Author: Janelle Koh (Check out her work here)
Guo Ding’s 2016 album, Silent Star Stone飛行器的執行週期 has drawn critical acclaim in the Mandopop markets, and nominated across the board at the Golden Melody Awards this past year. That is an impressive reputation, especially for an album that was inspired by data recorders on aircrafts. Though at first glance it is unclear how a hunk of beeping metal could inspire, the notion of ‘black boxes’ is an intriguing one. What if we had these ‘black boxes’ in our journeys through life? When played back, will it tell our stories the way we would have wanted? Would a black box tell our stories at all? That is the premise upon which Silent Star Stone rests.
Guo Ding ventures forth in the lead single of the album, The Fog Space淒美地. The fog space is described by Guo Ding as a unique dream place that he works hard to reach. The song is adventurous, driven by keyboard, electric guitar, drums and Guo Ding’s voice, all of which struggle against each other, in tension throughout this song. The fluency and versatility of Guo Ding’s voice is the highlight of ‘The Fog Space’ (and some might say the album).
It possesses a timbre lean yet muscly enough to traverse the complex soundscapes that is ‘The Fog Space’. It climbs in the verses, upon sustained keyboard chords that ring out with intent, making its way through the rocky pre-chorus. It soars through the chorus at first, upon a melody line that guarantees release. Long sustained notes replicate a graceless free-fall that haphazardly brings its listener down – into the fog space, or back down to Earth? It’s hard to say. The genre of rock is foregrounded in this song as well as others, where Guo Ding draws on grungy guitar and riffs, notably in Put Your Face Down把你的外套留在深巷 and Rain Falls在雲端.
01. #MWHYB: the beginning
03. IKYK ( I Know You Know) ft (孟佳 Meng Jia)
04. BASS GUN
05. 屬於你和我之間的事 Faded Pictures
06. 蹦蹦 BOOM ft (Khalil Fong 方大同)
07. 玻璃屋 Glass House
08. 下一首情歌 One Last Smile
09. 愛是你 愛是我 All of My Life
10. Westside feat. brandUn DeShay (English)
11. #MWHYB (English)
Review by: CP
Interview material taken from: Jamie Deer (Yahoo Streetvoice)
It has been three years since Vanness Wu’s last album, and this time around he is back with his eighth CPop album, #MWHYB. It is nice to see Vanness back on the scene as the only member of F4 still actively making music after all these years. He has certainly reinvented himself time and again, and he continues to do so in #MWHYB.
The unique hashtag title translates to “Music Won’t Hurt Your Body”, which in many ways personifies and depicts the overall theme of this album. In that, if I had to summarize #MWHYB in one sentence, it would be an album filled with music that simply makes you feel good. It contains tracks evoking different feelings for its listeners, including sentimental, upbeat dance and futuristic sounding feels. Aspects of the album also encourages the listener to be open in exploring and appreciating different genres of music such as Funk and Soul.
In a Chinese interview with Jamie Deer for Yahoo Street Voice, Vanness said “a lot of this album was organically produced, without much restraint or hard structure”. He says “his new way of doing things is to be comfortable and appear natural in whatever he is doing.” In a lot of ways, I think the audience really gets to witness this idea in #MWHYB.
02. I Don't Know
04. Home Remix feat. 40
Diana Wang has undergone a huge transformation as an artist since she first stepped onto the scene back in 2013. When I first set my eyes upon the Netherlands-born beauty, she was almost unrecognisable under a huge mop of hair and an offering of songs too varied for listeners to truly make sense of who Wang was as an artist. After leaving Warner music and a bit of time off, Diana, now signed with Cros Music is going back to her love for R&B music, starting with her new EP ‘Diana Wang’. The EP includes four tracks which give audiences just a little teaser of what is to come, namely her chart-topping single ‘HOME’, its remix version, as well as two other songs, ‘I Don’t Know’ and ‘Heartbeat’.
Although not much by way of a fully fledged concept (which is very understandable as it is just an EP at this stage), the EP offers a tasting platter of delectable gems which show off Wang’s clear, sweet vocals. However this time around, the focus is not on versatility, but on establishing Diana’s chops for the R&B genre in particular. ‘HOME’, the first single was a surefire crowd-pleaser, with lyrics that wax nostalgic against the backdrop of a simple piano and electronic beats arrangement. The bite to this song lies in its catchy melody, written by top-notch producer Skot Suyama, but also in Wang’s soaring meslismatic trills which are peppered throughout the song. Although some may find it a little too much, I believe such variations to conventional melodies are what keep people listening over and over again, so it in fact works in Diana’s favour. ‘HOME’ is certainly not an easy song to sing, but Diana pulled it off with aplomb, her voice thick with yearning as she sings of the conflict between chasing her dreams and coming home. (For a more in-depth analysis of the single, see my single review for Hello Asia)
Music Video Archive
1.From the Moment I Wake Until I Fall Asleep從醒著到願意睡著
2.Judge Me Not 我不要再比了
3.Indulge Myself 我寵愛
4.Love Is a Crime 明知故犯
5.Cross the Ocean for You 飄洋過海來看你
6.Love Is the Way 愛的方向
7.When the World Is Silent 當世界安靜
After a seven-year-wait, singer Rose Liu has finally released her debut album ‘Judge Me Not’. Composed of seven tracks, the album seemed a promising one, given Rose’s critically acclaimed vocal abilities, having placed highly in Taiwan’s One Million Stars singing competition and in Chinese reality singing show The Voice of China. Furthermore, given that the album featured songs written by the likes of honest songwriters Eve Ai and Kenji Wu, I was expecting an album that was heartfelt as it was beautiful. Nothing complicated, but nevertheless something which tugged at the heartstrings and showed off Rose’s beautiful, sweet-yet-husky pipes. However to my slight disappointment, the album was a little hit-and-miss for my liking.
Starting off solid with “From The Moment I Wake Until I Fall Asleep”, the song which was composed for her by Eve Ai encompassed Ai’s signature scent of deep sentimentality that reprises most of her works. A hauntingly nostalgic melody and lyrics which would melt even the coldest heart, Rose’s vocals treaded lightly across each note, folding each into her warm, heart-rending yet sincere voice. With an simple arrangement that comprised merely of a piano, the song was nevertheless able to clearly allow listeners to immerse themselves in the heady, serious atmosphere that is reminiscent of sleepless nights. Although on the surface the lyrics are about love, the imagery and scenario the song was based upon was unique and executed with aplomb. Despite her vocal proficiencies, Rose hit the nail on its head with her performance, embedding meaning in simplicity. Exactly what I would have expected from the skilled performer.
01. Where Do We Go (English Version)
02. Where Do We Go (Chinese Version)
As a wise person once said, it is the responsibility of creative types to feel the joys and sorrows of life most deeply, so that they may transpose those emotions into material better understood by others. Likewise, Lara Veronin's latest single "Where Do We Go" is a reflection of the personal changes she's experienced over the past four years since her last album release. Since we last saw her, Lara's transformation has been subtle yet full of accomplishments and small milestones. Growing as a host, actress, producer and entrepreneur, Veronin's journey was not without its internal struggles, such as the loss of her mother and fervent efforts to let her individuality as an artist be known. Veronin describes 'Where Do We Go' as a song about her loss of direction, posing questions with no answer; thus is the predicament that she finds herself in currently.
The single showcases this particular state of limbo perfectly; posing a question with no answer that asserts the abstract and indistinct nature of life and ones' choices. Belonging to the air-pop genre, the twanging feedback of a slide guitar characterises the song, its elastic nature bringing life to Lara's words. Accompanied by stable, subdued electronic beats which imply to me a sense of reflection and clearmindedness, the twangs act like elastic bands, stretching to test the different directions laid out in front of oneself, threatened by the thought of losing stability and balance. The lyrics, melody and arrangement come together to produce a powerful imagery evoking shades of green and blue. Lara's lyrics skilfully use natural imagery that have been traditionally used as signals, like smoke, pathways and sand to give the song an organic edge, while the cool, lucid electric guitar brings to mind shades of electric blue.
Lara's voice is one of reason, the method to the madness that quietly, serenely cuts through the heavy mesh of sounds, like a nymph beckoning listeners to follow in her steps. Although reserved rather than emotional and passionate, her persistence in using a more reserved tone lends her perspective credibility, like the thread holding all the burgeoning elements of the song together. Soft and close to ones' ear, Lara's voice also give the lyrics depth. While the lyrics may be misconstrued as leading listeners on a wild goose chase, luring them in while not providing an answer, the warmth and earnestness of her voice seep into the cold grooves of the song, dissipating a sense of accompaniment rather than wily misdirection.
The only downside to this song are that it is almost too clear what the listener is intended to find. The arrangement is rather repetitive, like a ball rattling around in a pinball machine, and while this loss of direction is exactly what we are meant to understand, it would be nice for Lara to complete the story by positing her own spin on how to deal with or leave this directionless state. But perhaps that is what the rest of her album is for? One will just have to wait and find out where she goes with it (pun intended).
Review by: CP
Editor's note: Very excited to be working with Asian Pop Weekly's new contributor CP who has recently joined the APW team! This is his debut on the site, and also his first review ever! Welcome CP, and here's to many more album reviews!
2016 was a year of major change for Khalil Fong. After leaving his old record label, he embarked on his own cultural entrepreneurial journey by launching his own independent label - Fu Music.
This makes Journey to the West (JTW 西遊記 ) a very special double album! Not only does it celebrate his 11th year in the music industry, it is also the inaugural album for his newfound independent record label. Many of us may be disappointed to hear this but it might be the last full album of music we get to hear from Khalil for a while. As mentioned on his Facebook page :
“For the time being this will be the last full album of original works. I am in the process of evolving and re-shaping. There is an abundance of creative diverse ideas in the pipeline from both myself, my team and affiliates and I look forward to seeing these realized to their full potential.”
It is uncertain what he means exactly by “evolving and reshaping” but we can probably expect to see him come out with other forms of creative work in the near future. Regardless, of what the future holds, Khalil fans should definitely listen to this album and cherish it for the time-being!
Due to some events especially in the second half of 2016, I’ve been finding more and more that my mindset (and as a result my tastes in music) are slightly changing. Previously, I’d adopted a ‘go hard or go home’ mindset which aligned more with vibrant tracks that were upbeat and rhythmic. However lately I’ve been really trying to figure out a more sustainable way of chasing my passions, hence I’ve been more into folk music, or really just any music which is soothing, acoustic and promotes mindfulness. And Crowd Lu’s latest album “What a folk!!!!!!” appears to be everything I’ve been looking for and more.
Combining his previous banally happy brand of music with a heightened sense of self awareness, Lu’s latest album is a demonstration of his maturity over the past few years, in which he discovered that sadness or periods of melancholy are indeed useful, instead of forcing a constant stream of happiness. I guess I’m really able to relate to this album as it reflects a mindset change that I’ve been experiencing, rendering this album even more meaningful to me. Lu's new perspective really comes through in the tracks from his latest album, which is completely organic in its use of wooden, non-electronic instruments, and its subscription to the folk genre.
There’s really something special about Erika’s voice. When I first heard of her through her first single “An Angel’s Secret” I was mesmerised. Although upon A wonderfully talented vocalist, Erika is as versatile as her voice is unique. With piercing, explosive high notes, a charmingly husky baritone and a sweet, breathy falsetto, it seems that there’s nothing this girl can’t do, rendering her an incredible asset to a music scene swamped by celebrities trained in the art of ‘fake versatility’. But her debut album “I am Erika” instead sends mixed signals and exploits this versatility.
I don’t think its any fault of hers specifically; but in promoting her as a ‘water-type girl’ when 70% of the album is upbeat R&B or pop-rock tracks just made me even more confused. When she released her first single “An Angel’s Secret” featuring Xiao Yu, I could certainly see the connection between this song and the ‘water’ theme of her album. Hoping to hear more of this mellow, clarifying R&B sound, I purchased her album but was surprised to hear that there was not one other song which drew connotations with this ‘water’ theme. Instead, most of them were what would be best described as ‘filler tracks’; songs which seemed to be meant for no one type of artist, but just generic pop tracks. I am saying this not in the sense that it is badly produced or badly arranged, but in the sense that I feel these songs are unmemorable, with very boring themes and with some not suited for her voice at all. Inf act upon closer analysis turns out most of these songs are cover tracks of English songs which makes more sense. Nevertheless, cover songs or not there was a real issue in my opinion with song choice that rendered this album overall quite disappointing to me.
If I were to compare Murmurshow’s music to a type of food, I believe that it is very much like Chicken soup for the soul. Nourishing, warm and simple, their reassuring brand of indie pop is easy on the ears and full of heart. Their latest album “Proudly Loving” is based on the idea that one should first learn to love themselves before being able to love others, a message that weaves itself naturally throughout their eclectic jumble of good-natured tunes. They tell this concept in simply worded yet meaningful language from all kinds of different perspectives; telling listeners to just be themselves in ‘Differences’, telling the story of a person who has done his lover wrong as a result of not understanding how to love himself in ‘Gone, and even songs about embracing those lazy stay-at-home days where you give yourself a chance to take a break in ‘Hate Rainy Days’ and ‘Like Staying at Home’.
Lead singer Li De Hui’s voice is especially interesting to unpack; although it does not contain the melisma of normal western-styled powerhouses, there is something very explosive about her sound. One thing’s for sure-that girl’s got a hell of a voice on her! Moving effortlessly between soft-spoken tracks such as the acoustic ‘Differences’ and soft balladic ‘No Sugar’ to more amped up tracks like the heart-wrenching ‘Gone’ and the funky ‘Valerian Root’, her lilting sound fascinates me with its depth and emotiveness with each song. Guitarist Shen Zhi Fang also was able to very skilfully incorporate guitar into most of the songs onto the album in ways that were unexpected, but fitted really well. I think his arrangements are part of what shapes Murmurshow’s laidback yet juicy works, which is something really special about them I do appreciate.
Favourites on this album include the simple ‘Differences’ which summed up perfectly the theme of the album in a sunny and cheerful way using just an acoustic guitar and simple percussion. What I really like about their music is that there aren’t that many surprises which is a good thing sometimes. From the beginning of the track, what you hear is what you get. No big, extravagant layering of instruments that cause frenzied mood changes just for the hell of it. All the way through, this song just became ore and more uplifting with its message of individuality and of deserving to be loved. A comforting song that will bring sunshine into your day when you need it the most.
Eve Ai's latest album "Talk about Eve" is exactly what its title proposes it to be. Like an intimate conversation between friends, Ai broaches a number of topics that span the themes of Love, Life and Escapism, like short anecdotes which are wispily threaded together and bound by Eve's intimate and unique vocals. Eve professed that prior to the creation of this album, she harboured a rather negative and pessimistic outlook on life before realising that love is the answer to all ill intentions and hatred. Shedding the thorny outer layer which she had previously worn in her social critique that composed her previous albums, this time Eve's latest album is a reflection of a freer, happier yet still strongly independent version of herself.
On the first track "Say", Eve collaborated with singer-songwriter Eric Chou who wrote the melody for her. Although the song was originally intended as a ballad, producer George Chen instead arranged it with strong EDM influences, injecting it with a mysterious aura of headiness and lust. The piece was an interesting concoction as the meatiness of Chou's balladic melody interacted with the EDM sound and paired off well with Eve's sensual, throaty vocals. The lyrics, which separately hint at a dedicated love between two people, instead to me react with the throbbing arrangement to give off a 'caught in the moment', transient meaning.