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!

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