The moment five simple words splattered themselves all over the internet I knew magic was about to be made. “Jolin Tsai featuring Namie Amuro” shook the web last week, just in time to create a hype firestorm for Jolin’s long awaited comeback effort “PLAY.” Jolin’s long list of fantastic albums go back over a decade and a half, but in recent years she has really been pushing herself artistically while still retaining a strong commercial appeal, a difficult balancing act in today’s all-or-nothing world. With the hype of Asia’s two biggest female music icons joining forces on one track and this being a follow up to her best album so far, the truly fantastic “MUSE,” I was honestly worried Jolin may have set the bar way too high for herself and this would end up being a “Lotus”/”Britney Jean” sized mess, but thankfully I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The albums opener, titled “Gentlewomen,” finds Jolin at her most indie. It’s a cross between Lana Del Rey and Lorde, but still really pop. Definitely a new sound she has never explored before. “Lip Language” on the other hand is a gorgeous ballad with classical influence and pounding percussion that adds to a sort of dramatic and sensual lounge-y atmosphere. Jolin has never really given us much to work when it comes to her ballads. They are always pretty safe and suitable for her core demographic, so I never ask much from her in that respect. Gay marriage anthem “Its Not The Same So What” and the very standard “Third Person & I” are both decent ballads, but nothing spectacular, but both are still totally suitable and do exactly what they are meant to do.
Title track “PLAY” is easily the edgiest and hardest song she has ever released with it’s trap beat, dub-step break down and fierce rapping about pop cultures influence on society. Many of the upbeat songs are harder versions of past styles Jolin has dabbled in. “Phony Queen” is like “Dr Jolin” except even more EDM, the truly phenomenal “Medusa” recalls Jolin’s “Agent J” days with a modern twist, and iconic Namie Amuro collab “I’m Not Yours” could have been a b-side to equally as iconic “Honey Trap.” “Miss Trouble” is a full on rap song with a trap beat that sounds like something Diplo might produce for Nicki Minaj.
More on that Namie collab: this is Jolin’s first ever self composed track, and she did a phenomenal job on the song. If you had told me a seasoned vet composed this track I would have believed it. It’s good enough to have been the title track honestly. Last year when Lady Gaga composed her first track by herself, the idiotic “Venus,” I was horrified to find that it was a hot mess. Any fears I had that Jolin would also produce a clusterfuck of a mess was quickly put to rest upon first listen. It’s impressive that Jolin is able to retain the sound that her fanbase wants while still pushing forward as an artist. It’s always a tricky slope, but Jolin seems to be tackling the challenge with ease.
Perfect pop records are practically impossible to make, but Jolin proved that she can come as close as possible to perfection with “PLAY.” This album is easily the best album released this year, but should we honestly be surprised at all? Now if you will excuse me, I have to wait patiently by the mailbox for my Medusa Edition of the album to arrive from Taiwan! Later bitches!