Album Name: Missing Person 尋人啟事
Release Date: June 2014
|01. 尋人啟事 Missing Person|
02. 明天的事 Tomorrow’s Things
03. 樹洞的聲音 The Sound Of Tree Hollows
04. 不安小姐 Little Miss Anxiety
05. 潛規則 The Unspoken Rules
06. 我沒時間討厭你 I Don’t Have Time To Hate You
|07. 高空弹跳 Bungee Jumping|
08. 糖果粉碎者 (Feat. Ellen Loo) Candy Crusher
09. 耳邊風 Ignored
10. 别怕 Don’t Be Scared
11. 只要一分鐘 Just Need One Minute
By Jocelle Koh
In encapsulating the theme of her latest album <Missing Person, Lala says: “ Actually what we are afraid of is not ‘loss’, but instead ‘emptiness’, so for the rest of our lives, we continue to search.” Perhaps on the surface, what we are afraid of is indeed loss, but loss comes and goes; what stays and remains with us, and continually drives us is the filling of empty spaces in our minds, in our hearts, and in our souls. Lala’s album explores the vicinities of space and time, a careful selection of pieces which mimic our reality, helping each of us to discover what is really means to search and to find in ones’ eternal search; be it in love or life.
The first song in Lala’s album < 尋人啟事 >(Missing Person) is where the entire concept of the album began; Lala was so enchanted by Hush’s melody that she decided she must have for herself. And indeed, she does a wonderful job in it. The melody simple and elegant, all the pieces come together so perfectly in this piece; with Lala’s vocals finely tailored to perfectly express the song’s meaning and a tasteful piano and violin arrangement, its pure melody paralyses all senses in its siren song, urging you to stop and listen to the message that it brings. My favourite line in this song is when Lala sings “我多想找到你 轻碰你的脸 我会张开我双手 抚摸你的背”(Trans: How I wish I could find you and lightly touch your face I will open my arms wide and stroke your back). I feel that these few lines really do capture the essence of Hush’s melody, and also reflect entirely the concept of this album. In this part of the melody it’s as if Lala herself is reaching out her hands to her listeners in this act of comfort, warmth, to sooth, even for a few moments the emptiness and longing that we all feel. For what this song is, is almost a musical representation of longing. I don’t know how they did it, but the best kind of music to me is the kind that reflects real human emotion, that replicates the feelings that you feel on a daily basis, putting it out right in front of you for you to see it as it is. Because that’s how music unites us, and helps us to grow. Like a mirror, it allows us to take ourselves out of the equation and to see ourselves for what we are; in some way or another, a sliver of ourselves. This song continues to amaze me more and more with every listen-no tricks or jazz hands here, in this song simplicity is key and lala and her team have hit the nail squarely on the head. Hands down my favourite song of this year.
Lala’s second track <明天的事情>(tomorrow’s things) is another song that tugs at the heartstrings and is signature of lala’s ability to create ballads with inherent alternative rock influences. When I listen to the melody, and to lala’s voice singing with such passion but yet uncertainty, tinged with an air of hopelessness, her switching between falsetto and normal range and warm vocals create a real sense of urgency in listeners. Her toying with layers and different sounds in this song continually fascinates me, starting off with simple chords and adding a variation of strings and guitar along with the ebbing and flowing of Lala’s crooning vocals.But once again, the lyrics imitate reality, especially when Lala sings “現在我都說不定了 只能消極地緊緊地抱住你 我不管了 什麼都不要聽 不要跟我講明天的事情” (Trans: Now nothing’s set in stone Can only tightly embrace you I don’t care anymore I don’t want to hear it Don’t tell me about tomorrow’s things) , once again demonstrating how so many things are too abstract to be understood completely through words alone. Lala’s message here is an image of security fraught with all kinds of danger-in her voice I sense paranoia, anxiety, and a whole mix of real emotions ,linking back to her concept of filling a void of emptiness through a continuous search for a sense of equilibrium.
All this too heavy for you? Don’t worry, as Lala’s third track < 樹洞的聲音 >(The sound of the tree hollows)is a surefire mood lightener, and also one of her first attempts into a more electronic and upbeat sound that once again fits her vocals like a glove. She takes her signature playfulness and warmth, threading it throughout this eclectic and funky piece, making it truly hers, but at the same time a refreshing change for old and new listeners alike. The overall sensation one gets from this piece is that of a strange optimism; not an overtly superficial “Just keep swimming!!!” kind of optimism that lacks conviction, goes in one ear and comes out the other, but is a kind of sensation only Lala can put out, a strange but nevertheless warm and honest feeling that quietly whispers to you that in the end, everything is going to be alright. Indeed, I think that this song really reflects Lala’s personality; from what I’ve seen of her during performances, the one trait of hers that makes her stand out from the rest is her genuine warmth that she extends so willingly to each member of the audience that you can’t help but love her. I also love the cacophony of whispers that feature in the song, wisps of secrets that add even more to the relatability of the piece and to the idea of filling up an empty void that keeps us continually searching in our daily lives.
This is followed by another carefree track that also ventures along the lines of an electronic, new dimension to Lala’s music in her fourth piece <不安小姐>(Miss Uncertainty), which tells the story of a lover who’s left without a trace, leaving behind a partner waiting for them to come back. Lala takes the grounded approach and instead of following the well-worn path of self-pity and pining for lost love that many Chinese songs today follow, here it’s girl power all the way as she encourages girls to give up, let loose, and just shake it all out in this funky, yet weirdly adorable number with lyrics written by Sandee Chen. It suits Lala’s adorably strange yet genuine and warm personality to a T as she fills the hearts of listeners with her passion and enthusiasm, hoping to help them find what they are looking for somehow, and somewhere.
Another true work of art found in Lala’s album is her song <高空弹跳>(bungee jumping), once again further fusing her signature musical style with an electronic arrangement.I really have to say, with the trend of EDM at the moment and kpop, when I hear the word ‘EDM’ or anything to do with electronics, I think of cheap knock-offs wanting to make a quick buck or get their 15 minutes of fame in the music industry, but beneath all this, the advancements in technology and the trends of the EDM genre are actually fascinating in their own right, and Lala’s definitely used them to her advantage in this song, adding a fusion of dubstep and hip hop with an inherently slower and balladic melody style. This song is absolute perfection, from its deliciously dangerous arrangement and Lala’s impeccable vocals that like a bungee jump time its highs and lows perfectly, lending a certain momentum to the song. Props to Lala also for her swaggalicious rapping skills that seemed to kind of appear out of nowhere; even creating her own pronunciation style and flow! The lyrics are straightforward and sharpened to perfection, slicing your heart open with precision and locking onto this inherent idea of anxiety and confusion in finding yourself. However because Lala does it with such accuracy, drawing such difficult emotions out of a song is comforting rather than confrontational, relatable rather than awkward. That’s Lala for you-never underestimate what this girl can do as she continues to blow your mind time and time again.Don’t forget to check out her duet with Ellen Loo too called <糖果粉碎者 >(Candy Crusher), of which I love the dynamic arrangement that juxtaposes clean acoustic chords really well with heavy gyrating bass beats, as well as adding an element of electronic-game beeps as a criticism to the theme of being objectified as a sweet, rather than real life. The only problem that I have with this song however, is that I don’t see a real need for Ellen to feature in this song as their voices really sound quite similar and the song can actually be sung by one person just fine. However, Ellen did play the guitar for this arrangement too!
< 耳邊風 >(wind past your ear), < 潛規則 >(Unspoken rules) and <我没有時間討厭你>(I don’t have time to hate you) are all typical Lala rock ballads which keep the balance between new and old; maintaining her high musical quality, while tweaking the atmosphere, adding a little something new to each. < 耳邊風 > especially has a very unique theme of moving forward and discovery that is encompassed in the arrangement very well, filling the entirety of the song’s atmosphere with a subtle energy that presses on through doubt and hesitation.
Ending the album on a reflective note, Lala’s last two songs are chock full of her genuine warmth and kindness. One of the two, <别怕>(Don’t be afraid) summarises all the insecurities that people have, dismissing them and telling us to persevere on despite them, speaking to us as if she were a little voice in our heads. Such is the power of music, especially when in the hands of Lala! Her warmth paints this song with images of dancing sunlight on a lazy afternoon, soothing and always honest.
The only other thing that I feel could have been done a little better with this album was by not making so clear the separation between Lala’s newer innovations in some songs, while sticking to her signature style in others. Although she’s got the combination down pat, finding a way to seamlessly make the whole album flow in each other could be improved.
However, I honestly could not be much happier with this album. I find that Lala does very well in one aspect of her music, in that she doesn’t try to force things too far. She understands very well the fine line between creating different music and throwing away your unique musical persona, managing to toe the line between both to create perfect equilibrium in this album. She doesn’t insist on doing everything by herself; as you can see her first single wasn’t even written by her; but it was her insight and ability to step outside of herself and to see things from a third person’s perspective that allowed her to be even more confident in herself, so much so that she was willing to forsake her own input in order to create a better album for listeners. So to me, it’s not about making sure you produce, arrange, write and compose every single song on every single album that makes you a good musician, and a good artist. What makes you a good artist is firstly and foremostly to understand your own limitations and to find ways to make up for those limitations with the help of others. That way, you can surpass those limitations and understand yourself and your musical identity in the process. And Lala is definitely one of the most perfect examples of this. An absolutely wonderful album, couldn’t have expected more from her. But that’s part of Lala’s charm too. Unassuming, but always striving to make something better than the last.