Hot Tracks: Queen Wei, Fifth Harmony and more

With a cascading piano accompaniment and Taiwanese singer-songwriter Queen Wei's tender and bright voice evoking the mystery and grandeur of nature, Wood is an opening breath of fresh air.

She sings: "The legends of the forest/Have been praised in song by us/The rights and wrongs of humankind/Are casually picked up by him".

On her second solo album after Foolish (2008), the Season 2 alumna of singing competition One Million Star takes the less travelled path, though not as idiosyncratic as the one forged by her elder sister, Waa.

There is a definite sense of fun here. On the track O, she puns: "Oh oh oh oh oh, give me an ou (something random)". And Bubble Dream bubbles up with a kind of quirky naivete when she sings in English for the chorus: "Oh my bubble dream/All the bad things have been washed away".



    Queen Wei

    Dongin Music

    3.5/5 stars

Even when the material is more conventional, Wei's pipes breathe life into ballads such as Forever and First Love. It suggests a compelling musical journey ahead whichever way she turns.

Boon Chan

American pop girl group Fifth Harmony have managed to encapsulate the current sweet spot in pop music on their sophomore release, encompassing all that is trending in pop this year, from tropical house to "trap soul".

  • POP/R&B

  • 7/27


    3.5/5 stars

With R&B-laced tunes and a decidedly more mature sound, 7/27 is an upgrade from their saccharine R&B-pop and "girl anthem"-filled Reflection (2015) that was released after finishing in third place on X Factor USA in 2012.

Be it rhymes from some of the hottest rappers - namely Ty Dolla Sign on Billboard chart smash Work From Home and New Jersey trap king Fetty Wap on All In My Head (Flex) - or tropical house vibes on at least two tracks (Write On Me and Squeeze), the girls seem to have scored multiple options for potential hit singles.

Not That Kind Of Girl, featuring Missy Elliott is a standout, funky, Prince-style track complete with 1980s style synths and a chugging bassline. Even vulnerable ballads such as Scared Of Happy ("Usually fearless, why am I scared of happy?") veer into dance music territory, keeping every track contemporary.

It clearly helps to have Simon Cowell's pop star machinery backing the group and the producing chops of Norwegian hit record producers Stargate, who are responsible for at least five tracks.

Anjali Raguraman

Marco Polo There is a pleasing symmetry to this disc of Chinese music, recorded in 1985 by the fledgling Hong Kong Philharmonic for the small Hong Kong-based label that was destined to become a world leader - Naxos. Leveraging on the success of the Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto from 1958, Chen Gang - one half of the duo who composed it - wrote a piano concerto in 1985 from the same music.



    Hsu Feiping, Piano

    Chen Dong, Baritone

    Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra/Kenneth Schermerhorn Marco Polo

    4/5 stars

Slightly longer than its violin counterpart, it contains a virtuoso solo cadenza past the 18-minute mark which does not feature in the original. This first recording by the late Xiamen-born pianist Hsu Feiping had a less elegiac feel and is possessed with a heroic edge, bringing it closer to the spirit of the Yellow River Concerto.

Coupled with it are nine popular Chinese songs written by Chen Gang's father Chen Gexin. These are sung by baritone Chen Dong, Chen Gang's brother, who is more of a crooner than an operatic hero. Watch out for some dodgy English in the hit Rose, Rose, I Love You.

Even more familiar is the Chinese New Year favourite Congratulations (Gongxi Gongxi) heard at its correct tempo, which is very fast. In songs such as Eternal Smile and Live Through The Cold Winter, he brings out a nostalgic air that make this disc an enjoyable collectible.

Chang Tou Liang

Lars Ulrik Mortensen (Conductor) CPO (2 CDs) Although J.S. Bach (1685-1750) was not a Roman Catholic, his setting of the Latin liturgical mass remains a classic in the time-tested musical form and was also a personal statement of his Lutheran faith. There have been many excellent albums of his Mass In B Minor through the decades, but this recording by Lars Ulrik Mortensen and Concerto Copenhagen is unusual as it employs one voice per part in the choral movements accompanied by period instruments. Thus, there are only 10 singers (five concertino soloists, backed by just five ripieno voices) in this version.



    Soloists with Concerto Copenhagen

    Lars Ulrik Mortensen (Conductor)CPO(2CDs)

    5/5 stars

This practice and its scholarship remain controversial, but this recording persuasively demonstrates that it is conceivable. Far from sounding thin or small-scale, each and every movement is projected with clarity and depth. The voluminous and congested sonorities of modern orchestra versions have also been eschewed for lighter and more transparent textures. From the opening Kyrie Eleison to the final Dona Nobis Pacem, this is a glorious performance, filled with detailed insight, interpretive vigour and even grandeur.

A sitting through its 104 minutes will help redefine the words "divine" and "beautiful".

Chang Tou Liang

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 08, 2016, with the headline 'Hot Tracks'. Print Edition | Subscribe