Category Archives: C-Culture & T-Culture

(I may have made those terms up but) thoughts and musings relating to Chinese and Taiwanese culture including Mandopop, reviews, language and food.

It’s all about “The Voice” – sorry, I mean, “The Song”

Here is where I try out another type of post in an attempt to diversify my blog and raise awareness of things I think need raising awareness of. So, to begin…

“What’s this? Surely, like most things on the Internet, nothing that could mean anything to my life whatsoever? I mean, look, it’s in a different language and everything!”

Well, if you don’t like music and good TV then, yes, this post will probably mean nothing to you whatsoever and you should feel free to stop reading here.

However, if you do like music, and good music at that, then please, curb your instinct for cultural ignorance and hear me out.

(Bear in mind, I’ve never written a post incorporating multiple videos and images and attempts to culturally educate the public before, so please continue with some slack to cut me prepared. My WordPress theme doesn’t seem to like this kind of post, but I’m as of yet not learned enough in HTML and CSS to get it to do what I want, so please forgive the amateurish arrangement.)

Anyways, have a look at this:

Sing My Song

It looks like “The Voice”, right? (Kind of.) The blind audition with four judges and neon lights and stuff? In which case, you would be half right, because its format is a legitimate spin-off of the “The Voice”, specifically “The Voice of China”. However, the concept of this show is a little different, and, frankly, in my humble opinion, genius.

It’s basically an audition programme (whose English title is “Sing My Song”) for songwriters, who write their own lyrics, compose their own songs, come to this show to have it arranged for a live band and then sing it personally to a live audience and four experienced and appropriately famous singers and songwriters turned judges.

Speaking as a songwriter, you could not have made me happier with one sentence.

‘Picture’ (Haunting melody and luscious chords. Had this in my head for several days on end. Skip to 0:51)

But, in any case, are we not all kind of sick of the basic formulaic talent show? This show gives a stage to those wonderfully talented and creative people who are so often hidden behind the scenes or the name of a overshadowingly famous singer, when their jobs can sometimes be infinitely harder.

“Not Going to Work Tomorrow” (Best rap in Chinese I’ve heard and actually really good rap, and that is saying something. Skip to 0:54)

Not to disrespect singers or their talents, but when was the last time you heard the composer or lyricist of a song properly credited, on the radio or TV or YouTube? And by “properly”, I mean proportional to the value that they contribute? Unless they are a singer-songwriter, in which case they are hailed as genii, they’re lucky to have a footnote in the album booklet or in the corner of the screen while their song gets performed by someone else.

Which if they are OK with, I’m OK with, but I do think songwriters deserve so much more respect and recognition. Creativity may be counted as a skill, but it’s not the same as a skill like singing or performing. I’ve tried to write songs, and it is DIFFICULT. I honestly think that, for the average person, or even musician, writing a decent song is much harder than singing a song decently (give or take the odd person).

Which is why I love the concept of this show, and they have executed and delivered it perfectly. Having just watched the finale, I was spurred into writing this post in order to share this awesomosity with an English-speaking audience, since Chinese shows don’t have a big enough international fanbase to have dedicated subtitlers or Internet presence outside of Chinese websites.

‘Juan Zhu Lian’ (Heck, I don’t even know how to translate this because my Chinese isn’t up to the level of understanding this superbly high level song. Caused a storm with Chinese listeners, I don’t know how readers of an English art blog might react. Skip to 1:13)

So often a good song is good because it’s so personal and truthful and because the singer channels that. Usually, they can only really channel that if they wrote the song, which is probably why I’ve had goosebumps and tears in my eyes more times than I care to count whilst watching this show.

‘Her Mama Doesn’t Like Me’ (‘Mum’ just doesn’t sound good, sorry. A little bit of funk and jazz and blues and pop? Catchy as hell. Skip to 1:09)

I admit that approximately 40% of the enjoyment comes from understanding the lyrics, but there are some very awesome songs to be found here, so I’ve shared a couple of the gems from the initial blind audition rounds with you, where they compete to be in the individual judges’ compilation albums. These are the songs that have had me playing them on repeat, even amidst the K-Pop and Western music I’ve been listening to. In any case, my Chinese is relatively poor so I don’t understand some of the lyrics anyway. All you need is an open mind.

Some have a distinctly Chinese feel to them, but let me tell you, that is by no means a bad thing. Skip to the performance (unless you think you can understand what they’re saying solely by body language). English lyric translations can often be found by scrolling down to the comments. Please do look at them, they make the song, and I’ve heard better lyrics here than I have in the whole of the UK Top 40 chart for a long time.

‘On My Own’ (Smooth and classy girls’ rock. Skip to 0:53)

There are a LOT more, but I’ll move on to the second round, where the individual judges helped rearrange and improve (arguably) their chosen artists’ songs and perform them for votes by industry professionals. Actually, one of the most interesting parts of this show was hearing the rearrangements and development, especially given as they were basically playing the same songs every week or two. I personally found that the songs that were originally awesome and which I replayed continuously weren’t rearranged to my taste, whereas songs I didn’t feel at first were rearranged fantastically and a lot of dark horses ended up coming through. Perfectly demonstrated by the fact that a lot of the initial round songs I’ve posted here aren’t the ones whose rearrangements I post further down. I would recommend listening to the original arrangements as well or even watching the whole series (comment if you want links).

‘She’ (Nice bittersweet pop-rock with an air of British rock. Skip to 0:43)

But I don’t want to spam this post with videos I know you won’t watch, so we’ll just go on to the final stages, where the winners of the last round rearrange and perform their songs again (but amazingly we’re still not sick of them and in fact love them even more, the best kind of song) and a final winner is eventually voted on by a studio audience. But don’t worry, all the best songs that passed the first rounds get to be on the judges’ respective albums, which I am frankly willing to pay even money for.

“If I Am to Die, I Die in Your Hands” (Yeah, that’s what they thought too. Skip to 1:42)

‘Juan Zhu Lian (Re-arranged Final Version)’ (Skip to 1:30. Also the final winner)

Particularly, I loved the range of genres; if you can’t be bothered to watch it, throughout the series there emerges songs of blues, jazz, rock, pop-rock, dance pop, hiphop, rap and many others I cannot even classify. Seriously, a music lover’s dream come true.  What other TV show are you going to hear great new music from all of these genres delivered cleanly and smoothly?

Regardless of who was the final winner, this show brought so much to the table that is audition shows. I genuinely hope it gets exported worldwide, because the influx of great new music that would result is something people are absolutely dying for.

…They just don’t know it yet.