Category Archives: Favourite Songs

TVXQ! (東方神起) – Begin

This post wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for the insistence of a very good friend. No, she didn’t tell me to write this or influence me to even begin writing again. However, she did broaden my musical horizons in a way that I will never forget. She allowed me into a world that, while completely crazy, is also so full of love and genuine care I wonder what my world was without it. So, I just want to say this upfront: Thank you, Julz, for giving me this gift of music.

All the sappiness out of the way, I truly want to express my undying adoration for this group. As you’ve no doubt gleaned from my post about this group a little while ago, there’s something so incredibly pure about their talent. It’s a rarity, indeed, to come across a group that cares as much about image as they do about vocal excellence. Though pegged as nothing more than an “idol group” (sort of the Korean equivalent to a simple boy band), the fact of the matter is their ability to blend their voices into something unique and intricate rivals most groups in the US and Europe. A company can bring a group together, find members to fit a particular style or fill a part of the market that’s not heavily saturated; however, for that group to be able to transcend their individual parts and truly bring almost flawless vocal mastery to the forefront – that is an exceptional gift indeed.

From their second album as a Jpop group (indeed, they were both pioneers of the Korean Hallyu wave and a Japanese pop group, having learned the language from scratch and managed to accommodate the sharp tics of the language in the watery softness of their own palettes), track “Begin” is a genius example of a cappella grandeur. I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for a cappella. What can I say? The precision and excellent ear to hear the sounds around you and mesh them perfectly with your own is powerful. Though a construct of the powers that be at SM Entertainment, if not for their incredible vocal abilities, Dong Bang Shin Ki (TVXQ! or Tohoshinki in Japan) would’ve been another group in a million. However, their craftsmanship is commendable.

What’s so ingenious about the track is the inflection of each voice. It’s a song that allows the listener to dissect each vocal part, each voice distinguishable. But more than that, the harmony is tight, so crystalline that just a fraction of vocal frailty would send the entire piece of music crumbling. That’s exactly how finite the group’s vocals were, a trait that’s even more noticeable when the song is performed live.

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SingerSen (歌者森) – Drunk (醉)

It seems as of late I’ve been focusing on music that leaves me speechless. Much of that music, of course, comes from Asia. And, of course, it was through the vast musical knowledge of my dear Amy [1] that I came to know this artist. I take a trip to Mainland China, this time to explore the wonder and mystic grandeur that is SingerSen. Her voice is a warrior cry, a triumph of vocalisation the likes of which I really had only experienced from one of my vocal heroes, Björk. However, what SingerSen does vocally is something that puts me in a state of absolute petrification.

From her début album Sirens comes this single. “Drunk” is a song that no doubt aided in giving the album its namesake: all sirens and wild discord. As I’m not at all familiar with Mandarin, this is another song that washes over me and wraps me up in its wicked splendour. I can’t help but marvel at the freedom in her voice, the unbridled passion that warps the air around her and creates something new. Indeed, it’s not oxygen she’s expelling, it’s the purple-tinted wind whistling through the crooked branches of a tree, a spectre’s curiosity dancing through crinkled stubbles of grass.

The first thing anyone notices about the diminutive singer is the absolute largeness of her talent. It’s no wonder I was so utterly spellbound by it. “Drunk” is the perfect tune to elevate the consciousness to a new level of understanding. It’s a song that explores moments of silence, attempting to find the inconsolable loudness there. I think what’s so stunning about the song, though, isn’t just the vocals. I mean, there are perhaps thousands of vocalists who have the charm and the range of SingerSen or her prolific predecessor Björk. However, what these two vocalists have that separates them from others is the utter fearlessness to find out exactly where their voices will go.

Goapele – Butterflykisses

As I mentioned when taking a deeper look into Panic! At The Disco’s “9 in the Afternoon” [1], there are some songs that require no explication. Sometimes a sound is just so purely beautiful all it needs is a little appreciation.

One such track was penned and sung by a woman whose voice is as smooth as the early evening’s slip into twilight, yet has the depth of an ocean full of whispered drops of erotica. “Butterflykisses” comes from Goapele’s second album Even Closer. Though this isn’t the song most remember from that album (most flocking to radio hit “Closer”), it’s the song that cemented itself in my psyche the moment it swam through my ears.

The song speaks of a love unfettered by niceties, no frills. A song about a woman who wants to give her lover all the pleasures her love and femininity can offer him. It’s a simple song, a syrupy love list, if you will. It entreats the lover to accept our singer for everything that she is, as long as he remains the same, never wavering, never posturing himself for the sake of appearing to be something he’s not. And here I am, saying this song needs no further insight, and that’s all I want to do, dissect and explore.

However, the song is straightforward. There’s no hidden meanings, no beating around the bush, much in the same way as Goapele’s vocal extension of herself. Someone she’d call her lover comes to her in dreams, a foreshadowing to something beautiful. But she refuses to strip away who she is for the sake of getting something destiny has whispered already belongs to her: “I wanna wear what I wanna wear, and say what’s on my mind.”