25 February 2015

China #1: Something dark

I have multiple times mentioned in my blog and elsewhere that I love East Asian music. This of course includes also Chinese music. There is Chinese music published in other countries too, but the language's mother country has some brilliant tunes too.

Wikipedia: China

I got into Chinese music, mainly Mandopop (Mandarin Pop), when Japanese and South Korean music were just not enough. I actually really like the Chinese language and hopefully one day I will have the time to study it. The language does sound quite interesting in songs.

The first song is by Faye Wong. She was born in Beijing in 1969 and started her career when she was 19 years old. So she has a long career behind her and it has been very successful one. She is one of the highest selling artists in China and she is also highly popular in other Chinese speaking countries and beyond. She sings both in Mandarin and Cantonese, though mostly so that her older material is in Cantonese. From 2005 on she has mostly been on a hiatus and has only done some concerts since then.

Her last studio album, which was released in 2003, is called 將愛 /Jiang Ai, which means To Love. The song above is the title song from this album. Wikipedia states that Taipei Times described the album as "saccharine pop and daring avant-garde", which really does sound my kind of music. The title track definitely fits the daring avant-garde department. I find it quite different from other Faye Wong's songs that I have heard.

Jiang Ai (the song) is quite dark, or actually more than quite. It does even sound a bit scary, like a background music from some horror movie. The music is very strong and dominant. Faye's vocals sound interesting, but actually fairly creepy. The song overall has a very dark feel to it; rarely a pop song manages to be this dark.

The second artist is Han Geng. Besides being a singer he is, like so many other artists, also actor, model and dancer. What I find interesting is that he is said to be "skilled in all of China's 56 ethnic traditional dances". Now I am interested on those dances...  In 2001 Han Geng was chosen to be a member of the now highly famous South Korean boy band Super Junior. He has since left the group (with suing the record label) and started his solo career in China.

In 2012 he won the Best Worldwide Act award at the MTV Europe Music Awards show. My friend watched the show (I am not fancy of award shows) and mentioned hearing this really good song at it. She eventually found it from YouTube and send it to me too. And I immediately loved the song. (Maybe I should start watching award shows...?)

The song is called 狂草 /Kuang Cao, which translates into Wild Cursive. Following the dark theme set by Jiang Ai, this song too is fairly dark sounding, though not as creepy. The music  is strong and I find there is something ethnical (Chinese) in it. This might also be partly due to the music video, which I also find interesting. Han Geng's vocals sound very good here and I think his voice sits well with this kind of songs.

The second song from Han Geng and this one is called 女皇 /Nu Huang, which means Queen, though it also can be translated as Empress. But Queen is how they call it in the official music video.

I find this song too a bit dark, but not the same way as the previous ones. This song is a bit more lighter and dancy. The chorus is very catchy, as is the music overall. I have had the song stuck in my head quite few times. I really like the music and the beat of this song is great. Han Geng's vocals are great too, but in this song the strong music is the main focus.

One more song from Han Geng. This one is called 小丑面具 /Xian Chou Mian Ju, which means Clown Mask. I must admit that I was attracted to this song by the title, since it created an image of a creepy song and, as you might be able to tell by now, I love creepy songs. I was not disappointed.

Even though this song is overall lighter than the previous Han Geng songs, this one is the most creepy. The music is very catchy and great, but it is other factors that make this song amazing (read amazing = creepy). Han Geng's vocals are very interesting here and the way he sings is somehow scary. Especially during the verses and the start of the chorus. The background vocals are probably the biggest factor of creepiness here, especially the higher notes. Overall I really like this song and it seems to be one of those songs that get better with every listening.

Oh, and Han Geng does have lighter songs too, but I personally really love his voice in this kind of darker songs. I find there is certain shade in his voice that just makes a perfect fit for these songs.

Wild Cursive* and Clown Mask and are from Han Geng's album 寒更, which was released in 2012. Queen is from his debut solo album 庚心, which was released in 2010. Other one of these albums is called Hope In The Darkness (Google Translate and Wikipedia disagree which one), which fits quite nicely to the theme of this post.

(*I prefer to use to English names since Chinese can be transliterated different ways and since I don't speak the language I am not so comfortable using uncertain transliterations. Sorry for possible mistakes in this post!)

Since the songs in this post have been so dark so far, the last song is going to be quite lot lighter. This boy band is called Top Combine. The group was formed in 2007 and debuted in 2008. Currently there is four members and one of them is actually South Korean (<-- one example of why it is so easy to go from Korean music to Chinese). They sing in Mandarin. I have only recently discovered this band so I do not know them very well. Yet!

The song is called Cotton Candy (棉花糖 in Chinese). And like I said it is a lot lighter than the other songs in this post. This song is very sweet and cute. It is fairly simple, but there is something very special in it. Maybe thanks the boys' vocals; They sing very softly and kinda magically. The song gives out a highly positive atmosphere without being overly happy. And it is very sweet without feeling overly sugary, unlike actual cotton candies! Sometimes a simple, sweet song is just in order.

Cotton Candy was released as a second single from Top Combine's debut EP Arrival, which was out in 2008.

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