Singing to connect

Taiwanese singer-songwriter Cheer Chen continues to take her time between albums living and distilling life into songs.

Her last record, Songs Of Transience (2013), grappled with the inexorable passage of time. On her seventh album Sofa Sea, she explores human connection as well as learning to be comfortable in one's skin.

Somewhere, Taipei, first released as a single in March 2018, is a lyrical ballad which finds her questioning: "Is anyone there, I'm singing alone/Is anyone there, I ask and I answer".

The laidback title track imagines a couch potato relaxing into a sea of comfort: "I'm still sitting here in the afternoon/Why not sleep and turn the sofa into an ocean". The poignant kicker comes later: "Thank goodness you left behind/The manual for using loneliness".

But sometimes, being on one's own can be wearying. Chen declares in her earnest girlish voice on Imperfect Rainbow that "this time, I don't want to go alone".

Musically, there are one or two small surprises when she veers from sensitive balladry.

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    Cheer Chen

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Xiao Chuan (Impressionism) starts off like a simple children's ditty and then beats kick in halfway. Tiao Wu Ba (Loser) is a buzzier, faster-paced number featuring electric guitars.

The album ends with Observer, which was co-written with her partner in work and life, music producer Tiger Chung. Over the strum of an acoustic guitar, she seems to be mulling over her identity as musician and observer: "You walk on, I write on/Holding a pen, humming a tune".

Songwriting can be a lonely endeavour, but it is also her way of connecting with the world.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2019, with the headline 'Singing to connect'. Print Edition | Subscribe