It's been three years since Angela -- one of China's leading mandopop artists -- released her last album, The 5th Season, which would be her last for Linfair Records. Visible Wings is her first album for Wonderful Music and its title was inspired by one of her most famous songs from 2006, "Invisible Wings." Her reason for calling the new album Visible Wings is to show that she's matured as an artist. To that end, this time Angela was involved in the whole production process for the first time. She worked with some of the most creative people in the business, including Francis Lee, F.I.R.'s Real, Daryl Yao, Jae Chong, and Michael Lin. Her latest single, the amazing ballad "最近好嗎?" (translation: "How Have You Been?") was written by Sodagreen's Qing Feng and samples the melodies of Vivaldi's classical violin concerto "The Four Seasons."
The album kicks off with the propulsive "That Girl," a bangin' dance pop number where the beats are loud and the synth is glimmering. "I'm that girl, like no one else," she sings proudly during the simple but infinitely catchy chorus, which happens to be entirely in English, though the verses are in Mandarin. Written by Daryl Yao, "淋雨一直走" (translation: "Walk Ahead Despite the Rain"), is a sweet slice of mid-tempo pop with an upbeat melody that sounds an awful lot like The Black-Eyed Peas' "Where Is The Love?" The strings and beats resemble The Black-Eyed Peas' song as well, especially during the verses. I don't know if it's a deliberate homage or just a strange coincidence. Either way, the song is a winner. Elsewhere, " 講不聽" (translation: "Don't Want To Hear It") is a stellar dance pop gem with lots of synth shimmering over its punchy beat. I could do without the brief English rap parts but it's otherwise brilliant. She raps again on "王子病" (translation: "Princely Illness") but in this case it fits the up-tempo song well, the track's minor blemish being that her vocals sound unnecessarily processed, perhaps by auto-tune, during the verses.
The ballads on Visible Wings outnumber the pop songs 6 to 5, one of the best being the previously mentioned "最近好嗎?" (translation: "How Have You Been?") where composer Qing Feng cleverly meshes Vilvaldi's delightful violins with a pop ballad backdrop consisting of piano, bass guitar and even drums. Angela sings it with a sweet longing in her voice that's sure to tug at your heartstrings. The title track "有形的翅膀" ("Visible Wings") is even more moving. It begins with Angela singing softly accompanied by gentle acoustic guitar but adds sweeping strings and elegant piano as it progresses, building to something epic and highly emotive. The next song is entitled "我沒改變" (translation: "I Haven't Changed"), which is a bit odd considering that "Visible Wings" is supposed to be about how she has changed. Musically, the song consists of both mellow and intense moments and Angela gets to show the full range of her voice, hitting some impressive high notes. Another noteworthy ballad is her cover of Billy Joel's classic "Honesty." It starts off with Angela whispering some thoughts about honesty over a new piano part she created with her collaborators before it morphs into Joel's familiar piano lines. Angela sings the song quite well, never missing a note, though she sings the chorus higher than Joel, putting her own spin on it. Her version also includes a simple pop beat and grand orchestral swirls.
If it were up to me, the album would have a few less ballads and a few more pop songs, but that's just a minor complaint. If I had to sum up the album with one word it would have to be: awesome. -Michael McCarthy