[EMI, October 1998]
This album was truly long-awaited because it was delay again, came out in October. I really love the pictures in the booklet. The title of the album is roughly translated as "Sing and Play" (other translations include "Song Tour", "Songs of Wanderlust" and "Wandering Tour" etc.). Overall the album continues to show that Faye's voice is still enough to light up any song, but there's an unmistakable feeling of too much compromise on Faye's part. This is not the kind of album nor song that Faye has admitted of wanting to do. I think if one is looking for some kind of style to sum this album up, it can be said that the album might be a experiment of trying to mix the two different styles from "Restless" and "Wong Fei" together. But any hint of either one existing in its own is not found; the songs go all over the place... with the sentimental ballad you thought you would never hear again from Faye in "Red Bean", the traditional opera-ish sounding "Face", and a techo-ish song for her baby girl, "Tong". I think there is room for improvement. It's time for those EMI exec to really let Faye have 100% freedom and no pressure from above, so she can work on an album in which she can say, "Yes, I am satisfy. It's an album that I want."
There are those who would argue that Faye Wang (Wang Fei) should not be the most sought-after name in Mandarin and Cantonese Pop (see our review of Zhang Huimei's Holding Hands). Correct or not, those assessments do not correspond to current reality--that Faye is referred to as the "Princess of Pop" in the Chinese press so
routinely one would think she had actually been given the title by some musical monarch. Comparisons to Madonna are so easy the way she is relentlessly pursued by Hong Kong paparazzi, how she was Hong Kong's richest entertainer last year (HK$90 million), how giving birth to a daughter seems to have both settled her and spurred her on.
Ultimately, Wang is a musician. While being good-looking and skilled at remaining aloof have certainly helped her rise to pop deity status, it is the uncanny voice, the one that has now appeared on Cocteau Twins albums and millions of albums sold throughout Asia, that sets her apart. Other female singers are just that, singers, regardless of whether or not they write their own material; to Wang, her voice is an instrument, much the way that Billy Holiday saw herself as just another instrument in the ensemble, not a vocalist or singer.
Wang's latest album, Singing Tour (Chang You) opens with "Life's Feelings" (Gan Qing Sheng Huo), one of the record's more rocking tunes, a good introduction, and a statement that this is not the same woman who on her last recording proclaimed that she was happy because we (actually, her daughter) were happy. Giving credit where it is due, former Wang husband/lover/father of her child Dou Wei and red-hot producer Zhang Yadong did some of the arrangement for the album, and Wang's work benefits from it greatly. Wang received songwriting assistance from Xu Wei, who penned Tian Zhen's 1996 hit "Rigid" (Zhi Zhuo) and happens to be one of the best musicians in the country. Proper dues aside, Wang wrote the music for this rocker. Faye says she likes the songs she wrote best on the album, and we agree that those four are probably the best.
Next is Faces (Lian), a more familiar Faye melody that contains the lyrics "It's best that nobody really knows what I'm saying." Wang only wrote the music to this tune and not the lyrics, but it's vintage Faye all the way. Kurt Cobain reincarnated as a Mandarin pop diva.
(Se Jie), or "Adult Warning," (we're struggling on the translation for this one) is one of Faye's best vocal performances on the album, going higher in her range, and backed by a funky bassline. The song also translates well live.
Track four, despite its heavy airplay, "Giving Up Halfway" (Ban Tu Er Fei) is just a boring song. It doesn't let Faye show off her voice, it's just there. The video is the same: Faye the aloof, looking bored, stamping oranges and tossing them at the screen. Boring. Next.
"Flying" (Fei) is another ethereal, over-produced track that does nothing for Faye. Next time, play it on a synthesizer and don't waste her time. This song does, however, have a nice live version, for those who will be seeing her on the Singing Tour.
"You" (Ni): light, acoustic, kind of cutesy. Next. "Little Smarty" (Xiao CongMing) is obviously written for Faye's daughter Tong Tong, as is the final track of the album, "Child" (Tong). Xiao CongMing doesn't stretch Faye's voice, but it has good production value. Not a rocker, but slightly danceable and fairly techno. As for "Child," it, like the last three songs on the album ("Can't Wake Up" and "Red Bean") is slow, are mostly accompanied by piano and guitar, and could be sung by Valen Hsu, Xin Xiaoqi, or just about any other singer. That's sad. Faye Wang has THE voice of Mandarin and Cantonese pop. It shouldn't be wasted on average songs.
Frankly, I like "You're Happy, So I'm Happy," her previous album, more. I'm glad she didn't perform many songs from this album live, especially the so-called hits, or at least the ones getting the most airplay. I'm going to program my CD player to play tracks one, three, and five over and over again. Then I'll go back and listen to Faye's older stuff and wait until next year's album.