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On the first night of this year’s Golden Melody Awards Festival showcase, I kind of knew what to expect. Well, I thought I did, as I had been to one several years ago, and had a pretty good time. Couple of artists singing songs I know, karaoke session fun times. But what I didn’t expect was that although I was less acquainted with many of the performing artists, it was truly a night to remember for me; moreso than before. I recall mulling over this many times during the several performances as I uncontrollably bopped to the music; how was it possible that I was already close to acting like a deranged fan when I barely knew these artists? It just goes to show the power of good music-to change attitudes, to spread happiness, to cross cultural barriers. This revelation was more than anything a testimony to the high quality of music and performance of Waa Wei, Murmur Show, Jia Jia and Boxing brought to the table that night, and renew me with hope for the future of Taiwan’s music industry.

First up was Waa Wei, who cooed her way through a nine-song set, singing some of her critically acclaimed yet memorable hits such as “還是要相信愛啊,混蛋們You still have to believe in love, you bastards”, “我爸的筆My Dad’s Pen”, “買你Buy You”, “北極星North Star”, “好嗎好嗎 ok ok” and new song“你啊你啊You oh You”. Turning a seriously lethargic audience into a hyped up one in the space of less than one song, Waa although pint sized with an impish grin showed that one doesn’t have to be loud to have stage personality (Although she did scream at the audience a couple times). Raving up the crowd with rock-influenced “You still have to believe in love, you bastards” , she seamlessly followed that up with a jazzed up version of her single “My Dad’s Pen” where her penchant for the dramatic arts began to show through as she emoted her way through the entire song, playing with her facial features, body language and voice modulation to appear at times childlike (very suitable for the song), and at other times like the soothing Waa we know. It may not seem like much, but her spontaneity truly breathed new life into the song, rendering her an artist whose live performances are even more valuable than her studio recordings. I marveled constantly at the smoothness of her vocals; how they managed to sound so perfect and so flawless. Still don’t have an answer to how she managed to do it, but let me tell you, I was impressed either way.

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Next up were the adorable Murmurshow duo, Li De Hui and Shen Zhi Fang, who although did not possess the shapeshifting and mystical attraction of Waa’s angel/devil stage persona were the ones who showed me that good music is just that-good music. Doesn’t matter how long you’ve been acquainted with it, you can have a good time either way. Although they may give others the impression that they are just a happy duo, as they talked and sang their way through their set, I found it harder to categorise their music as just one feeling or genre. At times they can be hyper (Murmurshow), at times they can be sad (Don’t See) or even reflective and serene (Difference). As they sang their way through their repertoire of songs from their two current albums, I found that there were certain redeeming qualities about their music which were effortlessly unique, yet unassuming at the same time. Their willingness to share their stories; their honesty and a kind of openness so pure it rarely exists these days in the music industry embeds itself into every song, internalising it and creating such nurturing goodness that lays out a cohesive platform for their versatility.

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Jia Jia, despite having followed two phenomenal performances absolutely held her own, appearing on the stage resplendent in a flowing tribal dress and wowing audiences with her sweet, uncluttered powerhouse vocals. Known for her balladic hits such as “Fate” and “Fill in the blanks”, the femme fatale chose to leave those to the end, instead starting off with a stunning yet simplistic rearrangement of her song “Singing for your loneliness” that was mashed up with her hit single “Fulfilled”. Things started to get heated around the third and fourth songs of the set, “I love you” and “Chocolate”, where she hit all the high notes, letting the music become part of her as she swayed and shook to the music. Jia Jia is yet another natural born performer, who giggled and joked her way through the 8-song set, endearing all audiences to her sparkling personality before ending off with her hit singles “Fate” and “Fill in the blanks” which left the audience yelling for more.

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The boys of Boxing although performing last were definitely not least, bringing the house down with their electrifying energy and unique sound inspired by Latin, rock and hip hop influences. My personal favourites were “Heart beating”, “Latin people on a mountain” and “Tiyamen”. “Tiyamen” especially had such a unique hook to it that encompassed their Aboriginal culture and a naturally memorable melody. Even though I didn’t understand what they were singing, I I didn’t love it any less because of it. A little more pop-ballad-like; “Heart beating” nevertheless had me enraptured similarly. Full of energy and fighting spirit, the boys enthralled the audience with their mad skills, impressing fans and new listeners alike. I could tell Boxing truly did put their heart and soul into their performance that night, and brought the night to such an enjoyable close for me.

So as you can see, I had a surprisingly good time at the Pop Showcase during the Golden Melody Festival. Next up, the Rock and Folk Showcase. Who’s up for some headbanging?

Photos courtesy of Golden Melody Festival 2016.