Feng Shui (I Like the Way)
Feng Shui (I Like the Way) is available via:
I will start this review getting a few things off my chest.
As much as I am looking forward to investigating Ocean China – and have much to enjoy and recommend – I am forced to bring up images and the online. I accepted her review before I put my foot down regarding images – and could not reject this review because of that – but, from now on, I am turning away reviews and interviews where people cannot provide photos. It is a shame but you would be stunned how many that includes. There is an assumption, in the modern age, one can get by with very little. More photos have been taken in the past year than any time in human history: if musicians think they are able to skate by with a few images, they are in for a big shock. It is quite aggrieving seeing a profile bare and image-free. Any blog/site worth their salt are image-conscious and it is not good enough having a few snaps – the artist wanting to project a certain image and planning new shoots in the future. One cannot be precious and precise about their image and when they take photos. Grab a photographer; get a dozen photos shot and get them online. Everything I have published in the past few days has been easy: lots of images and plenty of choice for the blog. It is a relief because it makes it a lot easier for me. It is quite dangerous holding back photographs because you are going through stages and phases – it sounds quite pretentious and a little strange. The level of competition in music is so high; anyone who shows a weakness is going to struggle to get their music shared and ahead of the pack. Ocean China, fortunately, has a fantastic sound and intriguing enough that I am overlooking the lack of images. I shall come to her good points in a minute but I am being very strict with people going forward.
I, as a reviewer, can whip out my iPad and take a lot of photos over a few days – if someone wanted to run a piece about me. I could hire a local photographer and get a range of photos shot. It is never the case a photoshoot would bankrupt an artist. If one can make music and share it: they are able to take photos and accompany sounds with images. It is natural, in social media and a modern age, a musician has a selection of images. I shall come off this point but, another issue I have is artists that do not place their links in one place. So many reviews, I have been to their Facebook page. There, one finds no links to Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. I go to their YouTube site and find no mention of their SoundCloud. Before you know it; I am Googling everything about them and taking so much time to piece together their links. Two simple rules for EVERY artist out there. Number one: get a range of photos shot before you release a song. If it puts people like me off – wanting a visual aspect and appeal – then it will to others, too. Maybe others are not so precious about this but there is no logistic or financial excuse for overlooking images and thinking it is unimportant. Photos and images are crucial and one needs to have a clear and concise aspect to get their teeth into. If I have to scrabble around for details and social media links then I am unlikely to come back again – there are a lot of artists who manage to get things straight and organised from the off. I shall leave this point but, in the future, I am rejecting anyone who does not conform with the two rules – the second being their social media and organising all the links in one place.
As I said; there are things one needs to address when talking about Ocean China. I know there are more photos coming – and I hope she manages to put all her links into one place – and, let’s hope, a biography will arrive so we know more about her and what she is doing. As it is, many will pass by because the cupboard is extremely bare. I am glad I was able to procure a few details about her because, it would be a shame to let her music slip by because of this – as it is; Feng Shui (I Like the Way) is a great song that I wanted to review because I like Ocean China’s sound. I want to look at the role of the black female artist in the music scene; location of musicians and how their surroundings enforce their sound; R&B and its changing sound; the way urgency and focus are more important, at this time, than anything else – female musicians and changing the gender balance in music. I want to raise a point about black artists in music and the struggle they face. Ocean China is a fantastic artist whose sound and manner deems her worthy of further affection of investigation. I have written about race in music and how, in 2017, it seems insane we have to talk about it. I know black artists are not getting the focus and opportunities as their white peers – it extends to Asian acts, to an extent, too. I will not go into the reasons behind it but I feel there is assumption music needs to be a white medium. Genres like R&B, Rap and Hip-Hop are not as racially imbalanced as others: it is fortunate these genres are more open but one would like to see mainstream sounds take a more level-headed and less racist approach to artists. Modern Pop has a few great black artists but one feels there are restrictions and hurdles to overcome. If one looks at festivals and the big lineups and you’ll notice a comparative lack of black names. I know the majority of people in the U.K. are white: that does not mean music needs to reflect this.
It is not the case music is representative of the racial demographic and not holding black artists back. There are so many great black artists that are worthy of attention. I do worry we are denigrating and tarnishing music’s name because of the proliferation of white artists. I know genres like Pop, Folk and Alternative would benefit from being 'less white' and homogenous. How many black Rock bands does one see?! How many black Pop stars does one see?! There are a few but the vast majority are white. I do worry many (black artists) are resisting music because they feel there is no way for them to be heard. Ocean China is someone who, when her social media/photos are in order, has the ability and talent to go as far as she needs. This is an issue that warrants deeper discussion but one need only hear Ocean China and realise her background and skin colour is irrelevant. Well; there is a sense of identity she has but I mean the fact she is not white is irrelevant. She, as she claims, is a Chinese Assassin and embraces a variety of characters, cultures and images. Ocean China is a fantastic artist who improves with every release – I shall address this more a bit later. What I want to see is her music elevated from the underground to nestle alongside the best and brightest of the mainstream. Maybe she does not want the control and lack of freedom a chart artist experiences. I think she would benefit from the attention and the chance to create influence. I look around music and wonder whether we will ever see the racial imbalance redressed. There are fantastic black artists in music who are not being given adequate props. How futile it would be for me to point the obvious out: we are all the same and music is about talent and sound: the colour of one’s skin is immaterial. Maybe there will be progressive change but I do hope the industry listens to artists like Ocean China and where they come from. In her music, name and images; one draws a line to Africa and Asia – there is something worldly and continent-hopping about the young songwriter.
I want to move on to look at location and the background of an artist. One can, I guess, trace certain genres to parts of the country. R&B, I feel, as with Rap/Hip-Hop/Grime, has its roots in and around London. Ocean China is from Luton – Bedfordshire is close enough to the capital and is an area with a few R&B newcomers laying down their music. Ocean China is no moniker: that is her real name and one assumes she has rather open-minded and quirky parents. I like it because it means she stands out from the crowds and intrigues the imagination. Luton, one imagines, is not stocked with great and legendary artists – you’d be right there! What it does have is a lot of great new artists that deserve acclaim. Luton, itself, has a few radio stations and local media; there are a few good venues and there is that proximity to London. One imagines it is not as stressful and busy as London but has enough ‘inspiration’ for lyrics. There is a fairly small Afro-Caribbean population there but it is no different to anywhere outside of London. For Ocean China, she has the capital close by and the chance to reflect and create. I feel she will spend more time in London as her career expands but I have seen a few R&B/Rap artists based in Luton. It seems like a part of the country that has a certain scene and flavour. Maybe there is a sense of disaffection and detachment among the young there: perhaps there is that proximity to London and the need to break into the city. I am not sure whether Luton, in the past, has been a hub for great Urban artists but it seems there is a movement brewing. One might look at areas like that and assume it is quiet and inactive. Ocean China is among a band of great acts from the area trying to put it on the map. I am not sure how bonded she is to her hometown but it seems like a great place for her to learn and grow.
Ocean China kept her music quite until she was fourteen: up until that point; her shyness kept that magic inside. Many were shocked to hear that confident and sassy personality come through. Ocean herself grew up with MTV and would listen to artists like Destiny’s Child and Michael Jackson. That American influence was strong from a young age. One hears elements of big U.S. R&B artists in her work and, I guess, the current crop of American best are high in her consciousness. Maybe, as a child, she did not know how to express herself or felt her music would not be accepted by the community. I have said how Luton is growing but it is not the same as London when it comes to R&B and those genres. There is a sense of the unsure and people there are not as switched-on as those in London. Maybe, during the early part of this decade, tastes were more tuned to Rock and Pop – having someone like Ocean China in their midst is quite an eye-opener! It is good to see she has allowed the music to flow free and bringing it to the people. That confidence one hears is a sense of revelation and emancipation. She has broken from a cage and prison of shyness – now, one hears a young woman making up for lost time and striking out. I am fascinated by Ocean China’s upbringing and the people she grew up around. Ocean China, in her latest track, unites Asian culture with British R&B; American sounds and a little bit of Africa. There is a clash of cultures and different sounds throughout Feng Shui (I Like the Way). I hope Ocean China remains in London as I feel it would benefit her in so many ways. She would have the chance to build her music and has a broader population and demographic on her doorstep. Luton is a great part of the country but it seems natural Ocean China would come to the capital and join her peers in R&B.
The reason I mention this is because one cannot simply label Ocean China’s music as ‘R&B’. There is Rap, Grime and Pop elements in her music. You cannot assume R&B, like Pop, is a one-dimensional genre that has a typical ‘sound’. Look at previous images and campaigns from Ocean China – for the track, Tell Your Man – and there is a cool and swagger that comes from her. It is hard to believe this is the same woman who, a few years ago, was a shy and hesitant teenager. Maybe that exposure to MTV helped bring the cool and confidence from her. There is a contemporary and cool sensation that breezes from the pores and lines of Ocean China. She oozes charisma and reflects the sounds of the street. Her put-downs and observations are cutting-edge and she fuses sounds from various genres to create something physical and emotional. The music provokes physicality and reaction: the soul and mind and pricked and one imagines what lies behind the song. Previous numbers such as Tell Your Man and Cash Me Outside are modern, streetwise songs that document the life of a rare and special star. She goes through the same tribulations and trials as everyone. Hearts and broken and there is an urgency and danger in her life; a sensitive soul and someone who does not like being betrayed. Luton is not as sleepy and docile as one would expect but, at the same time, provides enough energy and inspiration for music. When listening to Feng Shui (I Like the Way); I get a bit of where she is from but, moreover, Ocean China expands her horizons and brings in other sounds. Here is someone who is affected by men and the uncertainty of life but has an inner-harmony and need for calm. Every new song seems to bring a new identity and evolution from Ocean China. Cash Me Outside, with its Destiny’s Child/Beyoncé vibes and swagger, saw Ocean China decked in orange and (in the video) gyrating and flexing by a lift.
It was her on the street giving it two fingers – a woman brash and accusatory; forthright and in control. Touch and Feel and Honest – her earliest tracks – had a different vibe and, in a sense, a little more restrained and controlled. Every new release sees the confidence level go up but, on Feng Shui (I Like the Way), there is a move away from Cash Me Outside. Rather than seeing a hoodie and pointed lines: one finds Ocean China with an oriental fan and talking about balance and spirituality. Of course, there is plenty of swing and confidence so she does not lose her identity – she has changed her persona and addresses a new subject. You still hear Ocean China but, like any good star, she has evolved and taken on a new form. I mention Beyoncé because, from album to album, she adopts a new side. Lemonade, released last year, is an angry album that documented political and racial tensions; infidelity in the marital bed and the need for freedom and equality. Before that; albums have been more tender and personal. Beyoncé is always adapting and, not to keep mentioning her, Ocean China has that same need to keep things fresh and unexpected. Feng Shui (I Like the Way) is a different beast to anything she has done before. Having recently reviewed Grime/Hip-Hop star Signal – who is based in Basingstoke – I am hearing some fantastic artists, playing in the ‘Urban’ realm, able to evolve and shift between releases. They are not chasing a commercial vibe and are following their own path. Maybe Ocean China’s next release will be a more ballad-sounding thing where she adopts a more classic/regal look. Given the fact she is a cool and edgy artist: maybe that is a stretch but one can never tell with her. The reason Ocean China excites me, among others, is her urgency and sense of passion.
Not that calmer and more precise music is insignificant: I find the more spirited and to-the-point sounds get into the brain a lot quicker. I feel music needs artists that articulate their points with greater expediency than most. Ocean China gets to the crux and does not mess around. Maybe there is a boldness and over-confidence but it is exciting seeing a young woman that has such a flair and determination. Her raw energy and physical approach to music is typical of many R&B artists but there is something different about her. The way she fuses sounds and what she talks about – a rare artist who cannot be easily compared with anyone else. I am excited hearing her flow and rap; she works the microphone and brings every word to life. Feng Shui (I Like the Way) has different shades and colours compared with a song like Cash Me Outside. It is still an urgent song but not quite as intense as her previous work. I am excited to see whether a video will follow as I can imagine the kind of scenes and images that would come through. No doubt, with each song that arrives, the Luton-born star improves and strengthens. I guess that is natural for someone who is getting more exposure and seeing her music regarded in wider circles. I do wonder whether she has any gig arriving – I will go into depth later – because I sense a hungry and ambitious artist who wants to take her music to the masses. I will move on but wanted to highlight how a song that moves and gets to the point is a lot more likely to get into the head quickly. That may sound obvious but there are many artists writing big and intense tracks that fail to carry any substance and nuance. This is not the case with Ocean China. She is a woman who can write a banging and intoxicating tune and keep you coming back for more!
The opening notes of Feng Shui (I Like the Way) trip and dance their way into the imagination. In a way; it reminds me a bit of FKA Twigs and Dizzee Rascal. One hears the intense possibilities and street-ready dangers of Boy in Da Corner – there is relief and the kaleidoscopic tenderness of FKA Twigs’ best moments. In many ways, there is more breeze and ease to Ocean China’s notes. Opposing the more sassy and strident swagger of Cash Me Outside: Feng Shui (I Like the Way) is a more calm and spiritual number – in the opening stages, at the very least. The heroine does not want any bad vibes – she is putting that all behind her – and those bad characters are being cast away. Maybe this relates to lovers and friends that send negativity and shallowness. “Whine up yuh waistline” is an interesting expression and not one I have heard before. A couple of artists have used it as a song title – or variations on the phrase – but it shows the way she used modern and niche lexicon to explore common themes. It seems, as opposed to previous numbers, there is more peace and contemplation in Ocean China’s heart. One gets a flavour of the East when listening to the song. There is a definite nod to Asian sounds and philosophy. When the chorus strikes; you get Pop and R&B sensations that bring smile and comfort. It is a beautiful and rushing sound that unites 1990s’ best R&B with the eclectic and modern sounds of the day – a blend that is hard to refuse. The heroine likes the way (the hero) makes her feel good – the way he puts it down and picks her up. There is sexiness and sensuality to the words but a comfort and sense of purpose. Maybe she has experienced enough heartache and disruption in the past – now, there is the excitement of a pure and solid love. It is the electricity and smile of the song that makes one connect and bond with Feng Shui (I Like the Way).
What I love about the song is the performance and diversity Ocean China displays. Her voice is able to cut and draw blood but here she is in a more balanced and secure mind frame. Adopting the peaceful and soul-balancing practices of feng shui; one feels Ocean China is trying to erase the past negatives and embrace a more calm life. It would be quite hard to hear a woman going through perils and seeing her stressed. Because of the issues she has faced – previous songs provide story and clarity – here is someone who is more secure in her skin. The boy looks at her like she is ready to be devoured. She wants him to come over and satisfy her – one of the rawest and most direct songs she has created. Maybe that sexual relief and release, tied with a deep affection and comfort, is what is needed to eradicate the stresses and problems of life. Too many problems have come her way so far: this is what she needs; the need for something physical and satisfying. Of course, there is spirituality and mindfulness in everything she says. Feng Shui (I Like the Way) is not only about attraction and physical satisfaction. There is a deeper needed to cleanse and castigate spirits that have been haunting her. Those bad vibes and energies have poisoned the water – she is making changes and getting rid of all those people that create issues and drama. It is refreshing seeing an artist so determined and assured of what she needs. So many songs are filled with recriminations and blame. Here, there is a more positive and calm demeanour. In terms of sounds; the composition does inject elements of the East; there are Rihanna-like vibes and, strangely, sounds of the Caribbean. A certain cool and wind come into the music. Notes bend and contort; the vocals have sensuality and allure that matches the lyrics. There is sweat, saunas and suggestiveness – that is a Jackie Collins novel that never was! – and the heroine wants her boy to get with her and show what he is made of. It is never lurid and too profane – there is tease and suggestiveness that projects images and possibilities.
Feng Shui (I Like the Way) becomes less about a spiritual balance and more about a physical satisfaction. In a manner, when one thinks of what feng shui is – moving objects in a certain way and maximising the physical environment – you can apply that to the sexual. The bodies can move in a certain way and the lovers can position themselves in a manner that harmonises and satisfies – that is sounding rather sexual but that is the point I guess. The bodies move like furniture. There is contestant physicality and the need to reposition and maximise intensity. It is a clever way to look at sex and love: the soul and home are not going to be at its best if there if things are out of balance. The heroine seems is a satisfied and content space. She urges the boy to come at her and there is sweat dripping from the speakers. Whilst the verses have a rough and raw vibe: the chorus layers the vocals and has a sweetness that provides contrast and variety. It is a fantastic blend and one that creates a balance in the song. At every stage – and each component of the song – considers dynamics and environment. It is a testament to Ocean China and her abilities that Feng Shui (I Like the Way) is such a strong song. DALiEN expertly helms and bring the very best from lyrics and music. Controlling the flow and assuring it is given the best treatment possible; it gives the song the urgency it requires but does not wash all the colour and physicality out of it. So many songs are over-produced and lose their identity. DALiEN does not do this and allows Ocean China to have her voice and personality remain – whilst giving the track a polish and professionalism. That unity of American R&B and British Hip-Hop is an intoxicating brew and one that we need to hear more of in the underground. I feel Ocean China has the ability to transcend to the mainstream: Feng Shui (I Like the Way) is an example of why that statement is not an exaggeration.
I have talked a lot about Ocean China and shall not labour my point about photos and their importance – let’s hope that is something that improves with time and experience. I wanted to focus on the good points because there are many of them. There are few artists that have the same dynamics and abilities as her. Ocean China is a bold and passionate artist but someone who can mix tenderness into her sound. Looking at her and one senses a current and street-savvy performer – she is beautiful and striking but it is her fashion and stylistic approach that appeals to me. Every new song sees her project a new wardrobe and aesthetic. Feng Shui (I Like the Way) fuses Asian cultures with the sounds of British streets. There is Urban/R&B grit with something more colourful and light. Previous numbers have been direct and hard-hitting - Feng Shui (I Like the Way) absorbs new sounds and is a different experience. What I love about Ocean China’s music is its passion, quality and diversity. I can imagine an E.P. coming and feel she has enough material to put one together. I am not sure whether that is a plan for next year or whether she is releasing one later this year. Feng Shui (I Like the Way) is out in a few days and, one imagines, a video will arrive. I would like to see an Ocean China E.P. as that would unite all her songs and give the fans a chance to see how her music has progressed and shifted since 2015. Touch and Feel was her first track and, in the two years since, the Luton artist has grown more confident and assured. Maybe she wants to release a few more singles but, in terms of getting her name out there, putting all the songs in one place is a lot more effective. In everything she does; one gets a sense of the personal and romantic. Relationships and men are addressed; the way relationships are not as stable and certain as they should be. Hre music looks at confidence and being independent; not putting up with any crap, essentially.
These are subjects and sides that are common but it is the way she projects them that elevates them beyond the predictable. I am excited to see where Ocean China is heading and how far she can take her music. I know there will be gigs arriving but it would be good to see her perform as much as possible. Perhaps that is something planned but London is waiting, for sure. There are a lot of spots around the capital that would put her up. I mentioned Signal and how he has managed to progress and impress. He has performed at venues in Camden and seems at home in this part of the city. Maybe North London is a more profitable part for Ocean China but her music has the ability to grace any stage. She should have s think about that and how transferable her music is. When Feng Shui (I Like the Way) is officially released to the world; there is going to be that promotional drive and needs to get it to as many as possible. I know she will be looking for interviews and spreading the words. Gigs are important and easy ways of connecting with people so let’s hope there are some approaching. These are still early days but I sense an artist who wants to succeed and make her way into the mainstream. I have talked about black artists and how they are overlooked but that extends to females, too. In many ways; being a black woman in music is as much a challenge and issue as anything. We know, to an extent, music is aimed at the white man – and run by them – and there is discrimination that needs to be tackled. Growing up listening to Beyoncé and Michael Jackson means Ocean China has seen artists who tackle these barriers and have broken ground. Michael Jackson was one of the first black artists to feature on MTV and was often told he could not have videos featured because he was black. Beyoncé challenges racism and is one of these people who does not sit by and let judgement rule the world. Those defiant and passionate artists have helped Ocean China come out of her skin and strike. I am not sure how much prejudice Ocean China has faced but she must be aware her path to the mainstream is a lot rockier and longer than many of her peers. Her music is stunning and deserves all the respect it gets. Maybe she will remain in Luton but I feel London’s lure and opportunities will be too sexy to resist. She has the city near-by but basing herself there would mean she is more visible to the most influential and prominent labels and venues. Let’s end this by saying one needs to listen to Feng Shui (I Like the Way) and experience an artist who is making her name known. That name is one you won’t forget: the music is as compelling and fascinating as one would expect from such a soul. The progression and evolution is a perfect example of what music is about. I hope success comes to Ocean China’s feet as she deserves many happy years in music. Feng Shui (I Like the Way) is a great example of where she is heading and what she is about. Make sure, with the song imminent and about to make its presence know, you are…re
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