SOURCE: THE STRAITS TIMES
Like any Singaporean proud to be Singaporean, it's always nice to see another countryman do his or her darnedest to stand out in the world, writes Yeow Kai Chai.
How wonderful to witness on YouTube Ling Kai rocking out an original One Person on China's reality TV singing show Sing My Song. Watch how the eyebrows of judges such as Wakin Chau and Tanya Chua slowly arch.
Still, something festers: Does she have that oomph, that thingamajig to truly make it big?
The same concern resurfaces with the latest releases by two other talented home-grown singers, Ming Bridges and Ruby Chen.
In Morphosis, Bridges doesn't want to be another folky waif. Look at the cover: With her scary-fizzy do and skin-tight leather (or PVC) tights, she's ready to do a Pat Benatar.
Normally, I would be suspicious of such a volte-face, notwithstanding the fact that the folk behind her are estimable musicians - lyricist Xiaohan and producer Eric Ng of Funkie Monkies for Bridges; and Peter Lee Shih Shiong who produced Lizz.
Yet, the photo spread of Bridges posing like a beauty queen in diaphanous dresses inside the CD sleeve catches you off guard. Who is the real Ming Bridges?
The comely Hydra of female artists, she's still figuring it all out - and she's taken the cues from everyone.
Sugar High is a shot of electronic dance music pumped with Ke$ha naughtiness as she pleads with someone "to give me sugar all night"; and Brand New, a pop-metal doozie, struts with Toni Basil sass while she squeals "demolition of tradition". So ridiculous, they almost work.
Contrast this with her good-girl side: Strawberries And White Chocolates (Wonderland) aims for the Sara Bareilles vibe, but ends up more like early whimsical Lenka. The breezy Ray Of Light-era synth-ballad Fire is airy, and you nod along like a Madonna bobblehead.
That said, these schizoid elements promise myriad possibilities for Bridges: Go full-on Lorde with jerky, zombie tics, or aim for synth-happy Ellie Goulding.
In comparison, Ruby Chen, one-fourth of the hilariously-titled Singapore Char Siew Baos!, does sound like an archetypal folkie. Her Circles EP, astutely produced, posits her as a chilled jazzer alongside Malaysians Yuna and Zee Avi, but less Americanised. Does that make her more exportable? Probably not.
Chen doesn't care. Less is more: Where Were You is snug, boasting gently plucked guitar riffs and percussion brushes. A Song For Granny, dedicated to her late grandmother, tugs at heartstrings.
Unless she does a Ke$ha next, it's clear that Chen is fine with being the next Corrinne May, Dawn Fung, or bossa-folkie Olivia Ong, strumming and making you reflect on just being human.