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Best Chinese Albums of 2020

Written by YumCha! Editorial Team Tell a Friend

Our editors' picks for the best Chinese albums of 2020!

AGA - So Called Love Songs
AGA illustrates the different shapes and phases of romantic love with ten self-penned tracks in So Called Love Songs, her first regular studio album in almost three years. Sharing heartfelt stories that we can all resonate with, AGA takes us on a journey of recounting past relationships and lingering feelings. She's lovestruck in a pure love in Tonight, which comes with a hint of retro feels, but then she's immersed in a love triangle in the signature AGA-style R&B Two At a Time. After being lost in a swirl of past memories in Everyday, she coolly bids farewell to an incompatible partner in See You Next Time and So Called Love Song. Other than just performing genres she's good at, she challenges herself in the intense electro-dance number Mad and its remix featuring rapper-producer Ghost Style. AGA closes the album with the emotionally charged Lovestory 2 (the demo of Hins Cheung's "Empty Hands"), the acoustic version of See You Next Time and the demo of Wonderful U (from Ginadoll). Unlike its dismissive title, So Called Love Songs connects with our hearts dearly.

Hebe Tien - Time Will Tell
Hebe Tien carries on with her melancholic love songs that tug at heartstrings in her fifth studio album, which uncovers secrets that are hidden deep in her heart. With an intro and outro that highlight the theme of the album, Time Will Tell seizes matters of the heart and soul in music that sparks mysterious and unpredictable moods. After beginning with the dynamic retro rock plugs "You Should Know About It" and "Crop Circles" and the jazzy band-sound "Hysteria," the album gradually develops a more soothing ambience and emotional sentiment. The soulful songstress stirs hearts with "One, after Another" about following our hearts, "Anything Goes" about wishing to be free-spirited, and title track "Untold" which describes love poignantly. The acoustic "Humans Are the Worst" hits home with frank lyrics, and the affecting megahit "Let It…" recalls the feelings of being unable to let go and move on. On top of the well-composed melodies, Hebe's ethereal voice makes the music pieces even more captivating.

Hua Chenyu - New World
Hua Chenyu was crowned king on Singer 2020 on the strength of his powerful performances of songs on this epic album. The wunderkind unleashes his musicality and unfettered style in idiosyncratic pieces like the majestic rap-rock fusion "Bullfight," the deceptively ambient and playful "Madhouse," and the positively transcendent "Split" in which he takes on seven personalities in one song, creating each personality with different musical elements and vocal styles. His genre-bending music can be dark and wild yet soothing and uplifting, as in the evocative, environmentally themed "Arrival" and the comforting "I'm Here," which delivers a supportive message to those struggling with depression. Listen to New World, and you'll understand immediately why Hua Chenyu is the top singer-songwriter and pop icon of the new generation.

Janice Yan - Let Everything Happen
Three years after I Have Myself, Janice Yan continues to go strong and fearless in Let Everything Happen, showing her individuality in a wider range of music produced by a name lineup of songwriters. Title track Let Everything Happen shares her life attitude of enjoying everything that comes and going with the flow, while the #1 single "Right, now!" featuring OSN encourages listeners to love themselves. Now in her thirties, Janice unleashes a more powerful voice in her mix-genre songs. She embraces her imperfections in "Happily Ever After." She leaves her unsuitable partner in "Just Let it Go." She's pissed off at her emotional ex in the stylish EDM Please Don't Cry. She loves, falls, but becomes a Fool in Love again. Finally, she's tired of others nagging her in I don't want you no more. Nonetheless, Janice still gives a taste of her heart-wrenching ballads with "Shimmering" and "Where Are My Jeans?," and wraps up the album with You & I that envisions a bright future.

Li Ronghao - Sparrow
We're all like sparrows – small but strong, fragile but tenacious, while struggling to live. Li Ronghao's latest album echoes how we're feeling in 2020. Compared to Ear, Sparrow has less retro sounds but more affectionate lyrics and thought-provoking themes: "Sparrow" about lives, "Friends" about old friendships, "Wait Till Old" about family, and "Same Root" written for those making sacrifices during this pandemic. Besides writing, producing, arranging and mixing the album's tracks, the versatile musician even raps for the first time in the jazzy hip-hopish "Two Ordinary Youths" (featuring Lexie Liu), which totally reinforces the song's theme of never judging others. Li embraces love in three alternative rock ballads: the poetic "I Love You," his rendition of the classic "In The Mood For Love," and the sweet and rhythmical "Together." He goes back to expressing the helplessness and frustrations we experience in life with the hardcore rock beats of "What Can I Do," and finally visualizes himself living bravely and carefree in the outro "If I Were Sea."

Terence Lam - Major in Minor
While Cantopop is gradually dwindling, Terence Lam rises with his unique tone and well-arranged compositions in his first album. Having served as the composer for a number of C-pop stars, he breaks through with his own voice in the singles "Solitude," "NEXT," "In a Funk," "Wind" and just carry on. In Major in Minor, the singer-songwriter connects the five stories with four instrumentals in a calming flow that runs for just half an hour. Rather than merely gathering his hit singles into an EP, he makes the effort to deliver a complete and relatable story with his compositions in a specific arrangement, prompting listeners to turn off the shuffle play button. Terence showcases his talents as a creator and storyteller while performing his image-laden songs with clear enunciation in a relaxing ambience. The album concludes with the vulnerable yet positive line: "All the pain and tears I've taken away, I'll be striving for another day." Resembling the singing tone of old-school Cantopop artists, his timbre demonstrates that less flashy vocal techniques manifest more genuine emotions that touch the heart.

Vicky Chen - Am I Who I Am
Am I Who I Am? Mandopop newcomer Vicky Chen goes on a journey of searching, discovering and defining herself in her first regular album. Having gained fame from Jungle Voice 2 and debut single "Smokescreen," Vicky fully shows off her husky voice and vocal qualities in her alternative rock plugs, mainly produced by Skot Suyama. Am I Who I Am carries all ten of her digital singles released over the past three years – the sweet love song Just You and Me, "I'll Be Your Memory" that reminisces a past love, "Fiery Love" about a doubtful love, Hands Up and "Scumbag" that enlighten you to become a better person, the strong and edgy "Till I'm Underground" about standing on her own ground, Nobody Ever Wonders about dealing with rumors, the encouraging "I Dare You," and Baby about heart-fluttering first love – plus the melancholic If You're Really Gonna Leave Me and the folkish ballad "Life." Through 15 tracks, Am I Who I Am proceeds from reflecting on love and life, to doubting and criticizing the world, and finally finding the courage to live freely again.

WayV - Awaken The World
After taking off and taking over the moon, WayV boasts their wild ambitions in their first full-length album. WayV awakens the world with their promising hip-hop sounds in the well-made ten-track release, again with their regular producers Yoo Young Jin, Mike Daley, Moonshine and LDN Noise. They traverse time and space in the urban trap title track Turn Back Time, and proudly show off their confidence in Bad Alive: "I'm alive here to slay it all. I'm alive on the mountain top." The boys can't forget a miserable love in the urban mid-tempo Unbreakable and the stylish, rhythmical pop R&B Domino featuring the addictive lyrics of "I can feel it in my bones." Coming after the interlude Awaken The World, Only Human suddenly brings a serious mood, digging into the weighty topic of life and humanity. Despite the hardships experienced in the aforementioned tracks, they're still youthful and brave to love in the romantic After Midnight, Up From Here about a love brewed from friendship, Electric Hearts co-written by Hendery and Yangyang, and the warm and cheering Stand By Me.

WeiBird - Sounds of My Life
William Wei's first album in four years goes back to his roots with a funky, soothing and organic sound that tells stories from his own life. The singer-songwriter sampled sounds from his past and present surroundings, including recordings of his cats and old cassette tapes of conversations with his grandmother. He wrote the album's songs, day by day, bit by bit, to represent the different parts of his life. The result is a highly personal, laid-back and warm work that documents the familiar passages of life. The folksy acoustic guitar number "At Thirty" shares his mindset after entering his 30s. The mellow R&B song "Toothbrush" expresses the feeling of returning to your childhood home as a guest who won't stay for long. The moving "World Without You" is dedicated to his grandparents, while the witty and jazzy "Cat Republic" is a love song to his three cats that would make any cat owner smile.

?te - A Bedroom of One's Own
If there's Billie Eilish who brought bedroom pop into the mainstream in American music, then ?te would be the rising new voice promoting the genre in Mandopop. Inspired by Virginia Woolf's same-titled classic, the singer-songwriter's first full-length release A Bedroom of One's Own speaks up for women and their freedom of creativity, starting right from the powerful intro – "Women have always been poor… That is why I have laid so much stress on money and a room of one's own." With such a definite theme, the album continually conveys self-assured lyrics in laid-back, jazzy, soulful and chill lo-fi R&B numbers like Santé and Cazzo about being brave in love, You Say Goodbye Easily about vulnerability, Seh Ah Seh and En Mi Cuarto about her desires to break free, and "Lady First" about leading in a relationship. The unique singing tone and language-switching make her songs even more special.

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Published December 30, 2020

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