Life Listens: New music from Jackson Wang, Namewee, A-ha and more

(Clockwise from top left) Jackson Wang, pop band A-ha, Iman Fandi and album the cover of the single 809000 by Namewee, Machi Didi and Frog. PHOTOS: NABIL ELDERKIN, STIAN ANDERSEN, UNIVERSAL MUSIC SINGAPORE, ASIAN TONE CULTURAL AND CREATIVE INDUSTRY

In this weekly column, The Straits Times curates the most buzz-worthy music you need to know about now

Ace Album: Jackson Wang - Magic Man

Chinese singer Jackson Wang’s sophomore album Magic Man. PHOTO: TEAM WANG RECORDS/88RISING RECORDS/WARNER RECORDS/RYCE MUSIC GROUP

Forget what you know about Jackson Wang.

The Chinese K-pop idol enters a new artistic phase with his sophomore album Magic Man, eschewing the slick pop and hip-hop sounds of his past solo works for a modern rock swagger.

Punctuated by thick guitar riffs. rousing grooves and singalong choruses, Magic Man has all the hallmarks of rock, updated with a shiny sheen.

Chinese singer and K-pop idol Jackson Wang. PHOTO: NABIL ELDERKIN

Lyrically, Wang tackles the complications of relationships and recounts personal turmoils. Early singles Blow and Cruel, for example, allude to forbidden affairs and toxic love, while Champagne Cool seems to hint at the downsides of pop success (“Smoke and mirrors and showbiz/It’s all fake, but it’s true”).

The artistic reinvention is a brave move for the Hong Kong-born singer and producer, who could have probably found greater commercial success with the album if he had chosen to coast along on proven formulas. - Eddino Abdul Hadi

Stream This Song: Namewee, Machi Didi and Frog’s 809000

809000 by Malaysian rapper Namewee, American DJ-songwriter Machi Didi and Taiwanese rapper Frog. PHOTO: ASIA TONE CULTURAL AND CREATIVE INDUSTRY

A cool rap single attempting to appeal to people across generations, 809000 is a collaboration between rap artistes from three different decades – the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s – which asks if they are all that different.

Malaysian rapper Namewee, born in 1983, enthuses over the Street Fighter video game and Hong Kong’s Four Heavenly Kings. American DJ-songwriter and 1990s kid Machi Didi waxes lyrical about Taiwanese drama Meteor Garden (2001) and the Harry Potter novels, while the world of Taiwanese rapper Frog, born in the 2000s, is filled with YouTubers, Pokemon Go and non-fungible tokens.

(From left) American DJ-songwriter Machi Didi, Malaysian rapper Namewee and Taiwanese rapper Frog. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/NAMEWEE

Using a variety of styles, from gangster rap to trap, the head-bopping number is testament to music’s ability to shift with and reflect the times.

The music video is also a treat, featuring each star in a room which looks like a time capsule of the era they came from. Although the trio dress and live very differently, they speak the same language of rap. - Benson Ang

Must-See MV: A-Ha – I’m In

Norwegian pop band A-ha comprise (from left) Magne Furuholmen, Morten Harket and Paul Waaktaar-Savoy. PHOTO: STIAN ANDERSEN

Many might remember Norwegian pop band A-ha for their 1980s hits, but the trio are not content to merely bask in past glories.

Their new collection of songs, True North, is not just an album – it is accompanied by a film of the same name too. Their 11th album is their first since 2015’s Cast In Steel, and includes the soaring, ethereal lead single I’m In.

Frontman Morten Harket, keyboardist-guitarist Magne Furuholmen and guitarist Paul Waaktaar-Savoy recorded the songs in a studio 90km above the Arctic Circle and worked with the Norwegian Arctic Philharmonic orchestra.

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The music video of I’m In provides a sneak peek into the otherworldly feel of the film, which follows a narrative arc showing people’s collective connection to the environment, through actors portraying life in the north, as well as documenting A-ha recording music over two days in Bodo, Norway.

As Furuholmen says in a statement, True North is a “letter” and “poem” from A-ha and the Arctic Circle.

You can even catch the PG-rated 72-minute film here, with the only screening at Projector X: Picturehouse on Thursday at 8.30pm. The album will be released on Oct 21. - Eddino Abdul Hadi

Chart Champ: David Guetta and Bebe Rexha - I’m Good (Blue)

I’m Good (Blue) is a new song by French DJ David Guetta and American singer Bebe Rexha. PHOTO: WHAT A DJ/WARNER UK

If you remember Eurodance track Blue (Da Ba Dee) by Italian group Eiffel 65 from 1998, you might recall how it conquered radio and clubs back then.

It has now been revived, courtesy of I’m Good (Blue), a new collaboration between French DJ David Guetta and American singer Bebe Rexha.

French DJ David Guetta and American singer Bebe Rexha. PHOTOS: DAVID GUETTA/FACEBOOK, BEBE REXHA/FACEBOOK

This version has new verses sung by Rexha, but the child-like hook, even without the original vocoder effects, is still infuriatingly catchy, an earworm that will be stuck in your head whether you like it or not.

Still, the song has been steadily climbing up the charts in Singapore and worldwide, so there is probably a new generation of listeners who do not remember how annoyingly ubiquitous the original was. - Eddino Abdul Hadi

Singapore Scene: Iman Fandi – Want

Singaporean singer-songwriter Iman Fandi returns with her third single, Want.  PHOTO: UNIVERSAL MUSIC SINGAPORE

It has been almost a year since people heard new material from home-grown singer Iman Fandi.

The daughter of local football legend Fandi Ahmad and model Wendy Jacobs is finally back with her third single, Want.

Her music seems to have taken a darker, less rosy tone. The wide-eyed sentiments in previous singles Timeframe and Love Me Little More, both released last year, have been replaced with a less innocent view on love.

Singaporean singer-songwriter Iman Fandi’s music seems to have taken a darker, less rosy tone.  PHOTO: UNIVERSAL MUSIC SINGAPORE

In Want, she ponders on a past toxic relationship – irresistible in the beginning but one that ultimately leads to despair (“It feels so good /But you’re driving me out of my mind and soul”).

Appropriately enough, the production is powered by harsh electronic beats and a moody vibe, a fitting musical backdrop for a tale of love gone wrong. - Eddino Abdul Hadi

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