The Mickey Mouse song

How come the NDP theme song is more uptempo this year while the growth rate has slowed down? Could it be a reflection of a subconscious itch to kick the economy, get it to speed?

It’s a perky little ditty – this Mickey Mouse National Day Parade theme song that will get the booties shaking on August 9. No offence meant. The name of Mickey Mouse is not being used here as a synonym for a piddling, piffling, pissant piece of trash for which Walt Disney’s famous creation has unjustly become a byword.

Your correspondent loves Mickey Mouse – and has fond memories of the parade at Disneyland where Mickey and his pals and the Mouseketeers go dancing in the streets lined by cheering visitors. The dancers smile, the visitors smile, the smile never leaves the faces of Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy and Pluto – it’s one big, happy, smiley, foot-tapping, bootie-jiggling experience as joyous as our festive National Day. When the skydivers drop from the heavens, the dancers go into overdrive and the crowd happily roars along. Everyone goes bananas.

Who says Singaporeans are the world’s most emotionless people! The accusers ought to be here on National Day.  When the allegedly uptight Singaporeans uncork their spirits and celebrate as spontaneously as Brazilians on Mardi Gras.

There have been slow, dreamy ballads picked as NDP theme songs in the past. The organizers this year plumped for an upbeat number that’s perky as Mickey Mouse. If Kit Chan’s NDP theme song, Home, tugged at our heartstrings and last year’s theme song, Love at First Sight, was languorous as a day at the beach, this year’s song, One Singapore, is relentlessly cheerful like party music.

Talking of Mickey Mouse, the writer William Gibson once wrote an article on Singapore called Disneyland with the Death Penalty. It was unfair. He only saw a strict regime, not the industry and the foresight that made Singapore what it is. Singapore has changed since that article was published in 1993. Singapore has still no Disneyland, but it has got Universal Studios. The kids can have their fun and the adults a flutter at the gaming tables. There were no casinos when Gibson came, now there are two. Singapore now welcomes the high rollers as well as the depositors who once banked in Zurich. The Lion City has become more of a service economy, pitching for the tourist dollar as well as the offshore depositor. Singapore will dethrone Switzerland in the next two years as the world’s top centre for managing international funds, reported PriceWaterhouseCoopers. And though Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong doubted that, Singapore has clearly become a magnet for the rich. From the Wall Street Journal to Al Jazeera, the big guns of international media have turned their sights on the yachts and private jets and Rolls-Royces now found in the city.

This year’s upbeat NDP theme song certainly fits in with the flush, rich Singapore making its pitch for more tourist dollars, more offshore depositors. This is not a dig at the song or Singapore today. To take a line from the song, “I love Singapore.”

But I love some of the old songs more. Songs such as Stand Up for Singapore and One People, One Nation, One Singapore.  Maybe one likes old, familiar songs more. Maybe One Singapore will also become a timeless favourite over the years. There’s one thing, however, it will never be – hummable. You can’t hum it like Stand Up for Singapore.  It’s true that, except for the variation in the middle – where girlish voices break into a hip-hop-like patter about “I love Singapore” – the song is as repetitive as a metronome, pumping up and down like a walker on a treadmill. But can you sing it alone? It has to be sung by a group.

Instead of a Kit Chan leading the crowd, there will be a choir singing the song. It’s a collective song. Which adds, what, a Confucian element to this Mickey Mouse song? Confucian, Mickey Mouse, whatever, it’s a swinging, Singaporean, lively, happy song that will lift hearts and get booties shaking on National Day. Whether it will stand the test of time, only time will tell.

One last thought. Remember watching on TV that morning in January 2009 when Bruce Springsteen and Pete Seeger took the stage to sing This Land Is Your Land at Obama’s inauguration? It is a celebration of America that takes in its beauty as well as its problems.  The NDP songs, on the other hand, are marked by boundless optimism. Maybe it is because Singapore is such a young nation, celebrating only its 48th anniversary. Even Disneyland is older, opened on July 17, 1955 – a full 10 years before the independence of Singapore.

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