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CDs: Taiwan

STAFF REPORTERS

Because of Liu’s inability to write in Chinese (he grew up in the US), all the lyrics penned by professional lyricists have been tailored to his grasp of the language. Some of the dumbed-down lyrics do not live up to the ambitious melodies, with whacked-out song titles such as Who Is the Fox (誰是狐狸) and Living at the Zoo (住在動物園).

Offering a refreshing take on the timeworn Mando-pop ballad genre, Liu blissfully strays from convention and verges more on world music (as seen in Rose) or folk rock (as witnessed in Empty Scar). Mr Why follows the by-now-standard formula of merging eclectic styles such as folk, R ’n’ B, hip-hop and rock, displaying Liu’s versatility across the genres.

As the latest traveler on the well-trodden trail of Mando-pop singer/songwriter, Liu is definitely one to watch out for.— ANDREW C.C. HUANG

Aftertaste (回蔚)

Karen Mok (莫文蔚)

Universal Music

Karen Mok (莫文蔚) is in danger of becoming the next Faye Wong (王菲) — a performer who creates meticulously crafted tunes with little emotional resonance for the audience. Mok has even inherited Wong’s former long-term producer/songwriter partner Zhang Yadong (張亞東) to boot.

Originally released as a digital album on a China-based music site, Aftertaste (回蔚) takes what Mok started in her Golden-Melody winning album L!ve Is ... Karen Mok (拉活…莫文蔚) and pushes further. Mok continues her daredevil sonic journey of mixing original compositions with classic songs both in Chinese and English. It’s at once a cover album and a kaleidoscopic fusion of styles.

Mok’s choices of classic tunes here run the gamut from Chinese folk and classic Mando-pop to Italian opera. With Green Mountain (青山在), her adventurous spirit misfires when she introduces thumping rock beats into a simple aboriginal folk song. Mok’s coquettish voice is seen in flirtatious top form in Full Moon and Blooming Flower (花好月圓), a pop classic by 1940s Chinese songstress Zhou Xuan (周旋). The undisputed highlight is Mok’s retake on The World Outside (外面的世界), originally a theme song sung by actress Zhou Xun (周迅) for the movie Perhaps, Love (如果.愛). With this song, Mok’s voice reaches a haunting poignancy unheard in other tracks. With Half a Moon Climbs Up (半個月亮爬上來), Mok delivers surprising fireworks by merging folksy Chinese music with segments of Italian opera aria. She mostly uses her vocals as a musical instrument rather than as the purveyor of emotions that holds the songs on this album together. Mok thus fails to achieve the emotional resonance found in her earlier Mando-pop classics such as Love (愛情) or If I Don’t Have You (如果沒有你).

A musical tapestry that manages to find unexpected sparks in its bravura fusion, Aftertaste is brilliantly imagined and immaculately executed. Many will admire its beauty, but few will be moved by it. There is no hint of heartbreak or remorse behind these tracks. Audiences would be wise to play the album once at a dance party and then shelve it.— ANDREW C.C. HUANG

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