Archive for the Fo Yo Ears Category

‘Hello’ Taiwan!

Posted in Awesomeness, Fo Yo Ears, Guest Post, Happenins, Zen with tags , , , , , , , , , , on March 24, 2014 by Cbruhs

Hello_albumcover

Hello! Dawen here. When I wrote this I was blogging from thousands of feet up in the air, somewhere across the Pacific.  I can’t even begin to describe how it feels to be returning home to the States after being away for nearly two years. On Tuesday March 25th I’ll be joining Canadian singer-songwriter Wanting in Seattle, as part of the West Coast leg of her Say The Words Tour. We kicked it off in Los Angeles and continued to San Francisco and then Portland by tour bus.

Wantingtour
So how on earth did I get here?  It seems so unreal to me sometimes when I think about it. The short end of it: About three years ago, famed Taiwanese music producer Adia saw my cover of Bruno Mars’ “Just The Way You Are” (produced by my brother George Wang) on YouTube and passed it along to Universal Music Taiwan.  Universal Music then contacted me through YouTube to ask about my musical background. You can imagine how skeptical I was when I first received a message like that –  a short one sent through YouTube from someone claiming to be Universal. I thought it was a joke, initially. I soon realized that the inquiry was legitimate, and after extensive video chats and a trip to Taipei, I signed with Universal Music Taiwan in 2012.

Upon arriving in Taipei, the first thing I did was enroll in Chinese language class. Although I considered myself bilingual, I quickly realized that my conversational vocabulary was seriously lacking. And if my goal was to someday write lyrics as well as music in Chinese, I would have to improve my speaking and writing comprehension. I went to school for six months, all the while working to expand my fluency.  The following year was a series of personal and cultural developments that culminated in my debut Mandarin album Hello (Nihao) on Christmas Eve of last year.

Universal Taiwan

Hello is distinctly different from my indie album American Me. Nine of the album’s ten songs were written after moving to Taiwan and are in Mandarin. Writing in Mandarin also meant that I had to completely reconsider how I think about melody and how it relates to culture. At first I would write in English and translate it to Chinese, but often the result wasn’t very good — so I abandoned that method very early on (which goes to show that just because something sounds good in English, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will sound good in another language).

The title track ‘Hello’ was the first time I ever tried writing completely in Chinese, and you can hear how rudimentary and direct the lyrics are.  ;)  Musically, Hello features more acoustic Pop, in contrast to the R&B /Soul of American MeHello is not a complete 180 though, in terms of style. ‘Acid Rain’ features a groove that is very much in the vein of American Me, and my song ‘Shoes’ (the only English language track on the album) that I wrote for Kollaboration Acoustic 4 back in 2010  — was finally recorded and points to my earlier jazz-influenced piano style.

Dawen王大文-1

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I do want to acknowledge how important the Asian American community has been to me and how grateful I am to each and every one of you who have supported me from all the beginning. A particular shout out goes to the blogosphere: Bicoastal Bitchin’, AngryAsianMan, 8Asians, A-Tunes, not to mention my fam at TaiwaneseAmerican.org, Kollaboration and Tuesday Night Project!! I love you guys and can’t wait to see you all.

Hello is out on iTunes and Spotify, so give it a listen when you get the chance. The other person I want to acknowledge is my older brother George. In addition to knowing me for as long as I’ve been alive, Geh has been my best friend and number one supporter, as well witness to all the past highs and lows. It’s safe to say that if he didn’t light that fire under my ass I would not be on this flight coming home. I couldn’t wait to land at LAX, meet my brother, smother Sweet Pea the dog, and take my shoes off when I got in the door.

Happy New Year! (Courtesy of R. Kelly)

Posted in All Class, Awesomeness, Fo Yo Ears, Zen on February 10, 2013 by Cbruhs

BCB wishes all y’all readers a prosperous Year of the Snake — filled with happiness, good fortune, and ssssssmexinessss. And who better to embody this last quality than Sir R. Kelly himself:

A perfect New Year’s ditty to sing ’round the banquet table with your family and loved ones.

Gung Hay Faht Choy! 恭喜發財! Chúc Mừng Năm Mới!

Thanks MY and AZNHeartthrob!

Croon, Jamie Woon!

Posted in Awesomeness, Fo Yo Ears, For Your Consideration, HAWTNESS, Zen with tags , , , on January 31, 2013 by Cbruhs

Ok, I’m probably hella tardy to the party on this guy, but I’m kinda officially an old person who has abandoned all hope for keeping up with the jams favored by youffs of today. But now and again I’ll pause my riot grrrl and Jodeci remix cassettes long enuf to hear some NEWNOWNEXT music that doesn’t make me scratch my chin and stamp my K-Swiss in confusion. Rather, it reminds me why I shouldn’t be one those annoying “I only listen to music from {random yesteryear decade}, back when music was GOOD. Pffft” type of people.

Case in point: Jamie Woon, a British Malaysian Chinese/Scottish singer/songwriter/producer, whose debut album Mirrorwriting is a striking blend of haunting, soulful, and groovy. Souvy? Graunting?? YES.

 

If you’re a fan of James Blake or just like purty boys who can croon til the cows come home, then Woon is your dood.

Noddy and ‘Yes on 74′

Posted in Causes Worth Your Cash, Fo Yo Ears, For Your Consideration, wuv...true wuv with tags , , , , , , on August 22, 2012 by Cbruhs

This November in Washington state, approval/rejection of gay marriage will be on the ballot under Referendum 74. Even though a bill legalizing same-sex marriage was passed and signed into law by Governor Christine Gregoire back in February, the day before the law was to take effect, haters and basic b*tches submitted enough signatures to put personal choice and marriage rights up for public vote.

In response, local organizations and musicians have been advocating for approval of Referendum 74, including my own band Noddy. Theez Queens just released our new EP Yes on 74, which is available for download — with all proceeds through October 31st benefiting Washington United for Marriage. So subject yourself, won’t you — to the sickening, exxxtravagant, everythang sounds of Noddy (backup yodelin’ and (butt)trumpeting courtesy of yours truly). No tea no shade, it’s for a good cause. YASS hunty, and YASS on 74! Let’s get our marriage on!

Sakura-Con J-Pop Extravaganza!

Posted in Awesomeness, Fo Yo Ears, Guest Post, Kawaii with tags , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2012 by Cbruhs

Since the Asian Americans behind this blog don’t know shit about Japanese pop culture, this guest post is brought to you by special J/K Pop correspondent, lace front-wearin’ Sakura fashion model, and BCB Affirmative Action Fellow, Reese Umbaugh aka Bishie Reesie.

Beginning today, all of downtown Seattle will be flanked by cosplayers, otakus, and tons and tons of adults in Pokémon costumes. That’s right: It’s Sakura-Con weekend. For those unfamiliar, Sakura-Con is Seattle’s annual three-day anime convention held at the cavernous Washington State Convention & Trade Cener. Programming includes panels on everything from voice acting to Japanese cooking, RPG and tabletop gaming, fashion shows (more on that in a later post!), and J-pop concerts.

Much like my previous post on K-pop, I’d like to take a moment in honor of Sakura-Con weekend and share with you my 5 favorite J-pop bands, in no particular order:

Stereopony:

If you are a fan of anime, there’s a damn good chance that you’ve heard a song by Stereopony. They basically have the anime theme song market on lockdown, having done theme songs for Gundam, Bleach, and Darker Than Black. They’re also note-worthy for being an all-female rock band, which makes them instantly badass. If you’re into it and heading to Sakura-Con then you’re in luck! Stereopony will be performing tonight at 6:30PM. Not able to make it? Good news, they’re also live-streaming the show. More info here.

The Pillows:

Man, I love me some Pillows. I remember being in high school and spending a hefty chunk of change to import this record from Japan. I’d blast it in my car on full volume with my windows down and other kids would stare me down. I finally saw The Pillows live in a shitty Seattle venue last fall and they blew my face off.

Perfume:

Originally formed in 2001, Perfume has slowly taken over the Japanese pop world. Recently signing on with Universal in order to release their music internationally, the girls seem poised for worldwide success. Fun Fact about Perfume: They formed the group themselves as teenagers, without being put together by a record company. This video stands as one of my favorites of all time.

Shonen Knife:

The song above is called “I Am a Cat”. That is all.

The Seatbelts:

Less a band and more a force of nature, The Seatbelts is composed of over a dozen members and helmed by the musical Goddess of anime: Yoko Kanno. Nothing makes me want to run in the opposite direction quite like the words “jazz band”, but The Seatbelts are so much more than that. They span genres, have songs in multiple languages, and make some of the craziest music I have ever heard.

See you in the mosh pit at Sakura-Con!

Adam WarRock X Downton Abbey = Bloomers Blown

Posted in All Class, Awesomeness, Fo Yo Ears, Nerd Alert, Zen with tags , , , on March 6, 2012 by Cbruhs

Nerdcore rapper Adam WarRock — aka Eugene Ahn — flows about comic books, sci-fi (he made a mixtape inspired by Joss Whedon’s Firefly), and most recently — British TV series Downton Abbey.

Downton Abbey is my meth. My favorite activity as of late (besides unnecessarily inserting terms like “as of late” into conversation) is to chin-palm and daydream about The Dowager Countess’ wicked quips, Cousin Matthew and Lady Mary’s incestuous sexual tension, and how delightfully bitchy those three sisters are to each other. I have stayed inside on Saturday nights in New York City to watch bootleg DA episodes on a grainy, stuttering stream on my laptop. I’m not generally into shows about romance ‘n’ junk, but I AM a huge sucker for period dramas, old-timey wardrobes, and repressed feelings.

So in response to this rap, I have to say to Adam WarRock: THANK YOU EVER SO MUCH M’LORD, for bringing together the wonderful worlds of hip hop and WWI-era British society’s class tensions and fading traditions of the aristocratic landed gentry.

Some of my fave lyrics include:

I GOT A BLACK HEART LIKE MARY, LADY — STAY WEARY!

AND I LEAVE EM LIKE PAMUK IF THESE RAPPERS TRY TO QUIBBLE.

Friday Fuckery: North Korean “Take on Me”

Posted in Awesomeness, Fo Yo Ears, Friday Fuckery with tags , , , on February 3, 2012 by Cbruhs

Think you’ve heard A-ha’s “Take on Me” so many times that you’ll gouge your eyeballs out next time it comes on in the frozen meats section?  Well, you can handle hearing it once more, especially because this version is pretty boss. Five North Korean students cover the iconic ’80s song and enhance it in the best way imaginable…with accordions.

Now if only they could star in their own pencil-sketch/live action music video:

Dawen’s 2011: A Year in Asian American Songs

Posted in Awesomeness, Fo Yo Ears, For Your Consideration, Guest Post with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2012 by Cbruhs

Guest post by Dawen
2011 was all about our visibility. We continued to thrive on YouTube and at times, even made an appearance on the other tube in our living room. We sang live, and not just from the safety of our bedrooms. There were festivals galore (ISA, AMP, SXSW), college tours, and sold out venues. From pop to hip-hop we played our hearts out, united under Twitter updates and Facebook postings, rather than any singular musical genre. With social media as currency we released our new tracks regardless of whether the mainstream caught on or not. Undeterred, we continued to sing our songs, staying after the show, meeting-and-greeting our way further into the American musical landscape.

This compilation, like last year’s, is meant as a list of highlights. Less of a “favorites” and more of a ‘year in review’, here is my 2011: The Year in 12 Asian American Songs.

1. January: Melissa Polinar – “Never Change”


Released just before the previous New Year, “Never Change” – taken from the last track of Melissa Polinar’s As Of Now EP – immediately evokes Norah Jones with the opening sounds of brushes and piano. Blending styles like jazz and acoustic pop, Melissa’s voice shines over a melody that conjures up images of coffee and the morning paper.

A seasoned songwriter from Dallas, Texas, whose professional career started in Nashville, Melissa has amassed a steady output of solo albums as well as production work for other songwriters like AJ Rafael (Red Roses), Jeremy Passion (Paper Airplane EP), and Mike Isberto (Fly EP). Listen to “Never Change” here.

2. February: Joseph Vincent – “If You Stay”

First he won the Kababayan Superstar Contest singing Maroon 5’s “Sunday Morning”. Then his cover of Iyaz’s “Replay” went viral on YouTube. And with his appearance on Ellen shortly after, it was only a matter a time before Joseph Vincent came out with his own songs. “If You Stay”, with its reggae-acoustic feel reminiscent of “Billionaire” by Travie Mccoy and Bruno Mars, offers an easy listening pop tune, perfect for the tween era. Just watch the MV. With the promise that “Nothing will ever come between us”, Joseph shows us that while some Asians in the library talk too loud, others fall head over heels and inadvertently into love triangles.

Having released a second single “Bumblebee”, as well as collaborated with MC Jin on the hip-hop track “When the Lights Come On”, Joseph is currently finishing a full album, scheduled to drop next spring.

3. March: Anoop Desai – “Worth The Wait”


Do you remember Anoop Desai from American Idol Season 8? This North Carolina native was famously eliminated during the Hollywood round that year, only to be brought back and win his way to the Top 7. Unlike Sanjaya Malakar two seasons before, Anoop can actually sing without resorting to hairstyle hijinks. “Worth The Wait” comes from his second album Zero.0 and demonstrates his flair for sugary commercial pop. Slightly overproduced, “Worth The Wait” nevertheless bounces along with confectionary catchiness. And how many times have you heard lyrics that compare a girl to a “Himalaya summit”? He goes on: “Them other girls taste like O.J. and toothpaste but you/ You taste like birthday cake.” Indeed, anything sweeter would require a trip to the dentist.

Now living in Atlanta, Georgia, Anoop has started putting videos up on YouTube. Check out his new music video “Want Your Love” and also his cover of T-Pain’s “5 O’Clock”.

4. April: AZIATIX – “Go”

Under the auspices of Jae Chong (from the K-Pop group Solid), AZIATIX comprises of singers Nicky Lee, Eddie Shin, and rapper Flowsik. Representing LA, Boston, and New York, this R&B/Pop trio burst upon the scene in the spring with their single “Go”. Eddie’s smooth voice compliments Nicky’s sensual falsetto while both their voices contrast well with Flowsik’s gruff delivery. Not since TLC has a group dynamic been this compelling.

AZIATIX’s debut album Nocturnal subsequently made it to the Top 10 of the U.S. iTunes R&B/Soul chart and the group followed up with a cross-country tour. Meanwhile, AZIATIX has been furiously releasing music videos on their YouTube channel. Having recently entered the chart on Japan’s Billboard Top 40 AZIATIX stands well poised for the same success stateside.

5. May: Blue Scholars – “Oskar Barnack ∞ Oscar Grant”

“Shoot the cops! Shoot the cops! Shoot the cops!/ Take ya cameras out ya pocket, people!” So goes the hook to “Oskar Barnack ∞ Oscar Grant”, perhaps the most provocative track of 2011. Dubbing their sound “cinema art rap”, DJ Sabzi and MC Geologic, who together make up the Seattle-based duo Blue Scholars, juxtapose police brutality with civic responsibility. Taken from the album Cinemetropolis, “Oskar Barnack ∞ Oscar Grant” at once alludes to Oskar Barnack, father of the 35mm camera and Oscar Grant, an unarmed 22 year-old Black man who was shot and killed by an Oakland BART police officer. Instead of responding to violence with more violence, Blue Scholars suggests using the power of the camera to keep those in our government accountable. No longer just a device to play AngryBirds or Words with Friends, our iPhones and Androids have effectively become agents of social change.

2011 was the year that brought us Occupy Wall Street at home as well as the Arab Spring in the Middle East. Considering how it was the images of those events that galvanized support for those movements, “Oskar Barnack ∞ Oscar Grant” seems especially timely.

6. June: Megan Lee – “Love, Laugh & Live”

16 year-old singer Megan Lee lists Christina Aguilera as one of her inspirations. It comes then as no surprise that her first single “Love, Laugh & Live”, co-written with Brite Ma and Smash Hitta, channels the same type of energy as an Aguilera power-house ballad. From the opening piano that recalls Aguilera’s “Beautiful”, “Love, Laugh & Live” showcases Megan’s considerable belt and vocal flourish.

With a voice that many people think sounds uncannily like Justin Bieber, Megan has developed a large following on YouTube. Relentless in her work ethic, Megan continues to put out videos, providing a welcomed alternative to Miley Cyrus and the other Disney cutouts of young pop.

7. July: AJ Rafael – “Red Roses”

AJ Rafael loves musical theater. That’s what came to mind as I was listening to the title track off his debut album Red Roses. From the opening vamp, “Red Roses” theatrically follows the exploits of a guy trying to find the courage to ask a girl out. Hopelessly romantic and full of dramatic charm, AJ laments, “I wish I had the guts to say/ Would you be mine?/ I wished I woulda asked you to be my Valentine.” Heart very much on sleeve, this song begs to be staged in a theater, or more practically, to be filmed as a music video.

As a strong debut overall, the album Red Roses reached # 7 on iTunes during its first day of release and #13 on Billboard’s Heatseeker chart. Additionally, Red Roses was Grammy eligible in the Best New Artist and Traditional Pop Vocal Album categories, a feat to be sure.

Currently gearing up for the Red Roses Tour in Southeast Asia, AJ will be traveling with the whole band to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Philippines. Tour starts January 13th in Jakarta.

8. August: Jennifer Chung – “Can We?”

I first came upon Jennifer Chung in 2007 singing “Part of Your World” from Disney’s The Little Mermaid on YouTube when YouTube was still taking wind. Little did I know that just a few months before that, she had uploaded a cover of Alicia Key’s “No One”, a hugely viral video that would establish her as a household name for the YouTube generation.

Fast forward to 2011 and her summer album 4 Years & Counting. “Can We?” features Jennifer at her most vulnerable, far from the volume of her formidable belt. Over sparse accompaniment, no more than light acoustic guitar and piano, Jennifer’s voice floats effortlessly over the recollection of a relationship: “Wasn’t it painful/ Painfully beautiful?” Understated and poignant, “Can We?’ captures that pain, beautifully.

9. September: Das Racist – “Shut Up, Man (feat. El-P)”

After releasing two free mixtapes back in 2010, Das Racist put out their first commercial album Relax at the end of the summer. With production help from the likes of Diplo, El-P, Rostam Batmanglij (Vampire Weekend), Heems, Kool A.D. and Dap, who make up this Brooklyn trio, continue their alternative absurdist/subversive brand of hip-hop.

Aimed at detractors (or anyone in the audience, for that matter), “Shut Up, Man (feat. El-P)” spits out laid back defiance against those wary of their lowbrow/highbrow fare. “I think I sound aight/ I sound tight/ Ayo, don’t worry bout how I sound aight?” Heems says, over a minimalist beat interspersed with synth blips. As Kool A.D. says in the preceding verse, “Act with us/ Or pack it up.” It’s sound advice for the anti-pop artist: if they don’t like your stuff, who cares?

10. October: Dumbfoundead – “Town”

Dumbfoundead is K-Town. Just venture out to 6th and Alexandria any night of the week and you’re bound to find him there, beer in hand. It only seems fitting then, that his album Dfd should open with “Town”, a tribute to LA’s Korean neighborhood. Roots run deep for the rapper, his identity inextricably tied with the 3-mile stretch in the city’s Mid-Wilshire district.

It’s been a great year for Dumb, whom the LA Times featured back in July and LA Weekly this past fall. With a televised appearance on Last Call with Carson Daly just over a week ago I wouldn’t be surprised if 2012 were to see him crossover into the mainstream.

“A local legend is all I’ll ever be/ Until I put this town on the map for everyone to see.” With an impressive debut at #7 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart and at #2 on the iTunes Hip-Hop chart, Dumbfoundead’s making sure that eventually, everyone’s gonna know where K-Town is.

11. November: Jeremy Passion – “Trace”

I can’t think of anyone who channels the spirit of Stevie Wonder better than Jeremy “Passion” Manongdo. “Trace” sounds like a lost track from Innervisions or Talking Book. Drawing its inspiration from the Motown master, “Trace” is a well-crafted soul/R&B tune full of romance and longing. The live instrumentation sounds refreshing, a contrast to current radio’s M-Audio-programmed soundtrack. There’s a hint of John Legend in there, too, and Jeremy sings with honest conviction.

Although Jeremy has been putting up videos on YouTube for over 5 years, “Trace” comes from his debut More Than A Feeling, released just a few weeks ago. Listen to “Trace” here.

12. December: Paul Dateh – “One for James”

Paul Dateh has gone electronic. Showcasing this electronic style on his first track in over two years, “One for James” is a departure from the acoustic pop of 2009’s The Good Life and the R&B/hip-hop of his self-titled debut the year before. Released on the second anniversary of the death of his childhood violin instructor and life-long mentor, “One for James” blends the electronic and the ambient into a celestial soundscape. Vocals and violin are still here, just not front and center. Instead, Paul spreads out his voice with harmonies and layers the strings, all accompanied by a pulsating beat. The track shimmers ethereally as if a ghost were at the turntables before vanishing away in a slow flourish.

After watching Paul traverse multiple genres in his performance of “Darkest Point” on the Knocksteady podcast in September, I’m excited to see how he’ll approach “One for James” in a live setting.

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So that’s it! My 2011 in a nutshell. I’ve obviously left things out as there’s no way I could do everything justice in a single posting. But who knows, maybe I’ll expand the list for 2012. From the looks of it I just might have to.

Let’s keep supporting each other. Not because we’re Asian Americans, but because we’ve got good music. And make catching a live show one of your New Year’s resolutions. Happy New Year and Best Wishes for 2012.

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photo by Melly Lee

Dawen is a singer-songwriter based in Los Angeles. His New Year’s resolutions include: finishing an upcoming EP, perfecting Chinese, learning Korean, and actually attempting P90X.

The Korean Adele on K-Pop Star

Posted in All Class, Awesomeness, Fo Yo Ears, Kawaii with tags , , , , on December 30, 2011 by Cbruhs

Park Jimin, a cute 15-year-old in a fuzzy bowtie sweater, really threw K-Pop Star judges for a loop when she opened her mouth and out poured the voice of a plump, soulful white woman named Adele. The eye cuts of malice and looks of sheer terror on the other contestants’ faces at 0:40 is also quite priceless.

Now all Park Jimin needs is a Bumpit and some “glamour length” Lee Press-on Nails in Nude Mink Muff and she’s ready to roll.

via Buzzfeed

“Red Tonight” — New Notorious MSG Music Vid!

Posted in Awesomeness, Fo Yo Ears, HAWTNESS with tags , , on November 3, 2011 by Cbruhs

On the heels of their epic Heavy Ghetto album release, Original Chinatown Bad Boys The Notorious MSG have dropped another ass-sizzlin treat. Finally, someone has written a song that embraces Asian flush in all its unabashed, head bangin, panty droppin’ glory. This is the new anthem for your Friday, Saturday, and Tuesday night.

Need more MSG in your life? They’ve just released new smartphone wallpapers here! Collect all 7 and watch your boyfriend get jealous.

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