Wakin Chau looks to his younger self in new album

The singer explores topics and emotions from his past in The Younger Me

Hong Kong-born balladeer Wakin Chau released The Younger Me last month.
Hong Kong-born balladeer Wakin Chau released The Younger Me last month.PHOTO: ROCK RECORDS

Hong Kong-born balladeer Wakin Chau is best known for his 1990s karaoke-friendly hits such as Love Follows Us and You Make Me Happy And Sad.

In 2013, he surprised the Chinese music world with the album Jiang Hu, The Rhapsody, which was a stark departure from mainstream pop, drawing influence from Chinese literature and history, such as folk songs and the 14th-century Chinese novel Water Margin.

But for his latest Mandarin album The Younger Me, released on Dec 13, he is going back to his pop roots. It explores topics and emotions from his past, such as his experience performing in a music cafe in the 1980s and his battle with insomnia in the 1990s.

During a recent telephone call from Taipei, the 59-year-old told Singapore media that Jiang Hu, The Rhapsody was "a new experience" but added: "I could not continue... it (the album) had no marketability."

He decided to return to the pop genre for his next album. But the singer also knew he did not want to produce more songs in the same vein as his popular 1990s ballads such as The Flowery Heart.

"I felt I should grow and develop," he said. "But as to what I wanted to grow into, I did not know."

It was only about two years ago, after he composed the melody to a song about the melancholy of insomnia - something he himself experienced when he released up to 12 musical works in three years during the peak of his career - that he became clear about the direction he should take.

Back then, the accompanying stress often resulted in sleeplessness and Chau had to rely on sleeping pills to get some rest. At that time, he decided against making music about this topic, fearing that others might think he was making a fuss about nothing.

Now, he feels it is the right time to talk about the issue.

He said of the song, Sigmund Freud's Sake: "(Exploring insomnia in a song) is something which I had never seen before and I knew I could do it well."

That was how an album about emotions and experiences by his younger self took shape. Chau said: "These things are from the past. But because I experienced them, I can give voice to them."

For example, the song I Eat Therefore I Am is inspired by his time performing in music cafes in his college years. With lyrics such as "I play and sing for myself/Even if nobody appreciates it", the song expresses a sense of helplessness and being stifled, which Chau felt during that period.

Another song, the wistfully sentimental Iceland, questions if one's current situation would be the same had one made different choices in the past.

Chau said: "Looking back at my past actions and decisions, I think some were good, some were bad, and some were not good enough.

"But in a way, all this is superfluous, because the past has led to who I am today."

• The Younger Me is available on platforms such as Apple's iTunes store and music-streaming services such as Spotify and KKBox.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 01, 2020, with the headline 'Wakin Chau looks to his younger self in new album'. Subscribe