Friday, April 27, 2012

New Banner: Ella Chen Edition

A.E. Experience is out with another new banner and layout. This time it is in honor of the lovely Ella Chen's upcoming wedding. Ella will be getting married on May 1st to her boyfriend (or fiance at this point), Alvin Lai. As some readers might know, I have been a long time fan of S.H.E. and hearing about their back to back weddings warm my heart. I was unable to do a banner for Selina when she had her wedding (probably because this blog didn't exist back then ;D), so I was insistent on doing a banner for Ella as soon as I heard of her wedding plans.

Picture Orders:
On the top, I have gathered pictures of S.H.E. throughout the years.
On the left and right are Ella and S.H.E.'s collaboration with other artists (mostly Fahrenheit xD, but Jerry Yan is in there too!)
On the bottom are solo pictures of Ella showing off all of her different charms.
And finally, in the middle, is a picture of her and Alvin together.

I wish the couple long years of happiness and success in all that they do.

P.S.: I just realized that I didn't put the blog name on this banner, but oh well! ^^ The main point is that Ella and Alvin look so sweet together.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Staff Song Review: 4Minute's "Volume Up"

Song reviews are something we do commonly here at AE Experience, but now we're taking things to the next level.  Besides simply writing individual song reviews of songs we like, we will start working together to write reviews of the latest releases in Korean and Chinese music.  This means 2 or 3 of us here will collaborate to write one large song review, which will offer different points of views and insights.

The first staff song review will be 4Minute's "Volume Up", which Niki and I are writing together in addition to the one Pinki has already written.  For these reviews, I (Iris) will offer more of a critique on the music itself (due to my lack of knowledge in K-Pop), Niki will provide more background information and insight on the artist, and Pinki will offer a general opinion.

Iris: 4Minute is back with new single "Volume Up", which offers pleasant surprises as well as letdowns.  My personal favorite part of the song are the verses.  The song starts with a lot of edginess, a great hook, and some awesome belts and long notes by Ji Hyun following the verse. It is powerful, in your face, and catchy while having good style.  Unfortunately, in my opinion, the chorus is a letdown.  It's still catchy, but so typical.  The song sheds its edginess and power in the chorus by transitioning into a poppy club and party feel that's been seen so many times before.  It redeems itself in the bridge, which is slowed down with a more mysterious feel.  The problem with the song is that it seems to exhibit three very different feels though. I still love the song, but the chorus is definitely the weakest link.

According to Pinki, the song's lyrics is about the criticism girl groups get online.  When I searched up the translations of the lyrics though, the supposed message turned out to be vague and could easily be interpreted as a song about a bad or lost lover.  However, it's far from having the worst lyrics ever; they just weren't as detailed or straightforward about the promoted message as I imagined they'd be.

Niki: "Volume Up" marks another successful comeback for 4Minute. The song shows off the edgy, yet feminine style that they're so well known for. The sets, clothing style, and use of the saxophone was all very refreshing. However, as Iris had stated, the song isn't as great as it could be. I share the same feelings as Iris towards the chorus and lyrics of the song. From the amazing build up from the verse I expected the chorus to be just as strong, but instead it turned out to be a simple pop beat. The chorus, by itself, however is catchy and Ji Hyun's strong vocals were able to shine here.
The vague meaning and chorus aside, the lyric distribution for this song was clearly disproportional. Hyuna, Ji Yoon, and Ga Yoon had dominated most of the song while So Hyun and Ji Hyun had two to three measly lines. Agreed that their voices aren't the strongest in 4Minute, but they definitively deserve more than 5 seconds of screen time (considering that Ji Hyun is the leader, she deserves more recognition within the group).


Niki: With slight disappointment in the distribution of parts and in the chorus, "Volume Up" isn't my favorite song from 4Minute, but it is one catchy and empowering song. The club-like chorus makes it a typical K-pop song while the verses and bridge gives it a hint of uniqueness. And the ladies of 4Minute pulled of the femme fatale look very well, making the performances very eye-catching.

Iris: Overall, "Volume Up" is a great upbeat and catchy track with s, but not very consistent.  Improvements could have been made on the chorus, but I absolutely love the style and edginess of the verses.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Kelvin Kwan releases official MV for "People of My Generation/我這一代人" (MV Review)

After about a month's wait, Kelvin Kwan has finally released the official MV for "People of My Generation/我這一代人".  Before covering the official MV though, here's the unofficial MV released a month ago and a short critique:

Directed by Kelvin himself, the video is simplistic and raw.  There is not much but the lyrics flashing across the screen, shots of Hong Kong in chaos, and a quick close up of Kelvin at the end.  And yet, that was all was needed.  It manages to evoke so much emotion and be so powerful with minimal effects.

And now to finally unveil the official MV...

I was hesitant on how the official MV would turn out, as I was fond of the  concept of the previously released MV.  It turns out that the original lyrical concept was kept, but intercut with scenes of Kelvin that are fantastically shot.  The shots of him driving, staring out into the horizon, and running backward show great cinematography not usually seen in music videos while remaining powerful.  The ending where he jumps off the building, and the screen fades to black to show a single period is haunting and wraps everything up well.  Overall, the official MV retains the simplicity and rawness, but incorporates additional well shot footage to create a powerful end product.  Kelvin continues to release great material!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Spotlight: Kelvin Kwan (Part 1: Biography and Artist Critique)

Having overcome a major scandal and needing to start from scratch, Kelvin Kwan has outperformed people's expectations and matured into one of the most talented young singers in Hong Kong today.

Born on March 24, 1983, Kelvin Kwan was raised in Canada in a wealthy family.  He was discovered in 2004 when he went out for a night of karaoke with his father's ex-coworkers.  He was offered an audition, and then signed by Go East, part of Universal Music.  Popular and established Cantopop singer Alan Tam took Kelvin as his godson, and helped him with his music career as well as taught him skills like how to face the media.  Kelvin and Jill Vidal, his girlfriend and another rising singer, became known for their participation in anti-drug campaigns.

His self-titled debut album was released on October 11, 2006.  His duet with godfather Alan Tam, "Big Cry Baby", was ranked as China's 4th most popular duet by China Central Television merely 5 days after the album's release.  Following his successful debut, he released "What Do You Take Me For" in 2007 and "Hello...My Name Is" in 2008.

Kelvin with former girlfriend Jill Vidal

Kwan's career took an unexpected dark turn when he and Jill Vidal were arrested in Tokyo for possession of marijuana on March 3, 2009.  Godfather Alan Tam expressed anger and disappointment with him.  After spending a month in a detention center, Kwan was released and held a press conference to apologize.  There, he announced he would be taking a break from the entertainment industry and take the time to reflect on himself.

Kwan did not return to the music industry until over a year later in mid 2010.  His comeback single "One Year/一年" was a personal song that reflected on himself and the year he was away from the industry.  He released his comeback album "Here I Am" on September 22, 2010.  In general, the public was willing to give the singer a second chance and the comeback was met with relatively positive response.

Following his comeback, Kwan changed his image and musical style.  He adopted a more mature image and started getting involved with his music.  He's experimented with many different sounds and taken part in the writing and composing process of several of his songs.  Having developed more of an artistic and musical direction, he has unexpectedly evolved into something more than just a simple pop singer or gossip magnet.  He released his new and best selection album "Occupation" on March 30, 2012.

Artist Critique

Addressing his past...
At first sight, Kelvin Kwan was just another pretty boy with lots of connections who probably wouldn't last too long or make it too far in the music industry. His career could've died after his arrest in 2009, or he could've continued as an idol singer pretending as if nothing had happened. Unexpectedly, he has taken another route since making a comeback in 2010 and emerged as one of the most talented young singers in Hong Kong.

I won't deny that Kelvin hasn't done stupid and foolish things. In fact, I think it was hypocritical of him and former girlfriend Jill Vidal to be doing marijuana when they actively took part in anti-drug campaigns. Being a celebrity doesn't make up for his fault. However, he's also human. I strongly believe that a person can change and that they should have second chances. Kelvin didn't kill someone, nor did he commit a serious felony. He deserved a second chance, just like any other person who made a couple mistakes as an impressionable young person under pressure. In the end, what matters is whether or not that person turns their life around.

Kelvin was lucky. When he decided to make a comeback, he had the support of his whole record company. Would he have been able to stage such a successful comeback without the massive support? Maybe not. It's his connections and support that got him back into music. However, it's thanks to himself that he's gone so far instead of fading into oblivion after releasing one or two singles. He's proven he has what it takes to not only return, but stay on the music scene for a long time as well.

His music...

As opposed to continuing being the typical good looking young Cantopop singer who only sings love ballads, he's turned into an experimental and developing musician. He's not an excellent one man show who can do everything, but you can easily tell he's trying to improve himself and working to get there. Since his comeback, he has taken on a significantly larger creative presence for his music. He's taken part in songwriting, composing, and has even directed one of his music videos.

Kelvin Kwan has gone from being simply a singer into a developing artist. He is genuinely talented. With a great voice with decent range, he can do a variety of musical styles. His recent music is a joy to listen to because it is refreshing mainstream pop. He incorporates different elements such as rock, rap, hip hop, R&B, etc. He's breaking free of his previous image of singing love ballads too by also singing about political and societal issues. His music feels familiar yet fresh. It is well polished and produced, but his personal touch to it is also obvious. 


The truth? Kelvin Kwan is a flawed young man who has made stupid mistakes. However, it is because of talent, persistence, and a little bit of luck, that he's still here today. He's stayed out of trouble since and has made up for his wrongs. Forgiveness is a part of life. I have forgiven Kelvin for his mistakes because he's taken advantage of everything he's been fortunate enough to have to be better than ever.

Through out the years, he's outperformed many people's expectations, including mine. I certainly would not anticipate someone of his background and past would become the promising and creative artist today. It's not surprising Kelvin Kwan made a comeback. It is however, a surprise that he's managed to do so much and go so far. However, it's definitely a pleasant surprise. Because of all this, my like for him continues to grow and he is now one of my favorite singers. I strongly believe he will only continue to go farther. Best wishes to Kelvin and his future!


Author's Note: I hope everyone enjoyed reading my take on Kelvin and his career, which has been met with mixed response. I tried to be as impartial as possible. What is your opinion on Kelvin's comeback? This was a longer spotlight post because of the in-depth artist critique. I'll be posting the second part (the song recommendations) soon.

Song Review: 4 Minute's "Volume Up"

4 Minute releases their song "Volume Up" in their 3rd mini album "Volume Up", which was released on April 9th, 2012. This mini album has a total of seven songs: "Get on the Floor", "Volume Up", "I'm OK", "Say My Name", "Femme Fatale", "Dream Racer", and "Black


The song "Volume Up" is very upbeat, energetic, and rebellious as well. I think this song fits into 4 Minute's usual musical style. I really like this song because of the beat and the meaningful lyrics, it really moves me. Throughout the song there are solo saxophone parts and the song also has a techno sound to it.


In the MV, there are many things that caught my attention. It starts out with HyunA walking, then you hear little echo sounds. They also show her tattoo, which reads "My mother is the heart that keeps me alive". Then, when she turns around she shoots her red vampire looking eyes, which completely stunned me. I felt like I was watching one of those vampire scenes in "Twilight". They also have some interesting objects like a snake wrapped around them and a skull. The meaning behind the MV is about all the hateful and offensive comments and criticism that girls groups face online. Overall, I like the MV and all of the five girls were confident during the scenes.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Song Review: G.E.M.'s "Someday I'll Fly"

After taking a 1 1/2 year concert break, G.E.M. finally makes a comeback with "Someday I'll Fly".  As one of the best marketed and promising young singers in Hong Kong, this song and music video was definitely something that was highly anticipated.

"Someday I'll Fly" has a simple composition and meaning, but is executed beautifully.  The song is very inspiring and uplifting.  With her signature incorporation of English lyrics and Western pop elements, she once again brings her own style to Cantopop.  

There was a lot of hype and promotion before the release of the MV, which was pushed back several times.  In terms of having a simple enough plot that also compliments the song, the music video for "Someday I'll Fly" is G.E.M.'s best yet.  A lot of effort was put in it, from G.E.M. shaving the side of her head to fully execute the feel of the video and learning ballet for three months prior to filming to achieve realism.  The directing in the video is great, from G.E.M. throwing her ballet slippers at her ex-lover.  The shot of her standing on top of the mountain and slowly falling then flying is also beautiful.  

Overall, "Someday I'll Fly" is a powerful and wonderful song accompanied by a great music video.  I am so happy to have G.E.M. back, and can't wait to hear more new music from her!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Impact of Mr. and the Return of Cantonese Rock Bands

There once was a time where rock held significance on the Hong Kong music scene, thanks to  "Beyond", who were a huge sensation in the 80s and 90s.  Having experienced massive success in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, Malaysia, and Mainland China, they are still considered the most successful and influential Cantonese band.

Since the turn of the 21st century though, bands, as well as a love for the rock genre, have faded into oblivion in Hong Kong.  Rock music became something that operated underground in HK.  "Mainstream Cantonese music" became classified as mainly pop ballads.  The early and mid 2000's saw the popularity of pop singers like Joey Yung, Eason Chan, and so on.

However, Cantonese music has seen a shift in gears the last few years.  More rock bands have emerged in Hong Kong in recent years.  What's even more of a breakthrough, is that they're debuting under established mainstream record companies and achieving moderate success.  Thanks to bands like RubberBand, Dear Jane, C Allstar, Supper Moment, and most notably Mr., Hong Kong is finally getting a taste of great rock music and bands again.

In 2008, Universal Music's Cinepoly took a chance by signing Mr.  It was an extremely risky move for the Cantopop industry, as it was the first time in 10 years a major record label had signed anything as "unsafe" as a band.  Since then, they've become the most successful and known band in Hong Kong in years.   This has paved the path for rock bands to continue developing and growing in front of the public eye.

Mr. is not the most amazing band ever and I will definitely not say that they are comparable to Beyond, but I greatly credit the return of popularity of the rock and band sound to them.  They're talented and were blessed with luck as well, and they deserve the success they've been getting.  They are well polished enough they fit within the realm of Cantopop, but have a distinctive rock influence that sets them apart.

As a fan of rock music, I'm very happy to see that rock bands like Mr. are finally starting to gain popularity again.  There is no doubt that we will be seeing more of them.  The next band up to debut?  Patrick Tang's recently formed SirV.  Stay tuned for more information about SirV!

Author's Note: While I listen to a lot of pop music, my favorite genre has been pop/rock and rock for as long as I can remember.  Since getting back into Cantopop and exploring and discovering different artists and styles, I've been very happy to discover Cantonese rock bands like Mr. and Dear Jane.  I wish all these bands even more success for years to come!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Happy Easter!!

Hey guys, happy Easter!!! In celebration of Easter (and as proof for my free time during Spring Break) I've made a short Easter comic for you guys. Hope you like it ;D

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Broadening the Horizons: The Start of Interest in Asian Entertainment

Asian Entertainment Experience turns three months old today! :D

In celebration of the three month anniversary of Asian Entertainment Experience, we are writing a special edition of "Broadening the Horizons". Instead of focusing on a specific artist, this time, we will share how we got into Asian entertainment in the first place. Everyone's story is different, including ours. We hope that you will share your story as well!

Iris' story: How I got into TVB Dramas, C-Pop, and Korean music

How did I get into TVB dramas? I was not interested in them growing up, like many other kids. The main reason was probably because I spoke and understood no Cantonese at the time. I mostly watched little kid programs when in elementary school and then Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. Something happened in 2008 when I was in the 7th grade though. With the downfall of the two networks, I became sick of the increasingly juvenile programming. At 12 years old, I still considered myself too young for prime time TV and was convinced there was too much sex and violence in American shows. I wanted a balance between the two.

With my mom starting to watch TVB dramas again by downloading and exchanging DVDs, I started becoming exposed to them once again. The first TVB series I was sucked into was "Forensic Heroes II". Two of my closest friends and I all followed it and talked about it. There was no turning back from there, as I started watching TVB series in my free time. I enjoyed the characters, plots, etc. My other early TVB series included "Catch Me Now", and "War of In-Laws II", which are still two of my favorites to this day. Since I didn't understand Cantonese, I watched with English subtitles. My selection was limited, and I watched almost everything that was available.

Soon, just watching the series stopped becoming enough. I started researching the series, the actors, and TVB itself. I also wanted to read other people's thoughts, as well as share my own. I fondly followed TVB blogs, particularly the now closed TVB Musings. I was a silent reader and spent hours reading the blogger's in-depth, well written, and witty works relating to TVB. Shortly before he did his last post, I started commenting and we had discussions about the series and his posts. This became inspiration for me to create my own TVB blog. From that, TVB Interaction was born, an outlet for me to share my excessive thoughts. I still credit MetalAZNWarrior of TVB Musings for developing my interest in TVB, blogging, and writing. He is my "si fu"/mentor.

Due to watching TVB series, I naturally started becoming exposed to Cantopop music again. It started with downloading theme songs I liked, to slowly discovering actual Cantopop singers. Singers I first started listening are Eric Suen, G.E.M., Patrick Tang, and Kary Ng. These four are who got me into the genre, and remain my favorites to this day.

The quality of TVB's series continued to decline, and as a result, so did my interest in them. However, my interest in Hong Kong entertainment didn't die as I developed a new fascination: the artists themselves. Not in the gossip and scandals, but the real life personalities of TVB artists. This gave me more reasons to like them. As time elapsed though and the quality of TVB series gets even worse, I become even less interested. It is my favorite artists like Ruco Chan, Raymond Wong, Myolie Wu, Kate Tsui, Fala Chen, etc that retain the interest.

While I continued to listen to Eric, G.E.M., Patrick, and Kary, my interest in Cantopop itself slowed for a while. I listened to them when they came up on my iPod, but stopped actively looking up and downloading new Cantopop music. A couple months ago, the interest suddenly returned upon the release of Eric's album "Never Said Goodbye".  I started downloading new Cantopop music once again.  This time around, I started exploring more.  Instead of just listening to pop, I looked into rock, R&B, blues, etc.  Recently, I've been loving Kelvin Kwan for his experimental nature into different musical styles, Khalil Fong for his R&B and blues music, and the band Mr. for their rock sound.

For the longest time, I was turned off from K-Pop due to all the girl groups and boy bands, whose generally juvenile and cutesy styles were not my cup of tea.  Thanks to Niki and her great recommendations though, I have been slowly opening myself up to Korean music since the beginning of the year.  However, not the stuff that most international K-Pop fans are into.  I've been finding myself much more attracted to the lesser known and under appreciated solo artists Younha, known for her pop rock style, and the soulful ALi.  I also love the hip hop oriented Epik High and now inactive pop rock band Loveholic.  Of course, those who have been reading my posts, know I'm also a big fan of the fierce girl group Miss A.

Of course, my main interest remains Hong Kong entertainment, which includes dramas and music.  With this interest, I'm starting to understand and speak Cantonese (I can now watch TVB dramas without subtitles without getting too lost), and even starting to pick up a little Mandarin.  Being Chinese, I feel a more personal connection with it.  However, at the end of the day, I appreciate and can like anything as long as it's good.  My interest in Asian entertainment has not died, it continues to grow.

Niki's Story: How I got  into all things Asian Entertainment.

I grew up exposed to dramas from Hong Kong and Mainland China. Being Viet I watched them dubbed and for the longest time thought they were Vietnamese (despite the obvious contrast in the dialogue and mouthing). I was particularly fond of ancient series and loved the cool fighting and powers the characters had. Knowing that the series were set in China (even though I still thought it was a Viet product xP), I developed an interest in Chinese. After growing up realized that the dramas weren't originally in Vietnamese, so I did some research and found out about english subtitle.

By that time, I was mesmerized by Taiwanese dramas so I spent the summer of 6th grade clearing out all the dramas that were available to me. Soon I had gone through most (if not all) Taiwanese dramas available at that time. I moved forward to something new and found out about TVB. I found out by searching up my old dramas that I loved when I was a kid. At first, I wasn't used to Cantonese, being more exposed to Mandarin, so I felt awkward with the change. As a result, I trailed away from TVB for a while and tried watching Japanese dramas. I watched several dramas, but didn't get too into it, so I ended up going back to TVB. Only then did I get hooked onto TVB. Same as Iris, one of the first TVB dramas I had watch (subbed) was FOH2. I had watched the first one dubbed and fell in love, when I saw the second one I was immediately hooked again. From then on I continued in my TVB marathon and once again was running out of dramas to watch.

Because of the lack of dramas I turned to music. I became involved with Taiwanese music first, most of the songs came from the dramas I had watched. Slowly I discovered the artists and learned more about them. From there I was addicted to Fahrenheit and later S.H.E., the two bands that til this day are my favorites.

Also as a supplement I picked up on mangas. My first series was Sakura Card captor. I remember going to the library every week and checking out several book, making sure that I didn't skip any volume. As my interest in mangas grew I started watching animes and picked up on Japanese music along the wa. Most of the music, again, came from the shows.

At this point I had no interest in K-pop or K- dramas, but a trip to Viet Nam quickly changed that. My two cousins were both very interested in k-pop and they soon pulled me into the K-pop world. They first showed me Big Bang's "Haru Haru," Super Junior's "Sorry Sorry" and "It's You", and SNSD's "Gee." I found myself completely addicted by the catchy melodies. I spent the entire summer reasearching and learing more about the artists. That was in early 2009, and I soon learned all there was to learn about K-pop. I also found myself getting more and more disappointed by the new groups.

During freshman year I met Iris and found out our mutual interest in TVB. As we got to know each other better she introduced me to her blog, TVB Interaction. Seeing Iris' blog made me want to start a blog of my own. However, I was hesitant in doing so. After starting the Korean Entertainment Club with Dani and Pinki at our school, I decided to ask Iris to help me create the blog for our club.

Through the blog, Iris and I got to know each other even better. We started to talk about music and exchanged the artists we like to one another. As a result I got into Canto-pop. From Iris' recommendations I  got to know G.E.M., Eric Suen, Kary Ng, and several other artists as well. On the other hand I introduced Iris to Epik High, Younha, and ALi. As I introduced her to Epik High I found myself mesmerized by their music. Iris and I continued to research other types of music and found an interest in something other than pop. (Iris: I also got her into Kelvin, Khalil, and Mr.'s music as well! ;))

Throughout my life I was surrounded by Asian Entertainment and culture, so there's no surprise that it would become a big part of my life. The interest has definitively grown in the past years and will continue to grow.


Author's Note: I hope I did not bore everybody with the story of how I got into Asian entertainment!  Niki and I have been meaning to do something like this for a while, and thought our three month anniversary would be a good time to do so.  For those wondering why we're celebrating our three month's because for the previous month milestones, we either forgot or could not remember in time to do anything.  So congratulations to AE Experience for making it to a quarter of a year!  In our opinion, this blog is only getting started and continues to develop!

Niki's Note: Thank you for supporting AEE this far and as Iris has said, our blog is still starting out and has a long road ahead.We have many things planned for the future so stay tuned! ;D

Friday, April 6, 2012

Big Bang - "Alive" Album Review

After a year of scandals, lawsuits, and solo works Big Bang is finally back as a group with a brand new start and EP. "Alive" has a variety of styles that all come together and describe the styles of Big Bang. Most of the songs are upbeat with R&B, hip hop, and slight rock influences. The majority of the album lyrics were co-composed by Big Bang's leader G-Dragon and rapper T.O.P. The lyrics of the songs are mostly about the commonly used theme, love. However, the beats and melodies of the songs make them refreshing and gives off the unique style of Big Bang.

Alive - This short intro to the extended play was co-written by G-Dragon, T.O.P., and Teddy Park. The lyrics to this intro is both uplifting and meaningful. Even though it's barely a minute long, it contains more meaning and captures me more than the other songs in this EP. The execution was nice and simple with a steady beat in the background and nice harmonies.

Blue - Blue is Big Bang's title track for this comeback and it's a mid-tempo pop track. Blue is about a past love that was lost and carries a nostalgic feel. The melody is smooth and gentle making it relaxing and easy to listen to. Coupled with catchy lyrics and strong vocals it's one of the best songs in this EP and my personal favorite. The MV consist mostly of headshots of the members, but also included a vague storyline. The members are seen roaming the city in the shadow of this girl. Each member seemed to have a different connection with her. Sparking the idea that she is an image from their past, either their lover or common image of something they had loved. I appreciated the simplicity of the MV, it captured the mood of the song very well.

Fantastic Baby - This song is a fun and upbeat song with a strong club vibe. The lyrics are full of self confidence, empowerment, as well as letting go and having fun. Fantastic Baby successfully shows off Big Bang's confidence and unique style. The MV is fun, quirky and I personally like the different characterization of each of the members.

Bad Boy - Bad Boy has a hip hop/ RnB style to it. This song brings me back to Big Bang's debut days with the grungy street look and simpleness of the song. The lyrics are simply about a guy (or Big Bang) apologizing to a girl for treating her badly. The MV shows the guys walking down the streets of New York courting girls, only to be rejected. I thought that this MV didn't quite fit with the song. Though it gave the song a light and fun feel, the lyrics and scenes in the MV really don't match. The scenes where the members casually try to pick up the girls were, to me, a bit awkward, especially doing so after their dance sequence. However, I really liked the free flow dance routine.

Ain't No Fun - This is another fun club song in the Alive EP. It has a lighter beat than Fantastic Baby, but is still upbeat. The members of Big Bang (especially Taeyang) showed off their wonderful charisma in the live performance.

Love Dust - Love Dust is a light pop track. It has a bit too much autotune for my comfort, but the song is sweet.

Wings (Daesung's Solo) - In this solo song Daesung gets to show off his powerful vocals. At first I expected this song to be a ballad, but it turned out to be a pretty fast paced song. I love how the song switches sounds throughout the song, keeping it refreshing. It first starts out with a soft orchestra coupled with a pop beat, then switches into rock n roll guitar solo.  The arrangements for this song was perhaps the best and most refreshing in the EP.


Big Bang's new "Alive" is a recommendable EP. It packs the style of all members into each song, making everyone of them unique. After knowing Big Bang for a couple of years, my liking for them had gradually lessened. It seemed that these past year or so Big Bang had turned into another overly hyped boy band in the Hallyu Wave. However, after listening to this EP, my interest in them has been renewed. What's more is knowing that G-Dragon and T.O.P. were involved in "Alive" made me develop a new found respect for the both of them. Overall, "Alive" is a great new beginning for Big Bang with new styles mixed in with their old charms.

Top 10 TVB Artists of 2011

Every year, Next Magazine holds an awards presentation.  The main component is the list of top 10 TV artists for that year.  The results have recently released, which is why I have decided to put together my own list.  The results are based off on the whole 2011 year, and does not include series that started airing in 2012.  These artists have been picked based on onscreen performance (i.e. notable performances in actual series) as well as offscreen performance (work ethics, personality, improvements, etc).

#10 - Steven Ma
2011 was a year full of ups and downs for the well respected and gentlemanly Steven Ma.   His series "7 Days in Life" was moderately well received, but like most of his series, aired at a bad time slot.  For the first time, his ancient series "The Life and Times of a Sentinel" was able to snag the "golden" time slot as it aired during the summer.  Known as one of TVB's most loyal artists, Steven's career took an unexpected turn when he shocked and saddened many by announcing he would be leaving the TV company after 18 years of hard work with little recognition. In an effort to get him to stay, TVB executives offered to give him the Best Actor award. No longer interested in awards and just wanting to peacefully leave the company and start a new life in China, a tired and worn looking Steven refused and put his effort into filming his final TVB series, "Daddy Good Deeds" and hosting variety show "Book of Words". Steven worked hard this year as well as all the other years he worked for TVB, and deserves a fresh start and success elsewhere.  However, he will definitely be missed.

#9 - Raymond Wong
Raymond may have played second fiddle to Ruco Chan in "The Other Truth", but ended the year with a bang with his captivating portrayal of lead character "Tung Book Sin" in the unexpected big hit "Bottled Passion". His performance was met with critical acclaim and gained him even more fans, securing his status as lead actor. Fans on even voted him as the Best Actor of 2011 over Kevin Cheng!

#8 - Nancy Wu
Known for her solid and interesting performances in supporting roles, Nancy delivered a breakthrough in the role of the lawyer "Eva Chow" in "Forensic Heroes 3".  Despite only appearing in a handful of episodes, she maximized the screen time she had and left viewers with a deep impression.  Nancy's performance was met with praise and she became the "black horse" candidate for the race for Best Supporting Actress, making it into the top 5.  This year looks like it will be an even brighter one for Nancy.  Will she finally be boosted up to lead actress status?

#7 - Sharon Chan
Viewers only saw Sharon once in the whole year of 2011.  However, with a role like "Ho Lai Ching" in "Ghetto Justice", that was all she needed to make an impact.  Portraying a pitiable and well meaning prostitute, Sharon became one of the most successful breakthroughs of the year.  Her portrayal of "Ho Lai Ching" did not come without hardship, as she broke her collarbone while filming and spent many months recovering.  Instead of giving up, she toughed out the rough filming conditions that came with the character.  Deservingly and not surprisingly, she took home the Best Supporting Actress, after years of unappreciated and overlooked hard work.

#6 - Linda Chung
"Yes Sir, Sorry Sir" may have failed to boost the careers of Moses Chan, Tavia Yeung, and Ron Ng, but unexpectedly generated a huge amount of press coverage for Linda's "Ms. Cool", who was only playing a supporting character.  "Ms. Cool" was so successful and loved that a spin off series for the character was filmed.  In one of the year's biggest shockers of the year, Linda did not take home the "My Favorite Female Character" award despite predictions and buzz.  However, I think having an entire spin off series based off the character is enough to make up for it!

#5 - Kate Tsui
2011 was an extremely busy year for Kate.  She graced television screens in Hong Kong almost all year round, with six of her series aired (including the previously warehoused "A Great Way to Care" and mini series "Dropping By Cloud Nine").  Her partnership with Bosco in "Lives of Omission" was the most talked about on screen couple of the year.  What made 2011 a great year for the actress though, was the improvements made in her acting.  She appeared much more natural and even cute in "Forensic Heroes III", while still retaining the fierceness and power that makes her, well...Kate Tsui.

#4 - Bosco Wong
Bosco seems to have been demoted to second male lead lately, but this didn't stop him from achieving even more popularity and praise.  His performance as gangster "Michael/Bai Co" in "Lives of Omission" was critically acclaimed and generated a lot of buzz.  Despite only being second lead, he emerged as the black horse candidate for Best Actor as well as My Favorite Male Character, competing against co-star Michael Tse, "Laughing Gor" himself.  Some even noted that Bosco out shined Michael.  It seems being demoted to second lead has only made Bosco more likable and popular!

#3 - Kevin Cheng
As an actor who was starting to be more known for his good looks than acting, portraying the role of "Law Ba" in "Ghetto Justice" gave Kevin the career push he needed.  Usually appearing uncomfortable onscreen and even somewhat wooden, Kevin successfully emerged himself in the unique role of "Law Ba".  It seems that 2011 was not only the year his career was resurrected, but also the year he learned to be more laid back and not take himself so seriously.  The result?  A much more likable and charming Kevin.

#2 - Myolie Wu
Myolie has always been the young TVB actress with the most versatility and skill, but recent years had her plagued with undeserved criticism for weak roles.  This was the year she finally fought back and won over viewers again.  "The Rippling Blossom", "Curse of the Royal Harem", and the sleeper hit "Ghetto Justice" all did well and gave Myolie much praise.  She won Best Actress for "Curse", making her the first rising "fa dan" to win the coveted title.

#1 - Ruco Chan
Ruco may not have won any anniversary awards, but 2011 truly was his year to shine.  After 17 years of hard work in the entertainment industry, 2011 was his break out year.  He won critical acclaim for his first leading role as "Keith Lau" in "The Other Truth".  As a result, he became the new favorite among producers when casting people for their productions, particularly Amy Wong.  In a mere 3 months, he pocketed $500,000 HKD from promotions and functions.  He became the new hot topic and household name in Hong Kong, dominating the tabloids and blogs much longer after "The Other Truth" finished airing.  To finish off the year, he won Jaynestar's Sexiest Man Alive poll, beating out Kevin Cheng and Raymond Lam.  With "Ruse of Engagement" to be aired soon and the upcoming "Chok Crew" and "Seaside Love", there's no doubt that 2012 will be an even brighter year for Ruco.  He has secured his status as leading actor, and there's no kicking him out.

In my opinion, these are the 10 artists in 2011 that stood out in particular.  They all exhibited something outstanding and made great accomplishments.  We are four months into 2012, so it will be interesting to see what they will be able to accomplish with the remainder of the year.

What are your thoughts?  Who do you think stood out this year?  Comment with your own top 10!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Song Review: Fiona Sit's "All You Need is Me" Feat. Khalil Fong

Fiona Sit returns with her new single "All You Need is Me", which was just released two days ago.  Making a guest appearance is Hong Kong's "Soulboy" Khalil Fong, Sit's real life good friend.  I love Khalil, and find the two's friendship very sweet and adorable.  As a result, seeing the two collaborate on a song again was a treat.

In "All You Need is Me" are two things you rarely see in a Cantopop song: a dance feel, and Khalil rapping.  The song has a very Western feel with its dance beat and techno influence.  There is definitely a club feel to it as well.  I wasn't fond of the song the first time around, but after repeated listens, it's really growing on me.  The sound is refreshing for Hong Kong music.

Everything about Khalil Fong here is different.  Known for his simplistic and casual sense of style, it's interesting to see him dressed in a flamboyant fashion, what with his gelled hair, sunglasses, and eye catching suit.  In fact, I wouldn't have recognized him if I didn't see his name beforehand!  Then he opens his mouth, and you know it's him.  His rapping was very fun, cheeky, and complimented the song well.

The music video is an interesting sight.  It has a very glamorous feel, and I like how it switches between the black and white color tone to the colorful sets.  It is a little too flamboyant for my taste, but it's nice to see Hong Kong putting more effort into creating an eye catching video instead of one that looked like it had next to no budget.  However, I think it could've done without the creepy scene at the end where Fiona was eating the cake.  Overall, one of the better videos I've seen in a while.

Fiona is a Westernized girl, and it's reflected in this song and music video.   Her vocals are decent and the beat is very catchy and upbeat.  I'm not a huge fan of dance music, but this song really grows on you.  It also marks another great collaboration between Fiona and Khalil.  It will be fun to see these two perform this song live!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Kelvin Kwan - "Occupation" New + Best Selection Album Review

Kelvin Kwan returns with six new songs on his first "new and best selection" album, his first release after 2010's comeback "Here I Am". These six songs aren't only all solid and great listens, but represents Kelvin's maturation into a true artist with creativity, direction, and experimental nature.

A more in-depth look...

The album opens with "Occupation/佔領", featuring rapper MastaMic. To sum it up, "Occupation" is a fantastic track that combines hard rock and rap. The theme is refreshing, as it is the first time Kelvin has dealt with political themes in his music (in this case, last year's Occupy Wall Street). It is a song with meaning as well as musical style.  Read my more detailed song review for it here.

"People of My Generation/我這一代人"
stays consistent with the hard rock driven sound and political theme of "Occupation". However, the feel is very different. It boosts a whole new level of intensity. His vocals and the music are very powerful and full of angst. It ends with a slow piano closing filled with sadness. This amount of angst is something I rarely see in mainstream Cantonese music, making it an outstanding song. Listening to it makes me feel full of conflicted emotion. It is such a raw song that gives me chills.

The (unofficial) music video is simple yet so powerful, and it was a pleasant surprise to see that Kelvin directed it himself. It is great to see he is getting so involved in his music!

"Don't Hide/別再躲" takes a much more relaxed feel and tone. However, it is yet another powerful and memorable song. It starts off with a laid back feel with just Kelvin's vocals and the simple strumming of an acoustic guitar. Gradually, it works up and becomes a great blend of electric guitar and drums. The sound is amazing and there is so much emotion in his voice.

"Me or What/我還是什麼" is a mid-tempo ballad also full of emotion. The song, like "Don't Ask" also makes great use of drums and the electric guitar as well as the piano, especially at its climax. The heartfelt ballad is something very familiar to the Cantopop music industry, but it's use of instruments and subtle rock influence makes it stand out.  On the other hand, the music video does not do its job of complimenting the song at all.

"Violations/情事" is an upbeat and uplifting song that boosts a feeling of sweetness and even slight melancholy. It's hard to describe. Perhaps it's because it's used as the theme song of his currently airing ATV sitcom "Heart's Beat for Love" (about a group of young friend's love lives and careers), but it makes me reminiscence about good times. Something about it is motivating, whether it's his vocals or the superb instrumental. It even slightly reminds me of a Zac Kao song, who ironically is his costar in the sitcom.

"Back Wave/回頭是浪" is the last track on the new part of his album (CD1), as well as the only Mandarin one. It serves as a proper closing as the song is soothing and calming. The orchestra featured is beautiful as well. A very lovely song that is a relaxing listen.

Following the 6 new tracks on the first CD are 12 of Kelvin's "best tracks" on the second CD. The selection of songs is good as it is a mixture of his hit singles like his duet "Distress Everywhere/四面楚歌" with Kay Tse as well as notable non-single tracks like the R&B and hip hop influenced "Avalo Kites/千手觀音".


"Occupation" is a superb compilation of his great music of the past and his great music of today. The album marks the continued development of the new and improved Kelvin, as a man and as a musician. He and his music has matured so much since his comeback.

His experimentation here with different musical styles isn't extraordinary or history making by any means, but comes with great effort and execution. Some of the musical styles exhibited and incorporated here are not something that isn't often seen in Cantonese music in general, but is more uncommon in mainstream Cantopop. With his music, he is helping broaden the scope of mainstream Cantopop.

There is notably a lot more creativity and direction in the six new songs than in Kelvin's past material. Kelvin is constantly growing as an artist, especially with his increased participation in taking part in making the music himself. I look forward to seeing what else he has in store theirs year. In the meantime, his new music is constantly on repeat on my iPod.

Rating: 4.5 Stars


Author's Note: I have been really into Kelvin's music lately, and as a result feel the want to post about him a lot.  This is my second Kelvin post this week, and I still have a two part spotlight (part 1: biography and artist critique, part 2: song recommendations/reviews) lined up.  This gives me an outlet to give my thoughts on him and his music, as I know I've been excessively praising and spamming poor Niki about it.  After this, I will also be blogging about a variety of things again.  Until then, I hope everyone enjoys my Kelvin posts.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Kelvin Kwan - "Occupation" Song Review

After a successful comeback in 2010 with the album "Here I Am", Kelvin Kwan returns to the music scene with "Occupation", a 2 CD album consisting of his new and best selection.  The first single and title track "Occupation/佔領", featuring rapper MastaMic, reveals a grown up Kelvin with a different musical style.

For "Occupation", Kelvin abandons the typical Cantonese pop style and combines hard rock with rap.  The stye is very Linkin Park like, a refreshing sound for both Kelvin as well as the Hong Kong music industry.  Instead of singing about love, he takes on more political and societal themes by singing about last year's Occupy Wall Street and government's control over society.

While his voice is very fitting for slow and love songs, I'm glad Kelvin is going beyond that and experimenting with different musical styles.  "Occupation" is a fantastic song that reflects a theme and level of intensity not usually seen in mainstream Cantonese music.  Kelvin may have started off as the typical Cantopop singer, but has greatly matured and with this song along with his recent material, he's setting himself apart and proving to be one of the brightest and most refreshing young singers in Hong Kong today.