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Singer/songwriter Terry Lin tries to fit into a shark-infested black-or-white music scene.
Terry Lin doesn't fit.
A Chinese American with a law degree who grew up spending winter weekends skiing in Vermont doesn't fit anyone's idea of a Motown recording artist. A 6-3 R&B singer doesn't fit America's image of an Asian male. A subdued, introspective, intellectual young man of 28 doesn't fit most people's notions of a musician.
The uneasiness of the fit is compounded by Lin s own acute consciousness of the yawning chasm between the convenience of labels and how little they can mean in his own case. "I don't like labels," Lin says when pressed to describe his music. "Organic" is the word he would like used to suggest that his music is very human in that it remains imperfect and growing.
This wisdom notwithstanding Lin may well be a victim of the labels he exploits in the name of promotion. Since 1995 when he first signed to record with Motown Records, his press in the Asian American media, a Hong Kong newspaper and a Billboard article has been centered around the fact that he's the first Asian male singer to be signed by Motown. Association with a legendary label no doubt casts a young talent in reflected glory, briefly setting him off from other unknown artists struggling to make names for themselves. In the long term, though, the wrong association may hurt more than help.
For one thing, Motown itself pays it scant attention, not even lip service. Timmy Regisford, the A&R (artists & repertoire) exec who was Lin's contact, is gone and couldn't be reached for comment on the nature of the relationship …