We're all probably familiar with the City Pop music genre. For those that aren’t, this genre of music is one that hit its peak in the 1980s, notably in Japan. However, as of late, famous City Pop tracks like Stay with me by Miki Matsubara and Plastic Love by Mariya Takeuchi have gone viral thanks to platforms such as Tiktok and Instagram.
But apart from music, let’s talk about City Pop art, or more specifically, the aesthetics associated with City Pop. City Pop art goes hand in hand with City Pop music, creating a unified aesthetic encounter. Picture future-funk and retro anime-inspired visuals that often incorporate elements reminiscent of the 80s such as vintage vehicles, neon-lit bars, and cassette players.
City Pop sceneries also typically transport us to the brightly-lit cityscapes of Japan or locations that exude a distinctly foreign vibe, a far cry from Singapore's landscape. Imagining Singapore in the realm of City Pop art has always been purely a flight of fancy – until now that is. Thanks to Nicolas Damiens, a French visual designer based in Singapore, who is single-handedly giving the city a 'City Pop Art' makeover with a delightful touch of pastels, showcased to the world on Instagram here.
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“I'm Nicolas, a French Visual Designer who moved from Paris to Singapore for my work two years ago,” he introduces himself.
The project City Pop was started a year ago alongside his main job to provide himself with an outlet for creative freedom – an ‘open playground’ as he calls it. “I always have creative side projects alongside my primary job that gives me the freedom to express myself without the constraints of client feedback that arise in the advertising industry. Sometimes, I just need an open playground,” he says.
Endless summer, palm trees, sea, pastel hues, nostalgic and retro ambiance quickly defined Singapore as "City Pop" to me.
As someone immersed in the creative industry, Nicolas views every city he relocates to through his unique lens. He categorises cities via a colour palette and soundtrack. Intriguingly, Singapore, in his eyes, resonates with the essence of City Pop. “Upon relocating to Singapore I didn't know what to expect, it was the first time for me in the country. Before this, I had lived in Paris and New York, and I've always associated each city with a unique colour palette and soundtrack, probably a professional reflex. Endless summer, palm trees, sea, pastel hues, nostalgic and retro ambiance quickly defined Singapore as "City Pop" to me,” he explains.
While the scenes showcased on his Instagram page undeniably depict Singapore, it only dawned on me upon closer inspection due to the digital manipulation in each photograph. “Each of my photos is edited using Photoshop to highlight geometric features and remove any superfluous details, as I like a minimalist approach that centres on the key subject. Colour correction is also essential in capturing the intended retro atmosphere I’m looking for,” he says.
Through my photos, I try to create timeless feel-good scenes.
These dream-like photos offer a sweet breath of fresh air to anyone’s feed. And ultimately, that’s exactly what Nicolas intended the project to be when creating them. “Through my photos, I try to create timeless feel-good scenes. I hope I can offer a sweet break in your busy Instagram feed!”