While his songs have always been about the push-and-pull of toxic relationships, the video for 'Runway' follows the fast life theme in Shamoon Ismail’s last release, 'Cold World'. It’s a depiction of the stereotypical rock star lifestyle: sex, drugs, rock and roll, and some gambling on the side.
And with that backdrop, we have Shamoon Ismail singing softly on what is a typical, modern electronic, R&B track with a baseline set to 120 beats-per-minute, muted chords and tempo on a 4/4 electronic drum track that runs through the whole song. It gives the song the most minimalistic music possible, so the focus is entirely on Shamoon’s vocals. It’s a tactic he’s been using a lot lately.
The clue for why the song is called 'Runway' lies in the opening lyrics — it’s where Shamoon spends most of his time, on the move. The song has him pining for another, who he’s acutely aware, is not good for him.
Hasan Raheem’s Paisa is a stronger song in terms of music production than Shamoon Ismail’s Runway
The main chorus goes: You got me saying/ Dil leya dil de ke jaa/ Assi mar gae aan beygunaah/ Dil leya dil de ke jaa/ Assi marna nae beygunaah
[You got me saying/ You took a heart so leave one behind/ You killed an innocent man/ You took a heart so leave one behind/ I don’t want to die an innocent man]
While 'Runway' is a well-produced, listenable number, it’s such a typical Shamoon Ismail number that it fails to excite or interest. It’s time to bring back the artist that experimented with different instrumentation and musical genres. Shamoon needs to go back to the artist he used to be.
Another song that came out around the same time as 'Runway' is 'Paisa' by Hasan Raheem. Maybe it’s because Hasan is still ‘new’ in the music scene, his sound hasn’t become safe and predictable.
Produced by Talal Qureshi, who’s one of the most well-known names in the electronic music scene in Pakistan, 'Paisa' is an off-beat, fun number that has Hasan mucking about on the streets of Karachi doing random things — getting a shave, running through the streets, making katakat at a roadside eatery, pulling funny faces and overall not taking himself very seriously while also rapping the lyrics of the song. In contrast to 'Runway’s' fancy video, 'Paisa’s' comes across as cheap and home-made, yet entertaining.
Unlike Shamoon, Hasan is firmly setting boundaries and pushing toxic relationships away. The song has Hasan talking about how he keeps his feet grounded. He believes he’s underrated but he’s got a plan and his time will come. He sounds keenly self-aware but sans the angst and bitterness that is typical of such numbers.
Case in point, the pre-chorus: Meri zindagani/ Jee ke dekh le tu jaani/ Meray dil ka yeh fasana/ Tera khud se chalay ana/ Dibs on my dil ki rail gaarri/ I don’t want no teri hoshiyari/ Paison ki koi kami nahin/ Baithay saaray beopaari
[My life/ Live it and see my love/ This is the story of my heart/You came to me yourself/ I’m protecting the train of my heart/ I don’t want your scheming/ There is no dearth of money/ We are all hustlers here]
It’s not just the catchy main ‘Yeh kaisa paisa?’ [What is this money?] chorus line and tune, Paisa is a stronger song in terms of music production than Runway. There is a lot more instrumentation, the chorus tune is designed using the flute and trumpets play in the second half, adding a rich layer to the song. Goes to show you don’t need a fancy, high-end video to sell a song. You just need a good song.
Originally published in Dawn, ICON, May 23rd, 2021