Feby Putri talks ‘Runtuh’, the song Indonesians have embraced as the soundtrack to their struggles

The Indonesian folk singer-songwriter tells NME about the unexpected hit collaboration with Fiersa Besari and why she thinks it’s the best song she has ever written

Stop pretending to be grateful. This the message of ‘Runtuh’, the indie folk ballad by Feby Putri and Fiersa Besari that’s captured the hearts of Indonesian music fans over the past month.

Released on October 1, the melancholic ‘Runtuh’ (‘Crumbling’) tells the story of a protagonist who decides to stop feigning gratitude and instead, reveals the dark emotions they truly feel about their imperfections: anger, frustration, grief, and exhaustion.

A week after its digital release, ‘Runtuh’ reached the peak of the Spotify Indonesia Top 50 chart; its official audio video has notched over 14million views on YouTube to date. In comments, netizens have shared how the song has resonated with them as they go through struggles from mental illnesses such as body dysmorphia and clinical depression to domestic issues such as unemployment and separation.

Advertisement

‘Runtuh’ is also notable as a collaboration between two singer-songwriters of two different generations: the 21-year-old Putri and the 37-year-old Besari. Whereas the former is still considered a newcomer and known mostly for her covers, the latter broke out with the debut album ‘11:11’ in 2012. Their collaboration seemed to be written in the stars: Putri first became an Internet sensation thanks to her cover of Besari’s ‘Celengan Rindu’, which has drawn more than 57million views on YouTube.

“When I make music, I expect nothing,” says Putri. “I do hope that my music can encapsulate a lot of people, but I would never expect this many people could relate to it – let alone reaching number one on the charts.”

NME speaks to Putri about why she thinks ‘Runtuh’ has resonated with so many, how it was like to collaborate with Besari, and the danger of false gratitude.

Why do you think ‘Runtuh’ has achieved such immediate popularity?

“I figure every single person in this world must have gone through what this song is about. You know, when others pester you to be grateful all the time despite the fact that we’re all human and we deserve to shed some tears. We can’t just be happy all the time. We can cry, we can feel worn out, we can feel sick and tired – and those are OK. Nonetheless, we must remember to bounce back eventually.”

Advertisement

Runtuh song Feby Putri Fiersa Besari interview 2021
L-R: Feby Putri and Fiersa Besari. Credit: Press

You first gained prominence for your cover of Fiersa Besari’s ‘Celengan Rindu’ back in 2019. Did you feel like your collaboration with him was just a matter of time?

“Actually, I had planned for this collaboration for a long time. Back in around 2020, Fiersa and I talked about making a duet together but unfortunately, things fell through schedule-wise. But Fiersa always said to me, ‘Whenever you’re available for a duet, I will make myself available for you. Whenever you want.’

“[Around July 2021] I reached out to Fiersa to write a song together. He accepted and I was completely overjoyed. Afterwards, we worked on the song via telephone because of the pandemic. Before we met in person, we tried to determine what the theme of the song would be and what the lyrics would be. Our decision for the theme: it’s good to be grateful, but it’s acceptable to cry.”

As your senior in the industry, did Fiersa Besari teach you anything new about songwriting?

“How to take a breather. At one point, I squeezed my brain out to come up with the lyrics on my iPad and Fiersa asked me to pause and take a breather. For 30 minutes, I was just on the balcony, drinking and eating. That helped me to find inspiration. Pushing myself to brainstorm all the time is impossible, after all.”

Is ‘Runtuh’ the best song you have written so far?

“Yes. [laughs] Because of the simplicity of its lyrics and the simplicity of its music. I love my previous [original] songs, such as ‘Cahaya’ and ‘Liar Angin’. But, when ‘Runtuh’ dropped, I was, like, ‘Hmm, perhaps it’s better to stay simple.’”

“Lying to ourselves is like pretending to laugh, even though on the inside, we are completely burned out”

I’m curious about this particular lyric, which translates in English to “But can I just cry at least for once / Before I go back and lie to myself again”. What does that mean to you personally?

“I’m asking for permission here: can I have some time and room to cry and feel worn out? I will get back on my feet again, even if that means I have to lie to myself. Lying to ourselves is like pretending to laugh, even though on the inside, we are completely burned out.

“Hopefully that sorrow and that weariness will fade away. And I have just realised right now how terribly sad this song is!” [laughs]

You close the song with an outro, which translates in English to “I want to learn how to accept myself”. What are you trying to say with this?

“Whatever I feel, be it either anger or sadness or whatever, I don’t want to conceal it anymore. The snippet can also be interpreted as the protagonist’s desire to come to terms with everything that makes who she is. She used to lie to herself and pretend to laugh all the time, but [as the song ends], not anymore.”

You’re about to release your debut album in December. What can you tell us about it?

“The genre will be the same as my previous songs, which is folk-pop. The first track will be about the start of my career – when I first moved from Makassar to Jakarta and what I emotionally experienced as a settled migrant. There will be lots of sorrow in the album, with only a few cheerful notes. The album is going to be very sad!” [laughs]

‘Runtuh’ is out now. Feby Putri’s debut album is set for release in December 2021

Advertisement
Advertisement