Some Chinese Flava’
I saw the MV for Jay Chou’s new single 千里之外. You can check it out below:
It’s a weird mix of different periods of Chinese history. The MV is that old Shanghai style from the early 1900s during the emergence of modern China through the revolutions. The guy who is singing on stage is 费玉清 a popular singer from the seventies.
If you go to this blog and play the song off it’s embedded player, Jay will come out and say that it’s important for him to include a song with some Chinese flava’ in every album. To me, it was always implied that his music was already infused with some flava’ because of his personal background. What’s interesting is all the newer Chinese pop artists will have their token Chinese flava’ song loaded with all the traditional instruments and occasional screeching from Beijing opera.
My first inclination is to blame it on the globalization of music – how people in all parts of the world are listening to the same annoying crap from the US and pretentious white crunk from the UK. Artists (and music lovers) in Taiwan may be feeling a little overwhelmed and lost when they ask themselves: where do you fit in the global music scene?
One artist – American born Wang Leehom – reinvented his already solid career to address this issue by rebranding his music as chinked out. Hear him explain it in his own words here (he speaks English). As you listen to him talk about his music and his logic for why he does what he does, it becomes very apparent that he’s much more methodical about spicing up his music with some flava’ and it shows in his music and MVs. Check out this MV for 花田错:
If you go and pull all of Jay and Leehom’s flava’ infused MVs, you’ll notice a pattern where Jay’s stuff is really using Chinese culture as a backdrop to tell a story where as with Leehom’s stuff it looks like an expository or a showcase. I think the difference is in how comfortable each guy is with Chinese culture. Obviously, Leehom is the one grasping for his roots in his situation.
Now admittedly, there are a lot of factors that go into Leehom’s popularity so I can’t say that people are only listening because they are embracing this chinked out thing. But, like I said earlier, in the face of globalization and cultural mashups everywhere, you can’t say that these sudden changes are not creating a need for some people to explore the past and make sure they have safe footing before charging ahead. It looks like everyone is grapsing for their roots.