By Matt Taylor
It must be good to be a fan of Lala Hsu 徐佳瑩, who has premiered a video for Just Dance 現在不跳舞要幹嘛, the fourth from her fifth studio album The Inner Me 心理學, which was released on December 27.
The song is a stylistic departure for Lala, and is heavily influenced by 1970s disco and funk. However, rather than relying on nostalgic sentiments to sell the song, it is distinctive, modern and fresh, thanks in part to Lala’s ethereal vocals.
The track was produced by Starr Chen 陳星翰, known for his production and writing credits on recent albums by A-Mei 張惠妹 and Jolin Tsai 蔡依林.
The humorous and colourful video was directed by Birdy Niou 邱柏昶, and is meant to show the viewer how easy it is to break the shackles of everyday life and have fun. Not only that, the video attempts to portray that dancing is not a hobby restricted to a certain demographic, but is one that should be enjoyed by everyone, irregardless of gender, body type, or walk of life.
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.
A little late, but better late than never, right? First of all, I’d like to wish all Asian Pop Weekly readers a very happy new year (Chinese New Year was just over so I consider myself only slightly late with this greeting)! As things have been hectic over the last couple of years, loyal readers may notice that the Asian Pop Weekly website has settled into a stable rhythm of posts such as news articles, lyric translations, interviews and album reviews, but I feel like it’s time to step things up a notch in terms of the amount of feature articles available on this site. So my resolution this year is to keep APW going strong, and to add a little pizzazz to our content just to spice things up.
In lieu of such a statement, I figured that I might as well start off with one of those ‘listicles’ which are so popular at the moment, a listicle of my top 10 C-pop songs of 2016 recommended especially for ABCs (individuals of Asian heritage living in Western regions), or basically for any English speakers who are interested in learning more about Chinese music. While some of these songs may not be the biggest C-pop hits of 2016, they’re nevertheless a great selection of tunes, mostly by artists with offerings friendly to the international market which will certainly be a pleasure for your ears. So without further adieu, let’s get into it!
For fans of Mandopop Queen A-Mei, her rearrangement of her 1996 hit ‘Sisters’ was released this year, and acts both as a hit of nostalgia for those of us who lived through the C-pop Golden era of the 1990s-early 2000s, but that’s not all the song’s about. A-Mei expressed that she mulled over the idea of revamping the song for years before she decided to take the plunge, and given her reputation as an avant-garde, rule-breaking artist, this song was more than just a commercial money-grabbing scheme. Opting this time to go with a simple acoustic guitar arrangement, A-Mei’s effortlessly clear and sweet voice envelops ones’ earbuds as she delivers a message for society, one of hope, love and solidarity. Listen out for her beautiful spoken message near the end of the song. Nostalgia and a real heart-warming message that would not be lost on listeners given how 2016 turned out.
Alas, it's Awards season again in Taiwan! The inaugural 27th Golden Melody Awards which have come forth this year are full of nominees who truly deserve to be standing on that coveted stage and holding that statuette. But who made it into the final list of nominees? Read on to find out!
Chang and Lee
Susu (Su Yun Ying)
Best songs of the year
“Don’t Give Up” Suming
“Matriarchy” Amit (A-mei Zhang)
“Twilight” JJ Lin
“That Evening It Rained” Sodagreen
“Little Luck” Hebe Tien
Chang and Lee
Nine one one
Best Hakka album
“Time for Surprise” Wing Luo
“At the foot of Tai Ling” Qiu Lin
“Stranger” Huang Tsi-Hsuan
Best Aboriginal album
“Freedom journey” CMO band
“Migration” Wu Hao-en
“Songs Of The Tamalakao Tribe”/Tamalakao
Best Taiwanese album
“Voices Entering Village” Shi Wenbin
“Columbia” Jacky Chen
“Chang and Lee” Chang and Lee
“Warm Warm Love” Jiang Hui Yi
“Taiwanese New Wave” Huang Shan Liang
Best Mandarin Album
“Swing Inc.” Peggy Hsu
“Charlie” Eli Hsieh
“Amit 2” Amit
“Aphasia” Tanya Chua
“Winter Endless” Sodagreen
“Infinite” Bear Guy
Best Taiwanese Male Singer
Best Taiwanese Female Singer
Best Male Mandarin Singer
Best Female Mandarin Singer
Su Yun Ying (Su Su)
Amit (A-mei Zhang)
Special Contribution Award
Huang Ying Ying
Best Music Video Award
“Eternal Summer” (Director: Su Jian Yi)
“If The Same Pain Was Downloaded Twice” (Director: Tan Zong Pan)
“I’m Not Yours” (Director: Chen Yi Ren)
“I Am Alive ft. Jason Mraz” (Director: Liu Geng Ming)
“I Want To Know Your Everything” (Director: Chen Hong Yi)
Best Composer Award
Jacky Chen/ ”Black Island” (Artist: Jacky Chen)
Tanya Chua/ “Aphasia” (Artist: Tanya Chua)
JJ Lin/ “Twilight” (Artist: JJ Lin)
Wu Tsing Feng/ “A Rainy Evening” (Artist: Sodagreen)
Jerry C/ “Little Luck” (Artist: Hebe Tien)
Best Lyricist Award
Hsieh Ming-Yu/”A Life’s Song” (Artist: Jacky Chen)
Wu Hsiung/ “Dismantle” (Artist: Chang and Lee)
Chen Sa/ “Matriarchy” (Artist: Amit)
Wu Tsing-Feng/ “Happy Gorgeousness” (Artist: Sodagreen)
Wu Tsing-Feng/ “You Raised Your Right Hand To Mark ‘Here’” (Artist: Sodagreen)
Best Arranger Award
Jacky Chen, Chen Ju Hao, Jakub Kubi Groos, Ao Di, Li Da Wen/ “Would You Be My Girl” (Artist: Jacky Chen, Dwagie)
Hsu Yu-Ying, Lu Law-Ming/ “A Letter For Tim Bolton” (Artist: Peggy Hsu)
Hsiao Zhao/ “Searching Deep Seas” (Artist: Li Jian)
Chang Shi-Lei, An-Dong/ “Living Is The Best Death” (Artist: Tanya Chua)
Sodagreen, Li Wei-ZHe/ “Happy Gorgeousness” (Artist: Sodagreen)
Best Album Producer Award
Peggy Hsu, Wang Xi Wen/ “Swing Inc.” (Artist: Peggy Hsu)
Adia, Amit/ “AMIT 2” (Artist: Amit)
An Dong, Tanya Chua/ “Aphasia” (Artist: Tanya Chua)
JJ Lin/ “Experimental Album Me n Myself” (Artist: JJ Lin)
Lin Wei-Zhe/ “Winter Endless” (Artist: Sodagreen)
Best Single Producer Award
Shuo Hsiao/ “Have You Eaten” (Artist: Shuo Hsiao)
Eli Hsieh, Tsai Jung Hoon/ “Lamp” (Artist: Eli Hsieh)
Hsiao Zhao/ “Searching Deep Seas” (Artist: Li Jian)
Chen Jian Qi/ “Practice Losing” Artist: One Fang
Chen Jian Qi “Darling” Artist: Julia Peng
Best Album Cover Award
Wu Jian-Long/ “Chang and Lee”
Lee Wei-Ming/ “Principles that never die”
Huang Jia-Xian/ “Mr. Hormone”
Fang Hsu-Zhong/ “Vu Vu Reggae”
Zhao Yi-Xiang/ “GIGO”
Nie Yong-Zhen/ “For Miss Qiu Yueyun”
Best Recording Album Award
“New Heartbeat”/ Recording Engineers: Peter Roberts, Lupo Groinig, Strawberry/ Main Mixing Engineers: Richard Furch, George Dum/ Main Mastering Post-Production: Reuben Cohen
“Light Freezing”/ Recording Engineers: Li You, Bao Ru Yi, Zhang Bo, Yan Chung Kun/ Main Mixing Engineers: Howie, Joe Hirst/ Main Mastering Post-Production: Ray Stuff
“AMIT 2”/ Recording Engineers: Chen Wen Chun, Chen Zhen Fa/ Main Mixing Engineers: Fan Nangang/ Main Mastering Post-Production: Joe LaPorta
“Aphasia”/ Recording Engineers: Kyle Hoffman/ Main Mixing Engineers: An Dong, Richard Furch/ Main Mastering Post-Production: John David
“Fall In Love With Yourself”/ Recording Engineers: Zhou Chi Hao, Ye Yu Hsuan/ Main Mixing Engineers: Wang Jun Jie/ Main Mastering Post-Production: Chris Gehringer
Best Backing Recording Album Award
“The Arti: The Adventure Begins/ Film Soundtrack” / Recording Engineers: Yang Min Qi, Li Zhao Yang, Wu Rong En, Lin Xiao Qin, Zhu Jing Ran, Chen Yi Lin, Ko Zhong You, Jiang Song Song, Yang Bang Hao/ Main Mixing Engineers: Yang Ming Qi, Craig Burbridge, Wang Jun Jie (Little K), Simon Li/ Main Mastering Post-Production: Sun Zhong Shu
“Simple Life”/ Recording Engineers: Kyle Cassel/ Main Mixing Engineers: Dave Darlington/ Main Mastering Post-Production: Dave Darlington
“My Own Room”/ Recording Engineers: Todd Carder, Pat Noonan (The Bunker Studio)/ Main Mixing Engineers: Brian Montgomery, Wei Yu Xian/ Main Mastering Post-Production: Systems Two Recording Studio
“SEMIFUSA Namesake Album”/ Main Mixing Engineers: Yu Jialun/ Main Mastering Post-Production: Jeff Lipton, Maria Rice
Not only has Amei been busy with her "Utopia" concert series, it turns out that she's been working extra hard for the release of her upcoming album too! Which will be released on the same day of her first concert at Taipei Arena. The last time Amit was introduced was six years ago, and Amei's latest press release states that Amei cleverly left a hint for her fans in her "Faces of Paranoia" album which said "AMIT COMING SOON", a creative yet exciting surprise for her fans to know that they would be hearing new works from Amei(oops, sorry Amit) sometime soon.
Seeing as the last surfacing of Amit garnered Amei 6 Golden melody awards in 2009, and based on Amei's strict and high expectations for each and every element of here album, this may possibly be one of the most anticipated albums of the year. She's already released her first single for the album called "不睡"(don't sleep) which is reportedly written by Sandee Chen. More information about Amei's album is on the way, so keep your eyes peeled for more from Asian Pop Weekly!
Amei/Amit's first Single: <不睡bu shui>/Don't sleep
Second Single + official mv for <freakshow>
Amit's album <Amit 2> will be released on the 4th of April, on the same day of Amei's opening date for her "Utopia" tour.
A place for news content, single reviews, and other exciting content on your favourite Mandopop artists.