Thursday, August 17, 2006

Inilah Jac!

Ok , I have to confess. I am biased when it comes to reviewing this CD. That’s because I have been a fan of the first (and most deserving) Malaysian Idol ever since she completely wowed everybody with her rendition of “Gemilang” two years ago. More urgently, I am also a fan of one of the producers in her new CD, Kieran Kuek. A personal friend of mine, I have been privy to some of his earlier works as a producer and songwriter and I have to say that he shows a lot of potential and vision – the shot in the arm that the local music scene needs.

Now, back to the task at hand - "Inilah Jac".

This is Jac’s second studio album after her award winning but overhyped first CD "Gemilang". On first listen, this new CD sounds pleasant enough, and already I have picked my favourite tracks. The production was plush, but without drowning out her strong vocals. There is something for everyone, from the Malay torchsong ballad that’s guaranteed to burn up the radio charts (“Cinta Tiada Akhirnya”) to the interestingly hip “Cepat Cepat” which incidentally is the first radio single from this CD.

Then, there is track 4, “Ceritera Cinta”. As I listen to it, I am reminded of those Disney movie songs that will eventually get played to death on Light And Easy. Its cutesy lyrics borders on being too clich├ęd and the melody is tad bit too ‘drama’ for my taste. However what saves this song from being another "A Whole New World" knock-off is the way Indonesia’s Roy Farbian’s restrained and soothing tenor complements and even supports Jac’s soaring vocal acrobatics.

Another standout track for me has to be “Star (Old Skool Mix)”. At first I couldn’t quite place where I had heard this song before and it took my sister only a few seconds to figure out that it was the theme to the “One In A Million” talent show. It’s a good composition on its own and with all the publicity surrounding OIAM, this is one track that will go far.

If there is one gripe I have about this CD, it has to be the closing track which is supposed to be an update of the 80’s classic “Superwoman”. In the words of Paul Moss, “If you’re going to do a cover version, you have to make sure that you, one, sing it differently from the original, or two, do it better… preferably both.” In this case, while Jac's performance is competent, the song still sounds the same. I’m sure that as a live performance, it would have been quite impressive but on the CD, that energy doesn’t quite come through and ultimately, she is let down by an unimaginative arrangement.

Other notable tracks include the opener, “Inilah Masanya” - an energetic and joyous celebration; “Kasih Sayang” – a simple Malay song that I can’t decide if it is a remake of an old song or a new song that sounds dated.; and another English track “Jealous” – with its Chinese opera opener and Reefa’s manic rap bit, this is yet another song that makes this CD slightly schizophrenic, but in a good way of course. ☺

Overall, “Inilah Jac” comes across more polished and less rushed than its predecessor. In addition, the three Kieran Kuek tracks give it a welcome urban flavour that hopefully signals more progressive and adventurous work from Jac in the future.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Tarik Kereta

Me: Hello, EON Bank? May I speak to your loan officer please?

Loan Officer (LO): Yes, how may I help you?

Me: Yes, My name is Mr Tan. I would like to enquire about a car loan application that I made with your bank a few days ago. I understand that my application was rejected. May I know why?

LO: Er.... please hold on. I need to get out your file first...... Ah, ok. Er... Mr. Tan, you are buying a Gen-2 right? Mmmm.... oh, regarding your loan, Mr. Tan, actually the problem is we need a guarantor.

Me: But why do you need a guarantor? It's not like I cannot afford the payments. Did you get my income tax forms and my bank statements?

LO: Yes... but....

Me: Then surely you can see that I can more than afford to pay for the car cash if I wanted to. So why would I need a guarantor?

LO: Well, it's our bank policy. Also, your application was not approved because you are not working in Klang Valley.

Me: So?

LO: Since you apply in KL, our branch deems your case as an outstation application. And we usually don't take outstation case.

Me: Why? It's not like I'm in another country.

LO: Er... Actually outstation cases a bit difficultlah, because just in case ... er... you default payment, and we need to er..tarik kereta... er... it's more difficult for us to find the car...

Me: ???? ... Hold on a sec. Are you trying to say that I am considered a poor risk because if I don't pay the monthly payments, you may find it difficult to tow my car?

LO: Er... yeah.

Me: Are you kidding???

LO: Sorry Mr. Tan. That is my boss give us the policy.

Me: What do you mean, policy? My sister applied for a car loan in Melaka just two weeks ago, and she put her Kajang address. Her loan was approved by your branch in Melaka in one day! Now, the last I heard, Melaka is not in Klang Valley.

LO: Oh, that is because usually they have a different policy.

Me: You mean your bank has different policies for different branches?

LO: Nolah... erm... actually also up to the loan officer. If he dares to give, then no problemlah.

Me: In other words, you don't want to take the risk on me lah...?

LO: Err.... sorry sir. It's bank policy.... Why don't you apply at our bank at your town? You can tell them that you applied in KL branch but cannot get....

Me: And telling them that will make it easier to get the loan?

LO: Er... actually I'm not sure also.... but at least it's the local branch. Easier ....

Me: Easier to tarik my kereta is it?

LO: He he, no lah.... mmmmm.....

Me: It's oklah. I think I've heard enough. Thank you.

LO: Ok. sorrylah Mr Tan. Thank you for calling EON Bank and have a nice day.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

These foolish things

A cigarette that bares a lipstick's traces
An airline ticket to romantic places
And still my heart has wings
These foolish things remind me of you.

“So, how have you been?”

She was my first, way back when. Even though it's been a decade since I last saw her, she still looks the same, with her long dark brown hair tied with a pink scrunchy, dimples that seem to light up when she smiles and her still slim figure belies five years of marriage and two children.

I was looking for orchids as a housewarming gift for a friend when somewhere in between the flower pots and faux bonsais, there she was.

How strange,
To find you still,
These things are dear to me
They seem to bring you near to me

Funny how some coincidences occur. Just last weekend, I was just looking at some old photos in a long lost album while I was doing some spring cleaning. Pictures of the two of us were among the heaps of unarranged and yellowing images. The holiday we took in Singapore. Our karaoke session after the finals. My one and only mountain climbing trip. Looking at them now no longer evoked any bitterness or regret. I smiled thinking of the good times we had, wondering if it might have ended differently had I not….

You came, you saw,
You conquered me,
When you did that to me,
I knew somehow,
It’s meant to be….

Later, after that encounter, I would come home, a little bit dazed. I thought of how our separate lives have evolved since that tearful goodbye. In the ensuing decade, I had loved again a few times, ...and lost again a few times. But never with the same intensity. They say that the first love often determines the course for one’s future relationships. If that is true, then I fear I shall always be cursed to repeat the same mistakes that I made with her. And yet, as I look back, I realise that our time together has made me a stronger person. Less judgemental. More forgiving with the realization that everybody makes mistakes once in a while.

A tinkling piano in the next apartment
Those stumblin’ words
That told you what my heart meant

“I’m doing great” she says, a bit too enthusiastically, the way one tries to be upbeat when confronting an uncomfortable blast from the past. I find out that aunty’s doing fine but uncle’s confined to the wheelchair after a stroke two years ago. And her firstborn is now in pre-kindergarten – a fancier name for daycare, I suppose.

A man in his late thirties approaches us with two kids in tow. Tall and lanky but with a kind round face.

“This is Henry, my husband. Honey, this is the old friend of mine I told you about…”

Ouch! I have been demoted from an ex to an old friend. Or perhaps she’s now comfortable enough to regard me more positively. Hellos and handshakes are duly exchanged and I sense my cue to exit the stage.

The scent of smoldering leaves
The wail of steamers
Two lovers on the street
Who walk like dreamers

As I watch them stroll away down the road, I'm surprised to find that my heart has been palpitating to the point of being almost out of breath. She still has that effect on me after all this time......

Oh how the ghost of you clings.....

The blaring horn of an impatient driver behind me jolts me back into reality. I’m waiting in line at the traffic light junction as the infernal red light adamantly refuses to grant me passage forward for more than a minute. As Dinah Washington sings the last few lines of the song, my mind slowly reawakens from its melancholic lull, like the morning fog lifted by the blazing sun.

These foolish things
Remind me of you.