Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Love According to Chinese Ballads

A new year is arriving in 5 days. This is the time of year to be morose and introspective.

Over the last two weeks, I've spent more time at in front of a karaoke mic than I care to admit, accentuating another part of my fading Singapore identity - the easy availability of Asian ballads. Music about love, hate, betrayal, rejection, set to terse, succinct lyrics that is the hallmark of the Chinese language.

Like it or hate it, growing up Chinese in Singapore means growing up to the music of Jacky Cheung, Andy Lau or (if you're younger) Jay Chou. If you'd grown up in a Chinese household like mine, you'd even be familiar with the songs of Theresa Teng, Yu Tien, Fei Yu Qing and Sam Hui.

For good or ill, the music, and the values they espouse, form a foundation for your value system. Singing them at a karaoke is more than a trip down memory lane. It is walking down the dark cul de sac you always knew was there but never dared walk down, complete with homeless in cardboard boxes, burning oil drums, and hoodlums lurking in the shadows waiting to rob you of your last twenty bucks.

A part of me wonders if I exagerrate, yet I know it is unadulterated truth. Asian ballads are either encourage the formation of certain values, or the songwriters grok Chinese male cultural mindset. I cannot tell which, and it probably doesn't matter.

Love is Sacrifice


- 苏永康, "男人不该让女人流泪"


How do I prove my loving kiss,
To protect your brittle soul
I will sacrifice my life to protect you from harm
Even if I am discarded,
Even if I sin,
I'll never leave.

Love is doing what you need to do. Love means no price is too steep, no sacrifice too trivial, no cost too high - even if unrequitted love is the asking price. Love asks the impossible, and a true red-blooded male will not only deliver, he will deliver until his broken, bleeding spirit can deliver no more.

What a terrible thing it is to love. If love asks such terrible things, who can we expect to love?

Love Inspires

- 光亮, “童话”


You said to me sobbingly,
"Fairy Tales are lies,
You can't possibly be my Prince"
Maybe you'll never know
From the day you told me you loved me
The stars in my night sky brightened
I am willing to be
the Angel in the Fairy Tales you love so much
And enfold my wings around you to guard you
You must believe that We
Like all Fairy Tales
Will have a Happy Ending

Love never asks for sacrifices. Sacrifices are offered, given, presented of free will. Demanding a sacrifice turns love into a transaction. One can never exchange the infinite for the infinite.

Love inspires. Love shows you that there is more in you, that there is always more in you. And when there's always more, you, in turn, inspire.

Love is Infinite, Humans are Fallible

-伍佰 & China Blue,“浪人情歌”


Let love blow with the wind,
Let love leave no scars
Let all joy, sorrow and all that is past be discarded
Let all thoughts and yearnings not be you
I can bear it no longer
I must forget you

Sometimes love does not work out. When love does not work out, it asks one duty of you.

Walk away with dignity. Bear the scars, swallow the hurt, but walk away.

And that, sometimes, is the hardest thing to do.


BlackRX said...

This is somewhat, well, unexpected.

Anthony said...


This was somewhat inspired by your post on nostaligic music. Thought I'd write a counterpoint to it. I do very much love Chinese power ballads.

BlackRX said...

It brings back a different kind of "nostalgia" to me. Your post does indeed serve as some sort of counterpoint. The bulk of the 1980s British pop music that I listened to was infected with the feelgood factor. The bulk of the 1990s Chinese pop music that I listened, and later kara(cr)oaked to, was more like the spawn of melancholy.

And we all have our own "theme" songs.

This further brings to mind HK singer Lu Fang's (Lui Fong) remark that he only knew how to sing love songs after having found and lost love.

Gabreael said...

Happy New Year!

Anthony said...

Black RX,

It's interesting to me to find that the most popular songs of a certain language are feel-good songs, while the opposite is true when language (and perhaps time frame) are reversed.

Also, there's something to be said about the -expectations- these songs generate. I'm not absolutely positive, but I think there's a direct causal link between cultural expectations and the entitlement mindset.


Happy new year!

BlackRX said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
BlackRX said...

Interesting indeed. Here's more of my reaction.

Care to elaborate on what you meant by 'entitlement mindset' and `Chinese male cultural mindset'?

Anthony said...

Black RX,

A mindset is perhaps too definitive a word. I should have used "expectations". IMHO these songs were written as an idealised, romantic version of how a male should behave. This provides an expectation that asian females expect asian males should behave. It slips easily into a mindset where females think they deserve to be treated thus regardless.

Now, these are sweeping generalisations - which is why I didn't feel comfortable putting them into the main body text of my blog. I realise it does not apply with equal force to all Singaporean females. However, I do notice a strong trend towards Singaporean females expecting to be treated like princesses during courtship.

BlackRX said...

Somehow I feel more comfy stating the following in Chinese.

相信在女性当中, 有许多会做'公主梦'. 经常拿她们没办法. '女人越坏, 男人越爱'? 对她们难以自拔...

而在男性当中, 逞英雄的也不少, 直到英雄和狗熊之间的界线变得模糊不清, 从 hero 变成 zero 也不知道.

(I may be a bit too familiar with the latter behavior.)

resipsacrap said...

Hi Anthony, this is going to sound a tad strange, but humour me - did you take a class in NUS titled "American Law & Public Policy" in 2000? There was a bunch of Brits from Bristol too...

Anthony said...

Black RX,

Spot on.


Absolutely! Under Prof Brady Coleman? The one where we needed to debate?

resipsacrap said...

Yup, lotsa debating there was. I was the brown girl from Arts Fac. I am now a final year JD candidate in Philadelphia; Coleman wrote one of my recommendation letters!

Small world, eh? I stumbled onto your blog while searching for "foreign lawyers in Singapore" :)

Anthony said...


Yes. Definitely remember you. If you're the person I recall, I recall seeing you in a pageant and some local productions too.

How's things? Sorry I'm not commenting on your blog - Livejournal has always given me problems.

回春 said...

So, are you saying that I'm not Chinese? Because of course, I grew up in Singapore completely oblivious to the singers you've mentioned...

Gloria said...

Hey KC, nice to see you are doing ok, and serves you right for taunting me. No lah! Hope you're feeling better now. btw, is it possible to refer to me as TOR, ie. my persona, rather than my own name? Just cos you know me doesn't mean we can't pretend not to know each other. will write soon

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