|Album Name: For You, I Can 為了你，我可以|
|Release Date: August 2021|
By Jocelle Koh
To anyone who fondly remembers the good old days where Mandopop ballads reigned supreme, Singaporean singer-songwriter Marcus Lee李俊緯’s debut album is right up your alley.
In a polarizing period for the Mandarin music industry, ballads continue to make up a substantial portion of the market and listener tastes. But as accessibility to music technology becomes easier, and the scene continues growing like never before, this means that there are now whole lot more sub-par ballads around vying for our attention. This of course makes finding a good ballad you can get your teeth into (especially not one by an A-list superstar) akin to finding a needle in a haystack.
But it seems Singaporean artist Marcus Lee has cracked the code- and on his own terms, no less. His debut album “For You, I Can 為了你，我可以” is chock-full of solid ballad numbers that retain the essence of what makes a good Mandopop ballad, narrowly avoiding dangers of sounding dated or gimmicky to achieve a sincere and timeless feel.
With moving, easy melodies and strong, dulcet vocals that traverse emotional depth with skill and sensitivity, “For You, I Can” is a three-part narrative of Lee’s lessons in love. Starting with heartbreak before moving on to reminiscing through rose tinted lenses before finally accepting and finding hope in the future, each part includes a couple songs that convey a certain perspective in line with the theme.
Starting the album with sweeping, melancholy ballad “One More Chance 請給我多一次的機會”, this was for me one of the standout tracks on the record. Showing off Lee’s vocals beautifully as they went from tender to powerful to illustrate a bittersweet reluctance, I loved that the arrangement strayed from your typical Mandopop ballad setup. Instead choosing to incorporate electric guitars was a refreshing choice and played off well against Marcus’ strong vocals and the pensive mood of the song.
Following suit with another strong ballad, “Without Reason 沒道理我可以” once again showed off Lee’s stellar vocal control as he manipulated the dynamics of the song, tugging just so on our heartstrings to keep us wanting more before letting rip in the final chorus. Given the more formulaic style of the Mandopop ballad, Marcus’ vocals were crucial in transforming this song into a timeless tune. Paired with tasteful arrangements that left ample room for his voice to take centre stage, this was a classy move from a true class act.
Moving to the second part of the album which represented happy memories, Lee certainly hit the nail on the head with his signature sunny melodies and warm vocals which could melt even the coldest of hearts. However sweet and happy love songs often run the risk of sounding similar because let’s face it – there’s only so many ways you can bring an euphorically happy love song to life. Despite songs such as “My Confession 這是我的表白” and “Between The Lines 話中有話” being fitted out solid arrangements and catchy melodies, the happiness overload rendered the songs in this section a little less of a standout for me.
In the third section of the album, Lee made a valiant effort to diversify his repertoire, delving into the electronic genre with vibrant tropical track “Love Once Again 最初的期待” and further showing versatility on funk/soul track “I don’t wanna be this way”. However I was still most drawn to his vulnerable acoustic track “Blue Sky 蔚藍天空” which simply but brilliantly showcased his warm vocals and optimistic outlook. A moving meditation on the things that we can’t control in life, and the beauty that lies in letting go, it was the perfect way to close out the album.
While it’s true that the themes of love and relationships in this album are by no means new to the Mandopop genre, stellar songwriting, moving arrangements and sincere delivery have always been the cornerstones of a good ballad. And there are many of those included in Marcus Lee’s debut album.
Through his debut Marcus pays homage to the humble legacy of the ballad, and in doing so, introduces his music confidently to the rest of the Mandopop world. “For You, I Can” may not be ultra-progressive, or uber-hip. But it is comforting; humble; sensitive; and a true reflection of his human experience. And there’s something really special about that.
Album Track List
|1. One More Chance 請給我多一次的機會|
|2. Without Reason 沒道理我可以|
|3. I Still Love You 我還是愛著你|
|4. Between The Lines 話中有話|
|5. My Confession 這是我的表白|
|6. Pursuing Love 見習男友|
|7. Find A Way|
|8. Love Once Again 最初的期待|
|9. i don’t wanna be this way|
|10. Sailing 這樣的愛 （進化版）|
|11. Blue Sky 蔚藍天空|