LEXIE LIU – THE HAPPY STAR REVIEW

As I have mentioned before, one of my favorite ways to discover new music is to randomly discover it online. One way I tend to discover new music is to click on the many random recommend songs that pop up on my Youtube. This is exactly how I found the debut single, ‘Fortuna,’ from Lexie Liu’s new album The Happy Star ‘Fortuna’ has such a unique sound that sticks out among the current Pop landscape, and it drew me in immediately. As soon as I heard this song, I was hooked, and I needed to learn more about Lexie Liu and the project this song was supposed to be a part of. Lexie LIU first burst onto the scene in the mid-2010s, having competed in multiple reality tv singing competitions and gaining notoriety that way. She started releasing singles in 2018 along with her first EP 2029. She released her second EP, 2030, in Feb of 2019. She followed these EPs up by releasing her debut album, Meta Ego in Dec of 2019. These projects fused MandoPop with Hip Hop, giving her a fresh sound that stood out. She released her third EP, Gone Gold in January of 2021. This project has more of an Electro-Pop element, as seems to inspire her new album more than her previous work had. While she has been launching her music career, Lexie has also emerged as a force in the modeling world. Over the last several years, she’s become one of the most sought-after models in Asia. With all of that being said, here is how I feel about Lexie Liu’s nee album The Happy Star . Please let me know in the comments below how you feel about this record as a whole, and let me know what your favorite songs it are as well.

The record starts with the aforementioned ‘FORTUNA.’ As I stated earlier, this song drew me in as soon as I heard it and made me want to check out more of Lexie Liu. This song has a fun and interesting sound that truly stands out. The basis of the instrumental is Darkwave Synth-Pop with a Y2K element. When the song starts, its instrumental makes me think of artists like Grimes or Purity Ring, or early work from Rina Sawayama. As the song gets into the chorus, the instrumental takes a bit of a turn. During the hook, the instrumental shifts into having a 2000s Pop Rock. When I hear this hook, I immediately recall The Veronicas and Aly& AJ. This is a kind of music I have not heard in a long time, and it makes this track very fun and refreshing. On this track, Lexie Liu switches back and forth between English, Spanish, and Mandarin. Her vocal style fits this kind of Synth-Pop super well, and I love the sound ad-libs and sound effects she creates with her voice which are sprinkled throughout the track. Lexie has stated this record has a connection to Tarot Cards, with ‘FORTUNA’ referencing the “Wheel of Fortune” card. On ‘FORTUNA,’ Lexie Liu is singing about changing and controlling her destiny in the way she sees fit. ‘dance dance’ keeps the Darkwave SynthPop sound that the last long had, but feels less inspired by Y2K Pop and is inspired by 90s Industrial Dance music. The instrumental for this track makes me think of underground 90s Goth club music. During the chorus, the melody does take a brighter and more hopeful one, but for the most part, this song feels very murky and shadowy. I like the riff that pops in during the post-chorus of this song. This riff has a very creepy sound that is reminiscent of a chase scene in a horror movie. Vocally, Lexie’s energy matches the instrumental well. Her vocals have an anxious and almost downtrodden tone, enhancing the energy of the instrumental. This track is entirely in English except for a couple of lines in the second verse. In ‘dance dance,’ Lexie is singing about someone who is socially awkward and is dragged out to the dance floor with her friends; to ease herself she starts to think about how she is the main character in her story and everyone around are characters in her story. ‘3.14159’ takes us away from the Synth-Pop that the last two songs had, and plunges into a Dancey Pop-Rock sound. This song sounds very inspired by some of the Indie Dance-Pop and Indie Rock that emerged in the late 2000s and early 2010s. It reminds me a lot of artists like Walk The Moon, Phoenix, and Two Door Cinema Club. Like music by those bands, it is driven by a funky and fun Guitar riff, which is complemented by a rich keyboard melody. This song has way more bright and colorful sound than the first two songs on the album. It feels a lot more positive and uplifting than the tracks that precede it. As good as the instrumental is, the best thing about this song is Lexie Liu’s vocals. I love how she constantly fluctuates her tone and vocal style, sometimes singing in a softer nature and sometimes almost shouting the lyrics. Her vocal performance adds so much to this track; it gives the song so much good energy that makes the song so much better. ‘314159’ is entirely in English. On ‘3.14159,’ Lexie Liu is singing about breaking your daily routine and having fun instead. It is about doing what you want to do and being who you want to be. ‘GANMA’ provides another major switch-up from what we have heard on this record to this point. This song takes on the darker tone of the first couple of songs, but it is a lot more futuristic sounding. It has a Future-Phonk-type of feeling; it is similar to the kind of modern harsh and gritty Dance songs that have become popular on Tik Tok lately(specifically among the car community. If you do not understand what I mean, go on Tik Tok and look up car edits). I enjoy how cutting and gritty the riff is on ‘GANMA.’ The song has a real neo-dystopian feeling; it should be in a video game like Cyberpunk. ‘GANMA’ is the first song on the record where Lexie Liu raps. Her singing in this track does not stand out too much, but the rapping provides an element that we have not heard from her yet on the record. ‘GANMA’ is the first song on the record that is entirely in Mandarin. On ‘GANMA,’ Lexie is singing about the mundane humdrum of the work cycle. It is about waking up every day to do your work routine and being unfulfilled with how your life is going.

‘MAGICIAN’ was the other single that was released in anticipation of this record. Similar to ‘FORTUNA,’ it made me want to hear what else Lexie Liu could do when I heard it. Although it is not as dark and harsh as the song that precedes it, ‘MAGICIAN’ has a somewhat similar futuristic Dance-Pop sound to it. Unlike the song that precedes it, though, I can hear elements of Y2K era EuroPop on this one. The beat and riff aren’t nearly as tough and funky as they are on ‘GANMA;’ instead, it has more of a somber Pop-House sound. The thing that stands out the most about this track is Lexie Liu’s vocal performance. The way she constantly fluctuates her tone adds so much to the melody and gives the song extra layers. ‘MAGICIAN’ is a song that is about half in English and half in Mandarin. On ‘MAGICIAN,’ Lexie is once again singing about controlling your reality and not letting the world dictate your life. Lexie Liu changes things again with the song ‘DIABLO.’ The name ‘DIABLO’ is a fitting name for this track, as it is the most sinister-sounding song on the record to this point. The instrumental for this one is so different and cool. It is like a modern take on 90s Industrial Pop and Alternative Pop Rock. I can hear elements of Grunge in the riff, which is interesting considering it is a Synth riff; the melody is just so distorted that it feels Grungey. This song is so dirty and gritty, and it shows off yet another interesting song to Lexie Liu’s musicianship. Even the way that Lexie Liu sings on this track feels more grating. She has a lot more attitude in her vocals on this one than in any of the songs that precede it. ‘DIABLO’ is performed in Mandarin, English, and Spanish. On ‘DIABLO,’ Lexie Liu sings about being tempted by the devil to become addicted to material things. It is about letting the superficial aspects of life consume you and not staying true to who you are. ‘MIRA’ is the calmest song on the record to this point. It does not have the same kind of high level of energy as songs before it on this record. After how intense and in-your-face the album has been to this point, this is a nice palette cleanser, as it slows things down. It is still a pretty lively Dance-Pop song, just not as much as the first six songs. The instrumental for this one is a little tamer than those six tracks as well. This one feels a lot more like a traditional modern Synth-Pop record. It does have a gloomy melody, which fits in with the theme of the record. Even though it is slower, ‘MIRA’ still feels like it fits in with this project. One thing I appreciate about this one is the various instances of traditional Chinese instruments that are thrown in here and there. They give the song a layer that the rest of the album has not had. Like many other songs before it, Lexie Liu’s vocal performance is excellent. She shows off her range and her ability to control her timbre on this one so well. The way her vocals are layered at the end of the track adds so much to its emotion. ‘MIRA’ is sung in English, Mandarin, and Spanish. On ‘MIRA, Lexie Liu is singing about appreciating the world around you and also surrendering to a higher power to seek your purpose. ‘Gaia’ is the second song in a row that slows down the tempo and overall feeling the album had for the first six songs and gives us something totally different. Similar to the song before it, ‘Gaia’ uses some traditional Chinese instruments to drive the melody. This melody is very engaging because it is so unique within the context of this record and in general. The melody has an atmospheric sound that transports me into another galaxy when i hear it. ‘Gaia’ is the first song to have a beat that does not make me think of Synth-Pop music; instead, the beat for this track has a lot more of a Hip Hop feeling. The beat for this track makes me think of early 2000s Hip Hop and R&B music. Lexie Liu’s vocal performance on this song is very hypnotic and ethereal. Her vocals add to the otherworldly sound that the melody has. ‘Gaia’ is sung mostly in English, with a little Sanskrit chanted at the end. On ‘Gaia,’ Lexie sings about Gaia, the Greek goddess of the Earth, and how she has fallen in love with this goddess.

‘Bad Dream’ is the third song in a row with a slow and calm tempo. It seems like during this section of the album, Lexie wanted to slow it down and bring the energy back down from how high it was for the first several songs on the record. Like the previous song, ‘Bad Dream’ has a sound that is heavily influenced by Hip Hop and R&B. Instead of retro R&B or Hip Hop, though, this song has a very modern sound. Specifically, this song has a Trap beat and an overall Pop-Trap feeling. Like ‘Gaia,’ this track has a very ethereal feeling. The melody, which is driven by a simple piano riff and some synths, is super-celestial. The overall sound and feel of this track make me think of Ariana Grande. I like the Hip Hop flows that Lexie uses throughout this song. These flows fit the instrumental so well, and it shows yet another side to her vocal style. Bad Dream’ is sung in English, with a little Mandarin sprinkled in. In ‘Bad Dream,’ Lexie sings of being in love with someone but not having the relationship work out because of awful timing. ‘RRR’ brings the tempo back up a bit. It does not have the kind of fast Synth-Pop energy that we heard earlier on the album, but it is a lot faster than the last few songs. This song is nothing like the rest of the record. ‘RRR’ actually has a Caribbean sound. This instrumental straight-up sounds like it was made by a Latin artist. The beat and melody are so reminiscent of typical Latin Pop and Reggaeton. Even Lexie’s vocal performance has a Reggaeton feeling to it. ‘RRR’ is sung completely in English. On ‘RRR,’ Lexie Liu is singing about a new and fun relationship. I enjoy the sound of this song a lot and it is one of my favorites off the album, but I do have to say that this song does not fit into the album well. Lyrically and sonically it is such a pivot from anything else to this point. ‘I wanna tell u’ brings us back to the upbeat Synth-Pop energy that the album got away from on the last few tracks. This track is a lot more happy and fun and upbeat than all of the other Synth-Pop on this record. In fact, no song on the project before this has the kind of sweet energy that this track has. ‘I wanna tell u’ feels like a crossover between 80s-influenced artists like The Weeknd and Carly Rae Jepsen. It has elements of the disco sound from Carly and the funk New Wave sound from The Weeknd. Lexie’s vocals have a soft and tender element to them that fit the sound of the instrumental well. This song is sung in Mandarin and English. On ‘i wanna tell u,’ Lexie is singing about falling in love and being nervous about the future. The record closes out with the song ‘Shanti.’ The melody of this track has a similar tone to ‘i wanna tell u.’ The last few songs on this album have a way more positive tone than the bulk of it. ‘Shanti’ feels very influenced by the late 90s. There are two late 90s types of music: ElectroPop and Alternative Rock. During the verses of the song, the song has a Dance Pop feeling that reminds me of songs like Cher’s ‘Believe.’ In the chorus, the song has a sound that is similar to bands like The Pixies or Dinosaur Jr. ‘Shanti’ is the biggest and boldest song on this record. It definitely has the feeling of a closer. Lexie sings with a softer tone on this track and it creates a nice contrast with the harder nature of the instrumental. On ‘Shanti,’ Lexie chants an ancient Indian mantra and also sings in English. It is a prayer for guidance to make the right choices. 


I am glad that I decided to look into Lexie Liu after I randomly listened to ‘FORTUNA’ on Youtube a couple of weeks ago. The Happy Star is one of my favorite Pop albums of the year. This record has so much diversity in its sound, vocal performances, and lyricism. The album has so much to offer fans of many different kinds of Pop music because of how wide-ranging its instrumental types are.  Lexie’s vocal performances match the style of each song well. Lexie demonstrates the ability to sing in many different languages on the record, giving her a way to appeal to a wide variety of fans. On The Happy Star, Lexie Liu shows that she is a rising Pop star that needs to be paid attention to. The Happy Star is a record I will be going back to for a while, and it makes me very excited to see what she does in the future.

FAVORITE TRACKS – FORTUNA, dance dance, 3.14159, DIABLO, Gaia, RRR, i wanna tell u, Shanti

8.27/10

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