Elva Hsiao is one of my favourite C-Pop artists and she has a lot of fun tunes. Her self-titled debut album was released quite a while ago and helped catapult her into an overnight success due to the hit song “The Most Familiar Stranger”. Nowadays, Elva is more well known for her upbeat dance tunes, but she had some strong pop/R&B songs back in the day.
Released: November 17, 1999
1. Nobody (沒有人) [MV]
2. Cappuccino [MV]
3. Suddenly Thinking of You (突然想起你) [MV]
4. Born to Choose
5. Love is a Bad Thing (愛是個壞東西) [MV]
6. The Most Familiar Stranger (最熟悉的陌生人) [MV]
7. Dump It Dump It (甩啦甩啦) [MV]
8. You Come, You Go (你來你走)
9. Love Myself More (多愛自己一下) [MV]
10. What’s Next
Nobody is an interesting way to open the album. It begins with Elva singing without any accompaniment, which slowly proceeds to join in as the song progresses. The song eventually ends up being an odd acoustic piece with some R&B influences. I think it’s an interesting twist and it’s the type of song that is just so strange that it does help grab one’s attention. I’m more on the fence with this song though as it sounds different and I like the nostalgia of it, but it isn’t particularly polished. That and Elva isn’t the strongest singer and her flaws definitely sound more present.
Cappuccino is definitely more of something I can get behind. A cover of a Korean song, this song is much more polished and comes off quite refreshing. This upbeat pop tune really works well with Elva’s voice and it covers the flaws that were heard on the last song. It’s just a catchy song with its bouncy beats and lighthearted atmosphere. I even like the tidbits of rap that are included throughout the song.
Suddenly Thinking of You is a slowed down R&B/pop tune. I really love this style and it reminds me of a lot of J-Pop tunes from around this time. I like the melody is this song and it is rather dark and mysterious. With that said, the song is ruined by Elva’s vocals. She sounds flat at times throughout the chorus and the adlibs that are added in the background are pretty bad. This song would’ve been better without the struggle.
Born to Choose brings up the spirit a bit more. This one definitely has more qualities of the late 90s and it does sound a bit outdated. I don’t particularly think it’s that bad, but it could be polished a little more. There are some nice tidbits to it and I love the strong midtempo R&B feel. The melody is nicely done and it is quite catchy. It’s a decent song and a fun listen.
Love is a Bad Thing starts off slow with its sensual R&B sound and Latin elements. I really enjoy the first half of the song because it keeps things in a comfortable zone. Elva doesn’t sound too strained and the emotion of the lyrics is more easily seen. However, by halfway through the song, it turns into a pounding dance track. I really didn’t see this coming, but it’s not really a welcomed addition. I think the beat doesn’t really work with the song and really makes it blander even though its trying to give it some edge. Not my favourite.
Fortunately, my favourite song on the album pops up. Probably Elva’s biggest hit, The Most Familiar Stranger, is a classic Mandopop ballad laid on top of a slow and powerful R&B beat. The strongest part of this song though is the polished melody. It is quite melodic and does wonders for Elva’s voice. She hits the notes well and she really emotes the right feelings for the song. The lyrics are quite sad and everything works well in conveying this. The strongest song on the album and it needs no explanation.
Dump It Dump It has the weirdest name, but it’s a funky upbeat tune and something needed after the depressing previous tune. This song is a fun pop tune with some explosive ska qualities to it. I really enjoy listening to it for its catchiness although the chorus is pretty much just repetition. I especially love the arrangement for this song as it has such energy to it with the use of brass instruments. Also, Elva sounds pretty good here and she really brings power into her performance.
You Come, You Go returns us to the depressing R&B formula. I think this song is even stronger than the other ballads at that sad quality. With that said, while there are some nice qualities about it, I don’t think it’s particularly outstanding. The musical arrangement is decent and the sweeping strings work well with the somber atmosphere. However, the melody isn’t really as memorable as some of the others. I don’t like the extended notes in the chorus as they come off as a bit odd. There are some nice points, but I’m not totally sold on this song.
Love Myself More is one of the poppier songs on the album. It’s not as strong as Cappuccino, but it’s a nice addition. It just does get a little forgettable after a while as I find the melody doesn’t particularly match that well with the music. The arrangement has a few perks in its sound, but it gets drowned out by the horribly bland chorus. The chorus is pretty monotonous and doesn’t really edge it up in any way. It’s a decent song, but not one I would revisit often.
What’s Next starts off sounding pretty decent, but then it goes into a total mess. The upbeat pop sound is fun and I like the arrangement with its slight gospel quality. With that said, the melody is horrible. It wouldn’t be that bad if it was brought down a notch, but the majority of the song we hear Elva screeching her way to hit half the notes in the song. It just brings the song down and doesn’t really leave the song on a good note.
Overall: Elva’s debut is a fun listen, but it’s not the most memorable. There are some stellar songs and there are some great ideas thrown out there, but the majority of the album either ends up stuck with bland melodies or bad vocals. I like Elva’s voice and when she hits it right (like on The Most Familiar Stranger), she hits it really well. But there are times on here where her voice is flat or screechy and she ends up bringing the song down a bit. The music itself could be worked on a bit. While there are some good songs, the arrangements end up too quirky for the melodies placed on top of them.