Friday, March 27, 2009


Well, well, well. Here's another Asian artist trying to break into the states!

I'm not much of a fan of BoA, but I can commend a good effort in trying to crossover and trying to bring in some diversity into the American music market.

BoA (real name: Boa Kwon) has been a performer since an early age. She was discovered in Korea by SM Entertainment, a talent industry. Trained for two years, she finally debuted with ID; Peace B. I don't even know what that title is supposed to mean. Anyways, her earlier music was pretty much saccharine pop, but it's evolved to an R&B-ish influenced pop. Unfortunately, her success didn't take off too well in Korea, so she successfully crossed over into Japan, became a huge star there and then crossed back over into Korea. Recently, she has put out two singles from her English-language album BoA  called "Eat You Up" and "I Did it for Love feat. Sean Garrett". 

I'm not going to review the album entirely because I really don't care for BoA as much as I do Utada who has a better chance at making it in the market. Anyways the album BoA is completely a dance-pop album. I'm sad that there are no ballads, since BoA does have a few nice Japanese-language ones. BoA has a nasally voice that might suprise some people. It might take a while getting used to it, but it's not really bad at all. But watch this girl's music videos. Boy, she can really freaking dance well. The songs are really upbeat and very danceable, but they offer really no personality. They're kind of like all the other dance songs on the market now--almost on the verge of being Britney Spears reject songs. But hey, I like a couple songs on the album like "Touched" and "Hypnotic Dancefloor". It's worth a listen and can be found on iTunes. Anyways, but beware, BoA still has a Korean accent in her songs so some words may be a little hard to understand or a little funny sounding, but don't let that detract from the composition of the songs. 

Thursday, March 26, 2009

This is the One

So, I have been waiting for Utada's new album This is the One to come out for years.

Who is Utada, you might ask?

Well, she has to be one of the most famous musicians in all of Japanese music history. She was born in New York to a record producer and a well-known enka singer (Keiko Fuji). At the age of thirteen she recorded her first English R&B album, but that never came out in the United States due to label change issues. At the age of fifteen, she recorded a Japanese language album (it went ten times platinum) that turned out to be the top selling album in Japanese history. Altogether she's sold over 50 million units and counting! She also holds the number two position for most digitally sold song ("Flavor of Life") right behind Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend". In 2004, she came out with another English album called "Exodus" but that failed miserably in the states selling only about 55,000 units. But I blame Island Def Jam for not promoting her. This time around the promotion has been a thousand times better!

Betcha didn't know all that! Well, unfortunately, she's virtually unknown to the U.S. masses. But there's always an underground fanbase for her, you'd be suprised at how many Hikki fans there are around.

But I digress.

This is the One came out in the United States digitally on iTunes on March 24th and physical CDs will be coming out some time in May to allow for more promotion. Of course, I had the CD way before it came out on iTunes and way before it was released in Japan (which was in early March). Pirating. Woo hoo! But hey, I kinda have permission to download it illegally since Hikki said in an interview that she didn't mind it. LULZ. It's basically a whole 180 degree change from her Exodus album which was mad-scientist experimental. This time around it's very poppish/R&B. It's drops hints of inspirations from good old 90's music, like what you would hear from Ace of Base and TLC. Overall, I think it's a better album for mainstream play in America, but I do miss the experimental tones of Exodus. Well, don't get me wrong, there is some experimentation in This is the One but it's very subtle. Anyways for this album, Hikki teams up with Tricky and Stargate (two VERY popular producers) to create a pretty awesome tracks.

Anyways, my album review (going from the Japanese track list):

The album opens up with On and On which is an uptempo track. I love the line: "Honeys if you're gay burn it up like a gay parade". It's a fun track and great way to open the album. The beat is good and the harmonies are catchy. My only gripe is the guy screaming constantly in the background.

The next song is one of my favorites on the album even though I'm not too pleased about the synthesized violin (possibly it's an electric violin) but I think a warmer acoustic sound would have sufficed. Utada samples the song "Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence" by pianist Ryuichi Sakamoto for the track. Considering the original song had such a different feel, Utada does a pretty good job incorporating it into a more poppish sound.

The album transitions into "Apples and Cinnamon". This was one of the first songs produced for this album and the final product uses vocals from the demo version. This song was produced by Stargate--a duo that has created hits such as "Unfaithful" and "With You". Some of the lyrics can get a little repetitive here.

"Taking Money Back" is a laid back europop-ish track. I love how the synth and electric guitar melody goes. The beat in the back reminds me of some old school 90's R&B.

Up next is "This One (Crying Like a Child)". She manages to drop references to Freddie Mercury and Simon and Garfunkel in this song which amazes me that she manages to get THAT to work. There's a nice mixture of acoustic guitar and piano going on in the instrumentals too.

"Automatic Part II" is supposed to be a parody on her Japanese hit single "Automatic". Well, for her long time fans (such as I) it's pretty obvious, but for her newer fans, I shall explain. "Automatic" was the single the pretty much launched Hikki's career in Japan. And now the lyrics here in "Automatic Part II" quite blatantly introduce who Utada is. Well, it's something like that.

Well, "Dirty Desire" is a throwback into good 90's pop. The lyrics are quite sexual for Hikki and it suprised me at first. There's a line that's repeated throughout the song "Doing my nine to five/Thinking of six to nine" that always cracks me up. Way to go Hikki! You've grown up from your First Love Days!

Oops, did I turn you on? Catchy huh? Well, "Poppin" is a really fun track that exudes this Austin Powers type of vibe. Really, I love this song because it's a rather experimental track for this type of album. I'm sure if a video came out for this song, it would be totally awesome. There'd be lots of stillettos and slutty clothing. Har har har.

Now we come to "Come Back to Me" which is the first, and as of now, the only single released for This is the One. It starts off with an ear catching piano run, very reminiscent of some classical piece. It sound very epic, and then a cool beat starts playing. This is probably the most mainstream track out of the whole album. I'm not complaining but sometimes I wonder if this track can stand out in the American music market. It's a good track, nonetheless. The piano playing in the background has a good melody too.

The last track has a bossa nova/Spanish feel to it. It's called "Me Muero" whic is Spanish for "I'm dying". It sound rather depressing, but the melody sounds upbeat and the lyrics are rather humorous. It's a great song to end the album and one of my favorites because I can totally see myself chilling out to this song often.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009


Version:1.0 StartHTML:0000000168 EndHTML:0000007778 StartFragment:0000000471 EndFragment:0000007761

From the annoyingly catchy commercial jingles I hear coming from my television to the thunderous and powerful crescendos and cadenzas of Beethoven's symphonies, music permeates my everyday life. Music, as defined by the Encarta Online Dictionary is: The art of arranging or making sounds, usually those of musical instruments or voices, in groups and patterns that create a pleasing or stimulating effect. How can such a broad and diverse art be categorized in such a manner? This mechanical and objective definition cannot do much justice to this great, organic and complex art. Music is essential in our daily lives whose being is part of our language and is something in which we are immersed.

Something magical happens when I carefully place my practiced fingers onto the ivory keys of my baby grand piano, or place the spindly and fragile bow onto the surface of the surface of the Evah Pirazzi strings of my French-made violin (a note is played). This note is not just sound, but part of a harmony, the beginning of an arpeggio or a chord leading to the melody of the concerto. The sound that is heard is not just harmonic vibration of a string creating forced resonance within the wooden body of the instrument which amplifies the pitch created, but a connotative word imbued with both the composer's and the artist's soul. It is a live being.

The wondrous ways a single note may be played! A single note may sound sensuous, happy, angry, sad, and all the emotions in between. Like human words, a sentence of notes define a certain emotion and message. It feels like my soul spills out from my fingers as I create these sentences which embrace my attention and demand more soul-sacrifice for their hungry exploit. Their goal is to reach unwary ears and trap them into my world of emotions. The barely audible patter of my fingers running up the fingerboard of my violin express the genius of Mendelssohn's only violin concerto and tells a story of vivid landscapes—and the essence of Western classical music.

Playing the piano, my hands fly across the keyboard as I piece together Chopin's Revolutionary Etude. The passion and anger that Chopin felt after the failure of the November Revolution is written into the notes of his bold statement. I am the medium through which hundred-year-old emotions come alive once more. I feel the sadness, the passion, and the anger and I let it flow through my fingers. No, after having the privilege of reproducing these bold statements, I cannot say that music is a mere sequence of notes and rhythms. Not just classical music alone holds these powerful messages but so do all genres. From sugar-pop to the heavy bass beats of rap, all music expresses universal ideas and emotions.

Music is not only mere percussive instrumental or vocal sounds, but it is also present in our language. While music may create words, words may create melodies. When I was younger, my family returned to Maryland every Christmas break for a family gather. In this noisy environment, I would close my eyes and listen to the rapid exchange of Vietnamese traveling throughout Ba Ngoai and Ong Ngoai's small home. Drowning the distinct separation of words, I would listen to the rise and fall of the pitches and through the melody, I can understand a statement's general meaning (even though I am not very fluent in the language). The lilt of Vietnamese is comforting and every sentence creates a melody that is pleasing to my ear. Like instrumental music, not all language-melodies are pleasing to the ear. Personally, I find German too harsh and spitting and that English is quite bland and rough unless it is softened by an accent (preferably British). Similar to modern composers sampling tunes from older music, accents add color to a language by blending two distinct melodies together to create a variation of the originals. From the pitches and tone languages use, an emotion may deviate. A simple sentence, “She's beautiful!” may express surprise, admiration, sarcasm, and a multitude of other emotions. Words, like a single note imply a plethora of emotion and meanings.

Language and instrumental music offer only a microscopic view of specific regions of music's entire domain. Music resides within the very clockwork of nature itself. We hear animals grunting, chirping, squeaking. And beating out their melodies because they do not have a definite language like humans. They use their melodies to communicate dominance, locations of food, and other essential survival information. Communication to survive is their use of music. The sound of rain beating upon the windowsill to explosions of a molten erupting volcano constitute Mother Nature's personal song which brings peace or destruction to her subjects lives. The seasons, day and nigh, and the solar system move in a fixed rhythm. Some rhythms may die only to be replaced by a new one which only contributes to the never ending score that God has written. The movement of each individual component of the universe, from microscopic atoms to massive stars move sometimes in harmony and other times in cacophony like the harmonies and counter-melodies of a symphony.

The intertwined nature and music is an ancient idea. Thousands of years ago, the Chinese developed the Chinese musical scale and system that incorporated this philosophy. The Chinese mathematically derived their scale from a note, and each varying degree is associated with a cardinal point, the elements, the seasons, the planets, the months, of the year, colors, material,s numbers, parts of the body, animals, smells , and so forth. Also each source of sound, or instrument type is connected with eight elements of nature: metal, stone, silk, bamboo, calabash (gourd), terra cotta (earth), skin, and wood. From the earth comes music and from music comes the expression of creation and existence of all things. The harmonious intertwining in this eternal dance is the philosophy of music and nature.

Listen to the rustling of branches of those overgrown backyard evergreen trees. Listen to someone speaking without attempting to make sense of every word. Listen to the melodies of Mozart, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Broadway musicals, and (with a gigantic dosage of guts, stamina, Tylenol, and an extra helping of Vicodin,) Britney Spears. There is always a melody, a rhythm, a message, a sentence, a word, and an emotion written within each beat played. Music is not something that can be separated and eliminated from existence because it is so vast and extensive, its roots extending far into reality. It is not just a series of rhythmic pitches, rather it is emotion and the driving spirit of the universe.


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Pondering a Thoreau Quote

"However mean your life is, meet it and live it: do not shun it and call it hard names. Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do not change, we change."

Sometimes, I live a day without life, without vigor. I can get depress and fail to focus on school work, my friends, and the rest of reality. I spend those days daydreaming of things I desire, like becoming a perky socialite who can always find something to say without embarrassing herself. I always get weak-kneed and flustered when talking to strange people or in front of class. I sometimes wish I was a stronger person with superpowers that can fix all my troubles. But I persevere through reality as is.

While I'm sure that there are plenty of people leading blessed and happy lives, there are always the rough spots. During those frustrating times, people might think negatively about themselves. Looking at it in Buddhist fashion, frustration and unhappiness is caused by want and lack of a certain precious element that would surely make our lives so much easier. Thoreau dismisses the need to have, "Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage." I'm guessing he's trying to say that we should take what we already have and nurture it, learn from it, and then make the best from the situation. After all, our hardships and flaws will add more flavor to the whole messy and random soup of our lives. Still, there are those that look for that instant gratification instead of working to create and waiting for that flavorful stock to finish. Using artificial and quick ways to attain that happiness may just hold a less tasty and unfulfilling experience than a fully rounded life.

We often seek to reinvent ourselves so that our peers may see us differently or to perfect our own deformities. I often wish that I looked different. Sometimes, I wish I weren't Asian so that I would blend in with the rest of sometimes-discriminating-mostly-Caucasian America. Maybe if I do, life would be different for me. Would I have more friends? Or could I snag dates more easily? This desire to change myself, intended for my happiness, causes me anguish. It makes me magnify my faults and deformities and anguish in the wee hours on school days as I pick through the scant and unfashionable hanging rags in my closet. 

"Do not trouble yourself much to get new things whether clothes or friends."

I guess I should be happy with myself as is. I keep forgetting that I'm taking for granted my blessings and focus more on trivial matters--the material instead of the intellectual and spiritual parts of life.

Is my situation just regular people angst? Maybe this is the case. I strongly believe in Thoreau's final three sentences, "tThings do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts. God will see that you do want society." There is hope in the words "we change." I will change, and the people around me will change. Our views of culture, people, and political issues will change over time as new ingredients are added each day.  Someday, I know I'll start that step to adulhood and find a place where I'll fit. Just time is needed. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


Well, currently I've been in a relationship for oooohhh, about three weeks. I met this guy briefly a couple of months ago on my way to Harrison after a failed attempt to convince some people who were high off their asses to go sledding with me and the rest of the sober gang. He was with a group of people who were friends with one of my other friends and for one reason or another there was a frenzy of exchanging of phone numbers.

A couple of weeks after that, after a lot of crap went down with my friends at Harrison (I no longer am on speaking terms with them,) I saw this guy again and we started chatting a little. Fifteen minutes later, he texts me and wants to study for the exam with me. Who knew people could bond over the abomination of all school subjects? And about a week and a half later we started dating. Funny huh? Getting into a relationship with a guy I barely knew. I'm more used to dating guy friends whom I've known for months or years. Maybe this is a better way because I don't speak to my ex boyfriends anymore, which is really sad since our friendship was ruined after the breakups.

There are things about my current relationship that bothers me. I really don't know what his priorities are and I don't mind all the oddities about him and the things he does. But he's sort of "hot and cold". For a couple days he'll want to spend a lot of time with me, and others he'll just be a little curt when talking to me. I understand what influences him to act this way, but it's a little disconcerting sometimes. I guess that's what I have to deal with. I just wish I had a little more insight into his priorities or something so it would be easier for me.

Then there's those silences. It's a comfortable silence for me, but sometimes I wonder if I should start talking about something. I feel kind of stupid for not being able to think of something to say. I've never really been the talkative type of person. So, I wonder how it feels for him. ~


Thursday, March 5, 2009


Dear God, I envy the people who live for physics because I sure don't.

I've been studying for the PHYS172 exam that I took about an hour ago and I still think that I failed. Seriously I've realized that I don't understand a thing. Well, maybe a little bit but it's nothing to be proud of. I feel a little depressed about it and I don't know if there's a light bulb that will click "on!" and I'll start being able to understand the content a little more easily.

It's hard for me to keep up with such a fast learning pace. In high school, I took Honors Physics and that was a breeze because my classes were small so I could actually ask questions in lecture. PHYS172 recitation does not help me at all because the only I do there is work on problems the teacher assistants give my group. And still, it's hard for me to think up of a way to work out the problems. For example, take the energy principle. I know what it is, but it takes me a while to figure out which formulas for kinetic energy and potential energy I need to plug in and whether or not a system has kinetic energy or potential energy on either side of the problem (Efinal=Einitial [+W in some cases]).

Right now I am totally brain-dead and am lazy as hell. I still need to finish my MA172 homework. I'm so behind in MA162. I haven't paid attention to what has been going on in that class ever since the topic of series came up. So this weekend I'll need to start reading through the chapters.

Well, I confess. I haven't been studying as much as I should have. I studied for the PHYS172 exam, but only superficially. I don't have the concentration to sit down and pick through all the little details in the text. However, I have found that reading the textbook is a really great sleep aid for me. But aside from that, I've gotten no real benefit from reading the text. Also, I've been making bad choices that have kept me from studying. I should have studied all week this week, but what did I do? I spent practically 48 hours straight on Monday and Tuesday with my friends chilling out, smoking hookah, and...other stuff. And then I should have gotten my usual eight hours of sleep but my boyfriend kept texting me and was practically begging me to help him with his English homework which lasted to about 4:30 A.M.. The things I do...

I really think I should make a list of priorities and start keeping an hour by hour schedule of what I'm going to do through the day. If I don't learn time-management skills soon then I'm going to be screwed for the 2009-2010 school year because it will contain some of the most difficult curriculum for my major (biomedical engineering and assuming that I can get in) aside from the dreaded senior design project. Or I could just change my major, but that would be an epic failure (for me at least).