A Curious Case For the Fun Pack Song

Written by someone as old as Singapore itself, the Fun Pack Song is the latest curious absurdity from Singapore that has gone viral. I haven’t heard anything good about it, but perhaps it’s an exquisite little piece of stupidity. What better way is there to represent the bizarre—the feverish, false patriotism and the socio-cultural space of Singapore in general—than with pure bizarreness?

The way the song recasts the all too familiar  Lady Gaga song, “Bad Romance,” says a lot. Is the compulsion/compulsiveness of Singaporean love for the “nation” not a case of bad romance in the way love and loyalty is elicited (solicited?) from citizens caught in a state of bondage to an ideological artifact so hollow that it has to pack itself with orchestrated acts of love in an annual orgiastic ritual? The sheer recognizability of the tune makes “Bad Romance” too prominent to be considered an allusion—it is very much a part of the text itself. Love for Singapore as bad romance. The subversive energy of the song, re-interpreted, is seductive.

It may be obvious why the organizers allowed Bad Romance into the NDP. There is no better song that represents current popular culture. And of course, in the fervor to show that there is a force reaching out to the masses, it would seem like a good decision to have Bad Romance in the NDP. Just as it must have seemed like a good move for the MDA to come up with what it thought was a rap. Just as it must have seemed like a master stroke for MPs to attempt a hip-hop dance to show that they were engaging the people.

The irony of tapping into Gaga as a resource is of course that, despite the fact that there can hardly be anything more mainstream, there can also be hardly anything mainstream that purports to represent the marginal more vociferously. Gaga is a signifier, if a rather empty one, of a voice for the marginal, often marketing herself as a spokesperson against such evils as homophobia. The presence of Gaga in an event like the NDP begs to be taken as irony. The NDP represents sanctioned Singapore culture, emphasizing the importance of the nation (over the individual). It is an event utopic and euphoric in the way it turns itself into an installation piece showcasing Singaporean unity and happiness while relegating the less comfortable aspects of Singapore—such as caning, capital punishment and 377A—to virtual non-existence. Gaga, deservedly or not, represents, on the other hand, a sort of posturing against that which is sanctioned by dominant culture. While Gaga herself has no part to play in the NDP, her presence as a symbol has the potential to undermine what the NDP stands for.

The Fun Pack Song can be taken as a mockery of the NDP because of the way it blatantly foregrounds the goodie bag (which, some suspect, is the reason people attend the NDP). The complimentary goodie bag becomes the center of all focus. Instead of attempting to arouse and indulge in sentiments of nationalism or patriotism, the song indulges in the bag and its goods:

Let’s start with the bag
That’s right, grab your bag
It’s the fun pack bag
Attack the fun pack

There seems to be an adaptation and extension of an idea in the original song: “I want your everything as long as it’s free.” As reflected by words like “grab” and “attack,” there is an inherent violence in the relentless quest for commodities and economic benefits. This is a more accurate representation of Singapore culture than feel-good national day songs as how united Singaporeans are as a people or how Singapore is a home for us all no matter how cosmopolitan we are. The unavoidable show of patriotism that is expected during the NDP does make an appearance, but rather uncannily:

Hold up your flag, don’t you forget
You can wave it if you feel like it

The show of patriotism here seems rather half-harted. Wave your flag “if you feel like it.” (And if I don’t?) On top of that, the line “Hold up your flag, don’t you forget” is both ominous and ironic. It is phrased like an injunction, and there is a warning tone as one is reminded not to forget. At the same time, implicit in the line is the idea that it is altogether possible to forget about the nation, as represented by the flag, on National Day itself. And of course we can. What nation is there? Singapore is so indulgent in its pursuit of commodities that it is an economic entity, not a nation. National Day, then, is not just meaningless, but a lavish attempt to display absent meanings which become goods themselves.

The song gets increasingly absurd as it starts telling the audience to take out their light sticks and “pretend . . . it’s a disco.” Why would anyone have to or want to pretend that it’s a disco? Perhaps the NDP can only be something by being a semblance of something else. The same goes for the entity that the event is supposed to celebrate—we have to pretend that it is a home, we have to pretend to be one united people (not many united or disunited individuals), we have to pretend that there is justice and equality just so that “Singapore” can seem to make sense as a nation. Of course it doesn’t. But the show has to go on.

One wonders if the self-referential line that is repeated throughout the song, “We like the fun pack song,” is actually written with an ironic sense of anticipation that people are not going to like it. In any case, it is a reminder that the song itself is one of the commodities meant to be consumed in the name of the nation (or so that the nation has a name?), a lamentation, perhaps, that this is something it cannot transcend.

You and me could write a bad romance. But we can’t traverse the boundaries of the grand narrative that that we are made to tell regardless of what we say.

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11 Responses

  1. Fantastic analysis! Indeed, the Fun Pack Song is such a brilliantly crafted work of satire that its ironic elements couldn’t possibly have been unintended… could it?

  2. […] National Day Parade 2011 organiser relearns copyright issue raised during N-Day 2008 – Molitics: A Curious Case For the Fun Pack Song – A Singaporeans says: Going gaga over intellectual property, right? – Anonymous_X: Haresh Sharma […]

  3. […] the original post: A Curious Case For the Fun Pack Song « Molitics This entry was posted in Latest News, Singapore News and tagged curious-absurdity, […]

  4. Ironic? Maybe. Moronic? Absolutely.

  5. Good analysis but i think in context, the song’s just a bad song and you may simply be reading too much into it. Question: why would the pre-parade song come up with such sublime irony if the mood of NDP is meant to be a celebration of the nation? It seems too jarring to the overall theme of the event and what’s the point if more than half the audience would probably never “get it”?

  6. /// Written by someone as old as Singapore itself, the Fun Pack Song is the latest curious absurdity from Singapore that has gone viral. ///

    Let’s see now – Singapore was founded by Raffles in 1819.

    Quick arithmetic – wow, you are 192 years young.

    • That’s a gross underestimation! The island existed way before 1819.

      • way way way b4 raffles “founded” singapore – the was already a well-established civilization living and thriving here, in fact singapore was on a high “wanted” list by the portuguese, malaccans, burmese and thais who took turns trying to conquer the island and turn it into a trading outpost – singapore had been ruled by 5 kings before raffles – the word “founded” only applies to the colonial context of the discovery of a goldmine for the then empire to systematically drain it of it’s wealth…

        funny thing is, not a lot of this is mentioned in our HISTORY textbooks
        as it mainly focuses on our dear founder of “modern-day” singapore

  7. It’s official – the fun song has been sent packing………….

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