New albums from Shennio Lin, Ariana Grande and more

ASIAN POP

I'M SINGING

Shennio Lin

Seed Music

3.5/5 stars

Eight years after she emerged as the first runner-up on the third season of singing contest One Million Star, Taiwan's Shennio Lin finally releases her first EP, whose title seems to be answering the question on the minds of whatever fans she has left.

Yes, she is still singing and, in fact, shining in mid-tempo ballads as they showcase her porous and emotionally evocative voice.

On Remembering You, reportedly based on her experience of having her boyfriend cheat on her with one of her best friends, the mood is more of sorrow than anger. She sings: "It's not that I thought too much, the clues were all there/You loved me once/But in the end, you chose not to tell me."

On the mesmerising A Better Tomorrow, she laments: "Later, later, time is like a thief/City lights have drowned out the starlight."

The four-track EP also includes Waiting For Someone, the hit theme song of the romantic dramedy Cafe. Waiting. Love (2014), but not the Mandarin version of the mega-popular track Let It Go that she performed for the release of the animated film Frozen in Taiwan in 2013. On the Disney tune, she holds her own compared to original singer Idina Menzel, showing that she can belt it out without oversinging.

The important thing here, as the title proclaims, is that Lin is singing and there is the promise of more to come.

Boon Chan


POP/R&B

DANGEROUS WOMAN

Ariana Grande

Republic

3.5/5 stars

Three albums in, pop star Ariana Grande still cannot decide what sound she is going for - or perhaps she is just good enough to handle them all.

She opens with Moonlight, a romantic jazzy number, very much in line with her early material and her Nickelodeon child star image. But she promptly uses the rest of the album to undermine everything that is sweet and innocent about the old Ariana - it is either heavy-handed or genius.

Almost every song on the album features the word "dangerous" in the lyrics, as if she cannot wait to grow up. "So baby, come light me up and maybe I'll let you on it/A little bit dangerous, but baby, that's how I want it," she croons on Into You, a bona fide banger of a tune.

She proves her chops again on the pulsating dance/trap number Everyday, which features Atlanta rapper Future.

Plenty of other rap and hip-hop stars contribute to the album, to varying effect. Side To Side, featuring rapper Nicki Minaj, is reggae-tinged, while Lil Wayne guests on 1990s-style slow jam Let Me Love You. Both are forgettable.

Grande's trademark powerhouse vocals work better on big band-backed tracks such as Greedy. At the same time, they are perfectly tempered by Macy Gray's raspy, soulful vocals on Leave Me Lonely.

Under the guidance of Swedish super producer Max Martin, there is little chance she could have gone too far off course on this 15-track offering.

Anjali Raguraman


HISTORICAL CLASSICS

PAGANINI VIOLIN CONCERTO NO.1 IN D MAJOR - WIENIAWSKI VIOLIN CONCERTO NO.2

Michael Rabin, Violin

Blue Moon Records 113

5/5 stars

One of the cautionary tales in classical music has to be the brilliant but tragically short life of American violinist Michael Rabin (1936-1972). A child prodigy who made his debut with the New York Philharmonic at 15, he was beset by substance abuse and psychiatric illness and eventually found dead after an accidental fall.

These recordings were made during his prime, before his mid-20s. Superb control, perfect intonation and a gorgeously singing tone distinguish his reading of Paganini's First Violin Concerto, an edited version that includes the rarely heard Carl Flesch cadenza in the first movement.

This 1960 Capitol recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra, conducted by Sir Eugene Goosens, is coupled with Wieniawski's Second Violin Concerto, another superlative reading that marries a sweetness of sound with dramatic fireworks.

The fillers in this reissued compilation disc come from 1956, with Saint-Saens' Havanaise and Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso (same orchestra led by Alceo Galliera) on the Columbia label. Again, the playing is jaw-dropping quality.

Comparisons of Rabin with the legendary Jascha Heifetz and the younger Itzhak Perlman are apt, which make his loss to the world particularly painful.

Chang Tou Liang


CLASSICAL

THE PIANOS TRIO: LIVE IN LUGANO

The Pianos Trio

Warner Classics 0825646288076

5/5 stars

Three is not a crowd when it comes to the Italian threesome of Alessandro Stella, Georgia Tomassi and Carlo Maria Griguoli. Calling themselves The Pianos Trio, they perform six-handed repertoire on three pianos.

Pieces of this kind do not exist in the natural concert habitat, so it was the task of Griguoli to rewrite existing works and distribute the parts to the pianists.

These live recordings come from The Martha Argerich Project at the Lugano Festival from 2010 to 2013.

Light-heartedness rules in the suites from Offenbach's Gaite Parisienne and Shostakovich's operetta Moscow, Cheryomushki, where digital accuracy and synchronisation at such high speeds border on amazing.

Symphonic textures come alive in Debussy's La Mer and Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, such that one rarely misses the orchestra.

The sole original work is Carlo Boccadoro's Vaalbara (the name comes from the super-continent of prehistoric times), which is atonal but so rhythmically charged that it becomes a vigorous ballet in the spirit of Stravinsky's The Rite Of Spring. The playing is infectious and the zest it generates hard to resist.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 25, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe