[Album] Elva Hsiao – Red Rose

Red Rose is the second album released by Elva Hsiao. The album continued Elva’s success as it included two of Elva’s big hits of 2000.

Released: August 15, 2000
1. In the Rainy Season (雨季中)
2. One Person’s Excellence (一個人的精彩)
3. The Weather Outside the Window (窗外的天氣)
4. Not Ready (準備好了沒有)
5. Hooked (上鉤了)
6. Night (夜)
7. Rose (薔薇)
8. Movie Trailer (電影預告)
9. Give Me an Opportunity to Love You (給我重新愛你的機會)
10. First Ask Yourself (先問你自己)
11. Memory Letter (回憶信箋)

Elva’s second album starts with the best song on the album, In the Rainy Season. It isn’t an in-your-face, get your attention kind of opening, but it is definitely a grower. It continues that R&B sound from her first album, but everything is more polished. The music, the melody and Elva’s voice all seem more mature. The melody isn’t particularly catchy, but I do like how it works with the music and Elva’s voice fits this sound way better. Great!

One Person’s Excellence is more upbeat than the last song as it has a steady dance beat going on throughout the song. At first, it doesn’t sound too interesting, but I actually enjoy how the song builds up on a feeling. It makes the song dramatic. The chorus is catchy and it’s the kind of song that is easy to sing along to. It does sound a bit outdated now, but it’s still a solid tune.

The Weather Outside the Window is a slow moving R&B ballad. It starts off like it will have a bit of energy, but then everything just drops and we get something that drags on for a bit. The chorus is better because the melody starts to speed up a bit and it gains a bit of power to it. I do like this song though because the melody is quite nice. If the verses were cut a bit shorter, it would’ve been better though.

Back to the pop side of things, Not Ready is a bit of an odd song. It is incredibly generic and just not my cup of tea. It relies a lot on repetition, but it isn’t catchy and the music isn’t particularly interesting either to give the song some power. Unfortunately, one of the weaker album tracks.

Luckily, Hooked is much better than the last song. While it brings back that R&B sound, it is more on the midtempo side of things and easily the catchiest song on the album. I feel like this kind of song was very popular around this time and I love it. Elva’s deeper tone really suits the song and works nicely with the light funk sound it has.

Night brings something a bit more on the slower side and I’m on the fence with it. The song has some clever hooks and I do enjoy it as I think it samples (or covers) an older tune. My main problem is that it is just a bit too slow and the music sounds really oldschool. Elva does sound really nice here and she doesn’t overdo it.

The title track, Rose, starts off in an interesting way. I have actually grown to really enjoy this song. I feel like it does need to be tweaked in some areas, but I do like it’s slight pop/rock take on things even though it’s more of a ballad. The song has a nice melody and it features one of Elva’s stronger vocal performances. It all really blends well together.

Movie Trailer brings back to the uptempo pace. This song isn’t the strongest upbeat offering, but it is a decent tune. I quite like its slight disco influence and the song is quite catchy even though its a bit repetitive. While there are some odd adlibs around the end, I do think Elva’s voice sounds better compared to her first album.

Give Me the Opportunity to Love You is the next ballad and is an 80’s slow jam. At first, this song sounds incredibly dull. The verses are really forgettable. The only thing that makes it stand out is the chorus. The melody here is really quite beautiful and I love how Elva sings it. It is sort of intoxicating.  Also, Elva’s belting at the end sounds great too. It’s not a bad song, but the verses could be worked on.

First Ask Yourself is the most aggressive song on the album as it has some stronger hip-hop elements to it. It’s an interesting change compared to the more pop/R&B take the rest of the album goes. It’s a bit outdated sounding at this point and I find that the melody is a bit “heavy” sounding, especially over this music. It does have some catchy hooks, but it’s a bit on the average side.

Memory Letter ends the album on a weird note as it introduces some sounds that aren’t heard throughout the rest of the album. It has a more eerie quality to it, especially with how Elva sings it. Surprisingly, it is a good tune. I do think it does get a bit dull at first because it is difficult to differentiate the different parts of the song, but it does get better around the end.

Overall: I enjoy this album just slightly more than her debut just because I like the darker mood of the album. With that said, it’s still another decent release. There are some solid songs on here and I like that she did try a few different things. My main problem is that some of the songs sound really outdated (expected in a way) and that the music is sometimes lacking compared to the melodies. Also, sometimes the songs would just drag on for a while. A few could have been cut shorter.



[Album] Elva Hsiao – Elva Hsiao

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.