By Hans Ebert
Once in a while you hear someone new and you just have to hear more from where that came. And in this world of clutter and clatter, these diamonds, often drowned in the rough terrains of social media are few and far between…especially when they are from Taiwan. Then again, Taiwan has always been one of the few countries in this region where the music fans are totally real- very different to just being music fans- and who actually know good from bad and will never accept mediocrity. It’s from where the wonderful Cheer Chen hails. That’s good enough for me.
This pride in one’s art is what’s always pushed all those making music there to improve and strive for the best and never resort to cheap short cuts and not ever take their eye off in the end product. If it sells, or they become rich and famous and date Kendall Jenner, that’s a bonus.
This pride is what I hear from everything I have heard from Taiwan-based Julia Wu- pride in striving for the best and with a team around her wanting only the best from and for her.
Originally from Brisbane, and having done the rounds of one of those ubiquitous and generally unrewarding television singing competitions in Australia, whether singing in Mandarin, English or trying to take on Korean, she makes it all sound effortless and very very original. It’s been a long journey for such a young girl.
This is where teamwork comes in led by longtime friend Terry Lee. To Terry, I’m “Pops”, someone who first recognised his talent when in Singapore and trying to break the mould with his groups Urban XChange. I couldn’t quite understand why the band insisted on singing about “the ghetto” when these were middle class kids living in squeaky clean Singapore, but I put this down to youthful pretentiousness to be part of some “hood” down bootylicious Orchard Road. The key was Terry Lee, below, could write. And arrange and produce.
This writing really came through in the later incarnation of Urban Exchange as Parking Lot Pimp. PLP made only one record, but it remains a helluva underrated piece of work. There are tracks there that if re-recorded today would be hits. Listen to “Blow”. Better yet, try and get a copy of the record. As usual, EMI blew it by ignoring the record because it was from “Asia”.
Terry taught me about hip hop, I taught him about the Beatles and false endings to recordings, he worked on some terrific remixes for me of recordings by everyone from Kylie and John and Yoko to manic Croatian crossover pianist Maksim, and had him interview Pharrel and Shay when N.E.R.D were in Tokyo.
He wanted to be another Jermaine Dupri, but, thankfully, he stayed Terry Lee. and despite some strange career detours and detonating a few bridges along the way, he’s come through it all wiser and more at peace with himself. He has a hugely impressive track record, but these days, that’s all in the past and the present is the future.
It was Terry who introduced me to Julia Wu via Facebook with a casual, “Pops, check out this girl I’m working with.” That was enough. Less is more. So staying with this motto that also applies to life and who you want in it, listen to the music of Julia Wu. She’s extra special.