FACES OF PARANOIA - ONLY THE PARANOID SURVIVE
4.5 stars out of 5
That is one scary- looking mouthful of a title.
Add the highly stylised-looking cover art of a bleached-out-looking A-mei and one begins to wonder if the Taiwanese pop diva has gone all arty concept album on us.
Not to worry. Her first new offering in three years, since 2011's R U Watching?, is one of her strongest ever. Every track here sounds like it could be a hit.
After collaborating with a wide range of musicians - from acclaimed rapper Soft Lipa to singer-songwriter Hsiao Yu to producer-songwriter Adia - at her own recording studio, she has released what you could call a best-of compilation distilled from the last three years.
Structurally, the album is split into two. The first half deals with emotional upheavals while the latter half takes a detour into clubland.
There's a strong sense of rhythm on the opening number Both Right And Both Wrong with its syncopated beat as A-mei's voice flits into falsetto: "We were both right and wrong, neither wanted to be wrong." It's a mature blame-free break-up, and yet a sense of regret lingers.
March is another poignant post-breakup song in which time is both literal and metaphorical: "No point in missing love when March has passed/Time will leave, I won't."
Self-Oppression finds her at her bleakest: "Would rather be entwined with a poisonous snake, refusing the dove outside the window."
And passions run dark and deep on the electro title track: "This is a sickness, but there's no cure/Partaking of each other's scent, bodily fluids and blood."
After all the draining emotional drama, she decides it is time to shed all that emotional baggage and just dance.
A-mei makes you want to samba on Fly High and disses male libidinousness on Booty Call to a thumping beat.
The music video for lead single March is out and some have zoomed in on the fact that only her face is shown, wondering if her weight has ballooned. No wonder A-mei is paranoid.
She asks on one track Will You Still Want To Love Me Like This. When the music is this good, the answer is a rousing yes.