Wednesday, October 31, 2012
Raymond Lam's "Self-Portrait" Album Review
Since debuting in the music industry five years ago, Raymond Lam slowly traveled off the path of being an actual artist and instead became an idol. However, Raymond shows redemption with the more mature yet diverse "Self-Portrait".
In past albums, Raymond's albums have been heavy with ballads and upbeat dance songs. Although ballads showed his voice and range nicely, it started to become boring and gave off the feeling that he had a "sleepy" voice. I wanted something different. His upbeat songs such as "Chok" and "Hello" lacked substance and were even somewhat laughable for their lyrics and composition and didn't fit him. Rest assured, "Self-Portrait" is one big step in a positive direction.
Every song on the album is a bit different and there are many different feels and styles exhibited here.
The main plugs "頑石/Stubborn Stone" and "Because of You" are the closest the album has to ballads, but aren't quite ballads, which is a nice change. Instead, they simply have a slower tempo but carry a lighter and more serene feel.
"頑石/Stubborn Stone" possesses a beautiful sound from an orchestra and band in the background and the subtle yet obvious hint of sadness and pain in the lyrics are brought out by Raymond's signature emotion-filled voice. The Mandarin version is also nice, but as usual, the original is better and flows more.
"Because of You" has a similar musical composition and feel but with a contrasting tone. It is sweet, calming, and sounds very romantic. Both are definitely highlights of the album, but far from the only noteworthy tracks.
The videos for both were splendidly shot. It was nice for EEG to invest more money for Raymond to travel to New York to film the music videos. "Stubborn Stone" was shot in the city, while "Because of You" is shot by a serene dock. Both looked simplistic yet visually beautiful with the location filming and soft lighting.
"寂寞星球/Lonely Planet" is another stand out with its mysterious aura and subtle old Chinese influence. The song leaves you feeling intrigued and even slightly spooked from the mesmerizing melody. This is unlike any other song he's ever released.
"年時/Years" and "暗中作樂/Concert in the Dark" are also enjoyable tracks. "Years" carries a lovely melody and tempo that gives off a very soothing and thoughtful feel. "Concert in the Dark" is a more upbeat but playful song. "膠椅/Plastic Chairs" is another upbeat and playful song but has a slightly funky feel that's fun, but not fantastic.
"一刀切/One Size Fits All" plays like a song for a movie soundtrack with its suspenseful and strangely thematic feel. An interesting and dynamic song.
With my history of not liking dance tracks, at first listen, LFX 6.8 was not music to my ears, and the excessive auto tune did not help. However, as I listened to it more, it grew on me. It's catchy and has a great infectious beat. The hip hop influence is there but not over the top.
Aside from the main singles, "The One" and "I'm Okay" are my personal favorites off this great album.
"The One" is infused with a R&B feel, which is very refreshing and fitting with Raymond's voice. The song also has a slight mysterious yet romantic vibe to it that makes it so pleasing to the ears.
On the other hand, "I'm Okay" is an endearing and sweet song with an airy feel. It's a fun track you can easily sing along to. The female voice over near the end of the song rendered it more cheesy than necessary, but doesn't ruin the overall effect. The music video co-starring Oceane Zhu is also very cute and smile inducing.
As an idol singer that has been sweeping up awards more because of the lack of singers and disagreements between record companies than his music itself, perhaps it's become easy to forget Raymond genuinely is talented. He has good range, singing low as well as high notes with ease, and of course, the charisma and stage presence. His recent material made him lose credibility in my eyes, but "Self-Portrait" comes as a true and pleasant surprise. It is his album of redemption. Here, he shows he has the versatility to sing different styles and types of music and has the potential to become known as an artist, not just an idol.
All of the songs here are worth listening to and able to set themselves apart instead of blurring together, something a lot of Cantonese albums can not do. Instead of having songs residing at polar opposites of the spectrum (slow ballads and upbeat dance songs), the album explores the things in between. Raymond Lam may have taken a few steps backward in the last few years, but with "Self-Portrait", he takes a huge step forward, and it's definitely worth nothing. He is someone to start taking more seriously.
"Self-Portrait" is one of the best albums of the year and has quickly become one of my favorites. Raymond's always had the talent, and for the first time in a while, he is able to show it. Hopefully, he will continue in this direction.
Rating: 4.25 stars