Yen - Introducing the Sound of Asian Soul RnB (2007)

Yen
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Atlanta-based singer Yen is the first to admit that he "doesn't look like a typical soul singer."  But rather than hide his cultural roots (as TK Records did with early Bobby Caldwell records, showing only a silhouette of the singer to hide his race), Yen embraces his Vietnamese background on his debut album, Introducing the Sound of Asian SoulRnB.  And, with his heritage front and center, Yen has released a solid contemporary R&B album that further expands the definition of that genre.

Atlanta-based singer Yen is the first to admit that he "doesn't look like a typical soul singer."  But rather than hide his cultural roots (as TK Records did with early Bobby Caldwell records, showing only a silhouette of the singer to hide his race), Yen embraces his Vietnamese background on his debut album, Introducing the Sound of Asian SoulRnB.  And, with his heritage front and center, Yen has released a solid contemporary R&B album that further expands the definition of that genre.

To make sure his point is made from the start, Yen leads the disc with "My Calling," an Asian music-tinged tribute to his father, who emigrated from Vietnam to raise his 10 children in Western Michigan.  It is a beautiful, heartfelt song and the album's highpoint, with Yen delivering a message that will be understood by first generation Americans of all races.  And "My Calling" kicks off a strong first part of the disc that includes the horn filled "Let's Just Take It Back," the duet "Let Me Hold You" (featuring Bien B. Nguyen) and an old school slow jam, "Part of Me."

As a singer, Yen is raw but promising.  His bright voice and earnestness generally cover up technical flaws, but his tendency to oversing becomes more pronounced on the musically less attractive (though lyrically interesting) songs on the second half of the disc, such as "Temptation" and "Where Do We Go."

In the broader picture, Introduction is another positive step in the expansion of soul music into a truly international sound and a display of the fascinating directions that varied cultural influences can have on a music the roots of which lie squarely in the African American church.  And in the narrower view, it is a generally successful introduction to a developing young singer with a solid vision of where contemporary R&B music can go. 

By Chris Rizik

 

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