Thu, Jan 14, 2010 - Page 13 News List

The reluctant celebrity

Joanna Wang is one of the Mando-pop world’s biggest stars, but she’s no prepackaged idol

By Andrew C.C. Huang  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

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The uninitiated, Joanna Wang’s (王若琳) voice sounds like it emanates from a singer who’s lived long enough to experience the roller coaster of life’s joys and sorrows.

But Wang was only 18 years old when she released her first album, Start From Here, in 2008.

The daughter of famed producer Wang Chi-ping

(王治平), Wang’s velvety, mature and emotionally nuanced voice quickly captured audiences’ imaginations, and in a short time she rose to become the Chinese-speaking world’s preeminent jazz chanteuse.

On Saturday night, Wang will present her first stadium concert in Taiwan, titled 2010 Taipei Concert Adult Storybook (2010台北演唱會大人故事書), at the National Taiwan University Sports Center in Taipei.

Although much admired for her renditions of jazz classics, Wang says cover songs are not her favorite repertoire.

Taipei Times: Tell me about your second album.

Joanna Wang: The second album is a two-CD set. Joanna and 王若琳 is the CD of cover songs. The Adult Storybook is the CD of original compositions written by myself and co-produced with my father. It’s dark and shows a self-deprecating sense of humor.

TT: Are you happier with this album than your first?

JW: Definitely. This album conveys my character and portrays me for who I am. What comes across on the album is how I feel. It’s a correct representation of me.

TT: What do you want to achieve and what does your record label want you to do? How do you find a balance?

JW: It’s a tricky art. I’m still looking for the answer. In the beginning, they wanted me to cover some pop songs like — [starts singing] “just like flower ...” Some kind of cheesy pop. I was like, there’s no way I will sing that kind of song!

TT: Is the double CD set part of this compromise?

JW: That’s a very keen observation of yours, and yes, it’s a constant tug of war.

TT: Is working on a double CD album exhausting? Will you be doing it again?

JW: I hope not. I am not doing this for the money. I just hope it won’t happen again.

TT: What are your feelings about doing a cover album of love songs?

JW: It’s not ideal. I want to do an album of my own songs.

TT: How about the musicians you admire, such as Billy Joel or the Beatles? Would you consider covering their work?

JW: I have covered the Beatles live, but not in a CD. They are just so amazing. I will do it live only because covering them in a CD would be too formal and kind of like making a joke out of yourself. I actually like Disney’s old songs a lot.

TT: Would you consider doing a cover album of Disney songs?

JW: That’s a very interesting suggestion. I will think about that idea. If you take the care to approach the material, it might come out great. It can’t be too childish, but it can’t be too adult either, that you take away the innocence.

When I performed old Disney songs in concert, I found out there are such dark stories behind them. Audiences were surprised to see me singing morbid songs — songs about death or pedophilia.

TT: You once said you wanted to make music for a lowbrow, uncouth musical (低檔俗氣的音樂劇). Tell me more about that.

JW: It was an example of mistranslation. I said that originally in English. I said I wanted to make music for a “cheesy musical,” such as The Phantom of the Opera or Cats, because they are so over-the-top and dramatic. I want to do it in a cheaper production.

TT: What was it like to be catapulted to stardom?

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