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[Professional Review] dahlia II (SACD)

Hins Cheung recently held the Hinsideout concert series at the Hong Kong Coliseum with the gimmick of “dropping two octaves.” He also released the HiFi album Dahlia II, which can be considered an extension of 2013’s Pink Dahlia. Continuing with the concept of singing female artists’ songs, he covers ten Wyman Wong-penned Cantonese classics.

Looking at Hins’s releases under EEG in recent years and his interviews, I feel that he has matured considerably. Besides his original artsy aura, he has gained a mature sophistication with age, and he has refined his pesonal taste, which is especially commendable in these trend-driven times. This kind of sophistication and discernment must come from insight and honing; it’s not something that can be created through packaging. This artist is continuously working hard to improve himself.

His discerning taste and sophistication are displayed in Dahlia II. You can tell that the arrangement and interpretation of the album’s ten remakes were carefully thought out with a grand and elegant style. This album’s arrangements are vastly better than that of the Universal Music-era Pink Dahlia. Each song is greatly modified from its original without any sign of awkwardness. The arrangements are passionate yet understated, not plain and conservative like the previous album. This is producer Joseph Ip’s best work of recent years.

Hins’s performance is also excellent, and his singing this time is very heartfelt. Each and every word conveys calmness and confidence, making you feel that he is completely committed to the performance, and many details are sung with fine precision. I personally think that this is the album in which Hins shows the most superstar quality, more so than his recent singles “Lacking” and “Child Prodigy 1985.” In comparison to the clean-cut young man of ten-plus years ago, he has a more mature appeal now.

In terms of the individual songs, Hins mostly selected songs that are familiar to Hong Kong music fans, even young peoplewho usually only listen to K-pop and China music programs. His remake of Joey Yung’s “The Big Yellow Door” (Track 4) recently earned widespread interest and the love of concert audiences. More like a bedtime song than the original, Hins’s version sounds gentle and delicate in his rich and mellow voice.

“Extreme” (Track 1) has a powerful arrangement that does not magnify the despair in the lyrics as well as Maggie Fu’s original version does. Upon close listen, the song’s arrangement does still bring out the feeling of lingering infatuation, but it’s more like the late stage of heartbreak when the mood is near calmed down.

The lyrics and jazzy feeling of “Wedding Invitation Street” (Track 2) are very suitable for Hins, who easily brings out the rich flavor of the song. This song is a good choice for HiFi testing. “One Person in Two Roles” (Track 5) is a pleasant surprise with its bright arrangement and Hins’s individualized interpretation that successfully creates the feeling of talking to oneself. There is also a bit of sorrow and strength to the song. I think this version is not inferior to Faye Wong’s excellent original.

“Too Bad I’m an Aquarius” (Track 9) is softer than the original and matches very well with Hins’s singing, especially in the melancholic detail of the “eoi” ending rhymes. Among other songs, “Whirlpool” (Track 7), which actually involves one person singing two roles, and the passionately arranged “Well-Meaning Breakup” (Track 6) are worth close listens.

I finally had the chance to watch Hins Cheung’s live concert recently. Although I was not in my best state that day, the show was very good, and I enjoyed the arrangement, lighting, dance choreography and other details. Afterwards, I suddenly remembered that during Hins’s debut era, he once planned a Hard Rock Café show that got cancelled because of SARS. I still have that concert ticket. In the blink of an eye, 15 years has passed, and Hins has already been in the music scene for this long. Even “Ardently Love” is from 11 years ago.

Fortunately, it seems that Hins has had a lot of freedom to do the music he likes in the past few years with EEG. When Hins left Universal Music, the label invited me to write booklet and promotional copy for the It’s Time album. Back then I wrote: “From My Way to ‘Night Flight,’ together we witness Hins take flight.” I’m happy to see that Hins is flying higher, farther and more freely.

by Stephen Lee

(Translation: Sanwei)

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