Taiwan songstress finds her calling with retro romance album

Singer-songwriter Joanna Wang is back with her latest retro remake album, titled Love Is Calling Me, which features 11 classic romantic ballads from the 1960s to the ’80s.

With her distinctively husky voice, Wang portrays different female characters through her interpretation of the songs, including Apple Blossom by Japanese singer Misora Hibari, Blues in the Rain by Taiwan singer Tsai Chin, and Forget Him by Taiwan singer Teresa Teng.

Of all the songs Wang selected to cover, she grew up listening to the song, I Only Care About You, performed by Teng. The song, which she first performed in 1986 in Japanese and later as a Mandarin version, has been covered by many other singers and remains popular today.

“The song brings back a lot of memories of when I was child. It’s timeless,” says Wang, who, unlike the original version, uses a simple arrangement and instruments to perform the song.

Once she made up her mind to record the remake album, she went through the classic songs and named the album, Love Is Calling Me.

“It’s a romantic title, isn’t it?” says Wang, 31, who recently visited Beijing. “I saw different women in those songs. Some are tragic, some are very lovely and some are sweet. They share the same passion for love and romance-even though it’s full of uncertainty and can break your heart.”

Unlike the old hits, Wang rearranged the songs using different layers of sound to make it “more dramatic and colorful”, as she says. She imagined the women behind each song and played the role of each of them with her voice in the recording studio.

For example, the song, Forget Him, tells the story of a woman who leaves her lover despite still being in love with him. Another song, Lover, sees Wang perform it in both Japanese and Mandarin. Yet the female characters she depicts in the two versions are quite distinct due to the language differences. One stays strong as she says goodbye to her lover, while the other comes across as soft and sentimental, she says.

Wang spent weeks recording the new album in the United States at the Halfling Studio in Portland, Oregon, along with her team, including producer Chris Funk.

“I didn’t record the album in Asia because these songs are still popular today and you can still hear them here and there. I didn’t want to be influenced by other versions of the songs. I wanted to be free and far away from tradition,” Wang says.

She invited American graffiti artist Brandon Graham to design the cover art for album, which has a young woman with an apple in her hand standing among a chaotic world of robots, humans, animals and creatures from outer space.

Born in Taiwan and introduced to music at an early age by her music producer father, Bing Wang Zhiping, Joanna Wang achieved huge success with her debut album, Start from Here, in 2008. Although the album won her instant fame, Wang still regards it as “too commercial and too mainstream”.

She enjoyed her creative freedom in her following albums, including Joanna & Wang Ruo-lin, and The Adult Storybook.

With each album she releases, Wang aims to create a personal landscape by exploring different themes. In her last album, Modern Tragedy, she wrote all 19 of the original works, where her story unfolds like a movie.

Wang mentions that she is working on her next album inspired by The Kids in the Hall, a Canadian sketch comedy troupe, which was also an eponymous television show. The title song, Hotel La Rut, was written by Wang and starts with a line from the TV show. “I am just thinking about Tony. Wondering where he could be, who he is with, what is he thinking. Is he thinking of me, and whether he will ever return one day,” she sings in a deep voice.


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