Poster boy breaks the mould

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 04 March, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 04 March, 2012, 12:00am


Say 'Canto-pop' and most people will turn up their noses. But please, don't try to squeeze the whole genre into a small mould: a mould that screams TV drama tie-ins, sporadic guest appearances or even worse, an over-packaged image that seems to be even louder than the music.

While this stereotype of Cantopop may prevail, at least make note of one exception - in the form of newcomer Phil Lam. And he isn't just another pretty poster-boy (and I interviewed him in person - he is pretty) destined to be plastered all over your bedroom wall.

While his album cover and poster inserts feature glamour shots that would incur fan-girling and/or hyperventilating in the most level-headed girls, Lam has the raw talent to set him apart from the crowd.

That's not unexpected, given his background as a singer-songwriter. The fact that he plays all the saxophone accompaniments is a nice touch, giving his music a slightly jazz-funk feel.

While Lam unabashedly acknowledges that he sings Canto-pop, he laughs while clarifying that his self-titled, full-length debut album is 'not all love songs' - although it does begin with the requisite touch of romance in Stay With You Tonight. But its well-executed concept and catchy refrain make it a perfect start to the album.

To say that Lam is a dreamer would be something of a stretch, but it's safe to say that he has his head in the clouds with his feet on the ground. When approaching his music, he exudes a sort of painful sincerity that emphasises his down-to-earth expectations while he follows his dreams.

While he 'never thought he couldn't make it', and gave himself 'two years to find a record company or call it quits', he struck lucky when he got a positive response to a raft of songs he composed.

A song to sum up Lam's attitude towards music and life would be J'Adore, with its oh-so simple French title and allusions to travel. 'Do what you like to do,' says Lam, while reflecting on the meaning of the song. 'All of us have so much stress, so many problems we have to deal with ... This song inspires people to let go of things and let your mind escape, even if you can't get to Paris.'

His recording process once again sets him apart - it's one of those 'rare times' when he likes to turn up the music just loud enough to 'groove along to it, sync into the beat, mesh into the music and just have fun'. The final product resonates well with his audience, creating feelings that can't be replicated through other means.

This album is a teaser, as it only scratches the surface of Lam's prowess as a singer-songwriter (although the lyrics were written by Fong Man-shan, Lam composed the melodies and accompaniments) and this is what has listeners hooked. We can only wonder what he will deliver next, especially when armed with a 'why not' mentality about genres. Watch this space.