Album Name: MASTERPIECE
Release Date: August 2020
Music Video Archive
By Matt Taylor
Has it really been eight years since the world was first introduced to Sharon Kwan 關詩敏? The winner of One Million Star, girl next door Sharon has delighted Mandopop fans for the better part of a decade through her appearances on reality tv singing competitions alongside her unmistakable voice. Growing up under the mentorship of icons such as David Tao 陶喆 and Jay Chou 周杰倫, fans have been able to watch her develop as a musician who is constantly learning from those around her. Now, Sharon is ready to define herself on her own terms.
Her first album in four years, MASTERPIECE is a watershed moment, attempting to redefine her as a mature and confident musician who has something to say. Produced by Starr Chen 陳星翰, the essence of the record is that every individual is a masterpiece; regardless of our past experiences, we are perfect as we are, and nobody has the right to define us otherwise. The record is no doubt shaped by Sharon’s own experience of highs and lows growing up over the past four years. Indeed, with eight songs penned by her on the record, MASTERPIECE attempts to show us a side of Sharon that we haven’t seen before.
Opening track Better than That 拜託你聰明點, an 80s inspired electro-pop number driven by an undeniable bass and strong melody is the perfect introduction to the record. A great slice of pop, the song is enhanced by Sharon’s frank and honest vocal delivery about being stuck on a loser boyfriend.
Synth-driven melodies drive the records uptempo moments. Title track MASTERPIECE is an inspirational number, imploring the listener to be confident in their imperfect perfection. Melancholy verses give way to a synth-driven stadium-sized chorus guaranteed to stay in your head. Stolen其實你是小偷 penned by fellow up-and-coming singer-songwriter Chih-Shiou 持修 meanwhile has the best production on the record. Sharon’s vocals work perfectly on this 80s inspired track, accompanied by dreamlike, hazy synths as she laments over someone that unfairly led her on.
An album highlight is Don’t Ruin My Makeup 別弄花我的妝, an EDM meets reggaeton girl power anthem featuring Karencici, fusing together the attitude, charm and personality of two women at the forefront of a new generation of female-driven Mandopop. The attitude-laden verses give way to a euphoric and impactful chorus as Sharon and Karencici take turns to affirm that women shouldn’t allow criticism about their appearance to get in the way of their fearless spirit, and and that you should always remain confident in yourself.
It’s not just the EDM-inspired uptempo songs that are record highlights. Love Suspect 愛的嫌疑人 is a free-spirited and funky track, which shows the listener that she hasn’t completely abandoned the young and carefree sounds that defined her previous records. Beautiful but Fragile美麗的 我不碰就是了 on the other hand candidly explores Sharon’s perceptions of love over a latin-inspired instrumental.
The downtempo moments on the record are particularly gorgeous. Why Are We Here is a sensual and charming R&B-inspired album closer filled to the brim with soulful charm and desire. Back to Strangers還原 meanwhile is an emotional ballad exploring the alienation of lost love, where Sharon’s melancholic voice absolutely encaptures the feeling of heartbreak and sorrow. Her vocals have a crisp clarity, allowing every word to leave a powerful impression on the listener.
Pretend假裝快樂 is perhaps the most emotional song on the record. Dealing with the topics of loneliness and self-repression, Sharon shows off her vocal range as she convincingly sings about the pain of hiding your true feelings of sadness and despair to other people, and trying to convince them that everything is fine. The song is essentially the heart of the record, and shows Sharon at her most vulnerable.
People expecting a record to match the title of the album are going to leave somewhat disappointed, as a masterpiece this record is not. Whilst Sharon has no doubt improved as a vocalist, she sometimes feels lost in the production, and if we didn’t know the lyrical content was so tailored to her own experience, it could be said that the songs may be fleshed out more by more experienced singers. Sonically, whilst enjoyable for the most part, the record isn’t particularly ground-breaking, and similar sounds have already been explored – and better – by artists previously. You Asked for It別再問我怎麼辦 is particularly derivative, with Sharon not delivering the attitude necessary to pull off a convincing performance to match the assertive instrumental
MASTERPIECE heralds the arrival of Sharon Kwan as a mature artist with her own viewpoint and something to say. The confidence across the record is palpable, and her delivery of the lyrical content mostly convincing. Sharon proves herself adept as a songwriter, and hopefully will continue to develop this skill in the future, as it’s clear she not only has a lot to say, but truly shines as an artist when she’s delivering words written from first-hand experience.
Easily the strongest of her three records, MASTERPIECE feels like an album rather than a collection of songs. Sharon adeptly covers serious topics, whilst never losing sight of the pop sensibilities that make this record such an enjoyable listen. Although MASTERPIECE doesn’t necessarily live up to its name, what Sharon has shown across the ten tracks is an artist who will no doubt continue to flourish as she continues to mature and hone her craft.
|1. Better Than That 拜託你聰明點|
|2. Love Suspect 愛的嫌疑人|
|4. Don’t Ruin My Makeup ft Karencici 別弄花我的妝|
|5. Stolen 其實你是小偷|
|6. Back to Strangers 還原|
|7. You Asked for It 別再問我怎麼辦|
|8. Pretend 假裝快樂|
|9. Beautiful but Fragile 美麗的 我不碰就是了|
|10. Why Are We Here?|