Photos: Teo Sijia, Derrick Hoh (@derrickhoh) via Instagram
Video: Vanessa Lim
For Singaporean Taiwan-based singer Derrick Hoh so loved his two nieces, that he took inspiration from Tarcy Su’s hit 1995 cover of ‘Lemon Tree’ and put his own spin on it.
“Nowadays many children can’t speak Mandarin,” the 30-year-old singer said, and explained his two nieces, aged 7 and 4, are the same.
“But the first Mandarin pop songs they learned were Tarcy Su’s, including ‘Lemon Tree,’ ‘Duck’ and ‘Fool,’ which they find catchy. So I set out to record a song the girls could sing along to.”
Derrick’s version of ‘Lemon Tree’ shot to the top of the singles charts in just five hours after it was launched on iTunes on October 14. And the track was a hit with his nieces too, he said - they picked up the melody and the dance even before the song was officially released.
The quirky moves seen in the single’s music video paid homage to the classic Great Singapore Workout, a rite of passage for children growing up in the 90s. “When I was young we were all forced to do the routine, so it left a deep impression,” Derrick said.
And the doting uncle made sure his nieces found the dance steps acceptable. “I’d demonstrate it to the girls, and if they couldn’t keep up, the move was dropped,” he said.
The album Lemon Tree comes five years after Derrick’s sophomore release, Change, and the singer has moved away from a brooding image to try out a sunnier, ‘lemonier’ style that matches the feel of the title track.
“Actually I’m rather cheeky in real life, and I like to crack jokes and make people happy,” he said. “So I think this new image is closer to who I am.”
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Derrick explained that every track on Lemon Tree was related to his life, including ‘Clear Day,’ which he penned when he was going through a rough patch after the passing of a relative.
“I stopped seeing a purpose in what I was doing and I didn’t understand what I was so busy with,” he said. “It was as if I had lost my way, and I shut myself in my room for many days.”
But then he snapped out of it, picked up his guitar, and composed ‘Clear Day’ in under five minutes, setting a personal songwriting record.
The newly minted tricenarian celebrated his birthday on September 17, and since he debuted on Channel U’s Project Superstar in 2005 (he came in third) he seemed to have matured in the public eye. “I’m happy that I’ve reached this milestone and I think I’ve grown a lot,” Derrick said.
But his love life doesn’t appear to have yielded the same results.
“I’ve always hoped I may find someone who’ll stand by me and support my career in music,” he said. “And over the years I have been going on dates and getting to know people, but I haven’t quite found the right person.”
Derrick added that he was often hopping from one country to another due to his work, so to find a girl who could accommodate that made the quest even harder.
But given his wide network in the entertainment business, wouldn’t a suitable candidate be among his acquaintances?
I’ve known them for so long that if anything had been meant to happen, it should have happened long ago, he said. “But I’d rather they introduce potential partners to me!” he said.
Lemon Tree is available at all major stores and on iTunes.
This story is translated by Zara Zhuang.