Hello lovely readers! It’s been way too long since I’ve felt this much freedom from academic life! To celebrate, I decided to introduce you guys to some great mandarin pop (mando-pop) singers that I’ve been listening to when I got tired of k-pop (gasp! blasphemy, I know) while laboring on my thesis for the past few weeks. In general, mando-pop tends to be more ballads-heavy than k-pop, which favors fast tempo, dance tracks as its main attractions. People who are somewhat familiar with mando-pop have probably heard of Jay Chou, Leehom Wang, J.J. Lin, David Tao, and the likes. But today I want to introduce some lesser known singers. Here’s a few of my favorite male soloists hailing from all corners of the Mandarin speaking world:
1. Jacky Xue (薛之谦)
This track titled “Serious Snow (认真的雪)” from this Shanghainese singer’s first album back in 2006 is his most well known work. Written and composed by Jacky himself, this song expresses the sorrow he felt after ending a relationship. I especially love the part where he sings about how it snowed in Shanghai for the first time in more than ten years when he broke up with her. (已经十几年没下雪的上海 突然飘雪 就在你说了分手的瞬间). The MV’s beautifully done as well. Even though I’ve never seen it snow in Shanghai, my hometown in northeastern China snows like crazy all winter long, and this song reminded me of my childhood there – oh the good memories 🙂
2. Yoga Lin (林宥嘉)
Still a college student when he became the season one champion of the Taiwanese version of “American Idol,” Yoga Lin (don’t ask me how he came up with that name) has been a pretty big deal in the Mando-pop scene ever since. He’s good at singing soft ballads, but his voice seriously explodes in his rock tracks. Even though he’s got the innocent looks of a 12-year-old, Yoga’s definitely got a darker, edgier, and more mature side to him that tells me he’s here to stay for good. Check out the following track “Wake Up (自然醒)” in which he complains about all the noise in the world and expresses his simple wish to wake up naturally in the morning. I hear ya, Yoga, I hear ya.
3. Hu Xia (胡夏)
Compared to Jacky and Yoga, Hu Xia is the new kid on the mando-pop block, but just as talented and full of potential. As the season six winner of the same Taiwanese singing competition that launched Yoga’s career, Hu Xia signed with Sony Music right away (Leehom Wang belongs to the same record company). Last year he sang the theme song for the hugely popular Taiwanese movie “Apple of My Eye (那些年, 我们一起追的女孩).” Hear for yourself what some critics have called “the most pure and clear voice ever to enter mando-pop.” Go watch the movie if you haven’t. Then you’ll understand why my heart literally aches every time I hear this song (24 million views on youtube already!).
4. Khalil Fong (方大同)
Born in Hawaii but raised in Shanghai and Hong Kong, Khalil is, in my opinion, the best R&B singer in mando-pop right now. He almost always writes and composes his own songs, and if you look closely at his lyrics, only then do you realize how he can turn yet another love song into something so uniquely his. In a ballad conveniently titled “Love Song,” Khalil pulls quotes out of other artists’ love songs, including those of Jay Chou and Leehom Wang, and scatters them throughout his lyrics. When I heard this song for the first time, I had to double-check that I wasn’t actually listening to Jay or Leehom! I see what you did there, Khalil, and I like.
5. Eason Chan (陳奕迅)
I know I said I wouldn’t talk about somebody very famous but I just couldn’t leave Eason out of this post. He’s got the status of a god in the world of Mandarin ballads, no joke. The media even calls his “E-God” because Eason sounds very similar to “E-Shen,” with Shen meaning God. I don’t know how to describe what it is that makes Eason’s voice so pleasant and calming to the ear and always leaving you yearning for more – you just have to listen for yourself. Here is “Don’t Talk (不要說話)” – one of his lesser known songs, if such a thing as “a lesser known Eason Chan song” even exists. I suggest doing a Eason Chan playlist search on youtube the next time you sit down to crank out a paper or grant proposal – it’ll make everything a little less painful, I promise.
That’s all for now! Thank you for allowing me to introduce some of the hidden gems in mando-pop to you all. It’s been a pleasure. Keep an eye out for more editions of Mando-pop Crash Course in the near future!