Tue, Jun 26, 2012 - Page 12 News List

CD reviews: Taiwan

Encountering Happiness (遇見快樂), by Winnie Hsin (辛曉琪); Mr. Jazz A Song for You, by Jam Hsiao (蕭敬騰); The People (人), by Dog G (大支)

By Andrew C.C. Huang and David Chen  /  Staff reporters

The music comes across as more sophisticated, thanks in part to a handful of top-notch collaborators, as well as the fact that Dog G’s already-deft rhyming skills have matured. This time around, he raps more in Mandarin than Hoklo (commonly known as Taiwanese), but his pet subjects remain the same: Taiwanese pride, dissing China and dissing lame rappers.

This would make Freddy Lim (林昶佐), vocalist for death metal band Chthonic (閃靈) and outspoken pro-independence activist, a natural guest collaborator. The Last Song (最後一首歌), a track about overcoming one’s inner demons, is a rousing nu-metal romp on which Lim belts out the fist-pumping chorus with his signature guttural voice.

Bala (芭樂) is a funny diss track in which Dog G apologizes for having made fun of Mando-pop ballads in the past, because it turns out that Taiwanese rappers are “even lamer than love ballad singers” (現在台灣的饒舌歌手比芭樂歌手還要莫名其妙). The song includes lines ridiculing Mando-pop artists/rappers who pepper their rhymes with “Yo” and rap about “stuff that only happens to black people.” MC Hot Dog makes a cameo on this track and adds a pitch-perfect snark to the song’s chorus: “Balalala (literally 芭樂, guava, slang for ‘ballads’). I know I’m just like them, I learned from Dr Dre / We simply aren’t dope / Our dicks are small and short” (芭樂樂樂樂 我知道很像 我就是學Dr Dre 怎樣/芭樂樂樂樂/我們根本不屌/我們的屌都超短超小).

Mando-pop balladeers might fume at Dog G’s smirking diatribes, but what really ought to make them feel inadequate is their inability to produce a track as beautiful as Eternal (不滅). This sparse R’n’B number is carried by female indie rock chanteuse Deserts Chang (張懸), who, frankly, steals the show from Dog G. Her vocal choruses imbue the song with an exquisite, stately touch.

Eternal lifts the album into an ethereal space, while 19470228 takes Taiwanese hip-hop to a higher level. The track features innovative sampling of enka/nakashi music, the mournful ballads that became part of Taiwan’s pop music fabric during the Japanese occupation. The riffs are sublime, as are the old-school style vocal backing tracks sung in Hoklo by Fiona Wu (吳南穎). And if the song title puts you off for fear of yet another rehashing of the 2/28 incident, fear not. The lyrics, which have a poetic touch, could be interpreted about loss in any situation.

Still, those who just want to hear slick anti-China one-liners from Dog G will be satisfied. On B box (蘭芭詞), a smooth dub jam filled with sampled Chinese bamboo flutes, Dog G harps on Taiwanese pop stars who have “China Fever” (中國風). The song’s punchline comes when he sneers at pop stars who refer to China as “neidi” (內地, literally “the interior”), a loaded term that implies that its borders extend overseas to Taiwan: “Interior? Taiwan’s interior is in Nantou!” (內地?台灣的內地是南投!)

— David Chen

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