By Jocelle Koh
I once almost got into a minor car accident while listening to David Tao. I was really into his ‘I’m Ok’ album at the time, and was belting the words to ‘Small Town Girl小鎮姑娘’ whilst filtering onto the freeway. East-meets-West R&B has always been one of my favourite niche genres, and Tao’s album truly had me caught in the moment, mind, body and soul. Long story short, I was too busy singing that my steering wheel veered to the right causing my car to scrape against the rails.
You may be asking - what was even the point of that story? Such was the era of east-meets-west Mandarin R&B especially in the early 2000s; characterised by an innate groovability and bouncy, delicious melodies that you could have on repeat infinitely that involuntarily take up all of your headspace. And oh, those full, dynamic fusion arrangements punctuated by vocal improvisations which make even the most simple, repetitive melody refreshing and innovative.
These are all the things that I love and remember fondly about Mandarin RnB; so enticing to me that they are ancient-inducing; yet unfortunately in this new age where everything is about trap music and being woke, I had long put to rest hopes that those classic favourites as popularised by David Tao and Wang Leehom could ever be replicated. But miraculously, up-and-coming Taiwanese R&B band Sugarcat’s debut self-titled album effectively proved that this vein of East-meets-West R&B still has a place in contemporary Mandarin music; doing a superb job of transforming and effectively updating it to hold its own.