Singapore Takes the 'Bad' Rap: A State-Produced Music Video Goes 'Viral'

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Rap in Singapore has been received as a Western genre valued for its associations with 'coolness'. This was the case in a 2007 controversy involving a music video produced by the Media Development Authority (MDA), the state governing body for print, film, music, television and web publications. Starring somewhat awkward-looking civil servants, the video used rap to articulate media policy. The result was produced for small circulation but eventually made its way to YouTube as a 'viral' phenomenon. Conflicting reactions to its expensive but amateur production values—from embarrassment to patriotic endorsement and politically inverted celebration—reflect a consciousness among Singaporeans who have learnt to laugh at themselves as well as at the state in recent years. This paper analyses the MDA video and its fall-out, studying popular culture, power and representation in one of its quirkier forms. Interactions between music, moving image, new media and propaganda are explored in relation to context, re-signification, parody and kitsch. Ironic to the MDA's mandate, I suggest that a misunderstanding of its self-promoted platforms has opened up situations of disjunctured performance play. The dramatically different values that performance codes signify in different contexts have led to multiple and subverted responses. These are seen in linear-time reactions as well as a constant maintenance of dynamic cultural feedback engineered by the convergence of micro and macro media worlds on the internet.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)107-130
JournalEthnomusicology Forum
Issue number1
Early online date28 May 2009
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009


  • Rap; Music Videos; Singapore; The State; Propaganda; Internet; New Media; Kitsch

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