Hot Tracks

K-pop group Girls' Generation debuted with the dance track Into The New World almost a decade ago and member Tiffany Hwang recently revealed that her part was only about 10 seconds long.

Now three of the original nine singers can sing their hearts out in their solo releases, launched over the past few months.

Hwang released her first EP, I Just Wanna Dance, in May, followed by Kim Taeyeon's second EP, Why, in June.

Ex-member Jessica Jung is finally back as a singer with her EP, titled With Love, J, which was released in May. She has been working on a fashion label since her shocking exit two years ago.

  • ASIAN POP

  • WHY

    Taeyeon

    SM Entertainment

    3.5/5 stars

  • I JUST WANNA DANCE

    Tiffany

    SM Entertainment

    2.5/5 stars

  • WITH LOVE, J

    Jessica

    Coridel Entertainment

    2.5/5 stars

But how do the K-pop singers fare on their own?

Lead vocalist Kim slips into soloist mode with ease. After all, the powerhouse crooner is the one who hits the high notes in the group's songs.

She also regularly sings K-drama soundtracks and already has an EP, titled I, under her belt.

The earworm on her sophomore EP is love duet Starlight, featuring indie singer Dean (real name Kwon Hyuk). Her velvety vocals complement Dean's smooth dulcet singing, matching the song's sultry, laidback tempo.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for her collaboration with bandmate Hyoyeon on the fast track, Up And Down.

The brassy tune may be catchy, but Hyoyeon's abrupt rapping comes in far too early and does not gel with the rest of the melody.

Fellow member Hwang ranks as one of the better singers in the group, but the unmemorable tunes on her debut EP do not do her justice.

Her bright vocals are overshadowed by the 1980s-inspired synth beats on titular track I Just Wanna Dance. She cruises by on the insipid ballad Once In A Lifetime.

Doll-like Jung's nasal vocals always remind me of the ditzy ditty Barbie Girl by Danish-Norwegian synth-pop band Aqua.

She has covered the hit in concerts. On her EP, she flaunts her saccharine-sweet vocals on all six tracks and that voice works best on wistful ballad Dear Diary.

However, listening to sugared ear candy multiple times can get pretty cloying.

Gwendolyn Ng


In 2010, the 16-year-old Korean- American violinist Esther Yoo snagged the first prize at the 10th Sibelius international violin competition, the youngest ever to win that accolade.

  • CLASSICAL

  • SIBELIUS & GLAZUNOV VIOLIN CONCERTOS

    Esther Yoo, violin/ Philharmonia Orchestra, Vladimir Ashkenazy (conductor)

    Deutsche Grammophon 481 215 7

    4.5/5 stars

Her debut recording of violin concertos by Jean Sibelius and Alexander Glazunov commemorates the 150th anniversary of both composers' births in 1865. Despite her youth, the technical and interpretive demands of both concertos hold no terrors for Yoo.

She brings out a warm, gorgeous tone for the lyrical Glazunov concerto, letting rip only in its festive end. For the more austere and glacial disposition of the Sibelius concerto, she offers more grit and sinew to the proceedings, holding back little in the so-called "polonaise for polar bears" of a finale.

The fillers are pretty enough: Sibelius' youthful Suite For Violin And Strings and Glazunov's Grand Adagio from his ballet Raymonda.

The support she gets in what can be said to be a dream debut from veteran conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy and from the London- based Philharmonia Orchestra is excellent.

Chang Tou Liang


Ding Yi Music Company is Singapore's most active professional Chinese chamber ensemble and its concert programming over the years has been eclectic and innovative, as its latest album testifies.

  • ASIAN CLASSICS

  • STORYTELLERS ON ANN SIANG ROAD

    Ding Yi Music Company/ Tay Teow Kiat

    Long Yin

    4.5/5 stars

In a way, the course of contemporary Chinese instrumental music has been redefined by the encompassing of Nanyang music, which includes indigenous idioms of South-east Asian music and its composers.

Two excellent examples receive world premiere recordings here.

In Phang Kok Jun's arrangement of Bho Shambo, a dance of the Hindu god Shiva, flautists Ghanavenothan Rethnam (bansuri) and Tan Qing Lun (dizi) share the honours in a headily rhythmic work.

A similar tandem operates in Phang's own Storytellers On Ann Siang Road where Chin Yen Choong and Lim Kwuan Boon's erhu act out a duet between Chinese and Malay itinerant storytellers of old.

The rest of the disc comprises five Chinese works by Liu Chang, Chow Jun Yi, Joshua Chan, Cao Wen Gong and Wang Jian Min. Conducted by its founder, Cultural Medallion recipient Tay Teow Kiat, the playing is refined, virtuosic and, more importantly, passionately charged as only young professional musicians know how.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe