LAY ‘Producer’ Album Review: A Great East and West Fusion

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As a global superstar, LAY has greatly improved on his craft as an artist and performer, and takes it a notch higher by producing his new album. Here’s my LAY ‘Producer’ album review.

Global superstar LAY has been busy promoting in China, and 2020 has been a very productive year for him. He released his two-part album “Lit” and performed new songs “CZR2 I’m a Singer-Songwriter,” a variety show where Chinese artists produce their own music for a limited time frame. LAY’s started with his single “Joker,” which is now his latest single off his new album, “PRODUCER.”

I haven’t had the chance to watch “CZR2 I’m a Singer-Songwriter,” but by just the sound of it, one could not be prouder of Yixing, as once only a member of EXO, to now creating music and identity of his own. The variety show and him being a producer show how LAY significantly improved his craft as an artist and performer. While Exo-L misses him so much in performing with the other EXO members, he is doing great by himself. He’s still under SM Entertainment, but due to the ongoing tension between China and South Korea, LAY had to separate from the group for the time being.

“CZR2 I’m a Singer-Songwriter” was a great challenge to LAY’s career. Chinese fans have witnessed how LAY prepared the nine songs in the album, from the demo to the studio version. One can say that producing an album is not an easy task. The whole process is intricate–from the birth of ideas to their implementation and even their death. Behind everything lies LAY’s distinct talent and identity that he poured through the nine songs in “PRODUCER.”

LAY 'Producer' Album Review: Joker
LAY performing Joker on the CZR2 I’m a Singer-Songwriter stage

LAY ‘Producer’ Album Review by Track

After listening to “PRODUCER,” I understood why SM Entertainment had put a lot of trust in LAY. I didn’t expect that he would be great at producing his own music. “PRODUCER” is an exceptional fusion of Western contemporary hip hop, pop, trap, and traditional Chinese music. While I never subscribe to trap and some of the modern sounds, I appreciated what LAY has created, as a mix of different genres, without going overboard with it. Everything is just balanced and easy-listening, especially for pop music extremists.

“Joker” was a hit among the viewers of “CZR2 I’m a Singer-Songwriter,” as well as LAY’s loyal fans in China, South Korea, and worldwide. The single was one of the most anticipated songs in 2021, especially after it went viral through TikTok’s Magazine Challenge. “Joker” and the other tracks in LAY’s Producer album were all produced by him. Hence, that title. As an EXO-L, this makes me proud of Yixing.

According to LAY, “Joker” is like a “soul clone” to his own identity. He shows a crazy aspect of his heart. The song’s theme is inspired by the DC character Joker and the 2019 movie of the same name. LAY saw the similarities between Arthur Fleck and himself, especially with regards to his madness as both a performer and producer. With that, “Joker” lds LAY’s fans and audiences about what’s inside his mind and experience that crazy world he has created.

The second track, “Love, Lay,” is melodic, sexy, and soulful. The song is short but sweet. While it was too early to make it a second track, its switch from the dark Joker track was an excellent contrast to having a slow love song.

Flipped, while having elements of Chinese music, reminded me of K-pop and EXO’s music. However, while LAY can not just deny how much he has learned from many of their producers, the chorus indicates originality on his part.

Ambush and Descendants of the Dragon are both dark and reminiscent of underground hip-hop, especially those of the Korean indie scene. However, LAY’s unique vocal quality and the outstanding traditional Chinese instruments used in the song make it stand out from the rest.

LAY slows down on Stay with Me. As the only mellow song in the album, he showcases his soft but meaningful vocals through the track.

Horse, with its melody and vocal style, reminds me of Mandarin Pop boy bands like 5566. Compared to other songs in the album, it’s the most Mando-Pop.

Obsessed is slow and sexy. The elements and flow of the song don’t deviate from its lyrics. However, LAY introduced a different vocal style to show how much he’s obsessed.

The final track, XiangJiang River, wasn’t so much of a standout for me despite it being the track featuring a collab. However, the intro is lovely and reminds me of Chinese films because of the windwood instrument that was used.

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“PRODUCER” has all the makings of a global hit album. While some elements are complex, LAY made sure to make them easy-listening and straightforward. He didn’t go overboard with its components, despite it being a fusion of several genres.

Unlike other artists in this age, LAY’s very apparent fusion and usage of traditional Chinese instruments are commendable. It exemplifies LAY’s identity as a Chinese artist and upholds his responsibility of protecting his heritage.

That ends my Lay ‘Producer’ album review. Go, Yixing! I look forward to him producing EXO’s future album as well and incorporating South Korea’s culture in it. What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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