Tuesday, June 30, 2009

獨立音樂萬歲 [indie rules ok]

looking at this year's golden melody awards [金曲獎] winners, i must say that indie labels/artistes have fully arrived in taiwan! this year's judges are certainly bold to embrace the music of sandee chen [陳姍妮] and crowd lu (guang zhong) [盧廣仲], both non-lookers and fairly alternative in their music. except for the puzzling crowning of jay chou as the best singer, all major awards have been fairly chosen based on music. definitely approved by me, haha.

the choice of crowd lu and sandee chen over many idol singers shows that the judges placed music and originality above everything else. this is indeed heartening.

the nerdy crowd lu, the protege of cheer chen and boyfriend tiger chung, came into the scene with so much originality and indie spirits that has not been seen in the taiwan music scene for quite a while. he is such a breath of fresh air and his music oozes life and youthful energy. i had earlier predicted that crowd will sweep at least 2 awards and he proudly did so by winning the best newcomer and best single awards. bravo!

on the other hand, "old" indie queen sandee chen has finally been recognized after more than a decade of music-making. sandee's music is definitely ahead of its time in taiwan. a blend of indie electronica with alt-pop, sandee has a place in my heart as a pioneer in the indie music in taiwan. i am glad that she finally got what she deserves!

on the best album, my fave album last year and one that i recommended highly in this blog, eason chan's "don't wanna let go" justifiably won. i have always said that eason's mandarin albums are so good (so much better than his canto albums) because of producer jim lee. all albums of eason produced by jim lee have been gems. check out this one if you haven't already owned it and the previous one called "black, white and grey". i would never get bored with this album; the more you listen, the more you like it. this is eason chan at his best.

bravo to all those deserving winners. this year's results are certainly heart-warming.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

驚艷 [wow, wow, wow]

once in a while, a voice comes along that completely knocks you off. such is the lure of zee avi (formerly kokokaina) that many international labels got interested once they heard the voice of zee in her youtube videos. and who would imagine a young malaysia could pull off this kind of feat?

young zee is already gigging all over in US. really, artiste like zee is too good for malaysia; she needs overseas exposures and she deserves overseas success. and knowing the tendency of malaysians to overlook homegrown talents, her move (to overseas) is indeed a very smart one.

it is not difficult to understand why foreign labels were interested in zee. her voice reminds one of divas of past like billy holiday; her tone is oh-so-rich and honeyed; her phrasing and intonation belies her young age; there is so much honesty and more than a hint of insecurity and fragility in her voice. she certainly has more texture, more emotions and more depth than joanna wang and recent singers who tread along the same genre of easy-listening.

the music here is light-folk and whimsical, sometimes reflective, a bit dark but nothing too heavy. at 23, zee's has got plenty of depth in her compositions, indicating her influences and musical depth and knowledge. it is quite amazing that brushfire records allows zee to showcase all her original compositions instead of asking some composers to write for her. this spirits of originality and creative freedom is worth applauding.

my faves are "first of the gang to die" and malay number "kantoi". zee's voice has a way to bring you back to some place far away and some time far far back. the music is wistful, pensive and latently melancholic. she has her way of story telling. it is as if she has been through a lot in her life.

as a debut, it is certainly great but it nevertheless has room for improvement, notably in her compositions. with more life experiences, we are going to see a more mature zee in the near future.

as a malaysian, i am already proud of zee avi. you should too.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

生日加音樂會 [birthday bash and mini concert @ home studio]

my concept of turning my home studio into a mini concert venue actually turned out superbly on the night of my birthday!

a couple of my hifi dealers actually came that night and commented that both the acoustics and the sound from the system were great, and of course, everyone had a whale of a time enjoying the mini concert.

many have suggested to make it into a venue for press conferences, meet-the-fans sessions and live gigs....

this is really cool!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

值得期待 [worth anticipating]

hk's almost-diva-but-never-quite-there shirley kwan is making a comeback after many many years... and rumors have it that this is a great album....

will be getting it soon....

Monday, June 15, 2009

懷舊經典 [nostalgic gem]

something exciting is happening in HK cantopop scene....

realizing commercial k-song (karaoke songs) is nearing its death, many producers are considering asking songwriters from the 80s to come out from their retirement and contribute to the dwindling music industry. early 80s to early 90s were the golden era of cantopop; we have seen many superstars in the likes of leslie cheung, danny chan, alan tam and jacky cheung emerged during that period of boom. their records used to sell by the millions. and seriously, cantopop then was so much better than the cantopop you hear today.

if you are a close observer of hk cantopop scene, you would realize that favourite k-song singers like miriam yeung and joey yeung are already going downhill and past their prime. new breed of singers like kay tse, hins cheung and even eason chan are starting to command their own destiny by "singing only the songs they like" with as little compromise as possible. this is indeed heartening. major labels letting their key artistes decide their own destiny? it can only happen to big artistes like kay, eason and hins, i suppose. still, i applaud these bold artistes and their spirits.

along this return to nostalgia, we have already seen how successful william so wing hong's latest outing is, now we have another gem in hins cheung's "love and living" [張敬軒:感情生活].

truth be told, i have never ever been a fan of hins cheung and i don't even own a single cd of his. but this album, you don't only buy one, you have to buy a few copies and give it to your friends as presents!

the cast of illustrious composers from the 80s include anthony lun (who got his fame from his close partnership with sandy lam), chui yatt kan (who got his fame from his major contribution to danny chan's career) and of course, the unmistakable "moustached music man" george lam chi cheung.

the result: it is almost like danny chan (pak keung) and alan tam being reborn.... what a fabulously nostalgic trip back to the glorious 80s! who cares about hins' vocal ability when the music is so great. at times, hins sounds so much like danny chan that had me quivering with delight!

the whole album is great but i have to single out track 3, track 4, track 7, track 8, track 9 as the outstanding ones. in particular, track 4 made my cry; such a melodious gem from great composer christopher chak.

if you stopped buying cantopop since alan tam's heyday, if you stopped buying cantopop albums because you think they are crappy.... you have to buy this album to regain your faith.

the glorious 80s era are back!

p/s heard that hins cheung is going to invite joseph ku (ku kar fei) to write for his next album... can you beat that?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

2009 最佳專輯之一[my best chinese pop album of 2009]

i have a thing for talented singer-songwriters (especially those who carry an acoustic guitar... they always looks gorgeous and terminally stylish, don't they? heck, i have never seen an ugly guitar-wielding female singer-songwriter!) because they can compose, they normally have better mileage than singers who can't. therefore, cheer chen, zhang xuan and our own malaysian talents like yuheng (when is her next album?) and penny tai have more mileage in my heart than fish leong, yanzi or a-mei. in a way, the latter bunch of singers are handicapped because their fate lie on others who compose for them; that also explains why their albums are always inconsistent. granted that some of these singer-songwriters are not top-notch singers, their songs have so much more personality and charisma that you tend to forget about their singing. who cares whether cheer chen can hit the high note effortlessly like a-mei? i certainly don't.

in this context, debbie hsio [蕭賀碩], last year's golden melody award best newcomer, ranks high in my list as an accomplished singer-songwriter in today's chinese music scene. debbie is too old, too ordinary-looking to be an idol so she is smart to choose the singer-songwriter path. this sophomore album, "stay", breaks the sophomore jinx and impresses me like no others. this must be one of the best chinese pop albums in 2009 so far.

debbie is a very clever and crafty tunesmith. her tunes are decidedly mainstream pop without being crass or cheap. you may accuse her voice of lacking in personality but her compositions certainly compensate for the lack of identity in her voice. the music here is sweepingly melodious, catchy without being crass or predicatable and it has got that irresistible hook that i find enchanting.

from mainstream ballads to jazz ditties, back to indie pop/rock, debbie is ever so convincing. i love every song in this album. this album may not be award-winning or ground-breaking, but in this market full of mediocre and crappy albums, this album shines thru like a gem.

there are many many good tracks here but the best track is track 7, "too soft", the only alternative/rock tune in the album. just sample the guitar playing, which can send me all the way to heaven. the production here is also first-class, something that is always the case with top-notch taiwanese singer-songwriters.

put off your critical evaluation cap, simply indulge yourself in this gorgeous album, i urge you!

Friday, June 12, 2009

恭喜晒, 學而 [congrats, bondy!]

賀!趙學而 聽 專輯







Sunday, June 7, 2009

在台灣的購物單 [shopping list in taiwan]

黃韻玲 / 「在 我們之間 的事」EP - kay huang

張懸 / 第三張全創作專輯《城 市》 - deserts zhang xuan蘇打綠 / 春‧日光 - soda green
徐佳瑩 / LaLa首張創作專輯 -Lala
蕭賀碩 「stay」第二張個人創作專輯 - debbie hsiao

i will be visiting taiwan (taipei) for the first time in july to meet up with some music distributors and i plan to have a field day doing cd and book shopping.

the above is just a partial cd shopping list...

Friday, June 5, 2009

王若琳的價值觀 [joanna wang's values]


事項:王若琳《Joanna & 王若琳》記者會


早前台灣創作歌手王若琳的一句:“當流行歌手很丟臉”,引起大眾嘩然,現滾石總經理嚴光華更怒斥說,她這番言論傷害了整個流行樂和喜歡她的人,聽她的歌也很丟臉! 雖然被圈內人炮轟,但來馬為第2張專輯宣傳的王若琳,依然我行我素不理“世俗眼光”,面對指責,她心平氣和地說:“這就是價值觀的不同!” 她說,之前所發表過的言論,都並非針對任何人,只是她自覺當有心理不舒服的時候,她絕對有權利去表達個人感受!而從她在言談中,似乎也透露出對娛圈沒有絲毫眷戀,她更表明,其實自己正在等待約滿恢復自由的那一天!敢這么說,證明王若琳絕對是“坦蕩蕩”之人,而她這次來到大馬宣傳對很多提問都“暢所欲言”,更讓唱片公司冷汗直流!王若琳早前曾抱怨,唱片公司將她包裝成翻唱西洋老歌的溫馨形象“台灣版小野麗莎”,與她本人差太多。她無法接受音樂被生意人干涉,受夠了樂壇的條條框框。她表示,自己一直認為音樂應該是以一種很自由的藝術形態去做,然而事實的真相,卻讓她直言很痛苦和驚訝!“我不是討厭被冠上‘流行歌手’這個名稱,而是當 ‘流行歌手’必須要去做一些流行歌手的事,當我被告之‘You have to do this……’(你一定要做……),這讓我感到很不舒服!” 在經過兩張專輯的“洗禮”后,才21歲的王若琳表示,現在的她更懂得跟“大人”們溝通及“討價還價與談判”。不過說到底,她還是認為自己被放在一個不適合的環境:“我其實就在等……” 她似乎有所保留,記者單刀直入問她:“在等約滿?”這時她又恢复真性情點頭示意:“是!” 王若琳的合約是以張數來計算,換言之下一張專輯之后她就可恢复自由身。問她有否想過趕快製作下一張以求快點“脫難”?她笑說:“有想過,但我又不想為了快而出一張自己不滿意的專輯……同時,我又擔心花了時間去做后又不是公司要的東西(是否很矛盾?)還蠻矛盾的,所以這是我還在思考的dilemma(進退兩難的局面)。” 當網絡歌手更好 對王若琳而言,做音樂能讓自己的生命不留白,而她所要的其實是“成長”與精神上的收穫,並非物質收穫或什么獎項肯定。“當初年紀還小,並不了解原來簽公司是有代價和后果的……” 她曾說若不發唱片也可以當網絡歌手,她表示當網絡歌手的確更自由,沒什么不好。“美國有很多網絡歌手都是我很喜愛的……Cash(現金)沒有很多,但更令人值得驕傲。”搞笑的是,當談到唱片歌手可以賺得比較多時,她竟說:“工作沒有很多,只是宣傳多……收入的話,我相信跟我回美國工作的收入相差不會太多。 ” 不在乎物質獎項 在今屆的台灣金曲獎,王若琳是“最佳新人”入圍歌手之一,但因撞正她在上海的一場演出,所以屆時將無法出席。問她感遺憾嗎?她說:“還好。”再問若得獎,獎座會放在哪裡?她又說:“放在公司吧。”再次印證她對“物質”是多么不在乎。 談到如何看待這次的對手?她表示:“獎項不是很重要的事,也沒想把大家當成敵人,這只是一個典禮,誰得獎都高興,當中沒有negative(負面)的東西。” 滾石總經理嚴光華:憑什么資格說那番話? 嚴光華在接受“當流行歌手很丟臉”專題訪問時表示:“各種音樂有各自值得欣賞的方面,不管你喜歡或不喜歡。她靠這行賺錢,就不要覺得丟臉。她的話傷害了整個流行樂和喜歡她的人,抹殺掉很多人多年來的努力。連她都不尊重自己,買她專輯的人不是要撞牆?聽她的歌也很丟臉!”

what we say:
joanna wang is a pure and untainted soul. she is definitely too blunt for her own good but what she says has some sense of truth. being a pop singer signed to a major label is akin to a puppet being manipulated. a lot of times, the singer doesn't get to do what she wants/aspires. instead, she is asked to do many things which she doesn't like. most of the times, it has nothing to do with music.

joanna is in obviously not for the money, that's why she dare to speak the truth. she seems regretful having signed a contract with sony bmg and judging from what she said, she would definitely start an indie label on her own or make music just a part-time hobby.

personally, we think the days of major label (ruling the industry) is numbered. with the help of internet, a lot of indie labels have surfaced and done well. indie labels is for singers who want total creative freedom. no singers should be afraid to speak out against major labels!