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.