New Year’s Eve, Live from Taipei

The link for the live YouTube broadcast of the New Year’s special is here. (www.tvbs.com.tw/project/tvbs_g/activity/2012_taipei)

They start at 7:00 p.m. Taipei time (so 6:00 am EST/3:00 am PST). Mayday should be up first or close to it!

Posted in Mayday | 3 Comments

Soda.H.E (sigh)

Okay, important question: is this the absolute worst picture of Jiakai that has ever been and will ever be? My vote is “yes.”

Ugh

With both Mayday and sodagreen having put out new, end of the year albums, I imagine the two bands will be going head to head in a lot of awards show contests this spring. Now, fully acknowledging that I’m still waiting to hear both albums, that seems a bit like Sophie’s choice for some of us: who do you support? I mean, other than NOT supporting that look on Jiakai? It reminds me of Ashin’s glasses phase, which was thankfully not forever (note how I’m carefully not mentioning the dreaded dangling denim suspenders reign of terror) (oh wait… whoops).

I’ll tell you one thing, I’m going to be listening closely when I get the new album: one student reported buying it from an online bookstore and playing it, only to recognize the first track as being off the very first sodagreen album. He made complaints about the record company’s quality control, to which they replied they’ve sold 40,000 copies this month with no other similar complaints, and gently suggested he try updating his computer software. To which I reply: seriously? Software? Can out of date software really give you out of date songs? Color me skeptical; I think it’s more likely said earnest student bought a pirated record and everyone knows it, but it too nice to say so.

Okay, that was just filler. I am still coming to terms with my latest bit of heartache. I cannot believe that sodagreen is the latest band to develop deep and abiding ties to my most reviled girl band, S.H.E. On the one hand, Selina’s terrible accident makes me reticent to criticize too strongly, and of course, there has been nothing in terms of new group activities to criticize anyway. But this latest development that has Ella, who I can’t take even in small doses, signing duets with Qingfeng forces me to wonder if it is just that nothing is sacred anymore; can no worthwhile Mandopop act experience success and be left untainted by the Triumvirate of the Super Cutesy? Plus I am just plain over duets – never an easy admission for a Mandopop fan, but there you have it. Now I’m sure it’s a good thing that this is practically an abandoned blog so I won’t have to take flak from S.H.E’s minions for this, but I just don’t see Ella’s relatively thin voice blending all that well with Qingfeng’s very strong singing.

Anyway, the newly reunited band (with A-fu back from military service) will be performing in the New Year’s concert in Taichung, along with Leehom and many other luminaries. With them all back together, I’m looking forward to Autumn and Winter from the long dormant Vivaldi project, but I’m still wondering: don’t Xiao Wei and Jiakai still have yet to serve?

Posted in Sodagreen | 5 Comments

Mayday is back on tour, Monster’s getting political, and Cowboy Jay is up to new tricks

… in other words, this is what I miss when I go away for months at a time.

I have not yet heard the new album – by only half keeping an eye on Facebook, I thought that it was called “Noah’s Ark,” but I’m slowing realizing that in fact, that is actually one song on a larger album called Second Life, as well as the name of at least part of the tour. I’m facing my usual dilemma – I’ve started translating, but should I listen to all the songs ad hoc, or wait until I have the hard copy in my hot little hands and really clear an hour to enjoy it properly for the first time? I’m leaning toward the latter, which I did not regret with Poetry of the Day After. Though since my YesAsia account shows that my CD has shipped, but has shipped to my house in Baltimore, whereas I am visiting family in Minnesota, it could be a very long wait. *sigh*

I decided to pick up some news to tide me over. Naturally, even before I started in on concerts, I was completely intrigued by the idea that Monster had gotten himself involved in a little political kerfuffle that has raised suspicious that he leans Pan-Green. That in itself would not be a huge shock, given the band’s history playing for the infamous “A-Bian,” but they certainly do try to stay as apolitical as possible (something I occasionally think of as a delightful contrast to U.S. musicians). I am on Facebook, but missed this whole thing: on Christmas Day (aka “Constitution Day” in the Republic of China), Monster apparently put up a post criticizing ROC founding father Sun Yat-sen on a separation of powers issue. in the U.S., our constitution has three branches: executive, legislative, and judicial. Taiwan’s has these – there was some U.S. influence there in the construction of the thing – but two more, the brainchild of Dr. Sun himself: the Control and Examination branches. (The U.S. has variations on these branches as well in the form of the GAO and OPM, but they are not intended to be equal with the other three.) Monster complained that the Control Yuan derives its power from the judicial branch, and therefore has no real jurisdiction or accountability; there have been calls by the DPP in recent weeks for the Control Yuan to investigate misconduct within its own ranks, and it is possible that this controversy sparked the complaint. Responses to his post quickly divided between those who agreed and those who accused him of Pan-Green loyalties, and he quickly removed the post.

When he is not causing political incidents, Monster is of course, playing with the band on their string of Taipei concerts opening this latest world tour. (I’m assuming it will at some point bring them to North America, but I haven’t seen anything on when yet.) The seven nights of consecutive concerts began December 23, and is breaking all kinds of records for attendance, ticket sales, and so forth. I have a someone skeptical view of such records, as I never seem to read an article about a big concert that hasn’t supposedly broken some kind of records, but there you have it. The new concert is full of all the flash and lights that we’ve come to expect from Mayday (*sigh*), and opens with a video of a news report about Judgement Day (keeping with the Biblical themes, I see). The audience for the first show patiently awaited the delayed start, then showed their enthusiasm clutching the requisite blue light sticks and wearing animal ears: bears, bunnies, and rhinoceroses. I don’t really get that last part – were they arriving two by two for Noah’s Ark? Or are the animal ears a new meme in the Mayday fandom and I’m just *that* out of touch? And how on earth do you decide on those three animals?

In other news, for the first time, the New Year’s Eve concert in Taipei will be live broadcast on YouTube. The broadcast is on from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Taipei time, which for me in CST is 5 a.m. to 11 a.m. I’m not sure I’m going to get up at 5:00 on New Year’s Eve, even if Mayday is one of the first acts on.

Finally, from milk-drinking, pleather-wearing “Cowboy” to a “Sailor Afraid of Water:” introducing Cowboy Jay’s latest gimmick. Yeah, this is not going to be the album that wins me back to the fandom.

Posted in Cowboy Jay, Mayday | 10 Comments

It’s “Friday”!

If you dabble in any form of U.S.-based social media, you probably did not miss the terrible, totally manufactured “pop” song “Friday,” by American teenager Rebecca Black. It’s formulaic, auto-tuned to death, and (some would say) a fine example of everything that’s wrong with the music industry. It was a song that launched a thousand parodies, from total spoofs to faked-earnest concert performances.

It goes without saying, I think, that part of what makes it so obnoxious is that such a bad song is so darn catchy. Well, in case greater East Asia was feeling left out, this summer there was a Mandopop song of “Friday caliber.

I refer, of course, to Jeremy Liu’s “Thinking of You (唸你).” As with Rebecca Black, this is an example of a parent trying to make his child’s musical dreams come true, regardless of how much actual talent the kid has. (To be fair to both Ms. Black and Mr. Liu – they might be quite talented. But they are currently both known for songs which they had no hand in writing, in which they sing badly, and which do not give the general public any of idea of what they might actually be able to do.)

The song is seriously old-school – it sounds like it should be a cover of a ballad from 40-50 years ago (come to think of it, maybe it is; I know his dad wrote it, but not when) – and just for fun, his company produced a terrible, old-fashioned video that looks like the worst of the karaoke backing track videos to go along with it. And, like “Friday,” having heard it once, you’ll be singing it forever. (Seriously, it’s worse than the worst of Comrade Wang’s offenses.)

Naturally, it’s a song that is ripe for parody and ironic concert performances (like this one, from Matzka). Not to be outdone, it’s now apparently hit the Mayday concert repertoire:

It’s quite funny – Ashin had a little fun with the lyrics (he’s clearly making them up as he goes along, which we can cite as his latest excuse for being that off-key). The original opened with, “My dictionary doesn’t include ‘giving up’/ because I’m focused on you/ I’ve never written blank diary entries/ they’ve all been about you.” Ashin, who was singing in the encore of a 3DNA promotional concert at close to midnight (when they’d have to end) has changed it to: “My dictionary has no 12 o’clock/ because I’m so sincere/ I’ve never sung awful songs/ because they’re all so good.” He went on with a few plugs for the movie, singing, “You’ve seen Monster and Stone protruding/ and seen Masa and Guanyou in three-dimensions/ This first time being a movie star/ and it’s in 3D/ my mom must be so happy!/ My dictionary doesn’t include ‘2D’/ because I’m so 3D….” He repeats from there, with the rest of the band having caught on and kicked in.

The only thing funnier than the lyrics is how desperately far off-key he gets, especially towards the end. But it’s good stuff, and netizens agree: on Youtube, the video is closing in on a half-million views, with 3,764 likes and 174 dislikes. Um, compare the at to the original; I’m not sure which video is “official,” but this one has over 1.7 million views, with the dislikes outnumbering the likes more than 3 to 1.

…And there we have a little problem. Jeremy Liu has been riding this song to fame, notoriety and, apparently, a new film career, but the world at large likes any parody of his song roughly 50 times better than they like the original. This article describes the problem, noting that some Jeremy fans are indignant about Mayday’s co-opting of the melody, especially since the “I don’t sing bad songs” can be interpreted as a jab at “Thinking of You” as a terrible song. (Side note: but is it worse than “LOVE-ing”? Tough call, that.) They ask: is it a cruel parody, or all in good fun? (I’m going with the latter, given how kind Ashin was over the terrible Fahrenheit/S.H.E version of “Tenderness.”) The article grows fairly serious in its discussion of the comment wars under the videos, as fans of either artist square off, noting some concerns that (*gasp*) some of the people commenting on the internet might not be who they say they are. I know, right? Terribly shocking. But it’s right about the main point, which is that love it or hate it, “Thinking of You” has been covered, mocked, and mentioned in so many forms, that it might well be the song of the year.

Posted in Mandopop, Mayday | 6 Comments

Only Ashin, Originating Acronyms…

Alright, I’m just going to come right out and say it, in the hope that I’m not actually alone here, but… what the heck is “OA” anyway? Over-eaters Anonymous? Opera Australia? Open Access? Over acting? Over-achiever? Or is it supposed to stay in the compound, “OAOA”, and if so, what’s that? Oklahoma Airport Operators’ Association? Oregon Athletic Officials Association? Yeah, I’ve got nothing.

Here’s the full song:

I’m not totally in love with it, but it’s not on the order of “LOVE-ing” for me either, so perhaps it will grow on me with repetition. But this “OAOA” thing is driving me crazy. The rest of the lyrics aren’t actually much help:**

OAOA(現在就是永遠)[【五月天追夢3DNA】主題曲]
OAOA (Right Now Is Forever) Mayday Chase Your Dreams 3DNA Theme Song


詞曲:阿信
Music and Lyrics by Ashin

我相信 苦澀的眼淚
I believe in bitter tears
我不信 甜美的誓言
I don’t believe in sweet vows
我相信 音樂就該音樂
I believe that music should just be music

我相信 愛情的純粹
I believe in love’s simplicity
我不信 華麗的詩篇
I don’t believe in grandiose poetry
我相信 熱烈的爭辯
I believe in passionate arguments
我不信 無聲的和諧
I don’t believe in silent harmony
我相信 秒秒的瞬間
I believe in that instant
我不信 年年的永遠
I don’t believe in the forever that takes years
我相信 搖滾就能萬歲
I believe rock and roll is forever

快張開你的嘴 OAOA
Speak up now OAOA***
再不管你是誰 OAOA
Don’t worry about who you are OAOA
人生都太短暫
Live is too short
別想 別怕 別後退
Don’t think, don’t be afraid, don’t retreat
現在 就是 永遠
Right now is forever

出生的那一年 OAOA
From that year you were born OAOA
轉眼就這一天 OAOA
In a flash it’s now today OAOA
生都太短暫
Life is much too short
去瘋 去愛 去浪費
Go crazy, go love, go squander it
和我 再唱 OA OAOA
Sing with me OA OAOA

** The lyrics weren’t much help, but Wenning was, who offered several suggestions for translating the verses. I didn’t always use her suggestions, though I suspect the translation is the poorer for it.
*** Edited with help from MigratoryBird

Sooooo…. is there some sort of context to “OAOA” that I’m missing, or do I need simply to take Ashin’s command “don’t think” to heart?

Posted in Mayday | 17 Comments

And now for something completely different

Leehom shakes things up a bit with an out-of-left-field, major turn in direction: an ode to Chinese ethnic nationalism! Oh wait, he does at least one of these per album. Never mind.

But here’s the new song anyway, called “Open Fire (火力全開)”:

Because it is your typical dance track, it was immediately beset with accusations of plagiarism, particularly in taking ideas from this song by Ke$ha:

That, by the way, was my first ever encounter with Ke$ha, and I hope it will be my last. On the plagiarism charge, my first thought is that all these dance tracks pretty much sound the same anyway, but then I realized that I’m just being an old fuddy-duddy with no appreciation of the music of These Kids Today™. So I’ll say this: I’d bet my Mandopop collection that any similarity between the songs is entirely coincidental, because Leehom has too much experience (not to mention too much to lose) for it to be anything else. I don’t completely buy his claim that his song is just “so much of a breakthrough” that the accusations come from people who can’t understand the song; I think we all get it – we just get it and feel like we’ve heard it before. Personally, though, I was casting about for a Michael Jackson song on my first listen, so that shows how up-to-speed I am.

On the matter of the lyrics (which are, interestingly, 50-50 in Chinese and English, which really is new for Leehom), all I can say is: sigh. He’s right about some things – sometimes it feels like Asians in general and Chinese in particular are the last group it’s “okay” to be racist towards in the U.S. His “so many accusations of an Asian invasion” strikes a reasonable chord. The rest of it, though, is posturing. I mean, he’s an American kid whose very Americanized music has conquered Asia – is he really complaining about American cultural imperialism?

The album, which consists of two new songs and 28 of Leehom’s past hits, is due out September 30.

Edit: Boy, those huge-framed videos are annoying. But I think I’m just going to add new posts to push them down instead of wasting time trying to figure out how to adjust their size. Forgive me….

Edit2: Never mind, I just scaled them down by a fifth. Ignore that last edit.

Edit/Update 3: According to YesAsia.com, the pre-order version comes with an inflatable Music Man guitar. That must be a special, biodegradable, environmentally friendly inflatable guitar. I’d hate to be forced to conclude that the whole Change Me promotion was a gimmick. Of course, you might recall that there were some flaws in the execution even back when that album came out.

Posted in Leehom Wang | 3 Comments

There’s something in disguise here anyway

So, back to the subject of dodgy choices Comrade Wang makes in his film career. I thought I’d offer a few thoughts on his writing/directing debut, Love in Disguise (爱情通告), which I finally watched during my brief stint in China this summer. It is, by just about any measure, a pretty prosaic film. If you can endure the worst of the overacting in the first half hour or so, you might be able to get a few laughs in, though I warn you now some will inevitably be at Leehom’s expense.

First and foremost, let me express my extreme skepticism that Leehom himself would go see this film. I mean, if he didn’t co-write it, if he hadn’t directed it, and if he wasn’t starring in it – if it was just the latest release in Taiwan or China starring Liu Yifei and, say, our new professional actor friend Wu Chun – I cannot imagine a 35 year old man thinking this is the thing to see on a Saturday night. And what’s he doing making a movie he and his friends in all likelihood wouldn’t want to see?

My first problem stems from him being 35 (well, 34 at the time it came out)… and being in a role that has him disguising himself to infiltrate a Shanghai music school and developing a crush on a coed. It’s classic fan service – he’s playing out the fantasies his fans have in their heads on the big screen. But I have spent a disproportionate number of my days on college campuses, and the idea of a 34 year old pretending to be a young student to charm a pretty 19 year old kind of creeps me out.

The second issue is that most of the actors in the film – again, in the first half hour in particular, but Leehom for most of the piece – seem to subscribe to the Ella Chen school of overacting. Ah, Ella. I cannot tell you how many times people have told me that I should watch the Taiwanese drama Hana Kimi. I got so many promises that I’d love it that I actually bought it (in China, at least, so I didn’t spend much on it), despite my dislike for all things Fahrenheit/S.H.E. Between what a terribly wooden actor Wu Chun is, and what a painfully, desperately exaggerated performance Ella gives mugging for the camera, I’ve never gotten through more than a few episodes – and I watched those a few minutes at a time to endure them. It hurts to watch her act – you’re afraid she’s going to pull something, and you want to smack her, so you’re in serious danger of smacking your television and hurting yourself instead.* Well, that’s what the acting is like early in this movie.

Beyond that, the premise is so breathtakingly stupid I kept waiting – in vain – for the punchline.** Leehom and his band’s guitar player disguise themselves as goat herders from the totally made-up, faraway village of Dingzhou. But the characters in the movie aren’t really in on the joke – they dress up, even walk around with a live goat (!), express momentary doubt then become thrilled that no one can recognize them. We all can see how ludicrous it is that these people would accept this disguise, commit to using it, and then keep wearing it for weeks on end after enrolling in the Shanghai music school Liu Yifei attends. The problem is that they can’t seem to see it, which means that Leehom’s character is apparently someone with a sub-eighty IQ, and that makes him a lot less likable. The fact that no one recognizes him or questions the disguise, even when he sings (and this after they’d all gone to see his alter ego the pop star in concert), means that actually, EVERYONE in the movie is a blithering idiot. If you’re going to have your characters attempt something so outlandish, you have to at least let them recognize that it’s an absurd ploy.

And yet, for all that, they got me to laugh a few times. At the beginning it was embarrassed laughter at how far Leehom was willing to go for a chuckle, but there were a few good gags. The one I dreaded the most was in the preview: in classic Leehom fashion, while in disguise he hears people speculating that his pop star self is gay, and he gets all indignant denying it. Hey, he’s written two songs denying it, you had little doubt he’d work it into a movie at some point. But there was a twist – when he claims later to be able to get his pop star self to an event, everyone wonders how the lowly goat herder would have the pop star’s phone number. “Oh, he gave it to me – I met him in the bathroom,” he says, unthinkingly. “So he really IS gay!” a character squeals, and the payoff is perfect. Finally, finally, Leehom manages to poke a little fun at himself. If he had done more of that – and not just this wacky goat-herder nonsense – it could have been a much better comedy.

You do get used to his goat-herder garb, and while it doesn’t become easier to accept, it is at least easier to ignore. There are a few more funny bits, especially during the fan concert; the scenes of Leehom trying to go back and forth between being in the audience with the girl in one persona and being onstage in the other has been done too many times to be really funny, but having another person from his invented Dingzhou in the audience was worth a giggle, and Khalil Fong’s bewildered cameo absolutely killed me when he filled in with a confused, “I, ah, guess I’m the special guest?”

From there, though, it spiraled out of control into a painfully heavy-handed message about not losing traditional music in the pursuit of pop, and finding ways to incorporate the two. Seriously, it makes Beginning of the Great Revival look downright subtle, and when you can out-propagandize the Chinese Communist Party, it’s time to take a step back and consider easing up a bit on the lessons.

If you’ve seen any number of romantic comedies or – especially – East Asian Idol dramas, then you’ve seen it all before, but this has something on the Hana Kimis of the world: it’s mercifully short. I’ll go one step further, as well – I bought and listened to Leehom’s accompanying album, The 18 Martial Arts before I saw the movie and thought it just so-so. The movie acts as a great advertisement for the songs, though, and I found that I liked the whole album better after seeing the movie, even without being all that impressed by the latter. Maybe the problem is perspective: don’t think of it as a film, but as a 98-minute music video disguised as a film. Suddenly, it’s stunningly successful.

_______
* I have a second, altogether different issue with this one that ensured I would not like it, which is that Ella’s character is just plain dumb. She seems to go for female characters that are stupid, clueless, and helpless, devoid of self-esteem, and always opposite a handsome, male lead who’s smart and infinitely more capable. What a horrible example to be setting for the young women of East Asia.

** I’m choosing to ignore the whole “magical visions of butterflies” sub-plot here, because I found that even less comprehensible than the goat.

Posted in Leehom Wang | 4 Comments

Important news in Mandopop trends

Ladies and gentlemen, you heard it here first. I’m declaring that the reign of the vampires is officially over in the Mandopop world. It was fun for a while – well, some songs were more fun than others – but it’s time to put that behind us and move on to the latest trend.

Everyone who’s anyone is now writing about zombies.

From Tizzy Bac’s absolutely stellar May album, The Tell Tale Heart, we have “Who Ate My Brain?” Seriously, they have best song titles in East Asia, I think.

At the same time, and after a longish hiatus (in Mandopop terms, anyway), Shin is back with “Before Dawn.”

He’s got Barbie Hsu starring in his rather elaborate video, and we need to commend him for having written the wordsmusic and lyrics himself. Hopefully next time he’ll use more than three notes. Now admittedly, it’s kind of hard to tell if Barbie is a zombie, a vampire, or some sort of werewolf in that video, but given the way the video invokes zombie films (the abandoned city, the masses slowly moving forward to get him) and the fact that everyone else seems to interpret it the same way, I’m declaring the 2011 Mandopop Zombie trend open. Somebody call Ashin and let him know just in case he’s still writing lyrics.

Posted in Cowboy Jay, Mandopop | 6 Comments

The countdown to “3DNA”

Okay, I’m fascinated by this: Mayday’s 3D concert movie is going to open September 9 on the mainland, and September 16 in Taiwan. Um, won’t the whole thing – minus the 3D effects, of course – be online by then? It’s good timing in the sense that it will open during the Mid-Autumn festival holiday, when people are off and, one assumes, in the mood for movies. It’s also within six days of the big 100th anniversary of the 1911 revolution in Taiwan, so I guess we can celebrate the fact that the survival of the ROC indirectly allowed the formation of Mayday to take place. (Hey, I’m trying.)

Here’s the trailer:

Am I the only one disappointed to hear “Love-ing” so heavily featured? Seeing one of my pet peeves out front and center makes me worry about another; I didn’t see any dodgy dangling denim suspenders in the DNA concert wardrobe, but what if they’re back, and coming at us in 3D?

Posted in Mayday | 2 Comments

Comrade Wang makes the world a better place

So last weekend I went to see The Beginning of the Great Revival, the new film about the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. Because, you know, I try to catch all the good propaganda in the theater, when it’s still fresh. (No, really; I saw The Founding of the Republic in the theater opening week, too. I have a penchant for being in China on big party anniversaries.) I hadn’t actually heard much about the film in advance – I mean, it’s not like I’m not sure what happened in China between 1911 and 1921; the big questions are really how they present it – so I just went in ready to enjoy the spectacle.

Yeah, it was a little bit of a surprise to see Leehom Wang playing a young, politically passionate Beida scholar. I mean, Leehom, dearheart, you’re American: you do realize that this is not just any old historical drama, right? I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; after all, he has cornered the market on ultra-nationalistic pop songs.

Still, I went home to investigate, and I was surprised to discover that there are actually two Americans in the film; Daniel Wu (whom I don’t know, since I don’t follow the Cantonese scene) played Hu Shih to Leehom’s Luo Jialun. I’ve done a quick and very dirty translation of the whole article below:

__________

In the movie The Beginning of the Great Revival, there are two Chinese Americans: one is Daniel Wu playing New Cultural Movement Leader Hu Shih, and one is Leehom Wang playing Cai Yuanpei’s student, Luo Jialun. Although the two men really suit their roles, pronouncing their lines became their biggest challenge.

In the film, Hu Shih goes from being 26 to 28 years old; in 1917 he received his Ph.D. from Columbia University in the United States and returned to China to become a Beijing University professor, joined the staff of New Youth, selecting articles that opposed feudalism, promoting individual freedom, democracy and science, even promoting language reform through vernacular literature; he was a key figure in the New Culture Movement.

Director Huang Jianxin explained that when pondering the role of Hu Shih, the first person he thought of was Daniel Wu, aside from looking enough alike, his experience with studying abroad is similar to that of Hu Shih. After the technical staff did a comparison with pictures of Wu and Hu, the agreed that it’s a case of body and spirit lining up.

To prepare for this role, Daniel Wu bought the English translation of Hu Shih’s diaries in America. “Because he went to America, so many Americans know of him [ed. true, but not nearly enough…], and he wrote many English books. I can’t read Chinese, so I can only use these English books. He’s such an important person in our Chinese history and culture, like his recommendations to use vernacular Chinese, it was so important,” Daniel Wu mentioned in an interview.

In the film, there’s a scene where Beida students and teachers are having a heated discussion about the old and new culture. Acting as the advocate for the New Culture Movement, Chen Duxiu, Li Dazhan, Hu Shih, etc. all rise up against the the “Conservative Party” leader Gu Hongming. Hu Shih has an extended monologue in this scene, but for Daniel Wu, having grown up abroad, this is a major challenge. He’s never been very good in Mandarin, and he found some of the specialized vocabulary of the Republican period quite difficult.

Huang Jianxin explained, “We gave Daniel Wu a script that was different from everyone else’s; his lines were all written out in pinyin. Often you’d find him hidden away in a corner carefully studying, it was quite hard for him.” When everyone else was resting, Feng Yuanzheng would help him out a lot. Because pinyin has no way of helping you determine where to break up the sentences, you’ve got Feng Yuanzheng there on one side acting every bit the teacher, demonstrating the lines to Daniel Wu, helping him get through each part.

When Luo Jialun was a student at Beida he was elected Beijing students representative, and he went to Shanghai to take part in the National Student Union founding meeting, supporting the New Culture Movement. In the May Fourth Movement, he printed a vernacular manifesto and even published the first piece to use the phrase “the May Fourth Movement” in the journal Weekly Review, a phrase we still use today.

Leehom Wang said about his role, “He is a very smart person, very cultured and very talented; when he spoke he was very convincing, very attractive; this part could be a huge challenge for me.” As a result, when filming the scene he was not only constantly practicing his Mandarin pronunciation but also constantly consulting others.

“I’m also a very passionate person, whether through music or through film, I always hope I can make the world a better place, a more perfect place; that could be similar to Luo Jialun,” he said.

_________

And what better place to start than with communist propaganda! Riiiiight. You know, as much as I love the idea of Leehom joining my profession even if only in film (Luo Jialun was, after all, a historian, and Leehom’s presence would certainly spice up some of my professional meetings), I think he might need to join Ashin in my remedial history classes for Taiwanese pop stars.

The punchline to this long article on how hard Wu and Wang worked to pronounce things correctly is that both guys (and most the non-mainland actors) had all their lines dubbed over by a more natural Mandarin speaker in the theatrical release. Oh well, better luck next time. Don’t you think that Leehom would make an outstanding Lei Feng?

Posted in Leehom Wang | 3 Comments