To herald in the new year, I, along with some friends of APW decided to put together some Top 10 lists of our favourite Mandopop songs of 2017 to share in a blog series! In a way, I thought it would be cool to see what were other Mandopop listeners' favourite songs of the year; an experiment of subjectivity if you'd like.
In the first part of the series, I share my top 10, which include songs from Stefanie Sun, Wang Leehom, Namewee, Lala Hsu and more! Some might be songs you've heard frequently on the top charts, while others might be personal favourites which I think deserve to be in the spotlight before the year ends. Either way, I hope it provides all readers with a unique perspective on Mandopop and how the scene has changed and progressed over the past year. Evidently, there have been so many exciting developments that leave me hopeful for the growth of the industry and it's capacity for cross-cultural dialogue in the near future. Do check our picks out, and we've even included a Spotify playlist down the bottom if that's your preferred listening method. Merry Christmas and happy new year!
10. Jia JIa家家 - Jia Jia Song家家歌
Although Amit (A-mei’s alter ego) is taking a break this year, Jia Jia’s latest release has ensured that there is no lack in Taiwanese Aboriginal representations in pop music, releasing her first album featuring a plethora of self-composed works. One that stood out to me was her first single ‘Jia Jia Song’ which features other notable Aboriginal artists Suming and Ilid Kaolo, which incorporates traditional Aboriginal songs which seamlessly mix with elements of pop music such as the use of synthesizer beats underlying the song, and the use of some Chinese lyrics. With a melody that is mysterious yet beckons us to find out more, Jia Jia’s velveteen vocals draws us in and builds a bridge of accessibility for mainstream audiences to understand and appreciate her culture in a safe creative setting. The unique charisma of the song will have you singing along to its simple, natural lyrics in no time!
9.孫燕姿 STEFANIE SUN - 風衣 WINDBREAKER
This song off Stefanie Sun’s long-awaited 13th album ‘Dancing Van Gogh’ stood out to me for its unconventional take on a ballad. Starting off hauntingly beautiful, the addition of R&B beats in the background in the chorus underlying a heartfelt melody creates possibilities I never thought possible. The beats and melody in the chorus bounce off each other; lifting the song’s atmosphere higher and higher, like wind whipping through the trees. I especially love the lyrical metaphor of the windbreaker, and feel that this song fits Sun’s carefree vocals to a T.
8.POETEK熊仔, JULIA WU吳卓源, RGRY - 買榜MYBONG (BUY THE CHARTS)
Another trend that has been really positive in 2017 and looks to continue into 2018 is the emergence of several cool, young artists who have emerged from the underground/independent scene, pushing out new works left and right that disrupt the mainstream charts’ never-ending cycle of love ballads. With fewer connections and less resources, these guys are the key to the revival of the Mandopop music industry. One such success story is that of single ‘Buy the Charts’ released by rapper Poetek, Julia Wu and RGRY, a rather lighthearted and chill track which gets into your head like an earworm. Switching up the conventional rap song format by mixing some melody into the rap part and some rap into the melody section, the song is effortlessly groovy, with tongue-in-cheek lyrics which sing about making it big on the charts. Ironically (or not), the song has rapidly made its way up the Top 100 charts on KKBOX. Let’s just hope it stays that way and keeps climbing!
7. A-MEI張惠妹Ft. E-SO瘦子 (MJ116) - Whatever你說了算 ft. E-so
A-mei has always been known for championing causes that are marginalized, be it LGBTIQ rights, Aboriginal representation, or even the creative works of underground/independent songwriters. In the past she’s used songs by people she’s found on the internet (Matriarchy by 愛力獅Alice), worked on songs with Miss Ko and Soft Lipa, but for her latest album ‘Story Thief’ her third single ‘Whatever’ takes the cake for the most out-there, yet irresistibly energetic song I’ve heard in a while. Almost schizophrenic in nature, (think Bohemian Rhapsody), the song switches erratically between minor and major keys, starting off with prim and proper chords on the keyboard before launching with no further warning into an unconventional hip hop segment replete with quirky, short guitar riffs. And all this happens within the first 40 seconds of the song. Switching with no rhyme or rhythm between dark and happy themes, the song teeters on the edge of insanity, buoyed only by the absolute confidence of A-mei’s dynamic vocals. Such a weird song, but in the best way possible!
Check out the lyric translations for 'Whatever' here.
Joining me for the second part of the 'Top 10 2017 Mandopop Picks' blog series is none other than founder and editor of YAM Magazine, Amy who has graciously decided to share her picks and annotations with everyone. I would say Amy's taste in music is really different to mine, but our mutual love for cross cultural collaboration means that we always respect and appreciate each other's musical preferences! If you're into indie Mainland Chinese stuff, or music that is a little more dark and mysterious than what you'd usually find in Mainstream pop, I think you'd appreciate Amy's picks...a lot.
There's a Spotify playlist at the end of the article where I compiled the songs I could find on the service, and if you're interested in more of Amy's recommendations, do check out her latest article over on YAM MAG where she compiled a whopping 50-song list of her favourite songs of 2017, including music from all around the world!
-APW Creator Jocelle
10.曾之喬 Joanne Tseng - 猜猜看 Guess
I don’t know much about Joanne Tseng’s career, but I do have the habit of clicking on clicking random videos that show up on my feeds, which is the reason I stumbled upon Guess, which could resemble Stefanie Sun’s edgier music style, though presented in a much more mainstream love ballad.
9. 沼泽 ZhaoZe - 如果我失去了青春 If I Lose my Youth
Mainland band ZhaoZe (who are also on Bandcamp) were also featured on Xiami’s compilation alongside Fang Shi’er and 1229 with this amazing rock instrumental.
8. Yoga Lin - 船 The Ship
Yoga Lin’s voice, generally, makes me sad. LOL. In The Ship, it manages to do so even without the lyrics; and despite the pop rock chorus that crank up the mood.
7. 许哲 Xu Zhe - 如此遥远
Otherwise known as Heo Chul, Mainland singer Xu Zhe’s music style differs from most people’s in this list as he’s less influenced by electronic music, and is much more inclined to folk rock, making his track a lot more contemplative, sorrowful and, perhaps, hopeful.
The last time I spoke with Diana Wang, she was releasing her first official forage into R&B 'Home' late last year.
In the later part of this year, she broke the Mandopop internet when it was announced that she had joined Khalil Fong's new record label 'FU MUSIC' as their first artist.
I should have known when Khalil praised Wang's songwriting skills when we quizzed him about his album 'JTW-Journey To The West' during our interview last year!
Her second full album 'Poem'; a play on the 「詩」word that appears in her Chinese name as well as a word that recurs in the album's first single '一步成詩' is said to showcase the transition of Diana to her image as a talented composer as well as vocalist.
Like Khalil, Wang's strong Eastern background (she comes from three generations of Peking/Kun Opera performers) as well as her Westernised upbringing; Diana seems to be the perfect fit for FU MUSIC, and has worked closely with the creative team to create her unique blend of East-meets-West R&B.
To Diana, music should not be differentiated by culture, language or time, but is something that exists as naturally as a heartbeat or breath. Thus, she picked up a pen and began turning her thoughts into music through her love for R&B.
During the production of 'Poem', Diana and Khalil were fully present in the decision making process every step of the way, working not only with long-time collaborators Derrick Sepnio and Fergus Chow from the JTW album, but also with famed Hong Kong lyricists Zhou Yao-Hui and C-Jun, as well as Singaporean lyricist Xiao Han and Taiwan's Cui Wei Kai and Jie Nuo Mi.
Wang also had the pleasure of dueting and collaborating with various artists outside of the usual fare including the weird and wacky Joanna Wang, Singaporean R&B crooner Charlie Lim, and even her own mother Wang Lei!
Through this album, and using her culture and roots as a means for finding her identity, Diana wants audiences to witness her process of metamorphosis. Going back to the love of R&B she had as a little girl and using that as a starting point for her reinvention of herself as an artist, Wang's new album is bound to be poetry in motion, recording her thoughts on lifestyle, love and human perspectives.
Diana Wang's new album 'Poem' is now out and can be found in all the usual places. Click on this link to take you there: https://dianawang.lnk.to/poem
Join asian pop weekly's huge christmas giveaway by filling out quick survey!(runs 14-25th december 2017)
Ho ho ho! As christmas rounds the corner, Asian Pop Weekly is here to add that little C-pop flair to your festivities. To thank you all for your support over the years, we’re celebrating with a HUGE giveaway featuring 8 prize packs! All you have to do to enter is fill out our 1-minute survey (links in image above, button below and hyperlinked here) and you’ll be automatically entered in the draw! Even if you’re not interested in the giveaway I still hope that you’ll fill out our survey, your feedback means a lot to me and would really help in the future progress of some very exciting projects we have coming up! Greetings of the season, and good luck!
Asian Pop Creator Jocelle
1-J. Sheon 2017 debut self-titled album
2-Lara Liang梁心頤 2016「Where Do We Go」autographed EP & Poster
3-Limited edition ‘A-Lin’ 2017 Postcard pack (6 pcs)
4-Show Luo羅志祥 3 album set (Best Show/Trendy Man/舞法舞天) + autobiography寫真集
5-Rainie Yang楊丞琳 2009 limited edition半熟宣言photo book + Claire Kuo郭靜 heart-shaped post-it notes
6-Da Mouth大嘴巴 「首部曲First Episode」compilation album + 万凸3 (One Two Three) GMA award-winning album (2010)
7-Wonfu旺福 青春舞曲 Dance of Youth (2007) GMA-nominated album + Anthony Neely倪安東 ‘The Soul Of Bread’ coaster
8-Kenji Wu吳克群 2010 ‘愛我恨我Love Me Hate Me’ album + Amber An安心亞2011 惡女‘Evil Girl’ debut album
A closer look at the prizes
GIVEAWAY RULES & REGULATIONS
-Giveaway period: 14th December-25th December 2017
-As long as you fill out the survey, you will automatically be included in the giveaway.
-Seven giveaway winners will be chosen through a lucky draw.
-One response per person. Participants who try to enter more than once will be disqualified. If you'd like more chances at winning the giveaway, send the survey to friends and get them to fill it out too!
-Winners will be announced on the 5th of January 2018, and prizes sent out around end January.
Indie darling- turned- songstress Lala Hsu has announced the upcoming release of her long-awaited new album 'Psychology心理学' after a three-year wait.
The album will begin pre-order on the 5th of December, and will be released officially on the 27th of December.
Working with known producers and musicians such as George Chen, Chen Jun Hao and Starr Chen, the new album is said to be a deep awakening of Lala's most innermost thoughts.
This is well expressed through the first single 'The Prayer言不由衷', a collaboration between Lala and this years' Best Female Mandarin Artist Eve Ai, who is known for her personal and deep melodies and beautiful writing style.
As one of the earliest songs selected and recorded for this album, 'The Prayer' was also one of the hardest to record. When Lala first heard the demo for this song, the lightly sentimental melody and simple yet elegant lyrics truly moved her.
At that time, she was going through a period of loss and directionless, yet 'The Prayer' moved her sensitive heart. At that moment, all her unanswerable questions seem to have calmed, and allowed her to be surrounded by warmth, becoming a song that Hsu would turn to in her darkest of times.
Since this song meant so much to her, being able to bring to life this song in the best way possible became one of Lala's biggest issues, and she was time and again unable to go into the studio to record, because she was worried that she would not be able to breathe life into this song in the right way.
It was oNly until recording for the album had reached its midpoint that Lala finally went into the recording studio to record this song, hoping that her voice could give everyone all that she was trying to express. Of the experience, she says: "This is a song I listened to over and over as a way of speaking to myself, just like I've entered experiment after experiment and then finally coming up with a true experience. I hope this song that can heal me can also heal everyone else."
To Hsu, the song is not only a prayer of greeting for those who you love, but also as a way of praying for yourself, and loving yourself. Using nuanced and subtle changes in the gentle arrangement, 'The Prayer' has created the most beautiful setting for Lala's album.
'The Prayer' by Lala is out now on YouTube and all the usual places. Her new album 'Psychology' will be released on the 27th of December.