Part of my love for Chinese music is the condensation of meaning into single characters. The structure of the Chinese language allows for a completely different kind of meaning inflection, more suggestive because of the economy of words vs. the intensity of meaning. Because each character is a single syllable, Chinese music can either fall into very boring patterns of repetitive beats, or can break away and do very interesting things with meaning and rhythm. Both songs today fall into the latter category.
墊起腳尖愛 – 洪佩瑜 // Love on Tiptoe – Hong Pei Yu
墊起腳尖愛 by 洪佩瑜 is a song from an OST off the best Taiwanese drama that has ever come into existence, 【我可能不會愛你】 (but that’s a whole other blog post) and is the perfect mellow, acoustic walking song.
I think its charm comes from the character triplets that make up most of the verses. The first emphasized syllable is actually silent, which gives it a bit more punch, and then falls into these hesitating dactyls, (silent) da da, daa da da, daa da da. Composed by the ever consistent Tanya Chua, and written by 小寒, Singaporean lyricist who has churned out a gajillion amazing songs, the song is itself a gem. Hong Pei Yu, a relatively unknown vocalist, gives the song a nice gentle touch. It’s a song with a story, with the emotional punch of a poem. What more can one ask for, really?
舞鞋 穿了洞 裂了縫 預備迎接一個夢 these dance shoes, pierced with holes, split at the seams, preparing to meet a new dream
OK繃 遮住痛 要把蒼白都填充 this bandaid, covers the pain, tries to fill in all the blanks
勇氣惶恐 我要用哪一種 courage or panic, which should i use
面對他 一百零一分笑容 to meet his 101 percent smile
聲聲慢 – 鄧福如 // Sheng Sheng Man – A Fu
鄧福如 or A Fu, shot to fame covering a classical chinese Jay Chou: 【青花瓷】 (my favourite classical chinese) Jay Chou, and eventually went on to sign with a label and debut as a recording artist. I haven’t been as fond of most of her discography, but when 聲聲慢 came out it was instant love.
Pronounced “sheng sheng man” in Mandarin, 聲聲慢 is actually the name of a common lyrical pattern that was used by poets in ancient China. This particular 聲聲慢 referenced by the song, was written by Li Qing Zhao in the Song Dynasty, and it opens the first verse:
尋尋覓覓的那天, 冷冷清清的那夜, 淒淒慘慘的冬天, 我又重來一遍
the day i went seeking, the night it was cold and lonely. the winter it was miserable, i live it again
The idioms are just two character phrases doubled up, but the repetition creates a heightened poetic effect. The rest of the song develops a narrative scenario that is painted in large strokes in the original poem, and A Fu’s unique vocal enunciations really lend this classical chinese adaptation a unique cadence.
노을 – 그리워 그리워 // Noel – I Miss You
A comeback after five years with a mini album called [그리움 Longing], 노을 is a perfect ballad group with four solid male vocalists in Korea: 이상곤 Lee Sang Gon, 전우성 Jeon Woo Sung, 나성호 Na Sung Ho, and 강균성 Kang Kyun Sung.
Longing. Instead of a cry for sorrow, it is the feeling of something weighing on your chest, or the stuffiness dwelling in yearning. Longing for an old lover, or a family member, a friend you will never see again, or that person who gave you a moment of joy who you will never meet again.
Longing holds a sorrow heavier than sorrow.
“매일듣는 노래 리스트엔 On the list of songs I listen everyday
하나같이 다 우리얘기뿐 Every single one of them is our story
이별은 모두 다 같으니까 Every parting is like any other
조심스럽게 행복했던날 Carefully, thinking about our happy days
아름답던 너를 그려보니 How beautiful you were
나도모르게 눈물이 나네 Before I knew it, tears begin to fall”
A door opens as the piano begins. Then closes. Slippers drag on the floor. A big sigh. A drum cue. The story begins. The best vocalists are the ones who can convey the emotions just with their voice; when you can visualize the tears and feel the pain.
*Note on group’s name: Unlike its English name, “노을” has no relations to Christmas, but actually means “sunset” and is pronounced “no-eul.”
장기하와 얼굴들 – 그렇고 그런 사이 // Kiha & the Faces – Some Sort of Relationship
I can confidently say 장기하와 얼굴들 is the quirkiest, strangest, most creative and intelligent band in Korea. 장기하 Jang Kiha‘s lyrics are the epitome of raw and honest, filtered through humour and cheerfulness with a hard-hitting comeback or a mocking smile, and often times too ridiculously relatable you end up laughing at your own life.
“니가 원하는 것들은 내가 다 줄 테니까 I will give you everything that you want
절대로 딴 데 가서 기웃기웃 하지를 마 Please don’t go snooping around somewhere else
니가 원하는 것들은 내가 줄 수 있으니까 I can give you everything that you want
자다가도 딴 생각은 마 Don’t go thinking about something else even when you’re sleeping
왜냐하면은 오늘부터 Because starting today…“
“너랑 나랑은…말하자면은 그렇고 그런…사이니까…그런 사이니까…말하기도 좀 그렇지마는…너랑 나랑은…말하자면은 그렇고 그런…사이니까…그런 사이니까…You and I….You see we’re in…Some sort of relationship….You see it’s hard to say but…You and I…You see we’re in…Some sort of relationship…”
“그렇고 그런 사이” blends together various ingredients to create an unexpected smoothie. The lyrics are enlightened with a clownish joy of a strange mix of funk rock and folk acoustics by guitarist 이민기 Lee Minki and 長谷川 陽平 Hasegawa Yohei (also known as 김양평 Kim Yang Pyung), bassist 정중엽 Jung Joong Yeob, keyboardist 이종민 Lee Jong Min, and drummer 김현호 Kim Hyun Ho. From speedy keyboards to screeching guitars, the instruments rhythmically clash against 장기하’s recitement while the members incessantly chant in the background.
Accompanied by a low-budget, strangely entertaining music video (Who knew multiple hands moving could keep your attention for a good three minutes?), this song is one heck of a cheer.
Chosen as 2012 Korean Music Awards’ Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Best Rock Album and Best Song of the Year, 2011 was the start of the band’s heyday, and many more creative, smart, and ridiculous music to come.