Zhang Zhen Yue is one of the best Chinese pop artists around. His music is popular wherever Chinese is spoken. He is from Taiwan and his music reflects that. Like most Taiwanese pop artists, he sings in localized Mandarin Chinese. Zhang writes his songs, sings, and plays the guitar. He has made five albums and a VCD (that's music video to you). His distinctive style sets him apart from all the boring Mandopop solos and bands that croon the same old love songs and sound the same as any mediocre Western solos or bands. His label is ROCKRECORDS&TAPES (www.rock.com.tw).

His first two were albums were less mature and distictive and never gained popularity, though I haven't heard them myself. They were released in 1993 and 1994. At this point, Zhang served his mandatory two years of national military service. His next CD was not released until 1997. Commonly called the Free Night disc by ignorant foreigners, Free Night is actually the name of the band he paired up with for this album. Zhang Zhen Yue's Chinese name and "Free Night" appear on the cover, but what it really means is Zhang Zhen Yue and Free Night are the artists, and the album name, translated, is "Boring Afternoon." It gained well-deserved fame and still gets considerable rotation and airplay to this day

His fourth album, also paired up with Free Night, is (again translated), "Secret Headquarters," released in 1998. It includes a couple of the same songs as Boring Afternoon, and many more. It features a wide variety of styles. Fen Shou Ba, or Breaking Up, is a beautiful rock ballad that stirs strong emotions with its intense, poetic lyrics and masterful accompaniment. The title track is humorous, with its hard-rocking chorus of Zhang belting out "FREE NIGHT! I WANNA GET HIGH!" with his thick Taiwanese accent. Love's First Taste is a humorous, danceable tune with a distinctive Taiwanese flair.

His most recent album, entitled Trouble, released 2000-2001?, is equally creative. It is his first album to sport a Chinese Parental Advisory warning. It is more dance-oriented and makes judicious use of the electronica style along with his more "traditional" rock techniques. Again, it features a mix of styles. It opens with a preposterous, hard-rocking track entitled "Fang Pi", (Fart) with Zhang's trademark contrast between subject and presentation. The title track is a about getting a hangover and consequently, trouble. The chorus is his boss shouting "YOU GOTTA FUCKING TROUBLE!", again with Zhang's substandard English. Another, entitled 0204, is about calling the Taiwanese phone sex number, and has a very upbeat danceable tune. There is a complete instrumental, eight-minute electronica dance track, which is quite inspiring. It doesn't "move" a whole lot in eight minutes, but I didn't feel like it needed to.

In general, Zhang Zhen Yue is definitely a good option to consider if you're looking for something different in world music. I have his Secret Headquarters and Trouble albums, and they are well worth the 142 minutes of music you get with them.

I just realized how much this writeup sucks, but I find it extremely difficult to do this Chinese artist justice in English--it is hard enough for a Chinese person to do it, let alone someone who can barely make out the generally simple lyrics to his songs. I'll research and try to find more information to logically assimilate.

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