Trap rap/R&B is a well established trend in the Western music scene coming into 2020; less so in a country like China. Still, names like Higher Brothers and Vava are acts that are bringing the sound into the Chinese mainstream to varying success.
Yet on Meta Ego, 88rising signee Lexie Liu doesn’t follow the more aggressive aesthetics of these artists. Instead, she doubles down on the pop-influenced hip-hop that contemporaries like Kris Wu and Jackson Wang.
Every track on Meta Ego is made to be accessible, each of them aimed to tackle the charts and earn radio plays.
Lead single “Manta” is an excellent trap-rap banger that sees her breaking away from the drone-like sounds that plagued her 2030 EP. Injecting some much needed energy into her music, Lexie is able to leverage the grit in her voice, resulting in a track that’s assertive and captivating.
On the other hand, tracks like “Metropolis” and “Mind Reader” are more toned down, choosing to instead embrace sensual sounds that Lexie is more than capable of excelling at. These songs benefit from the serene production that succeed at elevating Lexie’s often unassuming singing voice, allowing them to function better as the sum of its parts.
This then leads to one of the record’s biggest drawbacks – a majority of these tracks, despite being very good, end up sounding indistinguishable from each other when placed side-by-side on the tracklist. It reeks of a record that aims to appeal to ‘mood playlist’ placements rather than function as a unique, cohesive album.
Performed in both English and Chinese, Lexie does her fair share of bridging the gap between both demographics in her fan base. However, lyrically the album suffers from a case of simplicity in both languages.
Touching upon themes of isolation and detachment, Lexie is able to formulate her ideas well but severe cases of repetitiveness hold back the songs’ effectiveness. This is especially the case when many tracks see her repeating similar sentiments across verses, only in different languages.
Fortunately, the entirety of Meta Ego is then saved by Lexie’s strong pop sensibilities. Her penchant for crafting elegant yet catchy hooks is her biggest strength. Every song on here features addictive qualities that elevate them from good to great. It’s a quality that easily separates Lexie from the ever-growing trap-pop scene in China.
Meta Ego is an album that features of great songs that each excels at what they set out to do. However, due to a lack of differentiation between them and lyricism that’s decidedly bare-bones, the record in the end serves as a intriguing look at Lexie Liu’s talent and the potential that she could deliver on in the future.