As Singapore marks its 56th birthday on August 9, we look back on—and take strength from—some of the songs that have become the soundtrack of the annual National Day Parade

For a song that has been commissioned to foster a sense of belonging and solidarity, there is nothing more polarising than the theme song of the annual National Day Parade (NDP). (The parade this year has been postponed to August 21.)

Don’t get us wrong, we love a good, goosebumps-inducing song, but when the year’s theme song is released just weeks before Singapore’s birthday on August 9, everyone and their mother have opinions.

Even so, there are songs that have struck an emotional chord and brought some to tears—a sure sign that we are all proud to call Singapore home.

The Dick Lee classic, Home, sung by Kit Chan at the 1998 NDP, remains a crowd favourite. Since then, a new song has been commissioned for every National Day (except for 2014 and not counting the remakes).

They have come to showcase not only homegrown musical talents, including Linying, Nathan Hartono, Charlie Lim and JJ Lin, but also filmmaking talents such as Royston Tan, who shot the official music video in 2019, and Wee Li Lin in 2018.

We take a look at this year’s NDP theme song, The Road Ahead, and re-jig our collective memory of the notable tunes from the past decade to put on your playlist this month.

See also: Dick Lee is Back on Stage and Ready to Connect with His Audience

1. The Road Ahead (2021) by Linying, Sezairi Sezali, Shye-Anne Brown and Shabir

Singapore continues to face uncertain times this year, and The Road Ahead, written and composed by singer-songwriter Linying and music producer Evan Low, calls on fellow Singaporeans to stay united and draw strength from our can-do spirit. The song’s refrain reminds us of how we can overcome the odds in the face of adversity (“Come whatever on the road ahead, we did it before, and we’ll do it again”), while its music video, which is a blend of live-action and animation directed by Huang Junxiang and Jerrold Chong, offers hope for the future.

Since its release in July, the song has inspired numerous covers, including a beautiful choreography piece by the Singapore Dance Theatre (SDT) company dancer Timothy Ng, who performed with Yeo Chan Yee, with musical arrangement and piano accompaniment by SDT’s company pianist Gabriel Hoe in the video.

See also: How to Celebrate National Day 2021 At Home in Singapore

2. Everything I Am (2020) by Nathan Hartono

With themes of family, togetherness, kindness and gratitude, the 2020 NDP theme song, with music and lyrics by Joshua Wan, addresses a challenging year for Singapore, while the music video highlights the stories of its citizens­—and a reminder to come together and help one another through tough times.

See also: The New Asia: The Most Powerful, Influential and Stylish People to Know

3. Our Singapore (2019) by Various Artists

Featuring 27 Singaporean musicians across four generations, including Louis Soliano, Ramli Sarip, Stefanie Sun and The Sam Willows, the 2019 NDP theme song draws on the familiar lyrics from two classics: We Will Get There and Our Singapore. The song expresses the hopes, dreams and aspirations through the generations as we continue to build a Singapore for the future.

See also: National Day Parade 2021 to Be Postponed: 6 Things To Know About the Celebration

4. We are Singapore (2018) by Various Artists

Singer-songwriter Charlie Lim takes on the 1987 classic, We are Singapore, rewriting the verses to include lyrics such as “the future is uncertain and everything must change” to reflect the perspectives of a younger generation. He is joined by his contemporaries, including Joanna Dong and Aisyah Aziz.

See also: A Drink With... Charlie Lim, Singer-Songwriter And Producer

5. Our Singapore (2015) by JJ Lin

For the milestone SG50, NDP 2015 creative director Dick Lee composed this anthem, performed by singer JJ Lin, which calls on Singaporeans to come together and play their part in a brighter and better future for “our home, our heart, our Singapore”, while not forgetting the pioneering spirit that has brought us to where we are today.

See also: JJ Lin Gives Fans a Peek into His Massive Taipei Home on Instagram

6. We Will Get There (2002) by Stefanie Sun

Just two years after bursting into the Mandopop music scene in 2000, Stefanie Sun took on the 2002 NDP theme song, We Will Get There. The now classic composed by Dick Lee looks at how we can reach our dreams if we stand together. The following year, Sun returned to the NDP stage with Joshua Wan’s One United People to instil strength and forge a cohesive society, at a time when Singapore was recovering from the Sars (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak.

See also: Meet the Singaporean Musician Twin Brothers Who Discovered Mandopop Singer Stefanie Sun

7. Where I Belong (2001) by Tanya Chua

With a guitar intro that is a signature of singer-songwriter Tanya Chua, this rock tune with a smooth melody is composed by Chua herself, who is on the Tatler Singapore cover this month. The lyrics tell of a place one can return to after being away from home—and in the music video, Chua is seen in a taxi ride from the airport through the streets of Singapore.

The Singapore Symphony Orchestra recently released a brand-new arrangement of the song performed by young talents Syakirah Noble and Umar Sirhan, violinist Chloe Chua, and featuring the Singapore Symphony Orchestra and Singapore Symphony Youth Choir. Tanya Chua also makes a special appearance in the music video.

See also: Singer-Songwriter Tanya Chua on How Quarantine Inspired Her New Album

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