Mon, May 30, 2005 - Page 16 News List

Dark horses out front at Golden Melodies

Sandee Chen was one of the big surprise winners with the Best Album award, while Stanley Huang took the Mandarin Male Singer prize

By Max Woodworth  /  STAFF REPORTER

Sandee Chen has produced the country's best album. It's official.


By the time the Golden Melody Awards had finished late Saturday night, the event that had developed a reputation in recent years for monotony and predictability ended up stunning audiences by handing the three top awards to some of the darkest horses on the nominee list.

Perhaps the greatest shock of them all was the Best Album award going to Sandee Chen (陳珊妮), an alternative-music songstress whose image flirts with gritty anti-commercialism and whose appeal is not nearly as wide as some of the favored in the category, which included Jay Chou (周杰倫) and Wang Lee-hom (王力宏). Chen also won the Best Producer Award, taking top honors in two of the three categories in which she was nominated.

Also surprising was the conspicuous absence of Jay Chou taking the stage on the receiving end of an award. He won the top album awards in 2002 and last year and this year released the best-selling album in Mando-pop titled Common Jasmine Orange (七里香), but went home empty handed on Saturday despite nominations in six categories.

Before Saturday, the safe money would have been on Chou taking at least two awards, but this year's Golden Melody was different in more ways than just this one.

Beating the heavyweights Chou and Wang Lee-hom in the Best Mandarin Male Singer category was Stanley Huang (黃立行), a pop veteran who cut his teeth in the proto-hip hop boyband LA Boyz and has since gone solo and teamed up with Machi in the past two years for separate releases. Huang's pop credentials are unquestioned, but his winning album, Shades of My Mind (黑的意念), shows off a darker, more urban side of the singer and some bold explorations in its instrumentation that in years past would not have helped his chances of taking the top honors.

The crowded list in the Best Mandarin Female Singer category included Chang Hui-mei (張惠妹), Sandee Chen, Angela Chang (張韶涵) and Jasmine Leong (梁靜茹), but it was Stefanie Sun (孫燕姿) who came out on top after reappearing on the scene following a year's hiatus. The award was the first Sun has received despite nominations in 2002 and 2003.

Chang Hui-mei, also known as A-Mei, was sent packing once again without a trophy as she has every year since she's been nominated.

The biggest winners of the night ended up being Sheng Xiang and Water 3 (生祥與瓦窯坑3), a Hakka band which came seemingly out of nowhere to receive the largest number of nominations with seven, and took trophies in three categories -- Best Hakka Album, Besty Lyricist and Best Band.

One of the most memorable moments of the night was the announcement for the Best Male Mandarin Singer award, which was read by Karen Mok. Speaking in Mandarin with her Hong Kong accent, Mok's pronunciation of the first two characters of Stanley Huang's name sounded indistinguishable from the first two characters of Wang Lee-hom's name, creating a painfully awkward scene in which both singers stood and began congratulating each other and thanking everyone around them. Wang even leaned in close to the TV camera winking and saluting and then rushed onto the stage, where he was told that it was, in fact, Stanley, walking a few steps behind him, who was the actual recipient. Visibly embarrassed, he skipped off stage, but received a conciliation hug from super-model Lin Chih-ling (林志玲).

From the perspective of the press pit, the ceremony in years past had taken on the qualities of a comedy, as bloopers like the one Mok provided Saturday night abounded. But this year's ceremony was also remarkable for its mercifully short and entertaining performances -- a major break from the past. The addition of Patty Hou (侯佩岑) and Lin Chih-ling to back up veteran hostess Momoko Tao (陶子) and the virtual avoidance of technical glitches also helped the event go smoothly. And only once did the backstage crew need to turn on Hallelujah to cut short an overly verbose award recipient.

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