Jumaat, 22 November 2013

The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

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The Star Online: Entertainment: Music

Lenka’s lullabies


The indie singer mellows out after childbirth and fills her latest album with soothing tunes.

Australian indie-pop songstress Lenka became a mother for the first time last year and the experience has made a huge impact on her music.

Famous for upbeat, quirky pop tunes used in global advertising campaigns, Hollywood movies and television shows, the 35-year-old went mellow and composed what she calls "lullabies" for her latest album Shadows, released in June this year.

In a telephone interview from her home in Sydney, she says: "I've always wanted to make an album like that and I felt this was the right time to do it because I was pregnant and had a little baby, so it was kind of like my time in life. And I needed some lullabies and I thought that it would be an appropriate time to do that."

They are a collection of tunes that are designed to help the listener relax and yes, even fall asleep, she adds.

"By lullabies, I just mean music that will relax you and that you fall asleep to. And if you do fall asleep, it won't jolt you awake.

"I was really careful when I was making the album to not let anything get too dynamic or too loud or too energetic sounding. It's not necessarily a kid's album, just basically a quiet album and I love these kinds of albums."

Lenka is married to James Gulliver Hancock, an artist who does the artwork and design for her music releases, videos and live shows. She gave birth to their son, Quinn, in March last year.

Besides having a direct impact on her music – Lenka recorded Quinn's heartbeat while she was pregnant and used it in album track Two Heartbeats – becoming a mother also prompted Lenka to move back to Sydney after having been based in the United States since 2007.

"I'm just sort of trying to sort out my life in Sydney again because I grew up here, but I was doing so much work in America and everywhere else. Now I have a baby and I kind of want to raise him here, try to set up our lives better."

So does Quinn, who can be heard babbling in the background during the telephone interview, follow her around when she travels overseas for shows?

"Oh no, I leave him at home and do short trips," replies Lenka who is currently on her Asian tour which covers countries like Singapore, India, Thailand and Sri Lanka.

"We are travelling every day and it's really not fun for the baby, so he'll stay here with his grandparents, his dad and babysitter."

A former actress who trained under Oscar-winning actress Cate Blanchett, who was one of the instructors at the Australian Theatre for Young People, Lenka had roles in 1990s Australian television shows such as drama series G.P. and Home And Away.

She then joined electronic-rock group Decoder Ring in 2004 before moving to Los Angeles to strike it out on her own as a solo artiste three years later.

The move turned out to be a turning point in her music career. Her 2008 debut single The Show, from her eponymous solo album, ended up being used various times in commercials for clothing brand Old Navy, popular TV series Ugly Betty and movies such as sports drama Moneyball (2011) starring Brad Pitt.

Catchy ditty Everything At Once from her sophomore album Two (2011) was also famously used in a global campaign for the Windows 8 computer operating system last year.

"I see it as much as a valid way to get the music out there as radio," she says of licensing her songs for commercial use. "And in this world where the music industry is changing because of the Internet and everybody's scrambling for a new way to express themselves, I think it's very valid.

"For me, because I used to be an actor, I get a particular buzz out of my music being used in the movies more so than the commercials. It sort of feels like I'm still involved a little bit in that world." — The Straits Times, Singapore/Asia News Network

Passion matters


Jacky Cheung loves the stage too much to call it quits after three decades.

HONG Kong's entertainment industry has many talented artistes, but if there is one person who owns the stage in both music and film, it is Jacky Cheung.

Named as TIME magazine's top 50 influential people in Asia in 1996, Cheung was the first non-Taiwanese to win the Best Mandarin Male Singer at the Golden Melody Awards in 1997. He is also a two-time Best Actor winner at Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards.

In 1997, he revolutionised Cantonese musical productions by producing and starring in Hong Kong's first modern musical Snow.Wolf.Lake.

Cheung even has a Guinness World Record – he holds the record for the largest combined audience for a live act in 12 months for his Jacky Cheung ½ Century World Tour, which lasted 17 months and 146 shows, the highest number of shows in a tour ever performed by a Chinese artiste.

Despite all these accolades, Cheung is surprisingly humble and down-to-earth in person, and was hardly a diva at all. As I walked into the room for our exclusive one-on-one interview, I never would have noticed Cheung if not for his floral shirt, which stood out among the rest of his black-suited entourage.

Even as we chatted, there were times when I couldn't believe that this down-to-earth and amiable man with that charming smile is one of Asia's best entertainers.

The superstar was in town recently to launch his latest live album, ½ Century Tour. Despite it being his 19th live album, Cheung was still striving for perfection while working on it.

"I wanted this to be true and real. I made a comparison of all my previous concert albums and there was so much room for improvement in terms of sound," he said, adding that he wanted to make it sound more like a studio album, and reckons the final result is close to that ideal.

Dubbed one of the four Heavenly Kings (together with Leon Lai, Aaron Kwok and Andy Lau) of 90s Cantopop by the Chinese media, Cheung was destined to be a star even when he was a kid. Although he seemed tired during the interview, he would brighten up whenever we spoke of his childhood.

"Back when I was in school, people would form a circle around me and ask me to sing, and then they would buy food and drinks for me as a treat!" recalled Cheung.

Having a supportive family proved crucial to Cheung's career as an artiste.

"When I was about four or five years old, my aunt and uncles were my first audience. I would sing to them and they would clap for me, which was a big thing for a kid. All those (experiences) planted a seed in my mind that I could sing. It was a huge influence even when I was an established singer, and motivated me during the depressing years," says the 52-year-old whose foray into the industry started in 1984 when he won a singing contest.

And though he seems to be in a league of his own today, Cheung's rise to fame was not exactly smooth, especially in the initial yearsof his career.

After releasing a few albums in 1987, Cheung fell into depression due to low record sales and turned to drink, becoming a regular at the bars of Lan Kwai Fong. In an interview with Star2 back in 1995, Cheung said that he was fortunate to have a lot of friends and who were very supportive during those years, and he has learned to be optimistic when life gets tough.

Today, Cheung looks back on those difficult years as the period in which he learned the most about the industry.

"It taught me a big lesson about the industry. It's not just about singing. You gotta make people love you too," he said. "It's everything about you, your personality, the way you treat people, how you communicate and work ... you have to make the audience accept you."

But of course, apart from being likeable, Cheung also believes that being stubborn about your passion is important as well.

"You have to be really stubborn to be in this business. You have to insist to pursue your profession. So you have to keep improving because the audience would know if you are just staying in your previous glory," he mentioned.

After hitting the big 5-0 and gaining legendary status in practically every field he has ventured into, is there anything left for this "God of Song" to do?

According to him, he will continue to experiment with new things, and keep the adventure going, as he describes it.

"Singing is still my first passion ... performing on stage is a great feeling," said Cheung with a twinkle in his eye. "All my albums have something different. Whatever I try, if I don't handle it well, I'll do it again to make it closer to what I want."

Four years ago, Cheung got his name in the Cantopop history books again by releasing a first jazz album entitled Private Corner.

"Jazz is the way I think it is going to be (from now on). I think jazz fits my image. If I do electronic music, people might think: Come on ... you are 50 and you are still doing dance? People will judge me before they listen to it," explained the singer, adding that he would also like to do more musicals.

"I love musicals. Everything just came together (for Snow.Wolf.Lake), and it was like some magic you can't redo. But I have something (new) in mind and I hope its gonna work," he concluded.

A festival darling


The Irish indie pop outfit Two Door Cinema Club is set to light up Urbanscapes 2013.

GONE are the days when Irish trio Two Door Cinema Club (TTDC) performed at old, musty pubs barely filled with (drunk) listeners.

After its debut release Tourist History in 2010, the band – comprising Alex Trimble, Sam Halliday and Kevin Baird – shot to fame, climbing music charts around the world and attracting fans from New York to Kuala Lumpur. By the time TTDC rolled out its second album, Beacon, in 2012, the band's music had been used many times over in films, TV commercials and videogames. Even Academy Award-winning film director Danny Boyle, who was the artistic director of the 2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony, chose Trimble to perform at the grand international sporting event.

These days, TDCC is busy shuffling between cities around the world, performing before thousands of screaming fans at a time. "We don't get back to Ireland very often, but when we do it's mostly time spent hanging out with our families and drinking Guinness," said vocalist and bassist Baird in an e-mail interview.

The band has been involved in more than 40 music festivals this year alone.

With the band's meteoric rise, some are concerned if it will water-down its one-of-a-kind electro-pop stylings to appeal to the masses.

Baird said candidly, "It is such an irrational concept to us. We're doing what we've always done. We write music we love and play shows. If more people start liking the music and more people start coming to the shows, how can that be a negative thing?

"We wrote Undercover Martyn in 2007 and not many people knew about it until 2010. Many more people know about it in 2013. It is exactly the same song now as it was then. Humans are fickle. They want to feel like they like something no one else does because that means it is cool. Then when more people start to like the song that they like, they throw demerit onto us for 'selling out'. Irrational."

TDCC announced in July that the trio has left French independent label, Kitsuné, and signed with major recording label, Parlophone Records (which is now under Warner Music) who has a repertoire of artistes ranging from Coldplay to Kylie Minogue.

"We had four great long years with Kitsuné and we left on great terms. We felt it was time for a new beginning and challenge, so we opted for a new contract with Parlophone," explained Baird.

He went on to share that they "wanted a label that could push us more internationally" but assured fans that doesn't necessarily mean a change in TDCC's musical direction. Nevertheless, he added the band is always experimenting with new sounds.

Asked if the move to a bigger label will result in limited control in making their own creative decisions, Baird responded, "This is the reason that we didn't sign with a major label from the beginning. We needed time to grow and express ourselves. We're in a position now that we have a following and we've sold records. We know what we're doing and Parlophone respects that."

The group recently released an EP, Changing Of The Seasons, under its new label. Baird said the band has started the process of writing materials for its third album, due possibly in 2015.

TDCC will be performing in Malaysia at the annual creative arts festival Urbanscapes 2013 this Sunday.

"The festival crowd can look forward to an energetic show. We love playing live, especially to people who've never seen us before. It'll be pretty obvious that we're having a good time up onstage," assured Baird.

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