Brown Chen (陳志偉) says that when his group’s self-titled debut Da Xi Men (大囍門) was released in 2005, he wasn’t ready.
“I was way too young,” he told the Taipei Times last week. “In the Taiwanese recording industry, if you waste a chance you are gone. The funny thing is, they don’t tell you they are not going to release your next album. They just say, ‘Keep working on it.’ After I had made four demo albums, one each year, I asked my manager about a song. He replied, ‘What song?’ so I finally got it.”
Chen had a lot of contacts, and he decided to put out the album independently. He cherry-picked the best songs from the four demo albums and released X.
“I’m lucky, because then I won the Golden Medley Award,” he said, referring to Da Xi Men’s victory in the best vocal group category last year.
Now, Chen is back with a new moniker, Mr Brown (布朗), and a new album, titled H.A.R.D. (用力專輯), which was released yesterday. This time he’s prepared for success.
“I won’t say it’s my time, but I will say I’m ready,” Chen said. “I’ve been doing my music for n ly 10 years and I have seen the good and bad. I’m grown up now and music is my job.”
The underlying theme of Chen’s new album is ordinary people’s passion. The first single, Light Up My Fire, was influenced by sports.
“I’m producing a movie about people playing soccer in Taiwan, so I went to visit a lot of teams, both pro and amateur,” Chen said. “It seemed to me like the amateurs had more passion. Sometimes they didn’t feel good or sometimes they were hurt. Sometimes it was even raining, but they still wanted to play basketball. They kept going. They light up their own fire.”
Light Up My Fire will be featured in commercials for the New Year’s Eve celebrations in front of Taipei City Hall, where Chen will be performing to a huge crowd.
“The officials contacted me and said to make a song sampling an old Chinese song,” he said. “I did that but didn’t really think it was very good. I told them I had a better one from my new album and they picked it.”
Chen says he works hard at producing songs, but also knows how to have a good time.
“In my life, I party a lot. Why not have a party song on the album?” he said, referring to his second single, the electro-influenced Champagne.
In the chorus, Chen chants: “We need more champagne/We need more champagne” over and over, but the song also carries a deeper message.
“I don’t want to say I’m the party king. I want to explore the reason why we party,” he said. “I think everyone enjoys having a celebration even if they don’t have much money. It’s an easy way to make everything better.”
After rapping for the first two albums, Chen wanted to change his style and try something new.
“I didn’t want to only rap. I wanted to rap, sing, and rap with the melody, kind of like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony,” he said. “I was practicing and practicing and thinking ‘I can’t do this new style.’ Finally, one day I wrote a song and recorded [it] and went to bed. The next day I listened to it and realized I got it. Then, the songs just started pouring out.”
The breakthrough song was Life, which is dedicated to people with “uncool” jobs, like bus drivers.
“They may do the same things every day, but they are doing it for their families and kids and that’s great,” he said.
Chen also used the simple experience of buying fried chicken as inspiration for Neon Lights. While he was waiting for his order to be cooked at a popular fried chicken stand, he noticed a blind woman pass by. Then, she walked by again. The third time, Chen stopped her and asked her where she was going. The blind woman said she was trying to find the fried chicken stand they were standing in front of.