To herald in the new year, I, along with some friends of APW decided to put together some Top 10 lists of our favourite Mandopop songs of 2017 to share in a blog series! In a way, I thought it would be cool to see what were other Mandopop listeners' favourite songs of the year; an experiment of subjectivity if you'd like.
In the first part of the series, I share my top 10, which include songs from Stefanie Sun, Wang Leehom, Namewee, Lala Hsu and more! Some might be songs you've heard frequently on the top charts, while others might be personal favourites which I think deserve to be in the spotlight before the year ends. Either way, I hope it provides all readers with a unique perspective on Mandopop and how the scene has changed and progressed over the past year. Evidently, there have been so many exciting developments that leave me hopeful for the growth of the industry and it's capacity for cross-cultural dialogue in the near future. Do check our picks out, and we've even included a Spotify playlist down the bottom if that's your preferred listening method. Merry Christmas and happy new year!
10. Jia JIa家家 - Jia Jia Song家家歌
Although Amit (A-mei’s alter ego) is taking a break this year, Jia Jia’s latest release has ensured that there is no lack in Taiwanese Aboriginal representations in pop music, releasing her first album featuring a plethora of self-composed works. One that stood out to me was her first single ‘Jia Jia Song’ which features other notable Aboriginal artists Suming and Ilid Kaolo, which incorporates traditional Aboriginal songs which seamlessly mix with elements of pop music such as the use of synthesizer beats underlying the song, and the use of some Chinese lyrics. With a melody that is mysterious yet beckons us to find out more, Jia Jia’s velveteen vocals draws us in and builds a bridge of accessibility for mainstream audiences to understand and appreciate her culture in a safe creative setting. The unique charisma of the song will have you singing along to its simple, natural lyrics in no time!
9.孫燕姿 STEFANIE SUN - 風衣 WINDBREAKER
This song off Stefanie Sun’s long-awaited 13th album ‘Dancing Van Gogh’ stood out to me for its unconventional take on a ballad. Starting off hauntingly beautiful, the addition of R&B beats in the background in the chorus underlying a heartfelt melody creates possibilities I never thought possible. The beats and melody in the chorus bounce off each other; lifting the song’s atmosphere higher and higher, like wind whipping through the trees. I especially love the lyrical metaphor of the windbreaker, and feel that this song fits Sun’s carefree vocals to a T.
8.POETEK熊仔, JULIA WU吳卓源, RGRY - 買榜MYBONG (BUY THE CHARTS)
Another trend that has been really positive in 2017 and looks to continue into 2018 is the emergence of several cool, young artists who have emerged from the underground/independent scene, pushing out new works left and right that disrupt the mainstream charts’ never-ending cycle of love ballads. With fewer connections and less resources, these guys are the key to the revival of the Mandopop music industry. One such success story is that of single ‘Buy the Charts’ released by rapper Poetek, Julia Wu and RGRY, a rather lighthearted and chill track which gets into your head like an earworm. Switching up the conventional rap song format by mixing some melody into the rap part and some rap into the melody section, the song is effortlessly groovy, with tongue-in-cheek lyrics which sing about making it big on the charts. Ironically (or not), the song has rapidly made its way up the Top 100 charts on KKBOX. Let’s just hope it stays that way and keeps climbing!
7. A-MEI張惠妹Ft. E-SO瘦子 (MJ116) - Whatever你說了算 ft. E-so
A-mei has always been known for championing causes that are marginalized, be it LGBTIQ rights, Aboriginal representation, or even the creative works of underground/independent songwriters. In the past she’s used songs by people she’s found on the internet (Matriarchy by 愛力獅Alice), worked on songs with Miss Ko and Soft Lipa, but for her latest album ‘Story Thief’ her third single ‘Whatever’ takes the cake for the most out-there, yet irresistibly energetic song I’ve heard in a while. Almost schizophrenic in nature, (think Bohemian Rhapsody), the song switches erratically between minor and major keys, starting off with prim and proper chords on the keyboard before launching with no further warning into an unconventional hip hop segment replete with quirky, short guitar riffs. And all this happens within the first 40 seconds of the song. Switching with no rhyme or rhythm between dark and happy themes, the song teeters on the edge of insanity, buoyed only by the absolute confidence of A-mei’s dynamic vocals. Such a weird song, but in the best way possible!
Check out the lyric translations for 'Whatever' here.
Joining me for the second part of the 'Top 10 2017 Mandopop Picks' blog series is none other than founder and editor of YAM Magazine, Amy who has graciously decided to share her picks and annotations with everyone. I would say Amy's taste in music is really different to mine, but our mutual love for cross cultural collaboration means that we always respect and appreciate each other's musical preferences! If you're into indie Mainland Chinese stuff, or music that is a little more dark and mysterious than what you'd usually find in Mainstream pop, I think you'd appreciate Amy's picks...a lot.
There's a Spotify playlist at the end of the article where I compiled the songs I could find on the service, and if you're interested in more of Amy's recommendations, do check out her latest article over on YAM MAG where she compiled a whopping 50-song list of her favourite songs of 2017, including music from all around the world!
-APW Creator Jocelle
10.曾之喬 Joanne Tseng - 猜猜看 Guess
I don’t know much about Joanne Tseng’s career, but I do have the habit of clicking on clicking random videos that show up on my feeds, which is the reason I stumbled upon Guess, which could resemble Stefanie Sun’s edgier music style, though presented in a much more mainstream love ballad.
9. 沼泽 ZhaoZe - 如果我失去了青春 If I Lose my Youth
Mainland band ZhaoZe (who are also on Bandcamp) were also featured on Xiami’s compilation alongside Fang Shi’er and 1229 with this amazing rock instrumental.
8. Yoga Lin - 船 The Ship
Yoga Lin’s voice, generally, makes me sad. LOL. In The Ship, it manages to do so even without the lyrics; and despite the pop rock chorus that crank up the mood.
7. 许哲 Xu Zhe - 如此遥远
Otherwise known as Heo Chul, Mainland singer Xu Zhe’s music style differs from most people’s in this list as he’s less influenced by electronic music, and is much more inclined to folk rock, making his track a lot more contemplative, sorrowful and, perhaps, hopeful.