Low-budget review: Natalie Hiong, Beautiful Mess

Well, she has a nice voice and a lot of promise as a songwriter. “Unravelling” in particular is a genuinely lovely 6:8 waltz. She knows how to use a piano and a guitar in composition, and she has a sound sense of melody.

But her lyrics…well, let’s just say this album would be much more enjoyable if I didn’t know English. The reason she has a lot of promise as a songwriter, is that she’s still very young and therefore we can all hope that she will grow up soon. At this stage in her development — let’s just say her fellow teenage girls probably think her lyrics are like, awesome. Those of us who are adults will want to check back in on Miss Hiong in five years or so.

UPDATE: Um, maybe not as promising as I thought, as it turns out Miss Hiong is not, in fact, still a teenager, given that her official biography describes her as an “investment-banker-turned-songwriter.” If Miss Hiong is already in her mid- to late-twenties and this is still what she’s turning out, then we may not ever get anything else out of her unless she figures out that she needs a good lyricist as a song-writing partner. The sentiments she writes into her songs are, one presumes, sincere; but “insightful” is not a word that’s going to come to mind as you listen to these lyrics. Or perhaps she is just not much of a wordsmith — it may be that she would have something useful to say if she could just find words to say it with, but that the gift is simply not there, as it so obviously and unmistakably is in, say, Natasha Borzilova (who was already writing songs like “Angry” when she was nineteen — and in her second language, no less).

But then again, I suppose there’s always some hope — look how much Stefanie Sun grew up (both lyrically and musically, and one presumes personally) between 逆光 (Against the Light) and 是时候 (It’s Time). Maybe instead of checking back in on Ms. Hiong in five years, we should wait for her to get married. That’ll grow her up if anything will. If not…well, “Unravelling” is still a very pretty song; so I got my twelve Singapore dollars’ worth.


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