The Singapore music scene has grown exponentially in the past few years alone, with a number of self-made artists proving that, yes, there no shortage of talent on our sunny island.
Amongst them is 23-year-old Ysa Yaneza, a singer/songwriter/producer whose brand of synth-infused bubble-gum pop calls to mind the likes of 90’s icons Spice Girls and Britney Spears (both of which the artist has cited as inspirations). Yaneza’s music, however, is very much grounded in 21st-century realities, with previous singles “TEA” and “IRL (If You Really See Me)” referencing LGBTQ themes and the intersection of relationships, technology and the digital age respectively.
Filipino but raised in Singapore, Yaneza pursued a Film, Sound & Video diploma at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, before enrolling in the Arts Management programme at Columbia College Chicago. With her background, it’s no wonder the artist’s music videos have been nothing short of compelling visual treats – everything, from the colours to the aesthetic to the tiniest details (shoutout to that pink Motorola flip phone in “IRL”), combine to amplify the stories that the songs want to tell.
Now back in Singapore after finishing her studies, she has just released her brand new track, titled “Max.”. Here, we talk to the emerging pop star about the new single, her style, and everything in between.
Walk us through the story for the song “Max.”.
Yas Yaneza (YY): “I wrote the song for a bunch of reasons. Last year, there was a guy that I did sort of have an online relationship with… He didn’t stop talking to me out of anywhere (like in the song) but it does happen!
On the music production side, I’m a huge fan of Max Martin’s work, especially his stuff from the 90’s. The track is definitely inspired by his works and I sort of wanted to pay tribute to that. Another thing – I started to experiment with the software Max for Live, which I tried to implement in producing this song. And lastly, I was also thinking about before the age of Spotify, in order to listen to hit singles of Top 40 artists, we had these compilation albums and they were titled, “Max 1, Max 2, Max 3, etc.,”. I really liked the design of the album covers, especially the metallic, futuristic and round typography of the word “MAX” labelled on it.”
What was the inspiration behind the music video?
YY: “The song is about the online dating culture. For this music video, I wanted to abide by the song title, “Max.”, so everything had to be extra, had to be the maximum – from the sets to the performance. I also wanted to embrace Asian beauty. There’s this issue that’s been recently raised that in Western media, Asian men aren’t commonly portrayed as the “hot dude” or the “cute guy”. And I think that’s crazy! So I just wanted to show that Asian men can be attractive too, especially our own Singaporean men. I was also inspired by movies from the chick flick genre in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. I’ve always wondered what it would feel like to be in a clique, or those girl groups in music back in the day. It always looked so fun and I thought this would be the perfect time to include some of my most fabulous friends. They love dressing up and they’re strong, confident individuals that I enjoy being around with.”
You will be releasing your debut EP, IRL, later this year. What can we
expect from it?
YY: “I have to postpone my EP plans at the moment. So you’ll have to wait and see!”
Are there any plans for upcoming live shows, especially in Singapore?
Where do you see yourself five, 10 years from now?
YY: “I still hope to be doing music, or another art form. I’d want to experiment with other genres in music. But I would dive into film, theatre and/or fashion. Sometimes I feel like when I’m making songs, I’m already visualising the video or thinking about the wardrobe.”
If you were not making music, what do you think you would be doing?
YY: “Probably web design or working as a graphic designer. I got into it when I was 10 years old.”
What kind of impact do you hope to make on the Singapore music scene?
YY: “The music scene’s been booming in recent years. Nowadays, most of us are glued to our computer screens, so I’d want to give a reason for people to come out and see an artist live. I try to give a different experience as an artist online and offline.”
On a fashion front, what is your style like?
YY: “To be honest, I really just dress how I feel. In recent years, I think I’ve become more confident in my own skin and in a way, it was social media that kinda helped. Because I saw girls of all shapes and sizes dress however they wanted to. Right now, I’m really into vibrant colours, glitter and anything that would get someone to say, “oooh, cute!”
If you could change one thing about the world today, what would it be?
YY: “Less stress, less depressed and more happiness!”