SINGAPORE – In this weekly column, The Straits Times curates the most buzz-worthy music you need to know about now.
Chart Champ: Stray Kids – Maxident
For the second time this year, K-pop boy band Stray Kids have topped the Billboard 200 chart.
The eight-member group led the way with their latest album Maxident, earning sales of 117,000 units in the United States. This comes just six months after their previous album, Oddinary, also nabbed the top spot in March – giving Stray Kids a perfect No. 1 record on the Billboard 200 as the two albums are their first two entries on the chart.
With Maxident, they explore the theme of love. But instead of fluffy feel-good love songs or emotional ballads, they opt for an eclectic mix of sounds.
Like their earlier hit Maniac, lead single Case 143 is a no-holds-barred mix of hip-hop and electronic beats, with the members dishing out confessions like “Can I be your boyfriend?” and “Why do I keep getting attracted?”.
Refreshing and experimental elements are found in the rest of Maxident too. Chill, composed and produced by member Han, incorporates a splash of saxophone in its instrumentals.
Give Me Your TMI is the group’s playful foray into glitch hop, which does a good job blending the intense raps with the more melodic chorus. 3Racha – produced and composed by the sub-unit of the same name and made up of members Bang Chan, Changbin and Han – is an unapologetically boastful drill track that gives the artistes a chance to indulge in what they have achieved. – Jan Lee
Stream This Song: Queen – Face It Alone
More than three decades after his death, the world is still getting new music sung by late Queen singer Freddie Mercury.
The British rock band’s latest single, Face It Alone, was originally recorded in the late 1980s, and was released for the first time on Oct 13.
It is one of the bonus unreleased tracks that will be included in the box set reissue of Queen’s 13th album, The Miracle, first released in 1989.
An affecting ballad, it is a fine display of Mercury’s famously emotive singing. Lyrics such as “In the end, you have to face it all alone” feel more poignant when one remembers that the flamboyant frontman was already diagnosed with Aids when he recorded the song.
The Miracle reissue, to be released on Nov 18, will also feature five more previously unheard songs, including those sung by Mercury. – Eddino Abdul Hadi
Ace Album: Bjork – Fossora
The title of Icelandic singer Bjork’s 11th album, Fossora, means “hole digger” in Latin, a nod to her desire to dig up her roots in order to see them in a new light.
Indeed, on 13 eccentric pop tracks, she touches on topics such as family, love and her home country.
Like many of her previous works, Fossora is not an easy listen, but its ethereal beauty grows on you with replays.
The potpourri of electronic sounds, organic string and wind instruments, as well as her idiosyncratic singing, sounds both otherworldly and familiar at the same time.
Two of the album’s most stirring songs, Sorrowful Soil and Ancestress, were inspired by the death of Bjork’s mother, environmental activist Hildur Runa Hauksdottir, in 2018.
In keeping with the theme of family, Ancestress also features her son Sindri Eldon, while album closer Her Mother’s House features her daughter Isadora Bjarkardottir. – Eddino Abdul Hadi
Must-See MV: Victor Wong – Cherish This Love
It might seem hard to weave four stories into a single music video, but the one for Malaysian singer Victor Wong’s new track Cherish This Love does exactly that. It manages to tie the scenarios together under the theme of love.
The sentimental ballad encourages listeners to love without regrets amid a complicated world, and its MV reflects this complexity via four relationships – a marriage, romance, father-daughter relationship and school friendship.
As the clip begins, each connection faces an obstacle, with an impending graduation threatening to change the friendship of three schoolgirls, and a divorce looming over the marriage. This trauma is tearfully fleshed out by its cast, consisting of Taiwanese actors Hsu Huai-min, Lucia Hsieh, Iain Lu, Hsia Teng-hung and Wong himself.
Yet, by the end, each relationship is repaired, emphasising love’s ability to heal all bonds. Highlighting common aspects of the four relationships, the video shows how love is universal, and that one should treasure and be patient with loved ones. – Benson Ang
Singapore Scene: Ahmadul Amin – Bukan Untuk Semua
Singaporean singer-songwriter Ahmadul Amin has quite an eclectic background, with a resume that includes sessioning for indie rock outfit Islandeer as well as working with traditional Malay orchestra Orkestra Melayu Singapura.
He comes into his own with debut album Bukan Untuk Semua (It’s Not For Everyone).
There is a palpable sense of confidence in these eight songs, most of which are sung in Malay, with a few English lyrics thrown in.
Weaving effortlessly through genres including effervescent pop, soulful R&B and lush folk-pop, the listener is presented vivid vignettes from a young adult navigating life in a fast-paced modern society.
While Putarkan Masa (Rewind Back The Time) sees him longing for the carefree days of his teenage years, Lelaki Paling Bodoh (The Stupidest Man) finds him mired in regret over a mishandled relationship. – Eddino Abdul Hadi