Thursday, July 9, 2009

Taiwan Chart Shock: Rock and Roll at Number 1

The Taiwan album charts, usually dominated by pop and R&B, had an unfamiliar look this week with a rock and roll record topping the charts. The versatile A-mei (阿妹) released her 18th album AMIT (阿密特), and it went straight to number one for the week June 26-July 2, ending Jerry Yan's two-week reign at the top.

36 year old A-mei, also known as Zhāng Huì Mèi (张惠妹), is one of Taiwan's best-loved pop divas, and has constantly reinvented herself in her 13-year career. From pop to Taiwan aboriginal musical to dance music and folk, she has experimented with a variety of styles, including performances with the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra and, most recently, in a Japanese version of the opera Turandot.

A little controversy may have helped record sales, with Taiwan TV banning the video clip of the single, Black Eats Black (黑吃黑). The MTV-produced clip features dominatrix outfits, images of sado-masochism and swearing. Par for the course in a lot of other countries, but in Taiwan the video was considered too "vulgar" to go to air.

A-mei is no stranger to controversy. She inadvertently raised mainland Chinese hackles when she sang the Taiwan anthem at the inauguration ceremony for pro-independence Taiwan president Chen Shui-Bian back in 2000. Although A-mei later insisted that there was no political agenda behind her appearance, it didn't stop nationalistic mainlanders from calling for a boycott of her records. The Beijing government slapped a ban on her giving concerts and Chinese State radio stopped playing her songs. The ban was eventually lifted, allowing her to visit the mainland for a concert tour in 2004, but protestors demonstrated at her shows, eventually forcing her to abandon a concert in Hangzhou.

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