Amidst the great albums that came out recently from people like David Tao, whom we’ve looked up to for their song-writing talent, and whose albums we look forward to for very reason, one album lifted itself from up from our expectations and stunned us over our lack of anticipation for it. Chris Lee, without much press or fanfare, came out with a CD, a good one, containing 8 self-composed songs, and 9 song with lyrics she herself wrote.
No one had preparation for such a revelation that Li Yuchun could compose. No one knew she had even tried, and the sudden materialization of an album almost all her own surprised us, and then slowly overtook us our quiet shock with such astonished joy where we wanted to run around and congratulate her and her fans for such a wholly unexpected burst of talent from this much maligned woman. However, looking back at our excitement over this, we had to wonder, why are we so happy for her? I just admitted it – we never her fans, nor are we currently her fans. So why the crazy happiness?
Throughout the changes that have occurred over the years in China’s music industry, and China’s entertainment scene, there exists one constant, and that constant is the reigning queen of mainland Cpop no matter whose talk show Jane Zhang goes on. She is Chris Lee, or Li Yuchun, a bizarre inexplicable pop culture figure to anyone who didn’t fall into her “fensi” category. This fact has perplexed us here too at Cfensi, and frustrated us from the beginning. Not only does Li Yuchun not have the Miss Universe looks that one hopes to represent a country, but she also sadly lacked in the amount of singing talent that would explain away those looks. All she had was her unbelievable solid presence, an assurance that most people could only covet from afar, an assurance that distanced her from the majority.
But slowly she gained our respect if not our love. The bashing, the criticism that she received over the years only fueled the image of underdog that won her so many hearts in 2005. Now she emerged with an album of nearly all self-compositions….a very good album. We all got excited over it but why? Were we ever a fan of this woman? We hated her at first – someone who tarnished all the brilliant singers that emerged from Hunan TV’s singing competitions despite the fact that she was the only one that had anything less than impressive vocals. Even now we only had begrudging admiration for her attitude toward herself, her music, and her unfaltering nonchalance towards those bashing her, because really, they didn’t matter.
So why were we so happy? Was it finally a vindication, a means for us to say “Hey, here’s Chris Lee. She’s our Supergirl representative. She’s talented. Her love of music can finally be seen in this, in her composition.” It probably was. But what’s the point? She had gotten this far without that sort of tangible merit, and her fans have been one of the few that could lavish praise upon their idol without ever feeling the need to tear down others. She didn’t have the voice nor the looks back then, just a love of music shrouded on the outside by a quiet, friendly, and always firm composure. This was what gained her fans and inspired. She gave people a success story that was based on neither the superficial appearance nor the talent that some are lucky to be born with. It was based on just her…her will to do what she loved.
So here’s to you Chris Lee, the underdog that no one understood and may never understand. No matter how you surprise us with merit, you may forever be whom most still sees you as, a pop culture phenom that captivated many. The majority weren’t quite so captivated, nor inspired including us. Ultimately however, I think that’s our loss.