When people hear that I'm a music reviewer, often the first question they have is "How do you appreciate so many different kinds of music?" Believe me, I had the same question for myself when I first tried my hand at reviewing albums. It seemed like such a huge feat that I was most certainly under-prepared for to treat different types of music objectively and appreciate them equally. Of course, I didn't always start out loving all kinds of music, initially I was most inclined towards R&B and Pop, and it took years of patient listening and maturity as a person for me to immerse myself into different genres. Here's a rough timeline of how my musical tastes have expanded over the years:
2007: R&B, Pop
2008: Initial appreciation for Rap and Hip hop
2009: Further appreciation for Hip hop
2010: Grew an appreciation for Rock & Easy listening/Folk
2011: Developed an appreciation for Jazz
2012: Got into Alternative Rock/Folk Rock and Brit Rock
2013: Initial appreciation for Electronic Dance Music
2015: Deeper appreciation for independent genres and Jazz, and gained an increased appreciation for EDM music
2016: Gained a greater love for Rap music, EDM, Reggae and Indie music in general
So as you can see, my appreciation for music and different styles of it has grown over time, and is still growing and changing every single day. Some of my appreciations of genres were love at first sight (rock, folk) but with some others such as alternative rock, they were slow to take shape but got there in the end! I do not claim to be an expert on any of the genres that I love, but as a music reviewer I believe its important to have a base of knowledge and understanding of how different genres have come to be, and what characteristics artists who are inclined towards these genres share.
However, my appreciation for a wide range of genres did not happen organically, nor overnight. Some songs from different genres I may have immediately taken a liking to, but for others, it took perseverance and persistence. I managed to discipline myself by taking a critical approach to every song that I listened to. Rather than just listening once and from there deciding whether I liked it or not, I listened again, again, and again (and wore out many MP3 players in the process). If I didn't like the song, I would ask myself why and listen carefully to pinpoint what exactly it was about the particular song which led me to dislike it. Was it bias that had led me to immediate dislike for a song? And likewise, if I liked a song, what was it about the melody, lyrics or arrangement which had attracted me to it? If theoretically speaking it wasn't a good song but I liked it anyway, was I being biased due to a particular artist's participation on the track? All in all, I constantly pushed myself to find justification that was relevant rather than arbitrary for my attitude towards every song. This constant questioning and critiquing of each piece of music I listened to led to an increased need for answers that I usually didn't have. So that meant listening to every piece of music and researching the characteristics and histories of different genres and contexts until I had an answer that I was satisfied with. In this way, finding an answer for why I felt the way I did gave me a greater appreciation for each of the different genres of music that I listened to, because I then had a better understanding of the way they were created and why they were created in that particular way. (On a side note, now you know why album reviews take me so long!)
As many followers on this blog may know, I've long been on a soul-searching journey to find out why exactly I love Chinese music so much. I've previously written articles digging deeper into this subject, but felt that in terms of why I loved Chinese music, there was certainly an element still missing and yet to be discovered.
But in a lightbulb moment I had yesterday, I realised that the REAL reason I have continued to love this music so much was not because of its uniqueness (because upon delving deeper there has been certainly much left desired in terms of the quality of their music), but because of a more personal reason; a flaw my brain subconsciously overlooks. Escapism.
When I started getting into Chinese music, it was an awkward time in my existence (12 years old, the epitome of awkward adolescence). There were many things happening around me that I didn't want to deal with, so I used music as a buffer to shut things out. Because I enjoyed listening to it so much, it allowed me to escape into a different world. Instead of being in a reality where I perceived myself to have no friends and where nothing of interest to me could happen, I surrounded myself with music so much so that the artists I listened to became my friends, the songs they sang became stories shared and their albums became my life lessons. It was escapism at its best.
But the tangible use of Chinese music was not the only way I used it to escape. I used to believe that there was nothing interesting about me, nothing different. I didn't know who I was and no matter how I tried to look, I always came to a dead end. But I stubbornly believed in the art of naming; my name Jocelle was unique, and I would not let my parents down by being anything other than such. So instead of following the same trends of other teenagers, bowing to peer pressure, doing what they did, I decided to use Chinese music and the Chinese language to reinvent myself on a clean new slate. P.S. I'm pretty sure this isn't a healthy way to go about finding yourself, but I am merely telling my story, so others may find resonance in my words.
Anyway, continuing on! I learned Chinese because I felt it was logical to learn the language of my heritage, but at the same time I have now realised that it meant much more than that to me. Shying away from the remnants of my Singaporean accent left in my voice (yes, I still do have a
Singaporean accent after staying in Australia for half my life), I didn't wish to be judged by how I sounded, placed in the 'Asian FOB' group and being expected to have the same ideals and hobbies as them. So taking the opportunity of learning the language all over again, I used it as a gateway to present myself how I wanted to be presented. This is probably why although I speak with a Singaporean accent in English, my friends say I speak with an ABC accent in Chinese. I wanted a better way to represent my passion for bridging gaps between the East and the West, especially in my music.
I became an embodiment of Chinese music because I wanted to show those around me that there was much more to Asians than just 'The Azn group'. To break down the walls of preconceptions that only Chinese speaking people can listen to Chinese music. I value now what living in both Australia and Singapore have taught me. From living in Singapore, I learnt to always value where I came from, and to treasure my mother tongue. From Australia, I instead learnt the meaning of creativity and critical thinking, which effectively helped me to coalesce all my views into a dream to help promote Chinese music to a Western audience.
Although I was never bullied in school, it was clear to me that racial stereotypes were very much in place. And I wanted to change that, by being a model of how Asians are much more than maths geniuses and physics whizzes. More than anything, I felt insignificant, and I wanted to change that. Making a difference in the world before I leave it was always something at the foremost of my mind when I started this, and still is. Music is a universal language that can have the power to start a revolution, and to provoke acceptance of ideas others would never accept otherwise. So this is how I choose to make meaning within my life.
As you can see, at the start of my journey I used Chinese music as a wall to hide behind and to disconnect myself from the rest of the world. But in doing so, I actually found myself on the other side, if that makes sense. So I'm happy that for good or bad, it has made me who I am today. Someone who although is still on a path of self-discovery, is truly proud of her own achievements and is able to rise above petty comparisons to make a difference and create value for the world.
It's been my dream since I started getting to know more about Chinese music to be able to live in Taipei, and now I'm finally going to be able to! Starting from the 11th of February, I will be staying in Taipei for 139 days and hope to share parts of my experiences that may be helpful with readers everywhere! (Feb 2014)