Review Summary: it’s a city of sin don’t u miss me *AWESOME MANDARIN INTENSIFIES*

Lexie Liu has arrived. When did she arrive? Fuck knows (editor’s note: birthday December 1998 (Sagittarius), signed as a solo artist off the back of talent show The Rap of China in July 2018, released her debut EP Feb 2019, signed as YSL’s Pacific-Asia sunglasses brand ambassador March 2019, released this EP January 2021 [please choose one (only one)]). The stakes are real. The hype is there? Maybe you didn’t pay for it, but what can you do; she is probably a face of the future and almost certainly a major player in China’s emerging(?) dialogue with the international pop market. Kool. More importantly, she makes really great synth-pop and you should respect this and get your freak on to it immediately. Engage!

How’d we get here? It’s a bit of a departure: Lexie Liu making great synth-pop on GONE GOLD is likely a surprise for anyone who’s kept tabs on her so far. This is partially because her past output has been hip-hop- and trap-backed R&B of quite different flavour, and partially because those releases were largely not excellent. As someone new to her work, GONE GOLD‘s excellence was a surprise for me for silly reasons: the throbbing synth pulse and Very Electric guitar that kick off the opener “You Ma Chao Mian” came off less as obsession fodder and much more as an omen of imminent iffyness. Pah, I said to my wallpaper, classic overblown Mandopop cheesecake, what next (what is a Mandopop?). This was a poor take. From the moment Liu’s voice hits the scene, she leaps and vaults over her workaday backing track, oozing contour and colour as she drops one great hook after another. Two lines in and I was reevaluating; by the end of the first verse I was sold.

Hooray for snap changes of opinion and paying the right kind of attention to things that matter. This screwage of first impressions correlates nicely to the double entendre of the title “You Ma Chao Mian”: read it literally and you get the Mandarin do you want fried noodles?, but stretch the phonetics a little and you get you macho man, aka the focal chorus hook. How interesting - but what?! Which is the ‘true’ title? Why do you want fried noodles? Does this track carry more weight on a soundbyte//lyrical level, as a gamerspeak account of digital un-reality, or on the ear-candy side of things, as a deliciously immediate pop banger? There’s probably an answer, but the takeaway is the basic fact of Liu playing two different kinds of face-value off against each other. That’s as far as it needs to go; no point splitting ends over trivialities of presentation when her performance as a whole is this assured and salient with all of what she’s maybe about. Is she smart or shallow, catchy or cringe, contrived or confident? Is her appeal international or domestic? Is this one kind of pop or the other kind? Uh, yes. All that. Who cares. She walks all over this shi

Next. Though her individual lines are consistently on point, the real goss behind Lexie Liu’s flair is her alternation between vocal styles. It’s like she refuses to show off her pipes at the same register for more than two consecutive lines; she commands the voices of a slick pop diva, a feisty hip-hop hustler and an R&B heartache, and her writing channels recurrently solid hooks through each in turn. “Shadow” shows this off best, as she shifts from ethereal queen to backstreet badass at the drop of a hat, but her flexibility is self-evident from track to track. The mix underlines this, each track afforded ample space even as Liu’s vocals are given clear prominence. None of her backing instrumentals are particularly complex, and extravagant layering is actively avoided; simple progressions and economical arrangements ensure that GONE GOLD lives and dies by Liu’s presence. She has the personality to see this through, nailing great hooks across a range of registers and inflections with an inventiveness and charisma that give her a comfortable edge over the vapid trendies a’ la Future Nostalgia that Western daytrippers can’t really (but inevitably will) compare her to. The near-seamlessness of her ongoing alteration between Mandarin and English is the icing on the cake. It is a good cake.

In fact, it is such a good cake that I’m a little disappointed she didn’t fully commit on the upbeatness and versatility that make for such great highlights in “Shadow”, the headstrong opener, and its sly reprise “Go Psychotic! (Outro).” The EP’s middle section tones these tracks’ electropop maximalism down and draws closer to her comfort zone: spaced-out R&B. While the third track “Xiāng Yù de Cuòjué” is cogent as a comedown from the opening pair, the following trio has little in the way of individual distinguishing points and blurs together a little too much for my liking. The fifth track “Le” is the takeaway here, landing as one of the best tracks on the EP with a standout chorus hook, but I’m not convinced that Liu has as much to prove or to gain in this style as she implies with the time she dwells on it.

Whatever. GONE GOLD trots out enough of the good stuff to border on a knockout, but it draws back too early and picks up too late to round this off wholesale. It ends up as a killer EP for us and a promising foot-in-the-door for Lexie Liu. Not bad as win-wins go, and the respective roads forward are pretty clear for all parties: playlist rearrangement for you, doubling down on extravagant synth-bangers for Liu, auspicious prospects for both. Liu’s schtick is all about honing in on a voice of pop self-assurance as fiercely Chinese as it is internationally appealing; this is broadly vindicated here, almost as though, y’know, good electropop transcends boundaries, or some shit. Memo complete: Lexie Liu is onto something. Switch off whatever Anglophone daydream you’re currently on and listen to her. Ta.



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user ratings (31)
3.3
great


Comments:Add a Comment 
JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2021


60891 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

Caffeine wrote this rev for me

This EP is very good, thanx to Pots for pointing me @ it, plz listen to it thank you

Here is Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/album/5fDCqCkR3tcZAELkjOPNFO?si=-hHYGyyPTIKTrut2VKhz2Q

Pikazilla
February 9th 2021


30042 Comments


are you sure she sings in mandarin

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2021


60891 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

seven out of ten would recommend

Pikazilla
February 9th 2021


30042 Comments


i'll hold you to that

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2021


60891 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

hold me all day erryday

Gyromania
February 9th 2021


37188 Comments


idk anymore johnny. i just don't know, mang. i'm gonna try it anyway

nightbringer
February 9th 2021


2730 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

Not sure Johnny is capable of communicating without detached irony.



Will check this.

Gyromania
February 9th 2021


37188 Comments


3rd track is nice

insomniac15
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2021


6199 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

The EP is really nice. Dig the '00s dancey stuff mixed with dreamy vibes. Her voice is also lovely and smooth.

JesperL
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2021


5504 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

okay yes this is pretty dope, the english/mandarin switches are very smooth. and ye december 98 is a god tier birthing month

CookieFactory79
February 9th 2021


145 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

um very lew

rodrigo90
February 9th 2021


7387 Comments


How did I become a meme on this site?

Anyway I couldn't care less about k-pop so meh...

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2021


60891 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

this isn't k-pop and uh, no-one mentioned you? so i guess that's how? two nonsenseposts in a row hot damn

rodrigo90
February 9th 2021


7387 Comments


no-one mentioned you?

But the username is taken from one of my comments I did several weeks ago.

rodrigo90
February 9th 2021


7387 Comments


this isn't k-pop

My bad

FadedSun
February 9th 2021


3196 Comments


I'll take more music from China. Feel like their music industry is actively against pushing their music out of China. I tend to hear more about Taiwanese/Hong Kong artists, than Chinese ones.

If people dig the English/Mandarin hip-hop mix, then I can recommend Miss Ko: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mTE7JMLqF60

Taiwanese, based in NYC - sings/raps in Mandarin/English. Has a 90s vibe, but she dabbled in trendier styles later on.

JohnnyoftheWell
Staff Reviewer
February 9th 2021


60891 Comments

Album Rating: 3.9

"But the username is taken from one of my comments I did several weeks ago."

...whut?

Nice, Faded, will check. I feel that being an artist in China full stop atm probably sucks, and it's not surprising that LL, who is being pushed outside of China w/ US releases etc, went through multiple talent/reality shows and has prominent label backing

Lord(e)Po)))ts
February 10th 2021


70246 Comments


thanks for exploring her previous material so that I don't have to

I had a hunch it would be 1) nothing like this, and 2) not great

Lord(e)Po)))ts
February 10th 2021


70246 Comments


"classic overblown Mandopop cheesecake, what next (what is a Mandopop?)"

lmao

"ailing great hooks across a range of registers and inflections with an inventiveness and charisma that give her a comfortable edge over the vapid trendies a’ la Future Nostalgia that Western daytrippers can’t really (but inevitably will) compare her to. "

also lmao

Lord(e)Po)))ts
February 10th 2021


70246 Comments


"How did I become a meme on this site?"

third and final page related "lmao"



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