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Joanna's not a jazzy girl

Taiwanese singer-songwriter Joanna Wang is not in the least bit excited to be called a jazz singer. -ST
Jan Lee

Sat, Apr 27, 2013
The Straits Times

Taiwanese singer-songwriter Joanna Wang is not in the least bit excited to be called a jazz singer.

In fact, she seems to be annoyed by the label, which she does not agree with.

The singer, who has under her belt a repertoire of easy-listening songs, says she is often mislabelled.

"I just want to say that singing less 'high' (upbeat) songs doesn't necessarily equate to being jazzy. That's a misunderstanding I seem to hear a lot in Asia," the 24-year-old singer, who grew up in California, tells Life! while in town recently to promote the Taiwanese music festival Spring Wave, which will come to Singapore for the first time on May 4.

"I really, truly don't think I'm a jazz singer but unfortunately, I've been stuck with this label for some odd reason," she adds, with a small frown.

Wang is hopeful that her appearance here at the festival, to be held at Gardens by the Bay, will change her jazz chanteuse image. She will be backed by a live band and will sing more pop rock numbers.

"The show will be musically exciting.

It's going to be a trio this time with keyboard, bass and drums and my musicians are fantastic," Wang says.

"In fact, a lot of numbers from my new album Galaxy Crisis are geared more towards pop-rock."

Galaxy Crisis: The Strangest Midnight Broadcast is Wang's sixth solo album, which she released in mid-March. She is confident she can match the energy level of other performers in Spring Wave such as Jam Hsiao and A-Yue (Chang Chenyue), who are both well-known as pop-rock singers.

"I don't think I'll be any less energetic than the other singers," she says, despite being up against tough competition such as indie queen Cheer Chen, veteran rocker Wu Bai and Singapore's Olivia Ong, who does ballads and bossa nova.

Wang has participated once before in the Spring Wave, which is one of the largest outdoor music festivals in Taiwan, attracting over 20,000 concert goers every year.

This time, for the festival's first overseas stop, it will also collaborate with the Singapore Entertainment Awards (SEA) in a special showcase segment to honour SEA Music Award winners.

Wang seems to be looking forward to this upcoming performance as she enjoys the relative anonymity of performing at music festivals where audiences are not always familiar with every performing artiste.

"There are a lot of people who don't know me at music festivals and that actually makes me feel freaking fantastic because I've had a mislabel as a jazzy singer. Everytime I sing my own compositions which are more adventurous, I feel liberated knowing that nobody knows me."

She enjoys exploring music on her own terms so much that declining record sales in the music industry is actually good news to her.

The singer says: "I was just speaking to A-Yue (Chang Chenyue) on the plane and his view is that since the music industry is so c***** already, we might just as well do whatever we want, since 100 per cent commercial is unlikely to sell much more that 100 per cent original anyway.

"That's such a positive outlook that I wish my record label would take as well."

Thanks to the Taiwan-born singer's California upbringing, she is not one to be bogged down by rules, having been quite vocal about not wanting to do commercial music.

In fact, the singer left the music industry for over a year after her 2009 album Joanna And Wang Ruolin (Wang's Chinese name) because she was frustrated that her record label released her all-original English album The Adult Storybook as a disc two to Joanna And Wang Ruolin, instead of releasing and promoting it as an individual album.

Now however, she is back to doing music with her mainstream, major record label Sony Music Taiwan. It has allowed her to pen her own music in two original and experimental English albums with high-concept songs: The Adventures Of Bernie The Schoolboy (2011), which follows the concept of a children's storybook, and the recent Galaxy Crisis.

"It's quite hard to push for doing my own music but this is the path I've chosen," she says.

Her identity as famed Taiwanese producer Wang Chiping's daughter does not make things easier for her either.

She has previously revealed on Taiwanese talk shows that although she is grateful for her father's musical influence on her - he produced her first two albums - his standpoint as a producer often sidelines her ambitions as a musician.

She went as far as to say on Chang Hsiao-yen's talkshow in Taiwan: "I compromised.

I didn't want to do my first album but my dad really wanted me to do it so I wasn't very happy then."

This is in sharp contrast to Wang's current state of mind. Galaxy Crisis features all original songs and she is not about to change her stance anytime soon.

She says: "I'm perfectly understanding and willing to accept the consequences of going down this path that's more artistically self-centred."

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