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.
Four amazingly creative remixes of Western songs by Asian Artists (Sharon Kwan, Lara & Esther Veronin, MC Han & Pierre Liu, ONE OK ROCK)
I've always loved listening to covers-especially Asian artists covering English songs for some reason-guess it might have something to do with the fact that it makes me feel that they're opening their music to a much larger audience by doing so. But lately as the market has become saturated by overdone, nondescript covers, I've begun to look out for people who not just 'cover' but recreate these popular Western hits in a way that cuts through the clutter and makes an impact.
This is a collection of four recently-done covers that come together really well I feel. Although they may be far-reaching in genre, from Jazz to Hip Hop to Acoustic, they all have one similarity-that they are truly able to make something this different which allows audiences to see the song in different, yet complete perspectives. Because that's what music is all about, no?
Sharon Kwan-Bang Bang (Jazz)
The fact that this was a Jazz cover of Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj's hit single "Bang Bang" caught my attention immediately. Taking the original high-energy 1960s big-band sound and whittling it down to nothing more than a Jazz drum and lazy, strolling chords on the piano, this is a transformation that works 100% and is a refreshing change from the normal covers I've seen plastering my feed. Sharon Kwan's vocals lend themselves perfectly to the song too; her sweet and soft croonings that cut right through the sleepy arrangement are what really makes the song pop, stringing you along with every seductive whisper and high note.
Lara & Esther Veronin-Let it go (Jazz version)
Sisters Lara and Esther Veronin are no strangers to the Jazz scene, having performed regularly at the Brown Sugar for the past couple of years. But one of their most outstanding arrangements was the innovative use of Jazz in remixing cult hit Frozen's "Let it go". Although a little rough around the edges vocal-wise (this was the only version of their performance I could find), the beauty lies in how well Lara's resonant vocals pair off against Esther's soothing mellow timbre. Coupled with jazzy, wintry chords on the piano, this is truly a cover which is totally different from the original, yet retains the initial feeling of winter that it promises.
MC Han & Pierre Liu-Stressed Out (remix)
Singing reality show One Million Star contestant Pierre Liu has been working with newbie rapper MC Han as of late, and here they are collaborating on a remix of Twenty One Pilots' "Stressed Out". A solid arrangement that holds weight yet pays homage to the original, what really caught my attention was the fact that MC Han entirely changed the lyrics of the rap part to something much more relatable to his own experiences, before sleekly linking back to that chorus everyone is familiar with. From being a song about nostalgic moments in the past, Han has fast-forwarded the song's context to his present, touching on issues such as reality kicking in and the pressure of achievement. A great turnaround!
ONE OK ROCK-A Thousand Miles
I have been absolutely in love with this cover ever since the moment I heard it. For those of you who aren't familiar with J-Rock band ONE OK ROCK, they're usually known for their high-octave rock tracks which usually involve a lot of screaming and head banging. But what others may not know is that the boys are equally adept at sitting down and stripping back to the basics, as they show so finely in their rendition of Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles". Armed with an acoustic guitar, clean piano chords and chirpy tinklings on the Xylophone and chimes, the boys take Carlton's original hit which featured wide jumps in energy in many sections of the song (Eg. And I miss you/And now I wonder) and take things down a notch. Instead of the almost cheesy, abrupt stops between passages in the song, the boys have instead replaced them with seamless transitions with the help of the piano filling the gaps, the guitar steadying and mellowing out the entire feel of the song while the xylophones pay homage to the track's signature optimism.And as for lead vocalist Taka's vocals...let's just say if he sang this song to me I'd marry him right on the spot. Perfection!
Talented songbird and lyricist Lara Veronin is set to perform at Legacy Taipei on Mother's day , the 8th of May 2016.
The occasion will be a special one for her and her family, as it will be the first Mother's day Veronin will be celebrating without her beloved mother by her side.
All the more so fans should come to the event to show their support for her, to help her turn her Mother's day into one which is all the more meaningful.
Furthermore, fans can look forward to guest appearances by a slew of Lara's talented and musically-inclined friends, including Jazz Maestro Martin 'Musa' Musaubach accompanying on the piano, her talented sister and CEO of Meimeiwawa Multimedia Esther Veronin, as well as JVR Music newcomer Celeste Syn, a close friend of Lara's.
And with Lara's new album in the works, who knows, maybe you'll be able to catch a sneak preview of her unreleased songs? You'll just have to go to find out!
With a spectacular and elegantly curated lineup, one can only expect the best from Lara, whose sweet voice and bubbly stage personality are bound to light up any stage, big or small.
So if you're in Taipei and looking for a show to catch this mother's day, make it a meaningful one by showing Lara some love!
Lara's "Voice Up" concert will be held at Legacy Taipei on the 8th of May. Tickets can be purchased at any Hi-Life or OK! Convenience store, on online on the Kham website.
Lara "Voice Up!" concert teaser
I'm excited to announce that Lara's preparing to release her third solo album sometime soon, and has already released the first single for this album, called <Dida>. The song is a collaboration between herself and fellow Nan Quan Mama band member Chase Chang. Lara herself has expressed that this is a song that she's really happy with, because instead of only expressing sadness as most love songs do, this one incorporates a feeling of subtle optimism both in the lyrics and in the melody. I fell in love with the song on first listen; being a big fan of Lara's work, and also of the British rock genre, this song was a perfect fusion of a Chinese ballad with noticeable and unique Brit-rock influences. Singer Rachel Liang once said that the job of a singer to her was being given a blank melody and lyrics, and to inject colour into them, as a painter and artist. However, many artists fall short in this respect but I'm especially impressed with how this song immediately associates itself deeply with the colour blue in my mind (which I think you can also see in the MV below). Blue, the colour of deep love but also sadness is the perfect colour to go with the song, and it just proves how well all the elements of the song work together to create a most enticing and pleasurable listen.
The music video itself was directed by Lara's sister Esther Veronin who she started up Meimeiwawa Multimedia with, and although I can't say I'm much of a connossieur of movies or visual arts, I still think she did a beautiful job in putting together a video which completely represented the song; giving listeners a back story to piece their thoughts together on while doing it in an eloquent, sophisticated and visually beautiful manner!
Last words from Lara to sum up the music video:
"Previously I didn't know the meaning of trust, and didn't know how to face this kind of environment; time ticked and tocked away, and what I did not know before slowly became clear to me. The sense of security also began to appear to me and I then realised that letting go was the right thing to do."
Well, there you have it! don't forget to watch Lara's music video, definitely one of the most beautiful videos I've seen as of late, and watch this space for more updates on her new album!
For those of you who aren't following our Facebook Page and the four-part blog series introducing four songs following the theme of Sunny days, here's a quick recap for you! Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Tumblr if you haven't already to keep up with the latest updates.
How's the weather wherever you are in the world? Where I am, it's going to be nothing but sun and blue skies for the next four days at least! In celebration of this, APW's treating you to a sunny surprise, with our four-part Sunshine Collection; with one sunshine-themed song a day to keep your spirits up no matter how you're feeling each day.
First up, it's 张韶涵Angela Chang's <Sunshine Air> which has been picked for quite obvious reasons. This is one of my favourite songs from her latest album for its magical uplifting qualities. The song is charged with crackling, almost tangible electricity in its atmosphere, and when paired with Angela's soaring vocals (check out her serious improvisation in the bridge), it's like an espresso shot of happiness charging through your veins.
Although the sunshine and blue skies have already said goodnight for today, it doesn't mean I can't still introduce the second song in our Sunshine Collection to you guys! Today we have Lara梁心頤's <Darling>, one of my favourite songs ever. Although it doesn't have an outwardly sunny personality, to me it sounds like the verses are clouded with uncertainty, which part in the chorus to reveal sunshine in Lara's clear and beautiful voice; a reflection on revelation and clarity in the relationship between two people. So even though it's night over here, may this song bring sunshine to your heart anyway!
Welcome to Day 3 of APW's #SunshineCollection! Today we have for you a real treat to once again brighten up your day, no matter what the weather is like where you are! A-Lin's <Big Hug>(大大的拥抱) is another one of my favourite songs written by the awesome Skot Suyama, and like the music video itself, the song is bursting with warmth and happiness, as if A-Lin's voice is coming in for a huge bear-hug! Happiness is all around you, if only you know where to look! Hope you guys enjoy the third installment in the Sunshine Collection!
Welcome to the fourth and final day of our #SunshineCollection series! I hope that you enjoyed reading each of them as much as I did writing them! For the last one, here's Xiao Yu doing it for the boys with his song simply titled<海>(Sea). Whenever I think of the sea, I think of sunshine bouncing off the waves with a gentle but upbeat energy; and that's exactly what Xiao Yu's song reflects. The arrangement bounces up and down like waves overlapping, with bass beats and guitar pluckings resonating off each other, as different as sunlight and waves,creating a sparkling brilliance that just lights up your day. Have a great day, and thanks for reading and listening to APW's #SunshineCollection !
Got any more songs you'd like to add to our #SunshineCollection? Share your thoughts and picks with us via our Facebook or Tumblr, and we'd be happy to share them both on the website and on Facebook too! How, you may ask? Easy! Share your favourite sunny song on your facebook with the hashtag #SunshineCollection (don't forget to leave settings on public), and private message us with the hashtag #SunshineCollection. Have fun, and spread the happiness!
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A place where you can get quick updates on your favourite Asian Artists! If you have any updates as well feel free to share them with me!
** If there are any particular lyrics/pinyin from artists that you would like up here don't hesitate to just comment on any of the posts!