[Album] A-mei Zhang – Bad Boy

Bad Boy is the second album released by A-mei Zhang. The album proved to be an even bigger success than her debut and many of the songs on the album are still regarded as classics. It was so popular that it eventually became the best selling album in Taiwan, with over 1.3 million copies sold.

badboy
Released: October 7, 1997
1. Can’t Cry (哭不出來)
2. Whenever I Think About You (一想到你呀)
3. Lonely Tequila (孤單 Tequila)
4. Dancing Alone (一個人跳舞)
5. Listen to the Sea (聽海)
6. Bad Boy
7. Sweet Words (甜言蜜語)
8. Lover? Enemy? (情人?敵人?)
9. Love, Not Too Early or Too Late is Better (愛,不太早不太晚,剛好)
10. Loved You (愛過你)

It’s a bit of a surprise that the album starts with Can’t Cry, which is a ballad. Although she did it with her debut, this one is a bit different because it is more of a slow builder. The song starts off pretty gentle with just A-mei, a piano and light synths. The chorus is definitely the highlight as the melody does a great job showing off A-mei’s soaring vocals. The song only really starts picking up after the second bridge where A-mei hits a huge note before slamming into the final chorus. It’s exhilarating and a strong start.

Whenever I Think About You is my favourite song on the album. It’s the first upbeat song but it has this carefree nature about it that I absolutely love. Not to mention that it is really catchy. The music itself is a bit oldschool, but I think it still holds up rather well because the stomping beat and funky guitar really give it some great energy. With that said, I love how fun the song sounds and it is the kind that is easy to sing along to.

Lonely Tequila is a bit off an odd song as it has a jazzier aspect to it. The synths and saxophone here make the song sound totally 90’s, but it still does a great job of bringing a more mature style. The beginning is nice, but it isn’t as interesting as the second half the song where the song becomes more dramatic and intense and fits the lyrics that delve into needing someone. This song fits perfectly with the raspy quality of A-mei’s vocals and it is another stellar tune.

Dancing Alone continues the jazzier sound, but brings something a little more upbeat. I love the funky bass and it sounds great in this sexier number. I think one thing I love about the songs on this album is that A-mei’s voice is just so versatile and her vocal abilities allow her to really take over a song even if she doesn’t belt it out. This song isn’t as strong as the other songs, but I still love it because it has a great 80’s vibe going on and it is still really catchy.

Listen to the Sea is probably the album’s biggest song and one of A-mei’s signature hits. This one is a bit like the first song on the album because it starts off pretty gentle. The chorus is once again the highlight with its soaring notes and does a great job of matching with the heartbreaking lyrics. A-mei’s voice sounds especially great here as well.

The title track, Bad Boy, is a fun latin-inspired upbeat pop tune. I wasn’t a big fan of this song when I first heard it, but it has grown on me tremendously. The guitar tied with the pounding beat and A-mei’s raspy vocals is a really great fusion. The hooks are a bit repetitive, but it still works out nicely and it is easy to get stuck in your head. With that said, I actually love the verses more. Solid tune.

At first, I found Sweet Words to be boring because it focuses a lot on just A-mei and an acoustic guitar. However, the song is really beautiful and A-mei’s voice when that opening chorus line comes in is absolutely stunning. I also love the music as the percussion gives subtle, but much needed boosts of power while piano and guitar seem to play off of each other. It’s not one of her usual power ballads, but it still works wonderfully.

Speaking of power ballads, Lover? Enemy? comes storming in. This is a dark and dramatic ballad, but it shows A-mei’s versatility and how she can handle all different kinds of songs. With that said, whereas the last song is more timeless in its sound, I find the music to this one totally stuck in the 90’s with its synths. With that said, I love it and it is a favourite of mine. A-mei’s voice is at her most powerful and the music does a great job of really helping her voice soar.

Love, Not Too Early or Too Late is Better is my least favourite song on the album. It is an upbeat song with a pop melody, while the music is a weird mix of pop and rock. It’s not a bad song per se, just weaker than everything else on here. It is relatively catchy, but it just doesn’t have the same attitude or hooks the other upbeat songs have nor does it have the emotional power. With that said, there are some really great parts to it like the bridge. A good song, but just outdone.

Finishing the album on a powerful note, I Loved You is probably the most “Mandopop” sounding ballad on here as the melody reminds me of other songs that were released around this time. It has a really powerful accompaniment and I do like the energy that it brings, but I wish the melody stood out a bit more. With so many strong ballads on this album, it sort of sits in the shadow. It has its charms though.


Overall: This is one of my favourite albums, if not my favourite. I love almost every song and the first eight songs are all strong while still giving a variety of sounds. While some of the songs are a bit outdated in the music, I find the melodies to be timeless and A-mei’s voice really helps keep the songs really engaging. Back in the day, I only liked a few songs from this album and would have ranked her first album higher, but this is definitely an album that is both cohesive, but full of individual hits.

A+

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[Album] A-mei Zhang – Sisters

Often regarded as the “Pride of Taiwan”, A-mei debuted in 1996 and pretty much achieved overnight success. Her powerful voice tied in with her charismatic performances and classic songs allowed her to gain instant popularity, which she has been able to retain the last 20 years. Sisters is her debut album.

sisters
Released: December 13, 1996
1. You Didn’t Want Anything (原來你什麼都不要)
2. Sister (姊妹)
3. Released (解脫)
4. Impulse (衝動)
5. Sea-foam Blue Tears (水藍色眼淚)
6. Cut Love (剪愛)
7. Betrayal (背叛)
8. Love Until You Can’t Receive (愛到不能收)
9. Seriously (認真)
10. I’m a Dreamer on Air (空中的夢想家)

Probably the biggest hit from the album and the song that has remained a classic since its release, You Didn’t Want Anything is a gorgeous piano ballad with some slight gospel elements to it. I think the most interesting thing about this song is that it feels slightly different from your usual Mandopop ballad of today. Utilizing A-mei’s powerful voice, the song just builds and builds and each section adds a little bit more instrumental backing before it finally explodes in the end and really allows A-mei to belt it out. Her voice sounds great here and she easily channels the emotion that the song needs. It’s just such a powerful track and it’s no surprise it is still popular today.

The title track is a nice change from the more dramatic opener. Here, with something a little more upbeat and lighthearted. To be honest, Sisters definitely comes off a bit more outdated than the last, but what I love most about this one is that it features a lot more Taiwanese Aborigine elements and really helps to give a sense of A-mei’s background. The bits of chanting surprisingly work with the more upbeat sound of the music and its heavy percussion. It’s a touching song in a way.

Of course, we swing right back into the ballad one with Released. More laidback than the last two songs, this one focuses a lot more on the guitar and is definitely more melancholic. I quite like it, but the song is definitely not as exciting and as it goes on, it can get a bit dull. I do like that A-mei tries to spices things up with some riffs and runs around the end of the song. It’s a decent song.

Impulse finally gets us up and dancing as it gives us a funky dance-pop tune where A-mei tries to edge it up a bit. I quite like the verses as they are definitely something sexy and one of the first glimpses of these kinds of songs from her. The chorus is still catchy and her voice is great, but I do find the chorus can get a bit grating at times as there is a part where it pushes her to sing a note in her head voice and it comes off like a squeak. The electric guitar refrain for the instrumental break really helps bring things back up though. It’s a cool song.

My favourite song from the album is actually Sea-foam Blue Tears. Not released as a promotional song, this is definitely one of the strongest songs from A-mei. A heavy focus on the acoustic guitar, I love how edgy it sounds. That and the emotion that she sings really echoes through here. She is able to inject the melody the needed amount of edge and emotion. The chorus is a bit different as it gives something with a touch of funk in its music, but it’s a nice touch that helps keep the energy up with the song. This is just a stellar tune.

Cut Love is one of the more traditional ballads on the album. It is very reminiscent of the types of songs that came out in the 90’s in Taiwan. The focus is largely on the piano, especially in the quieter verses, which are meant to show a contrast to the more hook heavy chorus. The chorus here does a great job of highlighting how strong A-mei vocals are, especially when the song starts to have the heavier percussion and electric guitar for the last one. I don’t think it’s the strongest ballad, but it is quite nice.

Betrayal is a really cool song with its stronger R&B elements. I think it has similar qualities to that of Impulse, but instead we are given something a bit more laidback and I’m happy with that. However, the odd thing with this song is the odd transition from the prechorus to the chorus. It’s quite unpredictable as things comes off a little poppier in the chorus. However, I really enjoy the melody and it reminds me a bit of early 00’s J-Pop. Definitely one of the more fun songs despite being a bit outdated.

Love Until You Can’t Receive is a really interesting ballad. It’s much more toned down and slower than the other songs. It starts off really ethereal and while the chorus does continue that with the music, I do find it all comes off a bit more emotional in this section. Her voice just really works so well here and I like how dramatic the whole song comes off.

Seriously also continues the more dramatic ballad sound of the last song. However, I don’t think one comes off as emotional as that one did. It’s much more your standard Mandopop sound of the 90’s. The chorus is really explosive and I quite like it, but I do find the song to be one of the weaker songs on the album (it’s still good) as the melody doesn’t come across as memorable as other songs and it drags on a bit as it progresses. It really does show off A-Mei voice really well though.

Ending the album is I’m a Dreamer on Air. This was actually released before the album and was a promotional song for the UFO Radio Station in Taiwan, which is why there is a weird line where she says UFO. With that said, the song itself is really good. It’s a bit more dreamy than the rest of the album, but it still fits in well. I think the highlight is that the melody is quite solid and comes off really sincere. There is a certain charm to it and A-mei’s vocals just carry the song really well. Great!


Overall: This is one of my favourite C-Pop albums and one of the strongest I’ve heard. While there are definitely some stronger tracks, all the songs could potentially be singles. I quite like how there is a lot of variety and A-mei is able to bounce back and forth from ballads to midtempo pieces to something a bit more upbeat. Her voice really helps to bring the album up a notch and she shows her versatility.

A+