AF: 李榮浩 Li Rong Hao

Signing on to his first record label as an artist in 2005, 李榮浩 Li Rong Hao worked in relative anonymity behind the scenes for eight years, writing music and lyrics, arranging, singing backing vocals, playing as a session musician, for big-name artists like 信,陳坤,A-Lin, 莫文蔚,楊丞琳,范逸臣 and many others.

In 2013 he released his first album, 【模特】 Model, debuting as a singer, an album which earned him (in 2014) five Golden Melody nominations: Best Mandarin Album, Best Lyricist, Best Album Production, Male Singer of the Year, and New Artist of the Year. He walked away with the New Artist award. The album features some of his best known songs, including 李白 and 模特 (featured below).

Despite this explosive start to his singing career, he didn’t garner that much attention. At the end of 2014, signing to Warner, he released a self-titled album: 【李榮浩】 and successfully made his way into a number of music charts from Taiwan and China to Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. And at the beginning of 2015, entered the immensely popular singing show, I AM SINGER as a challenger to become more familiar to the popular audience.

His musical style doesn’t lend itself well to singing competitions where vocally-strong artists with wide musical range and styles thrive. But he’s a solid performer, and an exceptional musician, which makes him a wonderful musician to go watch in concert.

手的另一邊 伸給你牽 My other hand, you can hold
向南向北我都情願 We could go north or south, I don’t really mind
怪只能怪這光太美 I just blame this light for being too beautiful
我說 哎呀 I say, ai ya,
再過十年 我們還是過著今天 In ten years, we’ll still be living out today
我說 哎呀 I say, ai ya
一起失眠 再一起流淚 We’ll lose sleep together, and cry together
同喝一杯水 drink from the same cup of water
再依依不捨一起入睡 and fall asleep reluctantly

李榮浩 is an artist with a signature sound. His voice doesn’t have a huge range, but it has strong recognizability. To some, this means he’ll get boring and sound the same, to others, they’ll love how any song he touches translates into that unique sultry storytelling sound that he manages so well.

His 2016 album, 【有理想】was the album that made me sit up and really listen. Although I’d known about him before, I started becoming interested in his lyrical prowess when song after song proved to be nuanced, polished, and reflexive. His music boasts a slightly old-school sound, but his lyrics, in tackling the age-old topics of love, of youth, of dreams, of politics, of life experiences, are fresh and interesting perspectives. His lyrical style is quite dense, as he crams many words into his music bars, but because he sings them almost as if he’s lazy speaking, they come off effortless and pleasant to the ears.

We’re currently in the middle of 李榮浩’s new album, 【未定】. What I mean is that, he’s decided he liked every song so much that instead of designating a first and second single, he’s releasing a song every month as a single until all the album songs are out.

I’m not sure if this album is a response to the criticism by some that he’s a one-trick pony who can’t deviate, but it so far reflects a maturing of the many elements that make his music his.

The second single to be released, 裙姊 (featured at the beginning of this post) is an homage to Being opera singer 梅蘭芳 Mei Lan Fang. The lyrics ruminate on the inheritance of tradition and culture, and the video pays homage to that unique liminal space opera singers inhabit as cross-dressers who perform masculinity and femininity in narrative and song.
Fun fact: one of the disciples from Mei Lan Fang’s line is a special guest in this video. 🙂

His third single, 歌謠, is dedicated to the increasingly migratory population of Chinese workers who leave their families and towns in search of work in large urban spaces in order to support those they leave behind. Although the English translation of the song title is “Ballad”, 歌謠 refers more specifically to songs that are song by the general populace that often don’t have music accompaniment.

There’s a Chinese phrase, 鼻酸, literally “sour nose”, refers to the feeling you get in your nose bridge when you are unexpectedly moved to tears. I tend to fall victim to this when listening to 李榮浩.

家鄉那兒的歌謠 The folk songs from back home
對我來講是種依靠  To me, are a thing to lean on
陪伴我多少次艱難 With me in every difficult moment
彩虹多絢爛 No matter how spectacular a rainbow is,
絢爛的多平凡 Spectacular in such an ordinary way
畫面裡那樣的好看 As beautiful as a picture

One of my favourite things about 李榮浩 is his solid musical skill. After all, consistency is what he’s known for, and the many years spent working in the studio in every capacity have equipped him well to deliver solid, high-calibre live performances.

I have a soft spot for his acoustic performances, when he strips down his music and we get to hear the evocative power of his vocals. You can hear an interpretive process in his vocal delivery, which to me is the most valuable thing a singer can do. In his singing I hear a musician interested in moods and emotions, who wants to use all parts of his music to tell stories.

唱幾分鐘情歌 沒什麼 Sing a few minutes of a love song, it’s nothing
至少證明我們還活著 At least it proves we are still alive.