Although I’ve never been much of a moviegoer, I was in fervent anticipation of the recent ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ film for obvious reasons. Asian representation in the media plays a big part in fostering cultural understanding and bridging the gap, and in its own way can even impact on the passage of Chinese music across borders. If it might not occur to you immediately why this might be, the case study of ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ and its soundtrack is a perfect place to launch such a discussion.
Despite the overly positive reviews of the soundtrack (most of which come from a western viewpoint); I thought it would be an interesting experiment to share my perspective on the film’s soundscape. As a Singaporean, member of the Asian diasporic community and a Mandopop enthusiast, it seems that I just so happen to possess the rare (but often useless) permutation of skills to launch a well-rounded critique of the film.
As soon as the titles started to roll and the sounds of a familiar Mandarin classic piped serenely into the background, I was choked with emotion. Never has a Western Blockbuster so prominently and positively displayed the music I loved. It had always been the small victories; like a end credits Mandarin song for Transformers, or some Jay Chou thrown into The Green Hornet or one of his other titles as a freebie; examples few and far between. And as the soundtrack progressed, I was in absolute euphoria. Never had I expected the soundtrack to be made up majorly of Mandarin tracks. By exposing millions of Western and worldwide audiences to Mandarin music, this would potentially be a huge for the industry. If executed well, the movie could be a perfect stepping stone for bridging cultural gaps between the east and the west; not only through the visual techniques, narratives and themes of the movie; but also through the film’s soundscape.
After releasing his last album JTW, R&B/Blues/Soul singer-songwriter Khalil Fong announced that he would no longer be releasing physical albums, and for the last few years has been putting his energy towards his new record label FU MUSIC and cultivating artists under his brand such as Diana Wang.
However, his new endeavours seem to have in no way affected his creative flow as seen in his new single ‘Throw It Off’, touted as the main theme song for his upcoming concert tour beginning in November.
Written and sung entirely in English, the song is hypnotic yet warm as Fong’s vocals envelop your ears against an urban, “synth-induced soundscape”.
The title “Throw It Off” means to be detached from things which are detrimental to our growth and realisation of our higher self, whereas the consistent repetition of “You’ve got to follow your heart” he explains to not be the clichéd worn-out catchphrase many are used to, but a part of the philosophy that the human heart is inherently noble. By digging deep within ourselves and listening, that is how we can bring out the best in ourselves.
Even in a song that sounds so chilled-out and simple, Fong shows how depth and meaning can be created from the little things.
Throughout the music video for this song, Khalil is pictured amongst nature in the great outdoors; taking this journey himself within a landscape with open blue skies and lush greenery.
Throw It Off is now available on all streaming sites.
Just in time for summer, new-gen R&B darling Diana Wang 王詩安 has announced the release of her upbeat new single ‘GOOD TIMES’ on the 25th of May.
Following the critical acclaim of her first album ‘Poem’ with Khalil Fong 方大同’s record label FU MUSIC, Wang has set aside the chill, mellow East-meets-West vibes that redefined her there; showing her more vibrant, passionate side in her new single.
A lover of the sun and sea, Wang drew inspiration for this song from various images of the ocean, co-writing once again with Khalil and Derrick Sepnio to create a groovy melody filled to the brim with summer vibes.
Through lyrics written by Luke B.T. Tsui, Wang dedicates this song to the good times she’s had with her friends back in Taiwan, reminiscing on those nostalgic, pure times full of youth, vibrance and dreams.
Putting all that together, ‘GOOD TIMES’ is a song that hopes to transfer the simple message of living in the moment to listeners, urging audiences to make this summer really count!
Diana Wang’s latest single ‘GOOD TIMES’ will be released on the 25th of May on all major streaming platforms including KKBOX, Spotify, iTunes and Apple Music.
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.
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