I will be the first to admit that Chinese pop music has been in a slump in recent years. With the departure of some of its most prominent artists to other entertainment related adventures, C-pop has been left in somewhat of a destitute state. As such, the same people that are generally into K-pop and J-pop are driven away by the mediocrity of the music in today’s scene.
Well, I’m here to tell you that C-pop isn’t a wasteland, and there are certainly some artists that are most definitely worth looking into.
So C-pop virgins, just relax, and let me do all the work.
1. 倪安东 – Anthony Neely
As with all first times, it’s generally a good idea to take things slow and ease into the experience. Well, what better way to ease into the experience of listening to Chinese music than by listening to a couple C-pop songs that are primarily in English?
“Sorry That I Loved You” is an all-English song that was the debut track of the half-Chinese half-Caucasian singer Anthony Neely. Born and raised in the United States, Anthony grew up with the music of artists like Damien Rice and Jason Mraz, and the styles of these artists (and similar ones) really shines through in Neely’s tracks, which is what sets him apart from a lot of other C-pop artists.
Once you’ve graduated from that song, why not try a little bit of Chinese? “Wake Up” is a track that really gives you the best of both worlds. See below:
2. 田馥甄 – Hebe Tian
Even with a passing familiarity with C-pop, most people are most likely familiar with the female trio known as S.H.E.. Hebe Tian is one of the three, and as of late, has been doing quite well for herself in the realm of music. Her most recent album, My Love, is a very indie-sounding album that really breaks the mold of typical C-pop ballads and songs of the like. Take, for example, “花花世界 – Wonderful World“:
But if that’s too happy for you, then there’s also songs like “My Love” to satisfy your broken heart:
3. 苏打绿 – sodagreen
Okay, I swear that this is the last “indie” artist in this post. But hey, this is my post, so I’ll do what I what. Besides, who can ever have enough indie music in their lives? No one; that’s who.
Anyway, let me introduce you to the indie-rock band known as sodagreen. Unlike the members of certain groups in a certain genre of music, these guys are actually extremely adept at their trade and play instruments like you wouldn’t believe. Together with the vocals of the lead singer, sodagreen creates an unforgettable musical experience with each and every one of their songs.
As is evident from the above song, called “燕窝 – Bird’s Nest“, sodagreen has an uncanny ability of combining the trills of a violin with the wails of a guitar. Each and every one of their tracks is unique and has a memorable aspect to it that provides for absolutely dynamite albums.
Just another song that I cannot resist sharing with you guys is a little diddy called “你在烦恼什么 – What’s Troubling You?“. If you don’t listen to anything else in this post, LISTEN TO THIS SONG!
Check it out below:
4. 张靓颖 – Jane Zhang
I take great pleasure in presenting this next artist. She is Jane Zhang, and her appearance at the 2011 MAMA event completely blew the other acts out of the water.
What was amusing to me was the fact that people who came for the K-pop really left with a want of more C-pop. It also shed a much needed light on the actual talent level of K-pop artists, but that’s a story for another time.
In any case, Jane Zhang is an artist that has an extremely versatile range. She’s like a musical chameleon that is able to adapt to almost any musical situation that she is put in and excel. For example, a song like “改变 – Reform” caters very well to many mainstream listeners, harking to the pop influence that has taken Asia by storm.
Like I said, though, Jane is a vocal gymnast and can stretch her voice in ways that you can’t even imagine. Check out her signature “dolphin cries” in the classically driven song “画心 – Painted Heart” below:
And for shits and giggles, check out this masterpiece called “爱就爱 – Just Love”, which graces us with a beautiful note progression that leads into an ever-so-satisfying climax. Yum.
5. 王力宏 Leehom Wang
The final artist that I will speak of today is none other than my favorite C-pop artist of all time: Leehom Wang. For those foreign to the genre, Leehom is kind of like the kinky type of sex that you don’t think you’re going to like but end up liking way more than you expected.
The man is undoubtedly a musical prodigy. Not only is he vocally a powerhouse, as well as pitch perfect, but he also is able to play more than a dozen instruments with a high level of proficiency. Leehom is also rumored to have scored a perfect on his SATs in high school, and he attended the prestigious William’s College in New York for his undergraduate years.
Brains, talent, and good-looking. He is the whole package. No homo*, of course.
*Editor’s Note: Assless chaps with a rainbow colored vest for full blown homo love.
Leehom is known for his self-coined “chinked-out” style in which he masterfully blends hip-hop/pop and traditional Chinese music. It sounds weird, yes, but the result it really worth a listen. One of the most frequently cited examples of this style is “花田错 – Mistake in the Flower Field“, and it’s shown above.
Yet another example is a track off his latest album, with a song called “伯牙绝弦 – Boya Cuts The Strings“. Check it out below:
Much like Jane, Leehom is a multi-dimensional artist and has tackled a multitude of styles, experimenting constantly to expand his image. One of my favorite facets of his career, however, is definitely the ballads. The man is a genius, and few words can capture the essence of what is probably my favorite song of all time, “星期六的深夜 – Saturday’s Midnight“:
That was painless, right? It wasn’t so bad!
Are you craving more C-pop lovin’ yet?
You’ve got my number. Just give me a call*.
*Editor’s Note: He means the male readers. Preferably the hairy ones with gigantic schlongs.