment, which saw her perform This Land Is Your Land and America The Beautiful, as well as Lopez's 1999 hit Let's Get Loud.

Mr Wee, 36, also worked on the pre-recorded music for singer Demi Lovato's performance on the Celebrating America television show that aired on the night of Mr Biden's inauguration.

Based in Los Angeles, Mr Wee flew to Washington two days before the inauguration.

"It was a very strange experience," he said in a video call. "Everything was on lockdown and there were barricades around the hotel. We couldn't leave the hotel or meet anybody to socialise while we were there. I was there to do a job and everyone was there to get this event done properly without any hiccups."

He had a police escort every time he travelled to and from the hotel and the Capitol. He could not order food as delivery riders were not allowed in, so he had his meals at the hotel's restaurant.

On the day of the ceremony, Mr Wee arrived at the Capitol at 9am. During Lopez's performance more than two hours later, he was at the Capitol lawn with the sound crew to supervise the audio. He left at about 1pm and headed straight to the airport to catch a flight back to Los Angeles.

Mr Wee has worked with Lopez since 2013 for projects such as her live tours. Her team approached him two weeks before the inauguration.

"This Land Is Your Land and America The Beautiful are songs that have been done a million times. So they asked if I can do them in a fresh way that represents who she is as an artist by using the big orchestra sound, but without it sounding too traditional," said Mr Wee, who specialises in arranging orchestras for pop artistes.

A former Anglo-Chinese Junior College student, Mr Wee moved to the US in 2006 to study at the Berklee College of Music in Boston after his national service.

He graduated with double majors in music production and engineering, and contemporary writing and production. The bachelor then moved to Los Angeles and has been based there since.

Over the years, the US green card holder has worked on the music for major American events such as the Grammys, Oscars and Super Bowl, as well as television shows such as American Idol. He has also worked with other popular artistes such as soul icon Stevie Wonder and hip-hop artist Kanye West, who coincidentally ran an unsuccessful presidential campaign in the US elections last year.

Mr Wee returns to Singapore to visit his family about once a year. He was last back here in March last year and stayed for three months before flying back to Los Angeles.

"I'm very lucky to be able to do those things as an immigrant from Singapore," he said of getting to work on major events in the US. "As a musician, not everybody gets those opportunities."