Wang Lee Hom believes pop music can deliver more than just pure entertainment, and in his forthcoming album he explores the impact AI will have on our lives
Clad in a black outfit that makes him looks like a warrior from the future, the Chinese-American singer-songwriter Wang unveiled two new tracks from his forthcoming album titled A.I. Love at a news conference in Beijing recently.
"It's been two and a half years since I released my last album and this new album is my most important album in 10 years," Wang says.
"I'd been looking for a right theme for it, and artificial intelligence has become a hot topic thanks to the achievements of the big computing giants during the past few years," he explains.
During the past four years, Wang has been invited to attend the business leaders meeting in Sun Valley, in Idaho, the United States, which enabled him to meet leading tech figures, such as Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, and acquire the latest information about artificial intelligence.
"Artificial intelligence is going to dramatically change the way everybody works in both positive and negative ways. Will artificial intelligence lead to job losses? Will artificial intelligence take the place of human beings? These are the kind of questions I have been thinking about," Wang says, adding that one of his friends, the Tesla and SpaceX boss Elon Musk co-founded a nonprofit artificial intelligence research company with the aim of developing safe artificial intelligence and ensuring that artificial intelligence's benefits are as widely and evenly distributed as possible.
"I believe that pop music can deliver more than just pure entertainment. So I wanted to pose those questions in my songs," says Wang.
"My songwriting comes from my life, everything that is happening in my life. I always want to make a difference with my music," he says.
In 2007, the singer-songwriter released his album, Change Me, on which the title song was aimed at raising environmental protection awareness among youngsters.
"When he told us about his ideas for this new album, we were surprised and pleased because he was bringing something unusual and creative," says Andy Ng, vice-president of Tencent Music Entertainment Group, which is releasing the album via its seven online music platforms, such as QQ Music. "He is a musician, who likes experimenting and new ideas. We believe his fans will be pleasantly surprised like us by his new material."
Ng also says that his company will be promoting Wang's concerts in support of the new album.
Born in New York in 1976 to doctor parents from Taiwan and grew up in the United States. He studied violin from a young age and performed in musicals at high school. He later pursued a degree in music at Williams College, followed by a master's degree at the prestigious Berkley School of Music.
While in university, Wang gained a recording contract in Taiwan thanks to his songwriting talent and his debut album, Love Rival, Beethoven, which was released in December 1995, made him a rising star in Asia.
At that time, Wang, along with other American-born Chinese who returned to Taiwan and became singers, such as the Santa Monica-born singer-actor Vanness Wu, became popular in Asia with their mix of Western and traditional Chinese music elements.
So far, Wang has released 22 studio albums and has shared the stage with artists such as Kenny G, Justin Timberlake and Usher.
Wang's embrace of his Chinese roots is so strong that he has written Chinese styled R&B songs and rap in Chinese as well as using elements from traditional Chinese operas, such as Peking Opera and Kunqu Opera, into his compositions.
Wang incorporated one of his favourite instruments, the traditional two-string bowed instrument the erhu into his new songs, to give his music an Eastern flavor.
"I've been inspired by my parents' own immigrant experience and I feel deeply connected to my Chinese background," Wang says.
He was a torchbearer for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and he performed at the closing ceremony.
Besides writing and producing his own music, Wang has also dabbled in movie projects. One of his most successful roles was as a patriotic student in Ang Lee's 2007 movie Lust, Caution.
In 2010, he presented his directorial debut film, Love in Disguise, in which he also played the leading role.
In 2013, he married his girlfriend, Lee Jinglei and they have two daughters born in 2014 and 2016. Following their births he slowed down his work pace so he could spend more time with his family.
"Family is important to me. When I was making this new album, my wife produced my music videos and I edited the film with my elder daughter sitting on my lap," says Wang, adding that he also wrote songs for his daughters, which are on the album released next month.