In his long-awaited comeback, Mandopop king Wang Leehom builds on his previous experimentation with EDM sounds, releasing part 1 of 2 for his new digital album 'A.I. Love'. The first song on the two-song EP is the self titled first single 'A.I. Love', which since its release has been hotly debated over by netizens, who either seem to love or hate the song. As a hardcore Leehom fan and music journalist, I decided that now would be as good a time as ever for me to weigh in on the debate.
Starting off by unpacking the song lyrics, Leehom's voice; auto-tuned into a somewhat eerie manner comes in, chanting 'ethics attain ethics'; a play on the similar pinyin of those words in Chinese. In doing so, Leehom is already using the intricacies of the Chinese language to make a point. Both the words 'ethics' and 'attain' have the words 'dao de' in them in Chinese; ethics meaning 'dao de 道德' and attain meaning 'de dao得到'. Leehom uses their similarities; singing them in sequence to demonstrate the thin line that exists between ethics and attainment of success.
We see this particular play on words appear again leading up to the chorus ; and Leehom borrows the same technique for the chorus, singing 'A.I. Love(Ai)' repeatedly. This time, the play on words occurs between A.I., an English short-form for artificial intelligence and '愛Ai', the Chinese word for love. The wordplay works on two levels; first of all subtly reinforcing Wang's ongoing engagement with 'East meets West' themes within his music, and secondly making a statement on what he sees as the tug and pull between a reliance on digital technology at large (so much so that we use it to create sentient beings like ourselves) and real human emotions of love and concern; not only in a romantic sense but also in a general sense of stewardship and solidarity.
He touches on both these types of love in his verses, which feature heavy use of satire to hammer his point home. For example, in his first verse he sings:
'Inject a vaccine and you'll grow immunity/congratulations, you're now immortal/everyone wants a perfect lover/to give a shoulder massage at any time'
Leehom's use of satire here is almost palpable, and is clearly a critique on the concept of people using man-made means to become immortal; as well as the concept of an artificially created perfect lover. In his second verse, he uses satire again but moves his focus to how artificial intelligence and technology can be used in harmful and destructive ways, singing:
'Artificial Intelligence has finally perfected love/Just don't challenge it in go/No longer worry about the world's problems/it will colonize Mars'
I've always loved listening to covers; especially in the Taiwanese music scene with its' emphasis on indie music and acoustic, relaxing music, it's allowed me to gain a new appreciation for listening to artists perform in a much quieter and low-key setting, performing songs that they love for us, or performing popular songs which might not be their own, but might reveal to us a whole new side of their personality, or a new versatility that we can't find in their music! Here in the first post of this blog series, are three covers which I've enjoyed listening to in the past week or so. Enjoy!
WILLIAM WEI: 慢慢等Waiting Slowly
I guess you can't really call this one a cover, but more like an acoustic performance of Will's own song 慢慢等(Waiting Slowly) which he performs here in lieu of his performance in Beijing in end September. His voice as always, brings comfort and a quiet confidence and warmth that lingers after the last notes are sung and the twang from the guitar chords have faded into thin air.
Second, we have Sharon Kwan's cover of the hit song <听见下雨的声音>(The sound of rain) which was picked for her by fans to perform! Unlike Queen Wei's version, cool, crisp and refreshing, Sharon's take brings with it from the first note a twist of warmth-a smile in her voice, and an honesty which transcends through the song to the ears of all listeners. Also getting a grunge-rock feel from her version, which is refreshing in its' own right!
A very interesting and impressive song choice that we don't see done very often by the new generation of singers; Kimberley Chen performs a One Take of Whitney Houston's <I Have Nothing>. It's a little rough around the edges, but she never fails to impress with her jaw-dropping range which she showcases through an amazing key change and use of improvisation. Makes you want to brush up on your karaoke skills doesn't it? Me too...
I've been following Rose Liu's music for a while, and have always been a fan of her vocals, so intensely pure and sweet but yet with a touch of huskiness that adds an entirely new dimension to each and every note she sings.
But it was only when I saw her performance on The Voice china as a contestant that she truly impressed me. Taking a golden classic and integrating her own modern take as she performed <飄洋過海來看你>(Crossing the seas to see you) won the hearts of the judges and the audience alike, myself included! Long after the song was over, I kept thinking about it, replaying not the notes in my head, but the beautiful timbre of her voice as she tiptoed gently in the verses, a weary traveller with a heart full of love, and following her into the chorus where her husky sentimentality reached its' peak; enveloping the hearts of audiences everywhere.
In the music industry as I see it, it's been harder and harder to find new talent whose appeal can lie purely in their voice, there's always lots of other things included in the 'package', an eclectic bundle of songwriting, multiple instrument playing, dancing- an endless list of skills which act as a filler for any flaws they might have. And of course I can understand that. Nobody's so perfect that they can rely purely on their voice to touch the hears of listeners completely, but Rose certainly is as close as it gets. After being in the business for five years, she shows a maturity in her voice and an elegance in her stage persona that I hope will be able to help her now and in her future career as a singer. This is one artist that is going to go far-this single performance is just the beginning. Go Rose!
All of us have been in that tough spot where things aren't going as planned, and this is a song which I feels really reflects the human mindset within that condition. With lyrics by Xiao Han and a melody written by Tanya Chua, this song captures perfectly a situation where you've got to let go of a person that you love in order for them to truly be free and find happiness, be it with you, or someone who you know will be much better for them than yourself. It's a painful choice to make, but amidst the bittersweet heartbreak that this song offers, threaded throughout skilfully is this feeling of comfort, safety, like the ray of hope at the end of the tunnel. So no matter how tough the going gets, you've just got to know that happiness IS coming. A truly beautiful song, which Jia Jia really does well in. Usually Tanya writes really beautiful songs for others, but I generally get the feeling that it would be better sung by Tanya herself, which really defeats the purpose of giving them that song in the first place.
But Jia Jia really owns this song, and even gives it a different flavour from what I would expect from Tanya's version, removing the sultry grit of Tanya's timbre and replacing it with her husky, yet girlish vocals. So really, this song is a feat in all aspects; and I really do recommend it to those of you who are maybe feeling a little down in the dumps, or just looking for some good relaxing music!
I was absolutely amazed by the stunning beauty of the surroundings within this music video; it not only completely embraced the traditional chinese atmosphere, but by also adding mechanical elements which are weaved constantly throughout the scenery, they are also a reminder of the reality of mechanisation and modernity which we face in the 21st century. But this truly reflects on Sodagreen's concept and the sound that they wanted for this album too; this song <Stories>(故事) although using traditional chinese instruments to create a distinctively traditional sound, they've added their own little twist to the arrangement and also use the lyrics to make it not just some forgettable song mimicking Chinese tradition in order to fake some pride in their heritage, but instead, created a song which is distinctively theirs, distinctively Sodagreen; a fusion of classical chinese heritage and modern ideals. Truly an enchantment for both the ears and the eyes.