By Jocelle Koh
Oftentimes as artists reach a point of maturity and stability in their career, it becomes easier to just hold live tours, take commercial gigs from Mainland Chinese partners and more than sustain themselves on that. Yet it seems that even at this stage in her career, singer-songwriter Tanya Chua is not done growing.
Debuting her latest album ‘Kisses For The World我要給世界最悠長的濕吻’ in late December last year amongst a slew of other hot-topic releases, Chua’s nevertheless stood out to me. Not necessarily for her avant-garde experimental musical offerings or for her bittersweet acoustic sets. Instead, this time the Singaporean chanteuse stood out to me due to the striking relevance of this album both musically and thematically in this age that we live in.
Choosing to further hone her experimentations with the EDM genre; yet fusing it in seamless ways with pop elements; Chua’s sincere songwriting style ties it all together and strikes a balance between innovation and relatability which clearly comes from years of expertise. Truly ‘good pop’ at its finest.
A great example of this is the album’s title track ‘Kisses For The World我要給世界最悠長的濕吻”. Using synths and electronic cracklings to create a blooming, vibrant and modern atmosphere, simple piano chords ground the melody and creates a jumping point for listeners’ to immerse themselves (as the lyrics say) arms wide open into a perspective much wider than their own.
With an amazing musical architecture that borrows all kinds of sounds from organic percussion to guitars to beats and vocal backings, Chua creates a slow but steady vibrance in the song which leads up to the most human, moving EDM drop which kicks off the chorus. A mixture of so many delicious elements that certainly keep your ears busy, this song perfectly captures the positivity of life in all its complexity. Be it ups and downs; little moments of elation; acts of kindness and love and the hope for a better tomorrow, this song has it all.
As for the themes that find themselves encased in this album, Chua presents both vulnerability and empowerment as themes that feed off each other and create something transformative and bigger than just you or me. In a world such as ours where people are hyposensitised to every part of our identities (collective or individual) and everything that makes up our reality seems volatile and uncertain, Tanya’s unique brand of warmth – sentimental, cheeky and intimate presents itself at just the right time.
While Tanya is no stranger to sentimental piano ballads, the ones in this album are a little different. None as different and as memorable as her tear-jerking first single ‘遺書The Will’ which; true to its name; discusses end of life. The moving track uses a pensive piano arrangement coupled with a mix of electronic keyboard/strings to create that complex feeling of discussing something heavy and meaningful; yet rising above and finding the value in it all. The lyrics; penned by Chua herself alongside veteran lyricist Ke Dawei are simple, moving and bittersweet all at the same time, leaving a lump in my throat as I listen on. Chua sings: “I was loved I will be fine/With your blessing how can I not wish to cry”, and it amazes me how with such simple words I can feel her serenity and love so strongly.
Every song here is worth listening to for its delicate and unique production which adds various layers to Chua’s message of warmth and sincerity. From the presentation of two polar opposite themes – life and death in the emotionally empowering and vibrant ‘我要給世界最悠長的濕吻Kisses For The World’ and the sentimental, bittersweet track ‘遺書The Will’ respectively; Tanya carefully fleshes out the album’s structure to document everything else in between. While upbeat dance-infused songs such as ‘Heartbeat舞步’ and disco-esque ‘Offline Map離線地圖’ discuss the tango of relationships and living life to the fullest, more sombre tracks such as the hauntingly beautiful ‘Halfway半途’ discusses unfinished exchanges and why they should stay that way. Slow-burning R&B/EDM track ‘Invisible Cities看不見的城市’ explores the relationship between wanderlust and self-discovery; reflecting Chua’s own viewpoints whilst touching the hearts of those of us who are at crossroads in our lives.
For Chua, it seems that whilst on past records her journey was going through phases of personal discovery and challenging her boundaries; “Kisses For The World” is an album that is a gift for listeners everywhere. Bottled empathy and healing available in a ten-track album; this is a piece of work that is worth treasuring and poring over every detail. A truly caring and utterly altruistic album that is truly what the world right now needs; this body of work reflects a milestone evolution of Chua as an artist. Others define achievements as going from singer to singer-songwriter, or singer-songwriter to producer; but here Tanya’s success is marked by her evolution from artist to healer. And SHE deserves a big wet kiss for that.