Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Jeannie Hsieh – Sister

Doing it for themselves…


Iain Mew: It’s already setting YouTube records for a Chinese-language song, but I would love “Sister” to get “Gangnam Style” huge. There are similarities. The song is built on a quick, dirty and infectious electronic rush. Its fabric gets regularly stretched out for an accelerating build up to a spoken phrase (although Hsieh did that years ago too). It has a spectacular video with a deadpan singer in a suit, perfect comic timing, and, yes, horses. There’s an ambiguity and androgyny, though, that makes its appeal more complicated and all the stronger for it — something which extends to the song. As I understand it, Jeannie is not happy with the mixed messages of being told “I love you” but still being called a sister, but it goes beyond the implication of the translated title because “姐姐” specifically means older sister. She’s at once wounded and amused, backed up with a mutant techno production: sped-up bits, frequent skipping-record parts, and a chorus where Hsieh’s voice takes a startling robotic leap upwards while syncing up with sighs that remind me of Bertine Zetlitz. It has its catchy cake and throws it at the wall too.

Patrick St. Michel: People are going to hear the EDM throb of “Sister” and watch the video and assume this is a Taiwanese attempt at their own “Gangnam Style.” Not totally misguided — it would be naive to think K-Pop’s ambassador to the world didn’t influence this, especially in a country that loves Korean pop like Taiwan — but that would take away from everything Jeannie Hsieh does to stand out. Her singing, in particular, is smooth and direct. Still, those repeated syllables in the chorus sound harsh, and the more they come up the more grating they get.

Alfred Soto: I can’t help it if I feel like shouting GANGNAM STYLE after the first ecstasy rush of electronics. Even on Psy’s track the sped-up thing sounded like a gimmick lifted from early nineties techno, and this track confirms this suspicion with the synth solo at the 2:35 mark.

Edward Okulicz: The distorted shredding of syllables throughout the chorus shreds my ears, and that’s on top of an already abrasive production. It’s a shame, because I feel like the high-tech throb is concealing a decent, interesting song and reducing it to a temporarily thrilling but redundant bit of ear-bashing.

Katherine St Asaph: Like if Natalie Imbruglia’s label sat her down, told her the times were a’changing, and then ordered an EDM record. Oh wait, that happened, and it was amazing. This? Well, I’m not sick yet of bro-bro-broken records.

Brad Shoup: Hsieh chops herself into vocal nuggets, but she didn’t bring enough to make so much as a hash of this autopilot EDM. I can’t imagine a scenario in which I’m supposed to enjoy this.

Scott Mildenhall: The vocals are a bit too meek to match the production, but the broken record effect elevates them and makes the song resemble some sort of attempt at a surreal parody of something or other. It actually sounds a bit like some schoolkids hammering at the sound effect buttons on keyboards in a music lesson, eventually (in the last 30 seconds here) stumbling upon the creation of something that actually makes sense — not that any less fun was being had beforehand.

Crystal Leww: The music video makes the tension between genders in the relationship described in the song a little obvious. Hsieh goes between dressing like a “man” in a tux with hair slicked back (unlike the sad sack dude in the song) and the bright red skirt-wearing “girl.” I like the fact that she’s almost always dressed in the female part during that hook, highlighting the call for lady empowerment. The gender power politics are masked by some pretty great hooks and playful onomatopoeia, especially in that outro where we’ve almost forgotten what the song has been about all along. Unfortunately, Hsieh has a tendency to be shrill and grating during repetitive words, and her flow is just off when there’s not a hook being sung. Too bad; it’s a good song that could have been great.

Reader average: [6.4] (5 votes)

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