What do you think of when you read the title of this post? Kpop; music for meditation; the soundtrack to a martial arts film; or not many thoughts because of low expectations? Maybe your thoughts were more positive and express Chinese music as being 形形色? This post will allow you to explore some of the different types of music China has to offer, and revalue some of the expectations you may have had if Chinese music is not something you actively listen to. I should point out now that this post will be somewhat interactive as engaging with the music I will be sharing will require you to open links to the songs in a separate tab or browser. Secondly as this is quite a broad topic, it only makes sense that this post will be split into a series of parts. For the first in the series I will be focusing on certain aspects of Chinese pop music.
流行音乐 Chinese pop music is also known as ”C-pop”, short for ’Chinese-pop’. This is not to be confused with ”K-pop” which simply refers to ’Korean-pop’ (and not the name of a new popular band, as my friend had once assumed). Chinese pop has its own 特色 and for you to get a feel of it’s variation, I will introduce you to a few pop songs by different Chinese artists with slightly different styles.
One of the most popular pop artists of China today is Wang Lee Hom, the American/Taiwanese, singer/actor (the list goes on; he dabbles in the arts). He likes to experiment with different genres, like his EDM release with Avicii ‘Lose Myself’; but it best known for his heartfelt ballads. For instance one of his most recent releases, ‘Heaven and Earth Overturned’. One of his more successful songs is a soundtrack to a movie he starred in ‘Love in Disguise’ (看得不错), which in English is called ‘Things you do not know’. The song is fairly well known and inspired many covers. Here’s a version I quite I enjoyed, and I might aswell throw in this version by Shila Amazah.
One of my favourite Chinese pop artists is JJ Lin. I bought one of his albums when I was in China by chance and he’s still releasing great music. A song I really like of his is ‘Brave New World’, for both the melody and message. He also featured in a song with Jung YongHwa, leader of the Korean boy band CNblue, called ‘Checkmate’.
Interestingly there has also been a Chinese boy group created by a Korean entertainment company, with the group called M4M. If you want to take a listen to their music, heres one of their songs called ‘Sadness’. The rest of their music isn’t as well known, but they are a talented group nonetheless. A more well known group however is the trio the TF Boys! I don’t know much about the group, but they’re really popular Here’s one of their music videos! And their most recent patriotic release.
Although this is a post about Chinese music, there are noticeable crossovers with the Korean music industry. For example there are many Korean songs that have been created with a Chinese counterpart; that is to say that they have been recorded in both Korean and Chinese. Let’s listen to a few! First is Miss A ‘I Don’t Need a Man’ a song conveying a message of female independence. Next is Wonder Girls ’Tell Me’. Hearing the original when it first came out made me quite surprised to find the Chinese version earlier this year! The final group I shall share is Super Junior. This twelve member boy group (more like man group actually) has a sub group known as ‘Super Junior M’ whose songs are in Mandarin. Perhaps my favourite song would be ‘Break Down’ which we sang at Karaoke in China, although in retrospect it wasn’t the best choice. However a more recent release is their song ‘Swing’, which shows them transforming their work offices into a dance studio~
An example we cannot leave out when talking about this trend is the Korean boy group EXO, whose USP is branching into the Korean and Chinese markets by creating all their songs in both languages. Fyi: EXO is under the same company as Super Junior. The song I have chosen to share with you is by Exo-M (also the Mandarin counterpart of the group) and it’s called ‘Christmas Day’. It’s a song with a chilled R&B vibe that can be listened to 365 days of the year, not just Christmas😉. The group have recently released their second Christmas album ’Sing For You’ which generally has a slightly more upbeat mood. Click here to listen to one of the slower title songs~
Three of the Chinese members of Exo-M left the group to pursue solo careers as singers and actors, however they have been quite successful on their new paths. Luhan for instance broke the Guinness World Record for the number of times his name had been searched in the Chinese social media portal Weibo. He recently released his first solo songs, however I recommend you to listen to his rendition of a Chinese classic, ‘Tian Mi Mi’ (甜蜜蜜/Sweetness). I also feel obliged to share with you some music from my favourite of the three, Huang ZiTao. I will share with you two of his songs that are quite different to each other, ‘I am the Sovereign’ and ‘Alone’.
Of course this does not cover all of the types of pop music that exist in China, but hopefully now you have a better idea of what is out there. The rest of this series will include some Chinese hiphop and trap as well as music enjoyed by previous generations, and more traditional calming music that may be helpful when reviewing the previous post.
If you want to start listening to Chinese pop music, good luck 世界。
从欣妍 – From Xinyan.