Wednesday, December 31, 2014

AE Experience's 2014 Playlist: The Best of Cantopop, Mandopop, and K-pop

Another year has come to an end, and us at AE Experience are wrapping up the year by sharing our personal favorites in Cantopop, Mandopop, and K-Pop in 2014…

*Please note that this list reflects our favorites from the music we listened to this year (and we sadly do not have the same amount of time we used to to keep up with music), and does not take into consideration all material released in 2014.

Iris' Top 10 Picks in HK Music/Cantopop: 

#10: Jinny Ng - "Love Me, Leave Me a Message"
While the audience loved Jinny’s “Love is Not Easy” from “Line Walker,” it is her theme song for “Swipe Tap Love” that has left me with an impression long after the series finished airing. This touching and beautiful while bittersweet and melancholic song is one that deserved more love.

#9: Dear Jane - "John and Yoko"
Despite releasing several ballads this year, Dear Jane’s most recent single “John and Yoko” is distinct as it possesses a more raw yet warm feel. As usual, the band’s passion and sincereity in their music is felt. Howie’s guitar solo is superb and a highlight of the song, ending it on a high and climatic note.

#8: Pakho Chau - "Remember"
Pakho’s rich and strong, passionate vocals coupled with this romantic yet solemn melody resulted in yet another great song for his continuously brightening career. His recent music feels as if it always has more emotional depth due to his voice and musical styles.

#7: Kay Tse - "Irreconcilable"
If you aren’t convinced of Kay’s versatility, I’ll point you to this song. Kay not only pulls off the edgy rock style, she owns it and is totally fierce without seeming like she’s trying so hard. I hope to see Kay embracing rock and experimenting with more styles more often.

#6: Kary Ng - "One Thousand Endings"
Although a slower ballad, “One Thousand Endings” is a serene, stunning, and even a slightly haunting song about all the possibilities and paths you can take in life, both good and bad. Kary’s vocals are filled with such emotion it gives the song a strong melancholic feel.

#5: AGA - "One"
AGA’s hit “One,” which spawned a successful duet version with Gin Lee, does not try to do anything experimental, but instead perfects characteristics of typical Cantopop mainstream pop. With a lovely melody and sweet and endearing vocals by AGA, this midtempo song is beautiful and memorable.

#4: Pakho Chau - "Keep Going"
Starting as a model turned idol singer, Pakho has become one of the most talented and well-rounded young artists in Hong Kong today. “Keep Going” is an uplifting, inspiring and thoughtful song encouraging you to never give up and keep looking forward.

#3: Fiona Sit - "Pheromones"
“Pheromones” is hopelessly catchy and infectious while being fun and even a little flirty. Fiona is definitely on her way to becoming the next Cantopop Queen. Besides knowing her musical strengths, Khalil’s touch of flair can also be seen on this Fiona hit, as he composed, arranged, and produced the song for his good friend.

#2: Khalil Fong - "Little Fong"
Known as Hong Kong’s Soul Boy for a reason, the autobiographical “Little Fong” shows off Khalil’s musical specialties and stylistic flair with his fusion of R&B and rap. The end result is a very sleek, smooth, yet catchy track.

#1: Kay Tse - "Eggs and Lamb"
Both Pakho and Kay had exceptional years, allowing two of their songs to make this list. Inspired by the film “12 Years a Slave,” “Eggs and Lamb” is a song about freedom that sees Kay exhibiting a darker pop-rock influenced style with hints of angst. Kay Tse is quite a versatile artist and it’s nice to see Kay showing the audience this again. After a relatively quiet two years, this social commentary with a bite proves Kay will only increase her dominance in Cantopop in the years to come.

Niki's Top 10 Picks in Taiwanese Music/ Mandopop:

#10: Calvin Chen - "How Has Love Been"
I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that Calvin was coming out with a solo EP, because I’ve been a long time fan of his. While I’m not so fond of his title track, “How Has Love Been” quickly grew on me with its infectious melody.

#9:  Selina Jen - "Watch Me Now"
After knowing how much Selina has endured over the past couple of years I’m so proud to see how well she’s been doing. “Watch Me Now” is a perfect reflection of Selina’s cute and spunky personality, she’s definitely an artist to watch.

#8: Pets Ceng - "Just Lose It"
Pets’ song is a gentle and relaxing mid-tempo track that captures the feelings of young love. The song itself is a pretty typical pop song, but the sweetness of Pets’ vocals adds a special element that makes the song absolutely addicting to listen to.

#7: Ella Chen - "Unsolvable"
Ella has matured greatly as an artist since she started pursuing her own music and it really shows in this touching ballad. Her rich vocals give this melancholic song a sense of warmth making it all the more memorable.

#6: Aaron Yan- "That's Not Me"
“That’s Not Me” is a hauntingly beautiful song that captures your emotions with every listen. The arrangement and composition of this song highlights Aaron’s strengths in the best possible way.

#5: Wilber Pan - "Clown (Xiao Chou)"
Following with the success of his previous album “The Story of Billy”, Will continues to play with the dark theme of identity and corruption for his newest album “Crown & Clown.” The heaviness of the song’s lyrics are contrasted by the upbeat tempo and dramatic melody, a style that is very true to Will.

#4: Aaron Yan - "Unwanted Love (Duo Yu De Wo)"
Although I like his voice, I’m usually not a huge fan of Aaron’s work. Most of his stuff is very conventional with little variety, but he makes a refreshing change with his “Drama” EP (which is why not only one, but two of his songs have made it onto my list). “Unwanted Love” is a catchy and funky mid-tempo track that leaves you bopping your head to the beat. 

#3: JJ Lin - "Brave New World"
JJ never fails to impress. As he continues to mature in his songwriting, his material keeps gaining more and more depth to it. In “Brave New World,” he tells the story of a post-apocalyptic world where humans fight to maintain their humanity.  Although it doesn't possess the same smoothness that I typically enjoy from JJ’s work, it’s a fun and creative track that speaks volume on how talented JJ is.

#2: Ann Bai - "If You Ever Thought"
“If You Ever Thought” is an electronic pop track written and composed by the talented 23-year old singer as part of her second album “What’s Next.” Despite her young age, Ann’s songs convey an immense amount of emotion and depth. This song has an entrancing and haunting melody that captivates its listeners from the very beginning. 

#1: Li Rong Hao - "King of Comedy"
Contrary to what the title suggests, “King of Comedy” is a dark and soulful acoustic ballad with rock influences. Li Rong Hao possesses a mesmerizing voice that’s deep and soothing (which many say is similar to Eason Chan's). Although he’s only been in the mandopop scene since last year, he’s quickly making a name for himself in the industry having won this year’s “Best New Artist” at the Golden Melody Awards. I look forward to seeing more from him in the future.

Niki's Top 5 Picks in Korean Music/K-pop: 

*The list for K-pop is a slightly shorter than the other two because I haven't paid as much attention to the K-pop scene in the last couple of years. I realize that there's also a lack of bands on here, but once again this is a list of our favorites songs/artists and unfortunately none of the idol groups have stood out to me lately. 

#5: K.Will - "Day 1"
“Day 1” is the sweetest song I’ve come across in K-pop in a while. K.Will’s voice is warm and relaxing, making this the “feel good song” of the year.

#4: Tablo x Taeyang - "Eyes, Nose, Lips"
Taeyang’s “Eyes, Nose, Lips” was one of the biggest K-pop hits of 2014, so I thought that it had to be included on this list, but I decided to go with Epik High’s cover (featuring Taeyang). While the original is nice, when I listened to this rendition, Tablo’s rap gave me chills and it also set it apart from a typical K-pop song.

#3: Ga In - "Truth or Dare"
Known for her risque and controversial concepts, Ga In decided to address the rumors surrounding her by creating a mock documentary about herself for her “Truth or Dare” music video. The song has a funky jazz vibe that’s a fun and refreshing difference from other artists.

#2: Akdong Musician (AkMu) - "Melted"
“Melted” has a bluesy and sultry sound that’s also slightly haunting with the sibling’s harmony in the chorus. Their sound is hard to come by in mainstream K-pop, which is why they’re so deserving of the #2 spot on this playlist.

#1: ALi - "Crying Hard"
Although horribly underrated, ALi is hands down one of the most talented artists in the K-pop sphere. “Crying Hard” is a romantic and solemn track that showcases ALi’s powerful vocals.

Honorable Mentions: 

  • Song Ji Eun - "Don't Look At Me That Way"
    Ji Eun tackles the controversial topic of homosexuality/unconventional relationships with her song “Don’t Look At Me That Way.” While I applaud their efforts, the message was vague and a little weak. Had I not read the fan comments I wouldn't have known that this was the issue they were addressing. However, this song is still very catchy and music video was beautifully done. 
  • Sunny Hill - "Don't Say Anything"
    "Don’t Say Anything” was Sunny Hill’s farewell song for their group member JangHyun. The sentimentality and nostalgic feelings of the members transferred very well into this beautiful ballad.
What were your favorites in Cantopop, Mandopop, and/or K-pop this year? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

New Banner and Layout: Louis Cheung Edition!

In spirit of the new year Iris and I thought it was a good time to change up the layout and banner of the blog. At first we wanted a banner that featured TVB's breakout artists of 2014, but after racking our brains for half an hour the only name we could come up with was Louis. Considering the amount of work he's put into filming in the past year and all the critical praise he's gotten we figured he deserves the spotlight. I didn't think having one of him was enough with his many talents, so I decided to go with the Louis twins!

 Looking back at the previous themes we've had I noticed that the majority had been cooler colors so I wanted to go with a warmer tone this time around. I also changed the template to give the blog a sleeker look to complement Louis' suave style. Even though it's been a while since I've made a banner I have to say I'm super proud of this one. Hope you guys enjoy it! 

Extra note: Iris and I spent over an hour just trying to come up with a catchy caption. Here's some of the spoofs: 

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

TVB 48th Anniversary Awards: Red Carpet Fashion Critique

Another anniversary awards season has come to an end, and while the winners were all very deserving and satisfying, the fashion left much to be desired… We throw in all the comments, quips, and sarcastic remarks we have regarding the fashion at this year’s awards show.

Iris: As the obvious TV King and Queen of the night, Roger and Charmaine were dressed to make an impression. Charmaine looked like she had stolen something straight from Ingrid, the Snow Queen’s closet from “Once Upon a Time.” From the shoulders down it looks okay, but the collar looks like it's eating Char's neck and going for her head. 

Roger looked so confident he was going to win, he ditched a tie for a crown ornament. The children on his jacket, which are supposed to represent his son and daughter, are sweet and meaningful. However, had I seen him in person, I'm pretty sure I would've been left blinded by all the white. "MY EYES!"

Niki: Every time I look at Charmaine’s picture I have trouble seeing her as a whole person simply because that collar is so distracting. Her head seems to just be floating in mid air and then an inch down is the rest of her body. The only thing I really like about this dress is the sheer waist that managed to hug her curves and prevented her from looking like a complete stick.

As for Roger, I think he looks quite dashing in the all white outfit, but Iris is right, had I seen him in person I probably would've had to put on sunglasses. The details on his jacket is definitely a sweet sentiment and I’m sure his kids would love it when they see their dad accepting his award with them in mind. I actually love his crown ornament in the pictures he took without his jacket. It gave the eyes something to focus on in an all white ensemble and it’s definitely a fun accessory piece. However, with the jacket on it felt like there was too much going on. No matter how you look at it, these two definitely took the spotlight in this year’s award show.

Iris: These two look strange standing next to each other in their vastly contrasting looks. Linda's simple updo hairstyle and gold headband and earrings are perfect. Her hair, makeup, and accessories make her look absolutely gorgeous, but I'm indifferent to the dress. A bit too princessy to me, but I'm glad Linda isn't trying to pull anything too weird anymore (Remember this disaster?)

Despite the full cameo... This is the least weird and eye-opening look I've seen from Bosco at an awards show in a while.

Niki: I think I’ll call this one “The Princess and her Bodyguard”. Does it not look like it?
I also think that Linda did an amazing job choosing her accessories and makeup. It was a simple but elegant look, which fits her perfectly. I don’t have anything to say about her dress, except for the fact that she looked like she was performing in a ballet more than attending an award show.
Even though I’ve only seen a couple of award show pictures, I can tell that this was a safe outfit for Bosco.

Iris: Plaid, plaid, and...yep, more plaid. And somewhere under all that plaid is Him. At the least, he is clearly shown to be wearing a jacket and not looking like a Scottish red bird like Ron last year.

I'm a bit surprised by Kate this year... The whole look is so simplistic. The dress is boring and basic, but I guess she wasn't trying to get attention this year. Glad she has stopped slicking her hair back though. The updo and jewelry are still nice.

Niki: My eyes actually dilated when I first saw Him’s outfit. It was so glaring that I didn’t even see who it was at first, all I saw was a patch of plaid. If I stare at it long enough I’m sure I’ll manage to somehow hypnotize myself. (I could go on, but I’ll stop here)

Kate kept it very simple and safe this year, which isn’t an entirely bad thing. While the dress is on the boring side, I do like her choice of jewelry.

Iris: Leave it to Kristal to go for the edgier look. I like the contrasting black and white and train of the dress, but don't dig the leggings/pants underneath. It's just too much for me, but I love how she's not afraid to be more bold and different.

Niki: Kristal really rocks this punk and edgy style, she definitely gets points for thinking outside the box. From the waist up I wouldn’t change a thing, but the sudden cut out in the front is awkward at best.

Iris: I didn't get as good of a look while watching the anniversary awards, and thought Eliza's dress looked quite nice. But when looking at actual pictures, the print of the dress looks like she took her comforter to a designer's office to have converted into a dress. I'm not sure if the comforter look or her usual prom look is better.

Niki: Iris basically stole what I was going to say. From the pictures I’ve seen from her it looks like she’s either dressed for prom or she’s drowning in her dress (sometimes a mixture of both). The material also seems to be on the thicker side, coupled with the ballgown cut it only adds more weight to her small frame.

Niki: Vincent looks so warm and cozy in his navy trench coat that I can’t help but love it. He carried this look well, considering it could’ve ended up making him look skinny and bean pole-ish given his height. Even though I can’t say that it’s a vintage look, something about it does remind me of the 1950’s.
Josie looked like she was dressed to go to the club instead of an award show. Her makeup was too dark and heavy and the dress is a bit too short for this occasion.

Iris: I agree with Niki on both counts. Vincent pulls off the trench coat, making it a nice change from the classic suits and outrageous outfits the men usually go with. Meanwhile, Josie just looks totally inappropriate for an awards show.

Niki: If you look really closely this is a very nice dress, but sadly on Natalie it blends a little too well with her skin tone making difficult to see the dress’ details. The other unfortunate issue is that the vertical patterns on the dress makes Natalie look even skinnier than she already is.

Iris: The gold color should have been either a darker or bolder color, but instead makes Natalie look washed out. The dress indeed has nice detailing, but does not do anything to accentuate her very thin figure.

Niki: Nancy looks sharp and fierce this year in her shiny silver dress. My favorite part of her look has to be how the tiny silver plates reflect the light. The deep slits on the side create a sexy feel without being too revealing and black belt cinches her waist nicely and prevented the dress from looking too baggy. The coral lipstick was also a nice makeup choice as it was a refreshing look and it gave her a splash of color that highlighted her face very well.

I think a suede suit, particularly in this purple/blue combination, would bug me if it was on anyone else besides Raymond, but somehow he makes it work. To me, he’s very charming and adorkable, as always, with this clean cut look.

Iris: Nancy definitely looked sharp in this dress and was able to show some skin without going overboard. After seeing her sport an eye-popping orange dress earlier, it's nice to see her exhibit some boldness in a different way. With the coral lipstick, this is a relatively simple but eyecatching look. As usual, Raymond goes the more dorky but still cute route. I agree I probably would not like suede on another guy, but he has a way of pulling it off.

Iris: "My name is Tony, I am zhe French paint-uh" is basically what he's saying with this get up. I'm going to guess Priscilla laughed at him for about 5 minutes straight when she first saw him. Not a good look for Tony... but I guess with his shaved head and mustache right now (for the filming of "Cheung Po Jai"), avoiding looking silly would be hard. Priscilla's dress looks more flattering from the side and back than the front, but overall the dress isn't too bad and quite sweet looking while her side swept hair is a nice and attractive change. Still, these two and their playful friendship never fail to make me smile.

Niki: Maybe he recognized that there was no getting away from looking ridiculous with that mustache and haircut so he decided to go with it ;D. Priscilla looked clean and sweet in her dress and I quite like her hair pulled to the side this way. Not to mention that this has got to be my favorite picture out of all of them, these two are just too adorable together (in a completely platonic way of course).

Iris: Tavia always plays it safe, and this year was not an exception. However, it is an improvement as the dress hugs her curves to give her a more flattering figure. Her dresses and overall looks are always on the mature side though. While I don't want her to go all prom queen on me, I would like her to try something more youthful. As for Ruco, I just hope his hair grows back soon. Hats can be appropriate for awards shows, but this was playing it too casual. And for the nth time, I wish he wouldn't wear those dorky glasses to hide his handsome face.

Niki: The lace details on Tavia’s dress is just amazing and she’s definitely benefiting from the silhouette of the dress. Even though it does make her look more mature, I would say that this is one of the times where she does look more youthful because the dress played with her curves so well. I agree, Ruco’s look was a bit too casual this year. I think that was mainly because of the beanie, if it had been any other hat then it wouldn’t have been as bad.


Iris: Sharon, I'm happy that you got married this year, but please stop wearing wedding-inspired dresses to award shows and events. Every dress she has worn since becoming a Mrs. has screamed that she's still in the wedding mood. At the least, the influence is not as seen here as it was for the gala and Starhub Awards. High low dresses can be fun and different, but for Sharon, it's gotten boring. Sammy is a pretty good looking guy, but kind of looks like a grandpa here, mostly due to the jacket

Niki: Getting married is a wonderful thing, wanting to share your happiness is also great, but after a while it just feels like you’re rubbing it in the faces of single people. Sharon, you look nice, but stop it. Sammy’s look may not be the most stylish, but I actually think it’s kind of cute, in a dorky hipster kind of way.

Iris: I like the lilac color of Mandy's dress, but with its simplistic cutting, there's nothing to go "wow" about. It looks like Oscar decided to compensate for Mandy because there is a bit too much going on in that suit.

Niki: I think Mandy’s dress would’ve been more flattering if the waistline had been just a little bit lower, but the color does look very nice on her and the overall look as a romantic feel to it. The prints on Oscar’s suit reminds me of the decorations in the castle in “Beauty and the Beast”. It’s outfits like these that make me wonder whether I should blame the designer or the buyer more.

Iris: The silk duo? Ben is able to mostly pull it off (still too creme-colored looking for me though) since he paired it with black pants, but Maggie's black silk shirt and pants made it look like she was wearing her pajamas. Throwing on the fur coat and vintage hairstyle just made the look more strange.

Niki: “The silk duo”, just what I was going to say. The black pants definitely helped Ben’s look, but I just personally cannot stand the creme-colored jacket. The vintage hairstyle complemented Maggie just fine, it looks great on her actually. I think she had the potential to look amazing if she had chosen something different to wear. The high-waisted crinkly black pants were horrible and the fur coat is just confusing to me.


Iris: I think this kind of top style is sweet and a nice change from the usual sleeveless, but Becky's dress would have worked a lot better with a scoop neckline or at least a regular v-neckline instead of this widely spread apart one. Her hair doesn't look bad either but the clip makes her look a little more childish.

Niki: I think this look is nice and sweet, but it’s also a little bit promy, maybe because of the baby pink color and hair clip.

Iris: Leanne needs to stop wearing lingerie to fancy events. Okay, she's not actually wearing lingerie, but the silk and lace combo sure makes it look like it. While this is a lot more subtle than the shocking dress she wore to last year's gala that left little to the imagination, she should try something else. The cutout below her chest bothers me, and she would have benefited from a silver necklace to match her bracelet.

Niki: Unlike some of the other ladies she should try a thicker fabric next time. I do, however, like the lace details on the side of the dress (maybe I’m just a lace person).


Iris: "And for the first day of Christmas, I want Louisa So..." Wait, what? The print of the dress as well as the design makes Louisa look like a wrapped up Christmas present. Nothing much is wrong with Wayne's simple black suit, but his hair kind of makes me laugh.

Niki: Not only does the dress look like Christmas wrapping paper, but the pattern makes it look like those old fashioned ones. It also made Louisa look bulkier than necessary with the huge pleat on the front. As for Wayne, he looks sleek in his suit and the mini bow tie was a cute touch. But I’m more amused by his expression than anything else.

Iris: Although Louis sometimes likes more trendy and flamboyant clothes, I'm glad he decided to choose something more classic, and he looks very dapper. Not too simple but not too busy. Samantha always seems to wear a variation of the same deep v-neck dress so this rose-printed strapless one is more modest and actually quite refreshing and flows nicely.

Niki: Can I give Louis the “If looks could kill” award? haha. Louis is probably the best dressed out of all the guys. His look is clean, sharp, and classic without being too simple. Samantha was the only one to pull off a vintage-inspired look this year. Her rose-printed dress gives off a romantic yet fun feel. She made a wise choice to balanced her bold makeup and dress out with the neutral silver necklace.

Niki: Lin Xia Wei had one of my favorite looks this year. The nude underlining highlighted the black lace and tulle, creating a contrast that helped her dress pop, even with the usually neutral colors. The top is well structured, complementing her figure and is intricately adorned with black lace while the bottom transitioned into a softer look. It was one of the few ball gowns that didn’t totally engulf its wearer. Matt’s blue suede suit with leather lining doesn’t look completely horrible on him, but it’s just too much.

Iris: The lace-adorned top of Lin Xia Wei's dress is actually very pretty while still classy and flatters her figure. It's a quite elegant look and despite the neutral colors, she does not look washed out. The suede suit does nothing to help Matt's handsome looks.


Iris: Pastel colors galore! I love the lilac color even more than Mandy's dress and the top part is very pretty, but the train just seems too exaggerated and...fluffy. Pal's pairing of a light yellow jacket and baby blue slacks with sneakers is just wrong in so many ways.

Niki: This is one of those statement dresses that you can’t miss, even from a mile away. Oceane figure looks amazing in this and who knew lilac would be such a complementary color. The only thing I’m wondering is how she was able to walk in that dress. I think Pal went the silly and fun route with his outfit. The only thing I have to say is, it could be a lot worse.

Fashion Awards

Best Dressed

Male: Louis Cheung

Iris: The guy can really pull off a suit. Louis just looks so dashing and was the one guy who hit the right note of simple and classic.

Niki: Simple and classic is the way to go boys. Louis proved that you don’t need wacky gimmicks to stand out from the crowd.

Female: Nancy Wu

Iris: There's not one that I really love, but if I had to choose one I'd pick Nancy. Her look is relatively simple yet so eye catching. However, Linda gets my pick for best hair, make-up, and accessorizing.

Niki: Nancy’s look was bold and sexy, yet it still maintained that classy aura.

Honorable Mentions

Male: Vincent Wong

Iris: Vincent's trench coat was a pretty refreshing choice.

Niki: Vincent managed to make a difficult article of clothing work and achieved a look that’s both stylish and comfy. (I kinda want to borrow his coat, but I would drown in it.)

Female: Samantha Ko, Kristal Tin, Lin Xia Wei

Iris: There are many I quite liked.I really like Samantha's slightly vintage rose-print dress, which shows her figure without going overboard. Kristal's edgy ensemble is another great one if it weren't for the leggings underneath. Lin Xia Wei's was also full of intricate details.

Niki: I love the romantic and vintage feel of Samantha’s dress as well as her bold choice of make-up. Kristal can pull off some of the wildest and daring looks, so I have to give her credit for that. Lin Xia Wei’s dress matches my personal preference the most, which is why it’s one of my favorites. But it was also a pretty typical style of dress and didn’t make as big of an impression as Nancy’s look.

Worst Dressed

Male: Him Law

Too. Much. Plaid. And he almost hypnotized my partner Niki here. I love Tony but he is another bad one, but at the least he's given me a new thing to poke fun at. Oui oui?

Niki: How did Him decide that layering one of the most jarring patterns in the history of mankind was a good idea...My poor eyes...

Female: Josie Ho

Iris: Josie's look was just completely inappropriate for an awards show. She went way overboard with the make up and like Niki said, she really did seem like she was about to go hit a club.

Niki: Perhaps Josie was going for an edgier look, but she just came on a little too strong in the end.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Khalil Fong - Dangerous World Album Review

Khalil is back again after 2012's "Back to Wonderland" with "Dangerous World", a collection of jazz and R&B soul. The album contains both upbeat songs and slower ones, giving almost every listener something they will like. However, it is the upbeat songs on "Dangerous World" that makes the album memorable.

Niki: On a sillier note, his introduction track, "Welcome", left a very scarring impression on me. I first listened to this album out of order, so before the track came on I had been listening to a slow ballad and was feeling just a little bit sleepy. I lost interest for a minute and failed to notice that the track had ended and the next thing I heard was a deep demonic-like voice saying "Huan yin ni", freaking me out.

Iris: The album officially opens with lead single and title track "Dangerous World/危險世界" , a grand and cinematic-like single unlike anything he has released before and unlike anything you hear in C-Pop normally. It is an infectious and unique song you can't help but start moving to. The instrumental breakdown with the beats is fun and sounds particularly good with headphones or loud speakers, but runs about 2 minutes long.

Niki: This song is definitely a worthy title track, despite it's lengthy instrumental ending. Khalil's ability to create a mini-movie within a song with the infusion of different music genres and vocal techniques speaks to his creativity as an artist. It also displays how much he's grown over the last 10 years.

Niki: "Peace" is a funky R&B track that will get your head-bobbing. The collaboration with Tia Ray adds a new level of dynamic to the song. Although, it suffers the same weakness of being longer than necessary and becoming repetitive.

Iris: You can easily tell Khalil had a grand 'ol time recording "Peace" through the enthusiasm and energy he shows through his rapping. I'm pleased to be seeing Khalil making use of his rapping skills.

Iris: "Xiao Fong/小方" is easily my favorite song off the whole album and showcases Khalil's musical strengths such as smooth vocals, soulful style, and slick rapping skills. The whole song is catchy and unlike many of the other songs on the album, does not suffer from being too long.

Niki: Like Iris this song is easily my favorite song in the album. It's sleek, funky, and a complete representation of who Khalil is as an artist. What I like most about this song is the straightforward yet heartfelt lyrics and the fact that it differs from other artist's typical "thank you" songs (which are usually ballads or pop tracks). It's a track that is uniquely Khalil.

Iris: "Black White and Grey/黑白灰 " is another funky upbeat song that is uniquely Khalil while serving as his homage to his musical inspirations. The mix of jazz and R&B creates a very catchy product and the MV is memorable for being the first we saw Khalil dance in.

Niki: This song is a prime example of Khalil's ability to incorporate two different musical genre into something that's both amazing and unique. Every time I listen to this song I envision a chase sequence in a classic comedy and it invokes the same emotion of amusement. Needless to say Khalil's dance sequence in the mv was the highlight of my day when I first saw it.

Iris: "Love Blossoms/桃花運" and "Special Person/ 特別的人" both fail to stand out, and I find the former very boring and too slow. Is it relaxing? Yes, but more in a way that makes me want to fall asleep. "Special Person" fares better but still isn't a very interesting ballad.

Niki: "Love Blossoms" doesn't contain any hook to capture the listeners attention. Furthermore it sounds like Khalil's voice was muted by the music, since the music was very soft and consistent it easily makes a person feel sleepy. I liked "Special Person" a lot more than "Love Blossoms". In "Special Person" you can hear Khalil's voice better and there's a lot more flexibility in it. It also sounds like he's trying to tell a story through song, which makes it a lot more interesting to me. However, both ballads still fall short from his upbeat songs.

Iris: "Mr. Weather/天氣先生" possesses a tempo that is neither too slow or too upbeat, which is more similar to his past works. However, though an interesting blend of Mandarin and English, it fails to set itself apart from Khalil's older songs and can become quite repetitive.

Niki: Although it may not be Khalil's most outstanding work, it's still one of the better mid-tempo songs in the album, in my opinion. It possesses a simple but catchy melody that I find myself humming to from time to time and is calming without leaving me sleepy or bored.

Iris: After a short instrumental comes "Autumn Leaves/楓葉做的風鈴", a relaxing and mellow R&B song that is very Khalil-like composition. It has a serene and romantic feel so while it is not incredibly memorable, it is a smooth and enjoyable listen, and one of the better slow songs on "Dangerous World."

Niki: "Autumn Leaves" is the one ballad in this album that I like. It's soft and relaxing without boring me because there's more variety in the notes and fluctuations in the melody, unlike the other ballads.Listening to this song makes me envision a 1950s romantic movie which makes me feel happy inside.

Iris: "Paris/巴黎 " is initially catchy but quickly gets old, stretching over 4 minutes long. It would've worked better as a 2 and a half minute track. In terms of composition, this is definitely one of Khalil's weakest, as there is very little if any variety in notes and very repetitive. Things pick up though and we flow to the upbeat and fun "No Love", featuring Miss Ko. It is one of the more dynamic non-singles of the album and worth repeated listens.

Niki: After the "No Love/ 愛不來 Feat. Miss Ko葛仲珊 " we have Zombie, another pleasant surprise. The song has a very distinctive beat that matches the songs peculiar title and theme. Through the changes in tempo and fluctuations in notes within the song Khalil was able to paint a rather dynamic scenario in my head, making it all the more fun to listen to. He includes another surprise at the end of the song with the addition of an electric guitar infusing a rock element into the song, finishing it strong. This song may be one of the most dynamic and creative song of his in this album. The only shame is that it is not one of the title tracks. I would love to see the mv that would match this song.

Iris: "Zombie/僵屍 " is my favorite song after "Xiao Fong", but was unfortunately never released as a single. It is so dynamic and infectious it has a cinematic feel and Khalil at his creative best. I also love how when the song starts to fade out it tricks the listener into thinking it has ended, when it hasn't. The mix of R&B and rock elements was phenomenal.

The album closes with "Lights Up" ,another 4 minute song that would have benefitted from a cut. It is catchy and fun, but quickly becomes too repetitive. Two choruses could easily have been edited out. Nevertheless, it is still an enjoyable and feel-good track.

Conclusion: Khalil's album "Dangerous World" leaves us with some mixed feelings. While some tracks showcase his creativity and strength as a composer and artist, others sound strikingly similar to his past works and fails to leave any lasting impression. The album could also use some reorganizing as most of the slower songs are clumped together in the middle of the album making it seem draggy at times, especially after listening to a chain of up-beat songs in the beginning. However, while there were definitely some low points, songs like "Zombie", "Black, White, and Grey", and "Dangerous World" definitely make up for the disappointment by displaying Khalil's abilities at their best.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Album Review: Fiona Sit's "Tenacious"

After ten years in the music industry, Fiona Sit ended 2013 with a bang with her eleventh studio album "Tenacious," her best work yet and a cohesive representation of her maturation into a dominating HK pop princess.

The album opens with "Contagious," which makes use of club beats and dub step influences, which results in an infectious and catchy dance song. Fiona's vocal delivery is cheeky and fun and not ruined by excessive uses of auto tune like Cantopop dance songs typically like to do. It is definitely one of the better dance songs I have heard and a great way to start the album.

"Weekend Pictorial/周末畫報" is one of the best songs of 2013, and easily the best upbeat one. Cantopop songs usually tend to be slow ballads, auto tune doused club songs, or mid tempo, but "Weeknd Pictorial" is simply a fun, catchy, and refreshing pop song that will have you bobbing your head and snapping your fingers to the beat. It is genuinely a fresh breath of air.

"Tenacious" then takes a slower turn with "Zhu Ge Liang/諸葛亮." The song possesses a very romantic yet sorrowful feel, established by Fiona's gentle and emotion-filled vocals. What sets the single apart though is its lovely musical composition, which has a slight blues influence that perfectly brings out the bittersweetness of the lyrics and vocals.

"A Little Clingy/小小癡纏" brings out the youthful and effortlessly cute side of Fiona and is honestly just a sweet, simple, and good hearted song that makes you smile without being too cheesy.

Things become more laid back with the airy "Art Waits/等待的藝術." It is not one of the album's stand outs, but nevertheless an enjoyable track.

"I Say Goodbye/告別我", composed by Fiona's close friend and musical talent Khalil Fong, is a beautiful ballad reminiscent of 90s Cantopop. The composition of the song is simply gorgeous and everything blends together perfectly, which should come as no surprise given the person behind it. Fiona's vocals shine here with her heartfelt yet slightly restrained delivery. The song truly shows Fiona's maturation and sophistication, and the MV is tasteful.

The album makes a miss with "F.Night", which is made tacky with Fiona's narration through out the song. The song seems to try to be a little mysterious and dream-like, but the effort for the most part falls short.

Meanwhile, the hidden gem on the album is Mandarin track "Recovery/復原", which did not do as well on charts as the other singles. Fiona wrote the lyrics for the song following the death of her beloved cat, who helped her get through her previous depression. I have mixed feelings for the English introduction, which gives off the impression that the song's tone is very dramatic and solemn when it is light and bittersweet, but the rest is in a word, lovely. Mandarin was very appropriate for the song. The light R&B beats and her vocals matched together beautifully with the melody. She looks absolutely gorgeous in the MV, which makes use of simplistic but artsy shots and dark lighting.

The album closes with "Palace Ruo Mei/宮若梅," a song dedicated to the character Gong Er in the film "The Grandmaster." The song boosts a much more powerful feel with an obvious rock influence. While Fiona delivers much of the album in a gentle and restrained register, she allows herself to belt more here without losing control of her vocals, as if to say she is finally letting loose, which is a very appropriate way to end the album.

Overall, "Tenacious" finds a balance between two sounds and images: the youthful, bubbly, and endearing Fiona and the matured, sophisticated, and more artistic Fiona in the slower songs and ballads.  All the singles released from the album are wonderfully produced and sung, and the only weakness on it is "F.Night." After vastly improving her vocals and music sound in 2012, Fiona successfully finished 2013 as a force to be reckoned with and the new HK pop princess.

Regardless of if you are a fan of Fiona, you have to acknowledge the very far way she has come since her debut and the consistency in the music she has released in the last 2 years. Do give "Tenacious" a listen, even if it is just for the singles, whether you are a Fiona fan or want a reminder that there is still good music being put out in Hong Kong.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Song Review: Dear Jane's "不許你注定一人/Never Be Alone"

Dear Jane only released two singles in 2013, but closed the year off solid with "Never Be Alone", easily their best ballad yet.

The song showcases all that is great about Dear Jane: meaningful lyrics, strong vocals, and great composition and production. One of the things I love most about the band is the passion, honesty, and emotion they put into their music, and it shows more than ever here. "Never Be Alone" is a beautiful and uplifting song that tells people that though they may lose a loved one, they will never truly be alone in the world. Tim's vocal delivery is powerful and portrays so much emotion as always. The guitar solo that closes the song makes it feel even more empowering and inspiring and though the song may put you on an emotional ride, it will put a smile on your face by the end.

However, the song is made even better with the MV. It is hands down the most well done MV from Dear Jane yet as it tells a story and amplifies the strengths and emotions of the song without taking away from it. The storyline is simple but touching and makes the song come to life. I also love how the story starts from the present before showing flashbacks, and then finally returning to the present once again. From the waterfall back drop, to the black and white, and all the guys looking handsome and dressed up, the shots of the band were also perfect and added to the melancholic feel.

Dear Jane has outdone themselves with "Never Be Alone." It is an all around phenomenal, touching, and well done song coupled with a memorable music video, and the one that left the most impact on me in 2013.

The band took a break from their usual pop punk sound by releasing two ballads in 2013, so I'm looking forward to hearing their upcoming music, which is supposed to be a return to their punk roots. May 2014 be an even better year for Dear Jane!