By Jocelle Koh
Asian-Australian songwriter and producer Yeo dives into the sweet air of ambiguity on new Mandarin single TENTATIVE with Shanghai-based singer-songwriter Melodia Kong 孔藝弦 releasing May 19, just in time for Chinese Valentines’ Day (520).
Defined by willowy, jazz segments that ebb and flow alongside the two artists’ complementary vocals, Yeo evolves his sound and storytelling ability, as he leans into softness and simplicity.
On his second-ever Mandarin single, summed up by Yeo as “the distillation of romantic hesitancy”, the bilingual lyrics organically intertwine into a meaningful exchange. The song features two different perspectives when it comes to making the transition from friendship into romantic love. While Yeo’s grounded voice takes on a more relaxed approach, Melodia’s crystalline vocal cuts through to articulate her concerns about giving and receiving love.
Yeo speaking on production for the single, TENTATIVE reveals a more pared down side to the producer’s versatile sound, catering to Melodia’s succinct and fluid vocals:
“I decided to keep the production on this song muted and natural. I did not want to mask Melodia’s stunning vocal ability and ethereal timbre. Working with her natural writing skill was also a breezy delight. She has a knack for melody and articulation.”
Being a low-key fan of Melodia since she released her 2019 album ‘Mel’ with Khalil Fong’s label FU MUSIC, the connection through mutual friends has unexpectedly blossomed into Yeo’s sophomore exploration of his mother tongue.
“This is my second song in language. As with the first, surrendering myself to learning the pronunciation and meaning of the lyrics has elevated the entire creative experience. I have a complex relationship with Mandarin that stems from childhood. Exploring it in this way has been spiritually profound.“
As for Melodia, TENTATIVE paved new creative pathways as the Shanghai-based singer-songwriter braved the multiple COVID-19 lockdowns happening at the time:
“It was a fascinating experience co-writing the song with Yeo. Despite the distance and time difference between two hemispheres, we managed to collaborate smoothly. I must say that Yeo often amazed me with his new ideas. It was an enjoyable writing experience, even when we haven’t yet met each other.”
Adding another layer to the masterful storytelling is celebrated Singaporean pianist, composer and arranger Chok Kerong. Producing an alternative version of TENTATIVE, Kerong leans into his knack for inventive harmonics, atmospheric chords and gospel-like organs; evoking hesitancy and mystery to this ode to the in-betweens. On the song, Kerong shares:
“Yeo and I worked together for the first time when we shared the stage with Charlie Lim in late 2022. I think we share a lot of common ground in terms of our musical foundations, so that made the whole process really smooth. The song itself was very well-written, so that opened up a lot of possibilities in terms of how it could be reinterpreted. We went for a raw, “in-the-basement” feel that provides another perspective to experience the song from.”
Of the final result on Kerong’s edit, Yeo describes:
“Kerong’s ability to control colour and evoke emotion made him my first choice for creating an alternate version of this song. I knew from the earliest version he sent that his musical vocabulary and taste would draw out an incredibly unique and nuanced perspective on a piece that I already consider quite sensitive.”
Both versions of TENTATIVE will be released in Dolby Atmos with a focus on creating a more spacious and flexible 3D canvas to maximise the lushness of both worlds.
TENTATIVE drops May 19th, just in time for Chinese Valentines’ Day (520) on all streaming platforms with an exclusive Dolby Atmos version on Apple Music.