THE mainland's Chang Kuan is no ordinary singer - he is a creative artist in his own right, composing the songs and writing the lyrics. What he brings into his music is a welcome breath of fresh air, contemporary sounds with words that truly reflect the yearnings of China's young set. ''Most people think China is still behind the times, but the fact is it's changed a lot - it has a new face, a new lifestyle, and exciting new music,'' Chang said. ''People in the mainland are very open to new things. They are eager for different types of music, and even want to make their own kind of music.'' Chang has cut a path for himself that goes straight into the urban heartland, throbbing with rock 'n' roll. He likes city life. He does not think it wise to keep listening to the same traditional Chinese songs time and again. All his songs swerve sharply away from the traditional style, and they are heart-felt messages to his listeners. He means every word he sings. Chang is in Hong Kong to promote his album, Kuan , released recently here and in Taiwan, Beijing and Southeast Asia. Kuan is a collection of nine songs, seven composed by Chang and two by friends in Beijing. Two of them, Saying the Same Thing and the haunting love song Oh Baby !, are played frequently on the radio these days. Chang wrote his songs in Beijing and came to Hong Kong in October last year to start on production work. He said the album meant a lot to him, as it was the first time he had been to the US for recording. He was honoured, he said, to work with ''some of the best musicians there''. ''This is my first album with Capital Artists after leaving EMI in February last year,'' Chang said. ''Although EMI gave me a valuable opportunity to come to Hong Kong and develop my singing career, I decided to leave, as I felt there was no real help here for a mainland musician.'' His big break came when singing queen Anita Mui Yim-fong introduced him to Capital Artists. It was a new road from then on. The switch of record companies is also accompanied by a slight change in singing style. The hard rock 'n' roll edge has softened, and tender elements are seeping in. Love songs are more prominent. Chang finds singing and composing love songs easy, but wants to give himself more challenges later.