Even being named by TIME Magazine one of the best music videos of the year, Mandopop princess Jolin Tsai's new single <Play> is definitely taking the world by storm. But not only has it been revolutionary in its sound and its idea, it has also had a rapid and catalytic effect on the Taiwanese music community, with many up-and-coming artists drawing inspiration from the original to create their own radically different yet wonderful works.
Here we have four versions of the same song-but who did it best? Read to the end to hear my verdict.
Of course, Jolin's original is mindblowingly good. I've never been that big a fan of EDM, but Jolin's music is one of my only exceptions to that rule. With a radical fusion of hip-hop rapping with an EDM beat, Jolin's created a truly revolutionary song to go with lyrics that are in-your-face, sharp yet sweet, and a much-needed criticism of Taiwanese society all in one. And truly there would be no one better than Jolin to be able to master this version of the song; her sweet and resonant vocals and unique pronunciation hits all the right notes for me, making this truly the most show-stopping track on her album.
As for indie and cover artist Shan Hay, it just amazes me how he was able to find the inspiration to strip down such a heavy track to find the core of the melody, taking it out and building his own acoustic version around it. I do believe that it was this cover that inspired many others to start playing around with Jolin's song, trying to create their own cover of the song that would show their support for the ideas for the song while letting their unique creative musical voices show. Shan's version is more reminiscent of R n B David Tao's works, with a hint of humour and full of warmth. Could be a complete song in it's own right!
Janice Yan, Li You-ting, Karen
Now this cover of Play is something else altogether. Janice, You-ting and Karen have instead created a funky, blues-inspired cover of Jolin's <Play> with a strong element of attitude infused into the entire song. It also draws influence from Queen's works by adding a completely different section that instead is inspired by a more disco, 80's theme before transitioning back into a faster version of their original arrangement seamlessly. They've also got this 'Supremes'-inspired backing style in there which I really love, drawing also from the Motown genre at its best.
Dawen and Gentleman have worked together with KKBOX here to create yet another astoundingly good and different cover of Jolin's <Play>!
I have to say, one of the most creative and awesome covers I've seen in a while. Not only because it was shot in an elevator(who would've thought?), but also because of it's complete rearrangement of the song; this time into an acapella/beatboxing/jazzed-up version of the original! Well done guys! This song sure does seem to be inspiring lots of artists to try their hand at creating new sounds, which I think is one of the most radical things I love about it.
I have to say, all of these covers are immensely creative and of a highly professional standard. But as the princess of mandopop, I believe it was Jolin's encompassing of the song which made it stand out so much, and gave all these artists the challenge AND the inspiration to create something very different, yet very personal from the song; their own reflection of how they see Taiwan. I don't know how she did it, but Jolin's impact is absolutely astounding. It's like she just gave us a blank sheet of paper charged with creative electricity for these artists to wrap their heads around and to create something different, something new. I have never seen so many amazing covers of the same song before. Clearly the winner here is Jolin, not only for her wonderful song, but also for the impact her song has had on Taiwanese society.
Alright, so with <Crying Sand>, this song has a long history dating all the way back to 1990， when it was first sang by Huang Ying Ying. To date, the song has been sang and covered over 20 times, and it's no surprise why. The song has a very special atmosphere to it, combining a comforting fusion of clear eastern tradition with a melody that has a certain hook to it, reeling you in always for another listen, and another, and another...
Let's see how these four artists fare with the classic, shall we?
Unfortunately, the goddess of love songs isn't really topping my list with her rendition of <Crying Sand>, but it probably has something to do with the dated arrangement and the impromptu setting in which it was performed. Nevertheless, a good effort on Fish's part.
Gao Sheng Mei
Younger generations would probably be puzzling at her name, but back in her heyday, Gao Sheng Mei was rivalling the likes of Leehom himself, after bagging the first ever Golden Melody Award for Best Female Mandarin Singer alongside Leehom in 1997. Her rendition of <Crying Sand> was among the songs within the album garnering her critical acclaim and the Golden Melody Award itself, and it's easy to see why. Her vocals bring with them a classy sense of elegance and nostalgia; despite them obviously not being what is popular in this decade, her rendition of the song is still emotional and very much moving in its' performance.
Being her usual amazing and versatile self, Hebe's rendition of <Crying Sand> is among one of the most recent, her having performed it in a medley during this year's Golden Melody Awards show. But not only is it recent in terms of when she performed it, her performance of it was breathtaking as it was outstanding, as she performed an version of it with a very independent folk feel to it, topping things off with the breathy caress of her lilting vocals. This one gets top marks for innovation and creativity!
But my absolute hands-down favourite version of <Crying Sand> just has to be the one The Voice of China contestant Rose Liu performed a few weeks back. Her oh-so-sweet vocals are tinged with her characteristic huskiness as she completely makes the song her own, kneading it until it submits to her will. Every nuance, every word, and every emotion that exists within this song-the longing, the loss and the beauty of agony is captured so perfectly in her vocals that it is hard to even imagine that there is a person whose voice in that moment in time sounds even more perfectly angelic than Rose's.
Although I was unable to find a youtube version for this song (it was unfortunately taken down by someone who was obviously jealous of Rose's beautiful voice) , I really would recommend that you check out the video of her performance on qq. It is definitely worth that extra click.
So who did it best? I think the answer's clear for all to see!
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