After a three-year wait, Mandopop king Wang Leehom has finally returned, armed with a new perspective on life and his music. Continuing his focus on the EDM genre, his 16th album ‘A.I. Love’ instead features a more relaxed and less curated incorporation of electronic elements, while adding in a fresh new set of elements reminiscent of his signature ‘Chinked-out’ style. Releasing the entire album digitally, Wang’s latest addition to his repertoire deals with the topic of technology as more than just a musical tool; expanding on it within this album and provoking discussions regarding what constitutes ethical use and where things start to become a little more questionable.
This question is most significantly poised (and answered) in his first two singles; ‘A.I.愛’ and ‘ World Without Tears沒有眼淚的世界’. Ironically, while these have widely been touted as the most controversial and dividing tracks on the album with listeners either loving or hating it, it just so happens that they happen to be my favourite songs on this 11-track release. While I’ve gone into detail about my adoration for ‘A.I. Love ’many times before; a highly electronic-based track which cleverly blends the East and the West while using wordplay to question the blurred lines between technology and reality; (see single analysis here), the album’s opening track ‘A World Without Tears沒有眼淚的世界’ is equally as intriguing in Wang’s choice of arrangement and content.
Written as part of a seamless collaboration between Leehom and The Swaggernautz, the song opens with Leehom’s voice in acapella as he sings ‘That year in spring when I opened my eyes/It was so quiet’. Unlike the poetic ambiguity of the lyrics in this first line, the arrangement shows us this is no conventional love song. Wang’s voice in acapella starts in an arbitrary, unhinging manner and seems to have been chosen purposely outside of Wang’s normal baritone vocal range. This evokes a sense of uncertainty, and the song continues in this tangent, adding in a delectable set of country western/folk guitar riffs which add texture and juxtapose Wang’s intentionally auto-tuned vocals.
The lyrics hint at the story of an A.I. being who has become sentient, but yet in living in a world with no tears is unable to be truly happy. I especially liked the comparisons of love to a program or to a game, but overall the lyrics were a little patchy in their coverage of the discussion on artificial intelligence and how all of this might relate to our current reality. Nevertheless, the song’s arrangement is full of texture and makes up for what words cannot express; using the grounded guitar riffs to humanise the experience while really testing the boundaries by making the autotune so intentionally hearable, just so Leehom can literally through his own voice bring this A.I. creature’s emotions and feelings directly to the ear of the listener. The skilful addition of the erhu especially at the second chorus of ‘ohs’ was especially genius; the breathy voices and sweeping EDM effects lifted higher and higher by the mellow and lively tones of the Chinese instrument before leading into the EDM drop, as if a breath of fresh air has entered a dull, mechanic space.