[Album] Leehom Wang – Love Rival Beethoven

Leehom debuted in 1995 in Taiwan to moderate success. It took him until his fifth album to get a breakthrough and since then he has been one of the top Mandopop artists in the world. With almost 20 albums released in his twenty-three year career, he has continued to release quality songs that have become classics. Love Rival Beethoven is his debut album.

Released: December 1, 1995
1. Four Seasons (四季)
2. Love Rival Beethoven (情敵貝多芬)
3. You Hurt My Heart (你傷了我的心)
4. Cry for Me Again, Okay? (為我哭一次好不好)
5. Love Me Tender
6. Listen to the Rain (聽雨)
7. Flying Free with Love (乘著愛自由的飛)
8. The Water is Wide
9. Don’t Be Like This or I’ll Cry (別這樣我會哭)
10. Last Night

Love Rival Beethoven opens with the ballad, Four Seasons. It’s a pretty gentle pop ballad that has a nice mix of acoustic and strings. The production of the song is totally 90’s, especially the vocal editing. It’s a bit outdated sounding, but I do like this touch as it adds an effect to the song and makes it a bit more charming. The arrangement is actually really nice and I love the instrumental breaks where the guitar and strings loop in and out. The melody is a bit dull though and I think it could have benefited from a stronger chorus. Love Rival Beethoven is a nice change because we are given something a bit more upbeat. It’s definitely a very bright and happy sounding kind of song with its fun piano and electric guitar mix. I quite love the subtle additions of other instruments in the background like the trumpets, triangle and organ. It’s a fun mix. With that said, the song is a bit cheesy and while the melody is cute, I do think it could be more memorable. You Hurt My Heart is of course a ballad and it’s definitely the darkest song up to this point. I quite love how it starts with Leehom and the piano and it really reminds me of the sad ballads from the 90’s. The chorus is especially nice and the melody is the first that really stands out to me. It works really well when the music gains a bit of stream around the halfway point. I do think the final chorus could push it a bit more, but it’s a nice song. Another piano-focused ballad, Cry for Me Again, Okay? is actually really similar to the last song. The melody is different, but the arrangement and delivery of the song is definitely similar. With that said, I wish the song sort of pushed things up another notch to really push the emotion into the song. Even while the music gets more and more instruments, there is this sense of emptiness in the arrangement. It does have a lot of potential though. Love Me Tender is a cover of the Elvis Presley song of the same name. It’s the third ballad in the row and probably the most sentimental. I quite enjoy the arrangement because it just focuses on the piano and strings and brings something really haunting and beautiful. I do find the part in the middle where Leehom speaks French to be a bit odd because it sort of adds a weird portion to the song that drags on for a while. It’s nice, but could do without that middle dialogue. Listen to the Rain is the fourth ballad on the album and sort of leaves the darker sounds of the others in favour of something a bit lighter. Unfortunately, because of the production, the song really blends in with the other ballads on the album. Also, I don’t really like the chorus. Leehom stretches and strains his voice so it doesn’t really sound that nice. It’s a largely forgettable song. Flying Free with Love finally gives us something with a little more energy. The verses are a bit calm, but the chorus has a steady beat that really brings some more life into the album. I don’t think the melody is that memorable, but it’s still a nice addition. I just wish the song had a bit more power to it. However, I do think Leehom’s vocal performance was really great here and the vocal arrangement has some clever tricks. The Water is Wide is a cover of an old folk song. It’s an interesting addition to the album with its more acoustic backdrop. Leehom also sounds amazing here and his deeper tone really suits the song. It sort of reminds me of something that Josh Groban would probably release. It’s gentle and soft and while it’s not the strongest song, it has a calm charm to it. Don’t Be Like This or I’ll Cry is another sad sounding ballad. The production is really oldschool 90’s with its keyboard sounding arrangement and reverb. The song starts off a bit empty and the verses are a bit forgettable. The chorus is a bit better and the melody is quite nice. However, I wish the arrangement was able to support it a bit more. It just doesn’t seem as full as it could be to really elevate the song. I’m not sure if Last Night is a cover as well because it is in English, but it’s an interesting way to end the album. I really love Leehom’s voice in the English songs and he sounds great here. The arrangement of the song only includes the guitar and it has this very 60’s/70’s sound to it. It’s a bit oldschool, but I actually quite like it.

Overall: This wasn’t a terrible debut, but it was just really forgettable. There were some decent songs, but nothing that I would really want to revisit often. I think the biggest problem with the album was the production. A lot of times, the songs just lacked a strong backing that really helped to propel the songs to the next level. Fortunately, he has definitely improved from this.