Hot Tracks

R&B/RAP

K.T.S.E

Teyana Taylor

Good Music

3 stars

American singer Teyana Taylor might be better known for her Flashdance-style dance routine in rapper Kanye West's 2016 video Fade or her appearance on the obnoxious MTV reality show, My Super Sweet 16.

She released her debut solo record VII in 2014, but K.T.S.E (it stands for Keep That Same Energy) feels like her coming-out party, complete with the backing of West himself as producer.

But it does not have the same gravity or punch of the other four "Wyoming Sessions" seven-track albums West produced, including his own album Ye, and those by Pusha T, NAS and Kid Cudi.

Acoustic guitars and muted keys replace the heavy hip-hop production he favoured on the other records, allowing Taylor's honeyed R&B vocals to come through on this compilation of sexy slow jams.

West's hand is clear throughout. There is the easy, breezy guitar-picking on Issues/Hold On, laced with laser gun-firing sound effects, and then the unexpected horns that boom through on Rose In Harlem, on which Taylor deftly rap-sings.

Never Would Have Made It is gospel and soaring vocals ("You're the highlight of my life/ You're the sunshine in my night/Oh how, oh how, oh, how do I/Ever repay you"), complete with a steady 808 beat running through it.

Then there is WTP, a 1980s club track that would not have been out of place at a drag queen ball. While it is tonally at odds with the rest of the record, its energy and verve outshine the other tracks.

Taylor's chops are there, no doubt, but they are overshadowed by the strength of West's production.

Anjali Raguraman


CLASSICAL

LIVE AT THE MARIINSKY

George Li

Warner Classics 9029581294

5 stars

George Li was the 19-year-old Chinese-American pianist who caught the imagination of pianophiles when he won the Silver Medal at the 2015 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition.

This debut recording, of a 2016 live performance in St Petersburg, offers a seemingly bog-standard programme, meant to showcase a broad range of styles. However, his playing is anything but boring or commonplace.

There is a crispness of articulation in Haydn's short Sonata No. 32 In B Minor, bringing much lightness and wit. Passion comes to the fore in Chopin's Sonata No. 2 In B Flat Minor (also known as the Funeral March Sonata), living up to Schumann's apt description of "four of Chopin's wildest children bound together".

In Rachmaninov's late Corelli Variations, he brings a noble and magisterial air.

To close, he combines contemplative Liszt (Consolation No. 3) with coruscating Liszt (Hungarian Rhapsody No. 2), completing this masterly 69-minute recital.

The masterstroke was his inclusion of Rachmaninov's discursive and almost-jazzy cadenza in the latter, a daring display of individual spirit that is truly refreshing.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2018, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe