BY IAN URRUTIA
LAYOUT DESIGN BY MC GALANG; ARTIST PHOTOS COURTESY OF UMAMI RECORDS SINGAPORE
Mental health has always been an essential subject in pop music. While we are far from breaking the stigma, several artists have used their influence to educate people about the importance of awareness to debunk misconceptions and increase chances for intervention.
Last year, Singaporean singer-songwriter and producer Dominic Chin released a song called “SHY”—an infectious club banger that deals with the struggles of overcoming overnight fame. It turns out, the attention was too much for him, which led to depressive episodes and anxiety at a pivotal point in his life. Speaking to The New Paper Singapore, the 24-year-old pop sensation sheds light on the importance of self-care and public understanding. He shares, “My wish is for the song to spark conversation of why we are ‘not okay’. Let’s all stop hiding behind the ‘I’m fine’, and let’s talk about it and grow as a community.”
On the euphoric chorus of “SHY,” Chin tries to break free from the trauma that’s been holding him back, even as it continues to haunt him for the entirety of his life. He tears up the dance floor and allows vulnerability to seep in. And as the wobbling electronics pound and unleash exultant energies, he turns the emotional breakout into an anthem that we could all dance to, turning pain into a source of immediate pleasure.
Perhaps, Chin knows that a way to a listener’s heart isn’t escapism at all, but relatability, and the power to convey complex emotions through electronic and pop music—an innate skill that gave him more reasons to connect with fans. On days when the sun is warmer and the mood calls for a lighter-themed song, the full-time performing artist channels his music influences with sly confidence. On his latest single “AWARE,” the electro-pop singer-songwriter writes about being freely expressive of his romantic feelings.
A candidate for song of the summer, the fourth single off his upcoming debut EP under Umami Records SG, brims with impossibly catchy beats and thumping synths. In an interview with The Rest Is Noise, he tells us the story behind his future hit: “It’s a playful song about having a crush on someone, and wanting to please them by taking notice of them and what they like. I’m very used to writing songs about my sad times because I do feel most inspired to help people knowing how much pain certain tough times feel like, but this time around, I decided to write about another playful part of my life, and that has something to do with love.”
As someone who takes charge of the songwriting process, Chin was also responsible for laying down the vocals and supervising the production to make sure he captures the sound and emotions perfectly in the comforts of his own bedroom before submitting the material for mix and mastering. He credits R&B star Khalid as inspiration for the track, with the song “Talk” in mind. “We wanted a similar structure, but we soon found our own sonic path, and created this fun and colourful sound,” the “CLSE2U” hitmaker tells us. “We played around with the beats and synths before the words kicked in. I wrote the verse pretty quickly, but the chorus took a while ‘coz we wanted a certain phrasing and harmony to sit on top of the beat. It was a blast.”
On top of releasing “SHY” on digital and streaming platforms worldwide, Dominic Chin is also wrapping up the production of his new record, License To Cry, which was a term coined by a friend in response to listening to his 2020 single “HERE.” The Singapore-based artist adds, “She said that my songs are really just a ‘license to cry’ and I resonated with that because nobody ever made fun of people who cried in the name of art. I’ve had my fair share of pain growing up, a topic I’ve explored in my music. Despite the high-energy tracks, my lyrics have always been about baring my soul and emotions.”
What a time to be alive knowing pop stars these days are making the kind of music that not only lifts you up, but also reflects those moments when we feel alienated from the rest of the world. As Pitchfork’s Jayson Greene puts it, “Persistence, or better yet, survival—the most primally uplifting dance music of all time is built around it. Dancing is in some ways an admission of death, a defiance that acknowledges loss. This is why all good dance music also has an eschatological bent.” Listening to Dominic Chin helps dance away your feelings. It’s music as a therapy, a companion piece, an art imitating life; it goes beyond function and form.