Archive for December, 2007

Angela Change: Ang 5.0

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

The new version isn’t always better than the old version – Microsoft has demonstrated this brilliantly in its Windows series. Angela Chang’s album, called Ang 5.0, while not bad, doesn’t show itself as worthy as her previous albums. This album is composed of songs with a supposingly more cheerful side. But when compared to her past albums, which always contained slightly darker material in it (Yu Yan, Na Han, Mama Mama MV, Bu Tong MV), it fails to illustrate the colorful personality Angela has as a girl with huge dreams.

We’ve seen Angela play the role of a dark enchantress, the sweet girl next door, the colorful sunshine girl without a care, the sophisticated and stylish lady, and the rebel. This album has painted too simple a portrait of Angela for the public to believe. They’ve tried to spice this album up with the simplest rock chords (in the most inappropriate places), a Jay Chou song (I seriously could not tell which one was the Jay Chou song), and unfitting makeup (and cleavage) in the MVs. But all of this can’t substitute for Angela. And I miss the real Angela.

Four of these songs (Wo yao lian ai, Bu xiang dong de, Neng bun neng yong gang shuo ai, and Le yuan) are from Angela’s just-finished drama, Gong Zhu Xiao Mei, which might draw many fans of the drama eager to hear the songs (there was no OST released). The last two tracks are instrumental versions of Bu Xiang Dong De and Le Yuan. To those who haven’t heard these songs before, they embody the typical Taiwanese drama – sweet-happy-sappy/poignant-heartbreaking-lonely. They also represent the rest of the songs in this album.

Tracks 1, 5, 9, 10 are the more cheerful songs. The rest of the album (6 songs+2 songs) are basically ballads, but definitely not as emotional as most of Angela’s past ballads. Angela shocked me by actually singing off-pitch in the beginning of the second track, “Bu xiang dong de.” The recording of almost all these songs seem carelessly done. They seem like they were all recorded in the space of a few days, at most. I was disappointed that Angela didn’t even serenade us with her unique and beautiful vibrato, going for a sweeter and smoother feel in her singing. Unfortunately, attempting this detracts from the natural emotion of her singing. In almost every single of her past ballads, she was able to touch my heart with her voice.

It’s different in this album. Beside from the fact that she didn’t inject her unique strength into most of the singing, the emotion was conspicuously missing as well. Angela just didn’t seem like she was very into the music – she just sang, and that was it. I think much of the problem lies with the ballads themselves – most of them don’t have a moving melody and arrangement. I mean, some of the songs might really be below-average. Jay Chou’s composition (Qing Ai De… Zhe bu shi Ai Qing) certainly was. The better songs on this album are Wo Lian Ai Le and Bu Xiang Dong De, theme songs for Angela’s drama. Chuang Bian Gu Shi is a very sweet-sounding lullaby; I would say it is the best track on this album.

I think mainstream Chinese pop is suffering from the same epidemic. The whole mainstream industry has forgotten the foundations on which they’ve built these singers. This was a disappointment from Angela. A very mediocre album at best. I still love Angela, and will continue to, but the songs in this album, and the album itself, only merits a 5/10. There are many albums released in the past year to merit your money.

Track Listing:

1. 我恋爱了 (Wo Lian Ai Le – I’m in love)
2. 不想懂得 (Bu Xiang Dong De – Don’t want to understand)
3. 亲爱的… 那不是爱情 (Qin Ai De… Na Bu Shi Ai Qing – Honey… that isn’t love)
4. 床边故事 (Chuang Bian Gu Shi – Bedside story)
5. 铁头甜心 (Tie Tou Tian Xin – Stubborn Sweetheart)
6. 重来 (Chong Lai – Again)
7. 能不能勇敢说爱 (Neng Bu Neng Yong Gan Shuo Ai – Can you bravely say you love me?)
8. 失忆 (Shi Yi – Amnesia)
9. 乐园 (Le Yuan – Paradise)
10. 谁爱谁 (Shei Ai Shei – Who loves whom?)
11. 不想懂得 (Bu Xiang Done De – Piano Instrumental)
12. 乐园 (Le Yuan – Waltz Instumental)

Brand Development and The Value of Case Studies

Sunday, December 16th, 2007

Brand development is, quite simply, the evaluation, construction and maintenance of your company’s brand. There are a lot of approaches to brand development. Some are better than others. Your company’s brand is essential in differentiating yourself from your competitors in the marketplace. The goal of brand development is to built customer loyalty; poor brand development will inevitably lead to failure.

The first and most important aspect of brand developing, is realizing that you have a brand, and need to be conscious of your brand and its development. Many companies are surprisingly haphazard about this, and have disjointed or unbalanced marketing plans that fail to focus on defining and strengthening the brand.
Speaking of brands, you’ve heard of Harvard Business School, haven’t you? One of the things that revolutionized Harvard Business School and turned it into the premium brand of business education was its shift from vague, abstract theories to real-world based case studies of actual business and management success stories. This approach can be useful in developing your brand.

Are there brands you trust? Would you, for example, buy an iPhone without bothering to compare it to competing phones? If so, then Apple is worth looking at as a brand development case study. The rise of Apple, like a phoenix from the ashes after the return of Steve Jobs to the fold, is one of the great success stories in branding.

Looking at personal computers objectively, it’s hard to see them as anything but a commodity. Sure, some are better than others, but most people will buy according to which computer offers the best combination of performance, reliability and price. That’s how commodities work, isn’t it? Yet in this vast sea of un-differentiated, commodified personal computers, Apple stands out as a beacon of successful branding.

How did they do it? Firstly, when Jobs took over, he took a hard, honest look at Apple’s position in the market. The company’s zealous pursuit of profit margins, lack of clear brand message, and lack of concern over long-term atrophy of their market share was steering them toward a disaster in the long run. Once a serious competitor to Microsoft’s hegemony, Apple was losing market share at a rate that would suggest a strong long-term prospect of extinction.

Jobs assessed Apple’s market position, strengths and weaknesses. He took a look at who Apple’s loyal customers were, and developed the brand accordingly. Apple’s tremendous success is a story of brand development. He created a brand that would appeal to Apple’s core customers and grow from there, distinguishing his products from those of other companies as much through branding as through genuine differences.

To better understand the real-world impact of brand development, don’t stop here. Think about what products you trust and rely on, and do your own case studies. Do you like Starbuck’s coffee? Then that would be an ideal case study for you to learn from. Choose case studies based on branding that has been effective on you as a customer in your further studies in brand development, and you can’t go wrong. After all, if you want brand development to work for you, you should understand branding that has worked on you.

Vic Zhou Yi Ming: I’m not F4 (Wo Bu Shi F4)

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

After three years spent concentrating on his acting portfolio, Zhou Yu Min released a new album. There was a lot riding on it, Jay Chou and Alan Kuo pitching in with their composition skills and an all-new no-longer-wanting-to-be-called-cute Yu Min.

Would he be able to recreate the success gained in former years? Might he even gain new fans with this new approach? All that was to be seen. The album sold like hotcake. Was it worth the wait you ask, and indeed I ask myself. In the weeks before I had been counting down like a child counts down to their birthday. As photographs were uncovered so to was my excitement.

It comes as no surprise that the overall message Yu Min wishes to express should occupy the first track on the album. In Wo Bu Shi F4 Yu Min wants to communicate that he is no longer Hua Ze Lei, no longer “Zai Zai” even (though this is incredibly debatable) and that he is now all grown up. He wishes for those who once shunned him to recognise him as a respectable artist and it must be said he went the best way about it. Before this song was released to the masses it was well known that Jay Chou had been summoned from his closeted director’s realm and therefore everything was hanging in the balance. For a lot of people, Jay’s presence on the single was the major draw, and this reviewer must admit that this was the icing on the cake for her (forgive me for making a reference to cakes twice.) A Jay Chou composition means business, both in the colloquial way and literally.

Possibly the second most interesting fact for fans and non-fans alike, Ai Ni Hen Ni credits Alan Kuo as its creator. The stakes are high – but Alan aims even higher. We’re in store for another ballad, it’s true, but with the prestige behind it, this song is to be embraced rather than repelled. The awesome aspect of it is that it is reminiscent of Ai Zai Ai Ni in its faint anthem-like tone and the way in which it builds in character as it progresses. It is particularly endearing to note that it would fit perfectly beside Alan’s own recent release, Don’t Say Goodbye. The guitarists have found the electricity circuit in the studio and have turned on the power, a quirk surely attributed to the song’s composer. A climax of any kind missing in action, it comes as quite a shock when the song ends and I wonder if I have been giving it my full attention after all – but I having a feeling that this was all part of the plan to keep me listening. It’s working.

Before this album turns into one big ballad-fest Yi Jia Yi informs me that it can be just as deceptive as the previous tracks and uncovers an interesting formation of piano-played notes for my equally-interesting-formation-of- piano-played-notes-focused self to devour. As a child to chocolate I am lead, fixated, into the kind of musicianship that gets my fingers aching for the ivory. I feel almost literally included in the experience, and this feeling lingers until the very last note. Softly strummed guitars, now unplugged, find a mutual understanding in Yu Min and his pianist as they enter the set and, as though unnoticed, allow the two to continue, unchanged, until they can bear it no longer and assist Yu Min in stepping it up a notch. The additional music quickens its pace and a number of backing singers take on the difference as it comes to a close. Yes, I am most certainly biased.

At the end of it all, I can say that yes, although different to what I anticipated, it was most certainly worth it and I pray for the day to come when Yu Min picks up a pen and starts to jot down his own words as it occurs to me that this is the way he is headed. I am of the opinion that there is a lot of talent still untapped, which, so long as he is encouraged, will flourish in the coming years.

*Edited by Steve. Original review post can be found at the forum.