The Asian Rihanna?

2 minute read
Pavan Shamdasani

The past year has been a momentous one for American-Jewish-Taiwanese singer Alisa Galper. After her win on the Taiwan talent show One Million Star (the island’s answer to American Idol), she was quickly signed by Universal Music Taiwan, who immediately began touting her as “Asia’s Rihanna.” The comparison isn’t too fanciful, and what she lacks in the Barbadian singer’s rhythmic ease, she makes up for in range and diversity.

Alisa has spent many months working on her eponymous, bilingual debut — and she definitely has a voice. Her first single, “Hound Dog,” a cover of the early Elvis favorite, adds a throaty, R&B vibe to the song’s rocking swagger. It’s one part sweet and two parts sultry, giving the gender switch a sensual twist. Elsewhere, she shows a talent for duets, such as in the Mandarin ballad “Unexpected,” counterpointing American-born Taiwan singer Will Pan’s smooth tones in a manner that neither controls nor submits.

(Asia’s best bands.)

Unfortunately, the rest of the album falls predictably into two commercial mainstays: the ostentatiously scored, teen-baiting love ballad (“Iron Butterfly”) and overtly energetic vocals underpinned with tacky electro beats (“Rock Your Body”). Both sorts are competently produced here, and disappointment sets in not at their presentation but at the potential wasted. Alisa has the talent to gun for critical approval. But she is being steered instead toward commercial safety.

See TIME’s Pictures of the Week.

More Must-Reads from TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com