Since we last spoke almost six months ago, local musician YAØ has been keeping busy. Not only has he collaborated with local singer Aisyah Aziz on a cover of ‘Hopelessly Devoted To You’ from Grease, he’s also gone viral on TikTok with a ridiculously catchy lo-fi R&B cover of the Don Don Donki theme song, and even started pursuing his BA in music at LASALLE College of the Arts.
Now that it’s almost the end of the year, YAØ is kicking into full gear as he prepares for his upcoming album release (date to be determined), with a brand new promotional single in the lead-up. Titled ‘WUW’, short for ‘What U Wanted’, the dancefloor-ready track carries on the same themes as he did in his previous single ‘I Can’t Sleep’, where the song literally begins with yeah the night got me searching for answers. Elaborating on these ‘answers’ as the song progresses, ‘WUW’ reveals itself to be a heartbreak song, as YAØ sings his regret ‘I should have loved you more than anyone‘, too caught up in the fame, too lost to the pleasures.
But surprisingly, there’s more than meets the eye to this earworm, as YAØ reveals that it’s actually a song about how he should have loved the things that he truly cares about, instead of worldly things which are fleeting. “We thought it would be more appealing if we abbreviated the title and get people curious about what ‘WUW’ stands for,” says YAØ. “And personally, I think it’s a song that can be seen from many perspectives, though when I wrote it, I envisioned it as a song for me, and as a means of cathartic release.”
“It’s almost like a healing process for me, and I hope people resonate with this feeling of being lost at times, and so tired of chasing the dream. But it’s not all sad – you can still dance to it, but I do want it to make people think deeper about their relationships with others.”
While YAØ is a skilled producer in his own right, for ‘WUW’, he instead handed over the producer badge to RIIDEM, known for his collaborations with artists such as Yung Raja. “Working with RIIDEM was such a joy and honour as he is really one of the hardest hip-hop producers in Singapore whom I look up to,” YAØ says. “It really felt like we shared the same vision for the song as we both agreed that we had to make it sound like a straight-up, no-nonsense banger.”
Having found viral fame both through online streaming platforms and his TikTok videos, YAØ still hopes that radios will continue to play his songs for more mainstream audience. “There’s a degree of prestige to radio, but I definitely can’t rule out TikTok as a good opportunity for songs to blow up,” he says, musing over the often short-lived trends that make TikTok songs famous. “It’s a platform that does appeal to the current generation and can help sales and streams, and going viral is an indicator that something about the melody or the lyrics resonated. And at this stage in my career, I do want my songs to be popular.”
The single was also accompanied by a music video, as directed by Bless7Up and produced by FERLOOPZ. Unlike the video for ‘I Can’t Sleep’, ‘WUW’ instead is far more introspective, with YAØ the only person seen throughout the video, wandering off into the night lost in thought. Upon discovering a larger-than-life robot, we begin to see shots of YAØ in more sinister red light, perhaps representing the inner self that he’s left behind in pursuit of his character’s ‘fame’ and ‘pleasures’. “This guy in the MV, he’s searching and chasing for something, and that something is the person he’s left behind,” says YAØ.
For all this talk about how fame might have changed a person though, YAØ still rocks the normcore look, in both the MV and real life, always being authentically true without putting on a character. “I’ve always struggled with the entire outer image of who YAØ is,” he explains. “In the industry, it can be hard to remain ‘normal’ and still find success, with rare exceptions like Ed Sheeran. But that’s why I want to focus on my music, my genuine passion that brings me peace and comfort, and use it to break down barriers and show that normal people can do it too.”
All of the above feeds directly into the planned album (titled Broke Pop Kids), as explored over a number of songs, including both ‘I Can’t Sleep’ and ‘WUW’. “It’s a fight that us normies go through, personal music that also has the ability to touch and reach others,” he says. “I’m pretty excited about things opening up again, and I do have a few live shows lined up for next year so far, so more people can listen to my music.”
“The whole reason why I continue doing music is because I’m at a point where I can still keep up with whatever is happening, and still produce music that people like,” YAØ concludes. “I’m not really worried about fading away into the rest of the music industry, not yet, but like the lyrics in ‘WUW’, I’m aware of how there is a need to hold onto certain things: my relationship with the creator and the people I love.”