As this year comes to a long-needed close, the time has come yet again to compile a list of our top songs for 2018. This task has always been a delicate one; as we aim to choose songs that were chart-toppers while also leaving room for works that have contributed in a positive way to the creativity and diversity of the market. On top of this, I’ve also tried to choose songs that are cohesive and represent a general theme; reflecting on the year that has been. This year, I’ve chosen the theme of mindfulness and reflection. Be it a discussion of the world around us, our inner selves or the passing of time and life. In this year of confusion, despair and misdirection, we are all searching for something real to hold on to. This theme has increasingly resonates with me this year more than ever before, and I hope it strikes a chord with you too.
NO. 10: KELLY YU 于文文 – DIGNITY體面
What top 10 list could be complete without this regional chart-topper? The song which was part of the soundtrack for the movie ‘The Ex File 3: Return of the Exes’ allowed Canadian-Chinese artist Kelly Yu skyrocket to fame since its release in February this year with its moody and atmospheric piano arrangement. Although ballads are often hit-or-miss, Yu’s steady, honest vocals tug on the ol’ heartstrings just so, giving listeners delectable texture to ruminate over time and again.
By Matt Taylor
The wait is nearly over! Four years since her last studio album, 2014's critical and commercial blockbuster PLAY 呸, the dancing queen of Mandopop Jolin Tsai 蔡依林 has finally announced the release of her 14th studio album UGLY BEAUTY, which will be released on December 26.
Regarding the album title, Jolin expressed that she wanted to use this album to discover the ugliness behind the perfect surface of reality, and show that perfection is not equal to all. Each song will represent a different personality, viewpoint and style.
To create this eleven-track record, Jolin mobilised over 100 different musicians from Taiwan, Thailand and Sweden, and even took a direct role in writing and producing six of the tracks, something she has traditionally shied away from. She said that working with so many different creative people gave her the motivation to play a larger role in the creation of her music, and to her surprise, she actually enjoyed it, and hopes that this comes across to the listener.
One of the most noticeable features of the artwork is the oversized red lips, produced by Chinese designer Shuting Qiu. They are meant to symbolize words which we want to say, but are afraid to.
With hype and anticipation at fever pitch, limited pre-sales across Asia sold out in minutes, with the album receiving a platinum certification in China after only 24 hours. Demand was so high that a second print of pre-orders was arranged after fans vented their frustration on the social media accounts of Jolin's record label.
Since her debut album in 1999, Jolin Tsai has sold over 25 million records worldwide, and is one of the highest selling recording artists of the 21st century in Asia. Her most recent PLAY World Tour 呸世界巡迴演唱會 saw Jolin perform 34 concerts across five countries.
The first single from UGLY BEAUTY will premiere on December 21st, with the album following on December 26th.
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.
Even being named by TIME Magazine one of the best music videos of the year, Mandopop princess Jolin Tsai's new single <Play> is definitely taking the world by storm. But not only has it been revolutionary in its sound and its idea, it has also had a rapid and catalytic effect on the Taiwanese music community, with many up-and-coming artists drawing inspiration from the original to create their own radically different yet wonderful works.
Here we have four versions of the same song-but who did it best? Read to the end to hear my verdict.
Of course, Jolin's original is mindblowingly good. I've never been that big a fan of EDM, but Jolin's music is one of my only exceptions to that rule. With a radical fusion of hip-hop rapping with an EDM beat, Jolin's created a truly revolutionary song to go with lyrics that are in-your-face, sharp yet sweet, and a much-needed criticism of Taiwanese society all in one. And truly there would be no one better than Jolin to be able to master this version of the song; her sweet and resonant vocals and unique pronunciation hits all the right notes for me, making this truly the most show-stopping track on her album.
As for indie and cover artist Shan Hay, it just amazes me how he was able to find the inspiration to strip down such a heavy track to find the core of the melody, taking it out and building his own acoustic version around it. I do believe that it was this cover that inspired many others to start playing around with Jolin's song, trying to create their own cover of the song that would show their support for the ideas for the song while letting their unique creative musical voices show. Shan's version is more reminiscent of R n B David Tao's works, with a hint of humour and full of warmth. Could be a complete song in it's own right!
Janice Yan, Li You-ting, Karen
Now this cover of Play is something else altogether. Janice, You-ting and Karen have instead created a funky, blues-inspired cover of Jolin's <Play> with a strong element of attitude infused into the entire song. It also draws influence from Queen's works by adding a completely different section that instead is inspired by a more disco, 80's theme before transitioning back into a faster version of their original arrangement seamlessly. They've also got this 'Supremes'-inspired backing style in there which I really love, drawing also from the Motown genre at its best.
Dawen and Gentleman have worked together with KKBOX here to create yet another astoundingly good and different cover of Jolin's <Play>!
I have to say, one of the most creative and awesome covers I've seen in a while. Not only because it was shot in an elevator(who would've thought?), but also because of it's complete rearrangement of the song; this time into an acapella/beatboxing/jazzed-up version of the original! Well done guys! This song sure does seem to be inspiring lots of artists to try their hand at creating new sounds, which I think is one of the most radical things I love about it.
I have to say, all of these covers are immensely creative and of a highly professional standard. But as the princess of mandopop, I believe it was Jolin's encompassing of the song which made it stand out so much, and gave all these artists the challenge AND the inspiration to create something very different, yet very personal from the song; their own reflection of how they see Taiwan. I don't know how she did it, but Jolin's impact is absolutely astounding. It's like she just gave us a blank sheet of paper charged with creative electricity for these artists to wrap their heads around and to create something different, something new. I have never seen so many amazing covers of the same song before. Clearly the winner here is Jolin, not only for her wonderful song, but also for the impact her song has had on Taiwanese society.
Jolin's latest album has been released as of November 15th, and is titled <呸PLAY>. The return of Taiwan's mandopop princess is a well-anticipated one, with a new,modern and innovative image to match! Don't forget to check out her humorous tongue-in-cheek music video for her first single <Phony Queen>(电话皇后) which is a startlingly realistic reflection on how attached people are to their phones these days. (I must confess, I am one of them!) Keep your eyes peeled for more information on Jolin's new album, and watch this space!
In her second single which the album is named after, Jolin once against criticises society, and rocks the core of Taiwanese audiences' identity, by questioning their attitude towards living in a way that entertains and forces us to think about society at large. Times' magazine has even named it possibly the best music video of the year, well done Jolin!
Jolin's third single <The Third Person> was written for her by Mandopop prince JJ Lin, who also worked with her previously on her last album Muse, writing <Mosaic>, one of her hits for her! He continues the chart-topping trend by writing <The Third person> for her, with the music video directed by Jolin herself if I'm not wrong!
Jolin herself has admitted her fascination with the greek goddess Medusa; with the hair that will turn one to stone if gazed upon by the human eye. Her fourth single <Medusa> definitely is a show-stopper too!
I've heard that Jolin and her crew are now in the process of filming (or perhaps have finished) filming her latest music video for a high-profile duet with jpop superstar Namie Amura. I hear that the song was written by Jolin herself, so keep your eyes peeled!
Play呸 has been released as of the 15th of November, 2014.