Album of the week: Will Pan makes case for himself as alien

ILLI by Will Pan.



Will Pan

Warner Music Taiwan

3.5 stars

After a head injury sustained while rehearsing for his Kingdom Of Eve tour in 2014, Taiwanese-American singer-actor Will Pan dreamt about giving birth to a baby alien - which he believed was his reincarnation. As far as backstories for mainstream albums go, this is pretty left-field.

Not to worry, though, as illi is a solid offering of hip-hop - head for party-hearty track Go Hard and the old-school jam of Coming Home - and ballads with some extra-terrestrial imagery worked in.

On the propulsive number Close Encounter - the title references the 1977 Steven Spielberg sci-fi flick Close Encounters Of The Third Kind - he sings: "Don't tag this biological aesthetic as a dangerous monstrosity that belongs to Area 51, that's right I belong in this world." Area 51 is a classified place in the United States which some believe harbours evidence of alien life.

It is not just an attention-grabbing gimmick here - an alien is also a metaphor for being different and Pan makes a case that he is one.

He is not the strongest singer, but one can see that he puts in the effort from debut album Gecko Stroll (2002), in which he likens himself to a gecko waiting for mosquitoes on the title track, to his latest, 11th record.

It helps that he can also pen radio-friendly hook-filled tracks such as Numb with its stinging chorus: "Break it, forget it, let it go/Don't test your own cunning/Quiet, don't speak/Learn to be a mute."

Sometimes, the material feels a little generic, such as the lightweight love song Fight For You.

The antidote is Dear Memories, in which the bitterness and vitriol aimed at an ex is leavened by the breezy melody: "Didn't think you were such a beast/Hope you'll never forget me/Suffer every day."

Despite the unusual premise, illi is far from alienating.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 01, 2017, with the headline 'Alien makes case for himself'. Print Edition | Subscribe