Written by the Indonesian composer and producer Yovie Widianto, ‘Merasa Indah’ is an easy-listening pop ballad. In its lyrics, a female protagonist discovers she’s fallen victim to her love interest’s sweet nothings, her perfect romance a mere illusion. (Additional lyrics were also provided by Arsy Widianto, Yovie’s son and Andini’s duet partner in their 2021 EP ‘Arti Untuk Cinta’.)
Its music video, which premiered on YouTube last Friday (January 28), stars Jefri Nichol, an Indonesian actor whose credits include Dear Nathan and DreadOut. The video’s release dovetails with a recent wave of interest in ‘Merasa Indah’, which reached the top of both the Spotify Indonesia Top 50 chart and the Youtube Indonesia Music Trending chart, besting NIKI’s feel-good ‘Every Summertime’ and Justin Bieber’s ‘Ghost’.
As Valentine’s Day approaches, Andini tells NME that she suspects ‘Merasa Indah’ has “[struck] a chord” with Indonesians in a state of gloom.
“Perhaps people are not in a flowery mood right now. There’s a sadness that looms,” she says. “Also, when I read listeners’ reactions to this song, I was stunned. Turns out, there are lots of women out there who have also become victims of false hope! I mean, how did this happen? Gosh, are all men just the same?”
NME speaks to the singer about how she recorded ‘Merasa Indah’, the difficulty of executing an easy-listening tune, having Nichol star in the music video, and the important lesson of her debut album.
What about ‘Merasa Indah’ initially caught your attention?
“I noticed the lyrical depth of the song. The lyrics were poetic but easy to understand. The song speaks like a conversation, as if the song were ranting its heart out. I don’t know why, but I also found the song too ‘honest’. When I listened to the lyrics, the song flicked something [on] in me. I was like, ‘Wow, this song is sad. And this song can turn into a real something-something.’ [laughs]
“Ultimately, a song can only sound so good when its lyrics and notation can both be delivered seamlessly. For instance, there is a difference in what feeling you can kindle between when singing the word ‘dirimu’ and singing the word ‘kamu’. The wording is really something to focus on.”
When did you start recording the song? And was the process as breezy as the song sounds?
“It was quite a long time ago. I couldn’t remember exactly when, but it was during Ramadan last year. I remember we started taking vocals late at night.
“The recording session for this song was very different from the other songs. We did a lot of takes because we were trying for that ‘sweet spot’. We wanted to make a song that wouldn’t appear complicated, but once you try to sing it, is actually quite demanding.
“The song’s lyrics became our main concern as well. The lyrics for the finished product are very different from the early draft. We went back and forth a lot with the lyrics.”
Did Yovie Widianto give you any notes that you still remember?
“Yovie asked me to breathe life into every word so that the song can feel pristine. In the first verse of the song, there is a word ‘terlambat’ [‘too late’ in English] and we did the vocal take over and over again just so that I could sing that word right. By singing that word alone, I have to profoundly express that this love is far too late to come to fruition and that the universe brought the two of us together at the worst possible time. Truly, the smallest detail counts!”
Jefri Nichol stars in the new video for ‘Merasa Indah’. How did you persuade him to come onboard?
“We did a project together [the Indonesian remake of South Korean film My Sassy Girl, to be released in theatres in 2022] and after we wrapped up shooting, I mentioned that I needed a male model for this music video I was planning. So, without further thinking, I talked to him and asked whether he would be interested. He was really excited and like, “Why not?’”
The music video is presented like a mosaic of fragmented memories. How did you and production house Nocturnal Projects come up with such a concept?
“Well, ‘Merasa Indah’ is basically about the past, and the video simply follows the narrative of the song. Even though the song leads to a sad ending, the memories of the past remain oh-so-sweet. That’s what tugs the heartstrings: we can’t forget the sweet memories that we share, so why is it the end of the road for both of us just when everything feels so beautiful? Dang, I want to cry! [laughs]
“What’s more, I asked the Nocturnal Projects team to keep the shots of my face me at my most pitiful. I was like, ‘Guys, please make my face as heart-rending as possible’. And when I read the comments for the music video, people felt so bad for me!” [laughs]
Your self-titled debut album is essentially a collection of eight love songs. What kind of lesson about love do you hope this album brings to its listeners?
“Sincerity. Loving someone at the deepest level is when we can sincerely let them go. It’s a different matter whether our love is reciprocated or not; what matters the most is that you love.”
Tiara Andini’s ‘Merasa Indah’ is out now.