Lexie Liu Talks The Happy Star, the Magic of Tarot and Mandopop
In tarot, the upright Star divines a forthcoming period of renewed hope and inspiration to those who pull it. There's a beauty found within your free will, and the Star confirms it—more than ever, you're capable of actualizing your dreams creatively, spiritually or emotionally.
For Lexie Liu, The Happy Star is the first step into this fruitful era.
It's been three years since the Chinese singer's last full-length release, but she never stopped working on her craft: "I've been learning to produce my own music on top of writing them … trying out different sounds and doing crossovers between genres," Lexie shares.
Previously known for her grungy trap beats and clever bilingual rap lines, Lexie's new sonic direction offers experimentation with electropop synths and vocal chops along with Swahili and Spanish lyricism. It's an ambitious switch for the growing multihyphenate but evidence of her technical skill and creativity. If The Happy Star is only laying the roots for what else is to come from Lexie, then we're excitedly anticipating what's next.
Below, Lexie Liu chats with us about her third studio album, The Happy Star, her relationship with tarot cards and her surprising goal for 2023.
(Image Courtesy of Jeremy Z Qin)
Sweety High: Each track from The Happy Star is associated with one of the 22 major arcana cards in tarot. Where did you come up with this idea? Are there any tarot cards that have a special meaning in your life?
Lexie Liu: I used tarot cards to do fortune-telling on myself and my classmates in high schools—about our exams and crushes only—but I had never studied them.
About two years ago, I was re-introduced to tarot cards, but with a different understanding of them. I started studying the symbolism, artistry and myths behind every card and found it fascinating. When I was conceptualizing the album, it came naturally as a big gateway to different journeys inspired by each card.
Also read about: How to Remember the Meanings of the Major Arcana in Tarot
SH: Do you have a tarot card that could best represent your artistry?
LL: My favorite card is The Star. It's a naked girl relaxed, holding two cups and pouring water into a stream. It symbolizes creativity, freedom and a constant connection to the inner world. As an artist, I hope I can achieve that state with boundless imagination and creativity.
SH: You've released music videos for both "MAGICIAN" and "FORTUNA." Is there any connection between the two videos?
LL: Yes! "MAGICIAN" is a sort of a sequel to "FORTUNA," but it's less storyline-oriented.
SH: When you release music videos, do you go in with the idea they exist in the same universe, or do you think of them as separate entities?
LL: I'd say there's a universe within each song, but there's a larger universe that includes all.
SH: We found The Happy Star to be really interesting because of the number of global influences in this album. Of course, there are elements of your Chinese heritage, but you also incorporate pieces from Africa, Latin America and South Asia. Is having that kind of multicultural mindset important to you?
LL: I've always believed that we are one, not only humans but with all types of life in the universe. Different cultures have always been fascinating to me, and I respect each one of them. They connect people and share messages and consciousness like a huge web.
I feel more of the "oneness" than the difference in human cultures, so I was inspired to put the pieces together from all across the globe (and universe) to make some interesting music.
SH: How did you decide when to express yourself in a specific language?
LL: Usually, the melodies come first. Sometimes I find words or vowels that were subconsciously chosen in the melody-writing takes. So, I go with my subconscious choice of language when something really makes sense or fits the melodic context. Other than that, I'll probably decide on the language based on the message and theme of the lyrics, too.
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SH: You also experiment with many genres with this album. Was there a genre that was particularly challenging to take on?
LL: This was my first move trying rock elements. It was challenging for my vocals and songwriting because it felt like I needed to reinvent myself and take another route of writing this new genre, but I enjoyed it a lot!
SH: Your latest release is your first project in almost three years. What about yourself do you think has changed since 2019, and how has it affected your music-making process?
LL: Throughout these past few years, I've been learning to produce my own music on top of writing it. This is my first self-produced full-length album. Also, I've been trying out different sounds and doing crossovers between genres and cultures. It's been a great and inspiring journey of self-discovery.
SH: You're one of the few Mandopop artists who have broken into Western media. Do you ever feel a weight on your shoulders representing Chinese artists globally?
LL: There are more and more Mandopop artists gaining recognition globally now. I'm grateful to be one of them.
Thanks to 21st-century technologies, we all could stay in touch around the world during the pandemic. I was able to make this new album with musicians from all around the world remotely.
Representing Chinese culture is an everlasting thing I do as I breathe because of where I'm from and who I am, so no stress.
(Image Courtesy of Jeremy Z Qin)
SH: What kind of impact do you hope Mandopop has in the music industry?
LL: To me, what's enticing about all genres is that people express themselves in a certain way to share their message in the music. All sounds are magical. Mandarin is a beautiful-sounding language with enormous historical and cultural value, so I hope when artists are putting it into their music, the audience can feel the beauty of the language and culture even when they don't understand it.
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SH: You've also had a pretty successful career in fashion. Do you express yourself differently with fashion compared to music?
LL: Thank you! An individual can express oneself in different ways when it comes to varying fields, but in my case, I'm simply being myself without thinking too much.
SH: What goals do you have for the upcoming year?
LL: To eat more fruits?
SH: Is there anything else you'd like to share?
LL: I just want to say thank you so much for showing love because I think I've shared a lot already!
For more on our favorite new music, click HERE to read our interview with NERIAH on the new single "FALLING 4 SOMEBODY."