Hot Tracks

The rehabilitation of fallen pop star Justin Bieber culminates in his latest release, Purpose. With three smash hits already - Where Are U Now, What Do You Mean and Sorry - the album proves that there is more where that came from.

There are the familiar pop hooks, but they are outnumbered by tracks with seductive R&B vocals, a generous helping of synths, bass and hi-hats, and a who's who of star producers including Skrillex, Diplo, Benny Blanco, Blood and even Kanye West. Electronic dance music titan Skrillex also takes the bumper crop of production credits on five out of 13 tracks, with his downtone electronica being an unexpectedly good fit for Bieber's pop-R&B sensibilities, like on the tropical house number Sorry.

While Sorry and Mark My Words are unabashedly apology songs to his ex-girlfriend Selena Gomez ("I won't let us just fade away after all that we've been through," he croons), it is not just their unresolved love story that is a heavy influence on the album.



    Justin Bieber

    Def Jam

    3.5/5 stars

West's touch is apparent too on the heavy urban slant of the album, featuring rap golden boy Travis Scott on slow burner No Sense and Big Sean on the moody No Pressure. Both tracks add a bit of heavyweight status to what could be dismissed as an electro-pop record. Subdued, stripped-down moments (piano ballads Life Is Worth Living and Purpose) pepper the tracklist. In a similar vein, the Ed Sheeran-penned Love Yourself, sounds distinctly Sheeranesque with only a guitar and vocals.

But it is still very much the Bieber show, in which there's much soul-searching and self-flagellation for his mistakes. While the album's title is a nod to the 21-year-old's transformation, perhaps it is time for him to stop apologising and focus on redeeming himself.

Anjali Raguraman

This quirky Japanese jazz sextet first blew into town in 2008, and blew out everyone's eardrums, at the Esplanade's Mosaic Music Festival. Pianist Josei, trumpeter Tabu Zombie, saxophonist Motoharu, bassist Akita Goldman, drummer Midorin and "agitator" Shacho create a uniquely testosterone-fuelled brand of alternative jazz that they have catchily labelled "death jazz".

What it is, really, is just well-played music (no one can match Japanese jazz musicians for consistently solid, laser-precise technique) that delights in blurring the boundaries between genres as the band career madly through bebop, post-bop, avant-garde, Latin and acid jazz.

This latest album, which clocks in at under an hour, is an energetic survey of the kind of frenetic music- making they specialise in, which makes their live performances so electrifying. Recorded live in Tokyo's landmark Blue Note jazz venue on July 19 this year, the sextet breeze through their repertoire with early hits such as Suffocation alongside a typically quixotic remake of Spartacus Love Theme.

  • JAZZ


    Soil & "Pimp" Sessions

    Victor Entertainment

    4/5 stars

The latter opens with almost ridiculously rococo piano trilling before saxophonist Motoharu picks up on the melody and the rest of the band slide in, moving seamlessly from torchy to post-bop.

The other tracks, the band's original compositions, are a great sampler of their eight albums. From the Latin rhythms of First Lady to the slick 1970s lounge groove of Montara, this programme embodies their magpie habit of stitching together niche genres into a cohesive whole.

This happy, bouncy album is the next best thing to catching them live in concert.

Ong Sor Fern

By organising the Singapore International Competition for Chinese Orchestral Competition, the Singapore Chinese Orchestra (SCO) has become a global prime mover and arbiter on Chinese instrumental and orchestral composition. The competition was inaugurated in 2006 and this disc presents the best works from the second competition in 2011.

An international jury picked for first prize Xie Xiang Ming's A Stroll In The Lion City, a populist choice that opens with the rhythm to be found in the Dance Of The Adolescents from Stravinsky's The Rite Of Spring and progresses by way of minimalism and milking a big tune.

More subtle are the winners of the second and third prizes - Stephen Yip's Nine Actors and Zhu Yi Qing's The Silence Of Borobudur. Yip makes use of Fujian and Hakka folk tunes in a theatrical manner, while Zhu's piece is an atmospheric two-movement concerto for bamboo flute and pipa that depicts the rise and decline of the great Javanese Buddhist empire.



    Singapore Chinese Orchestra / Tsung Yeh


    4.5/5 stars

All the works melded various Asian compositional genres and techniques, some based on religious ideologies, creating a pan-Asian flavour that is immediately palpable. Dark Light, composed by Singaporean Lee Ji Heng at 18, is an earthy procession that marries Chinese woodwinds and Javanese gamelan to stunning effect.

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 18, 2015, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe