Hey everyone, thanks so much for the support for my last post. I’m way too unhealthily invested in this show, and I really need an excuse to spazz and discuss with people, so I decided to do recaps! If you guys like it, I’ll keep doing it for the rest of the season :D
I’ll start with this week’s episode 7, which coincides with the first episode of the second round competition.
Second round rules:
- Top 8 contestants for each judge have to compose a new song within 24 hours, based on a theme given by their judge.
- The contestants are divided into four pairs randomly. Only one contestant from each pair gets to go into the next round.
- In addition, the judge gets to pick one contestant from the four leftover pairs to go forward.
- Next, the top 5 contestants will perform their composition on the big stage.
- 51 “media representatives” vote “Yes” or “No” on each contestant, so each contestant basically gets a score out of 51.
- After all the voting, each judge (excluding the competing group’s judge) gets to give 5 points to one contestant of their choice.
- Contestant with overall highest score automatically goes into finals.
- Finally, the competing group’s judge can choose the runner-up who will also go into finals. This choice is independent of the score, and is completely up to the judge’s discretion.
We start with judge 刘欢 Liu Huan’s group, whose theme is “去年”, meaning “last year”. His top 8 and their musical styles are:
- 裸儿 Luo Er – Experimental indie folk
- 刘胡轶 Liu Hu Yi – Ballad
- 马条 Ma Tiao – Folk
- 赵牧阳 Zhao Mu Yang – Folk-rock
- 人声兄弟 Ren Sheng Xiong Di (means “human voice bros” lol) – Acapella pop
- 那吾克热 Na Wu Ke Re – Rap
- 刘雨潼 Liu Yu Tong – Indie pop
- 杭盖乐队 Hanggai – Post-rock/folk-rock
The team allocations are:
- Team A – Ren Sheng Xiong Di, Hanggai
- Team B – Ma Tiao, Liu Yu Tong
- Team C -Zhao Mu Yang, Luo Er
- Team D – Na Wu Ke Re, Liu Hu Yi
The first part of the episode focused on the 24 hours composition process. The contestants each had a room to themselves, complete with a keyboard and guitar. They were given free reign to roam the building and do whatever they wanted in the time.
Liu Huan also invited a music producer and lyricist to help contestants with advice during the process. What was really nice was that even though the contestants were split into pairs, it’s ultimately still all about yourself and your music, so the sense of competition was actually not that high. I loved how they bonded over lunch and booze LOL.
- The music veterans Ma Tiao and Zhao Mu Yang were clear about what they wanted to express and quickly submitted their songs to Liu Huan after about 3 hours.
- Zhao Mu Yang said he dedicated his song, called 风儿吹 Wind Blows, to all the contestants on the show, because he feels really bad that so many contestants could not proceed, and he hopes that this round he stays behind so others can move forward.
- Meanwhile, Zhao’s neighbor, Luo Er has yet to start working on the music. Since the start, she’s been painting on her desk and even painted an entire glass panel. Liu Huan jokes that she’s converted to a 24 hour interior designer… She’s definitely an oddball, and a little clueless hah, but she’s so cute. After painting, though, she immediately found inspiration for her song and submitted it quickly after 12 hours.
- Liu Yu Tong struggled a lot for his song. He said he was on the verge of breakdown after nearing the 20 hour mark and still being unable to lockdown the right lyrics. Poor guy. But he made it through.
- Na Wu Ke Re is just adorable. Because Ma Tiao, his neighbor, left really early on, he said he finally felt free and started blasting beats in his room ha!
It’s a real pity that due to time constraints, the show did not reveal the entire compositions of every one. So for those who did not make it to the performance round, we can only fall back on snippets and trust Liu Huan’s judgement.
The top 5 contestants:
- Team A – Hanggai
- Team B – Ma Tiao
- Team C – Luo Er (Aww, you should’ve seen how happy Zhao Mu Yang was that Luo Er got in instead of him sniff.)
- Team D – Na Wu Ke Re (He was so shocked he made it. Adorable!)
- The fifth comeback contestant was revealed later on in the performance stage.
So, later that night or some time later (the editing and structure of this show is really unclear, since it was mostly pre-filmed…), we arrive at the performance stage for the top 5 of Liu Huan’s group.
First up was Na Wu Ke Re, with his song “四季” or “Four Seasons”.
- My score on the music: 7/10
- My score on the performance: 9/10
- Media vote: 45/51
- Comments: What an explosive performance! 简直嗨翻天 The level of his energy is absolutely infectious and the slower beat of the hook is catchy and works to balance out the rap verses pretty well. His lyrics are also adorable, and his passion for music definitely shines through. I especially like the “Oh no please” interjections which are pretty funny, but the icing on the cake is the “功夫不负有心人” transition phrase between the verse and chorus which really encapsulates his story and shakes up the song musically. Kudos to the producer who thought of the instrumental bridge, lovely touch. Maybe it’s just me but his rap is still the strongest in his native Uygher language. Is Mandarin is just less powerful rhythmically or is he just less comfortable speaking it?
Next, we have Luo Er with “呐喊” or “Scream”.
- My score on the music: 8/10
- My score on the performance: 7/10
- Media vote: 25/51
- Comments: She’s magical. Literally out of this world. I think this song isn’t as good as the song she submitted in the first round…I agree some of the transitions are a little jarring. But the entire imagery of this song is indescribable – about an angel who descends onto earth, and screams for the loss of beauty and the destruction. She found the inspiration for the song in her drawings. Perhaps I’m in this phase where I’ve gotten jaded by very precise, very produced music that the freedom of form and the purity in her music speaks to me, but I truly think she has something most of us today have lost, a certain purity that brings from an urge to protect and preserve and let run free.
Third is Ma Tiao with 收获, meaning “Harvest”. It’s a song he writes about his new born son.
- My score on the music: 7/10
- My score on the performance: 8/10
- Media vote: 38/51
- Comments: Liu Huan cried. He said that music that comes from the soul speaks to the soul. Ma Tiao’s heartfelt love for his son moves despite, or perhaps because, of its utterly stripped down simplicity.The melody is, however, quite conventional.
Hanggai, with 轮回 Reincarnation.
- My score on the music: 10/10
- My score on the performance: 10/10
- Media vote: 49/51
- Comments: This is sacred. Sacred. The magnanimity and spirituality of this song…just blows you away. It is so layered, so ambient, so emotionally affecting.
Finally, the revived contestant is Liu Yu Tong, with 留给昨天 Leaving it with Yesterday.
- My score on the music: 6/10
- My score on the performance: 7/10
- Media vote: 29/51
- Comments: Pretty good for a ballad, but still a ballad. C-pop has been way too oversaturated with ballads since forever, it is just too difficult to make anything that is still interesting.
Now, the judges cast their votes:
- Zhou Hua Jian: 5 points to Na Wu Ke Re
- Yu Quan: 5 points to Hanggai
- Tanya: 5 points to Hanggai
So overall, Hanggai wins with 58 points and advances to the finals. If anything is well-deserved, this is. Na Wu Ke Re’s performance was incredibly enjoyable, but in terms of the power of the music, Hanggai is in a league of its own.
Finally, Liu Huan has to pick out the second contestant to go with him to the finals. He prefaces his choice by saying that the theme of his compilation album is “随心“, meaning to follow your heart and do whatever you think in your pursuit of music. The moment he said that, I kind of knew who he was going to pick – Luo Er. He has always expressed how much he loved her free-spirited music, that is 天马行空, able to traverse across skies and worlds in the imagination. And it’s also telling when he and Tanya exchanged these really worried and disappointed looks at the results of her media vote earlier. Like me, he simply could not let her go just like that. She is too precious.
Dude, Liu Huan loves her so much seriously.
I’m really happy they changed the second round rules to a timed composition thing. Last season, the judges just worked on improving their contestant’s original songs, which made for a pretty boring watch. Although this is far from perfect, since music is something that you just can’t force out if the time is not right. Two things I have problems with: In terms of the elimination rules, it still seems arbitrary. Like at the end of the last episode, the judges just cut their groups from 14 to 8 arbitrarily, probably due to time constraints. Then now, it’s 8 to 5 then to 2, which also seems quite rushed and harsh. Secondly, I wonder who make up the 51 voting “media representatives”. Like are they music critics, music journalists… general public? There’s so much room for behind-the-scenes meddling here, which irks me.
Lots of people were really unhappy with Luo Er getting the second spot over others. They think she’s pretentiously artistic and her music is inaccessible, hence undeserving of the spot. I can see why people would support Na Wu Ke Re more, but I agree with Liu Huan in that what she has needs to be uplifted and cultivated, and that feeling that if he doesn’t do it, no one will, or at least he’ll never forgive himself for not taking the chance. I’m not sure what they’ll do for the finals – will they work on the first or second songs? or more new songs? – but I’m excited no matter what.
Hanggai has been my favorite band ever since I saw them at Lincoln Center in NY city. Truth be told, altho the location was prestigious, it was a little sterile for their music. Love your recap. Would you consider doing a recap just focusing on their portion of the 24 hr journey? Tx, ida
This is kind of random. So I watched the Uyghur version of The Voice recently, and followed a couple of Uyghur rap groups a while ago. I don’t know if you have an answer to this, but it seems like there’s a decently-sized (potentially vibrant?) Uyghur music community both in China and abroad (LA seems to have a big Uyghur dancer/musician community based on Weibo?). Are these artists not more “mainstream” because they don’t want to sing in mandarin/political reasons/they feel like it’s selling out, or are they simply not well connected?
Oh really? That’s cool I don’t really know much about this… what Uyghur artists are you following? Because of this I did some googling and found what seems to be the Chinese version of Tumblr (diandian.com)… seems like this is a space that many of the uyghur artists inhabit on social media, which is interesting. My initial feelings are that this space is pretty quiet and very very hipster lol
This is cool there was a documentary film made recently about Uyghur pop called “The Silk Road of Pop” looks cool enough to check out! http://beijingcream.com/2013/12/dfxj-the-silk-road-of-pop-reviewed/
That looks so interesting!
Hey that’s cool! I actually have Six City’s album.
wow this is cool so Perhat or 帕尔哈提 from The Voice S3 is featured in the docu, apparently he’s pretty big in xinjiang!
Thank you for the recap in English, I’ve been listening to Hanggai since someone shared this performance with me, and playing this song over and over along with their audition. However anything I’ve found about this show and their place in it has been machine translated making it about 50% non-sense. Could you say something about what the lyrics are? Also when are they supposed to be on again?
The lyrics are about the passage of time and the eternity of the cycle of life and death. It celebrates the magnanimity and power of the universe and nature.
We have one more group competition, so the week after the next if I’m not wrong.
Thank you so much for recapping this show. I agree with you that the rules make little sense and actually take away from the musicality of the show. I hope for next season they can improve that, or at least post the works of the eliminated contestants online or something.
I do wish that you would add a score on the lyrics though.
Some styles of music emphasize the lyrics much more than the composition, like Ma Tiao, although I don’t think this is his best work either.
One of my favorite songs this season was 自己, because the lyrics spoke so deeply into my heart, but its composition was rather simple.
I am with the previous poster in that I don’t care for Luo Er either, but it’s due to my personal taste. I relate much better with forms of expression that is sourced from life rather than imagination, (have always loved realism vs. surrealism in literature). I do think 四季 is a better song than 呐喊 though, just based on the linearity and compatibility of the music with the lyrics. I don’t think Na Wu Ke Re would go far though even if he did win. While his rapping in Uighur is awesome, it doesn’t have the same popular appeal as rapping in Sichuan dialect like 谢帝 last year.
Good point on the lyrics, I definitely agree with you. I’ll try to put a score on that next time… I think I’m so used to listening to foreign language music that I almost automatically tune out the lyrics lol…
Mm I actually think Na Wu Ke Re’s style has more mainstream appeal, or maybe it’s just that I don’t connect with dialects. I also think Na has better flow than Xie Di haha.
I wasn’t super impressed by Ma Tiao’s song, it was really sincere, but not particularly poetic or interesting.
自己 definitely has one of the best lyrics this season.
Sichuan dialect is one of the most mainstream dialects in China (the other is Dongbei dialect). That is why 疯狂的石头 and 让子弹飞 were able to have such mainstream appeal and explosive popularity despite the majority of the dialogue being in dialect. It is also one of the most accessible dialects in that most of what is spoken is intelligible to a non-speaker.
Uighur/Mongolian are separate languages, and the vast majority of Chinese do not understand a word in these languages. That is why ethnic songs have to win their audience mostly through the musicality and not the lyrics, (this goes for the Yi-language songs from last season too). Na Wu Ke Re would be at a disadvantage here because his native tongue is still Uighur, even though his Chinese is beyond awesome, and his main medium of expression would still be through words.
There is also something strikingly resonating with Xie Di’s song in his attitude towards the quotidian and the hypocrisy underlying the Chinese office-worker life.
I don’t think 自己 would go far in this show, but that song will have a special place in my life for a long time. I am so thankful and happy that this show brought so many good songs to the industry, and I am looking forward to season 3 already.
Here’s to a S3, fingers crossed they do it!
Ok actually I don’t care for Luo Er (don’t see her appeal I feel nothing for her) and I think that she’s going to have a tough time breaking into the mainstream market (well yes perhaps 天马行空 is a good kind of different but if you’re too immersed in your own world it’s not going to help people understand your music). For me she’s cute but her music is just okay-ish, nothing to write home about. HANGGAI HAS MY HEART AND SOUL ALL BOW TO HANGGAI. I liked Na Wu Ke Re’s performance and I wished that he got picked instead of Luo Er but oh wells.
haha I’m so biased lol… not all music is made for the mainstream after all. Na Wu Ke Re was great, but not extraordinary. I think the opportunity will do more for Luo Er than it would for him. Of course Hanggai doesn’t need this entire thing at all… but they’re here because people need to have their mouths shut up. Now looking at things, they might seriously win, which would be a win for the industry.
Thank you so much for this post! Like cirrus, I’m discovering so much wonderful music.
And about rap, idk, maybe that’s why so many rappers rap in dialect over Standard Mandarin? Like that rapper on the first season said that he felt a lot more expressive and free when he’s rapping in his Chengdu dialect? I have no idea whether Mandarin is more or less rhythmic lol.
I feel like rap needs to be sourced from daily life, and in general, people speak in some form of dialect in China in their daily lives. There are actually some great rappers who rap in the Beijing “dialect”, or in other words, Mandarin with Beijing accent and slang.
An example is 阴三儿 (Yin San Er) – Beijing Evening News, which generally just mocks daily life in Beijing.
Thanks for the 阴三儿 rec, the Beijing accent does things to me T_T I dont know anything about c-hiphop that needs to be rectified.
Thank you so much for recapping this. My Chinese is practically non-existent, so it was pretty hard for me to follow the more nuanced aspects of the show. I have loved Hanggai ever since discovering them about 3 years ago. Those guys are so talented and dedicated to their music, it is great to see them featured on the domestic stage. I dislike most forms of X-pop, you fill in the X, and enjoy hearing more authentic blending of contemporary and folk/ethnic music. They really did themselves proud with Reincarnation. Do you happen to have the English lyrics? I haven’t figured out the technology to translate subtitles on youtube. Looking forward to Hanggai ‘ s North American tour this summer.
Hanggai has 3 albums (such dated language) and each is wonderful in its own right.
Unadulterated Uyghur music has great musicality too but heretofore it has been rather squelched in its homeland. Uyghur musicians were only encouraged to play mainstream music. Perhaps there is a change in the air.
now I’m in love with 龙井 *o* https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6wzCYB7QGRA
Now, me too. ToT
My grandparents are from Beijing, so I grew up with stories about old Beijing and traditional Beijing foods that even modern Beijing-locals wouldn’t touch these days. This song just makes me miss them again.
So much memories T_T where are you from/live now?
I just went and watched the entire episode due to this recap. haha. Apparently he first writes all the lyrics in Uighur and has to translate it into Chinese, which makes so much sense why his rap in Uighur flows better and feels more expressive.
oh please do continue your recaps for this! thanks to you, i’m rediscovering chinese music beyond the sad state of affairs of general c-pop!