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feihong

What are the best things you listened to in 2020?

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feihong

I listened to a lot of Chinese audio in 2020, including some podcasts and at least 4000 songs. I'll share some of my favorites, and invite others to do the same.

 

The only Chinese podcast I consistently listened to this year was 小声喧哗 (Loud Murmurs). The podcast description says that they examine and critique Western popular media through the lens of feminism. That personally doesn't sound very exciting, but in practice is delightful. For me, it feels like a roundtable on comparative literature, except for visual media instead of written works. You can learn about Chinese perspectives on your favorite western movies and TV shows, and discover Chinese works that cover similar territory. Two of my favorite episodes from 2020 were the Ruth Bader Ginsburg episode and the live-action Mulan episode. I know that 故事FM gets recommended a lot around here, and it is indeed a fine podcast, but for many of us living in western countries, it's much easier to relate to the topics in 小声喧哗.

 

This year was a great year for Chinese music. To lend credibility to this nebulous statement, music blogger 耳帝 released a supercut video of his top 100 songs of the year. Is it weird to hear snippets of 100 songs compressed into a 39-minute video? For sure, but the editor of the video did an amazing job focusing on the main hook of each song, so you can pretty easily decide from a 10-20 second clip whether you'd like the full-length version. I watched/listened to the video, taking note of the most interesting tracks, then managed to find them all on YouTube. Sure enough, I did like most of them enough to add them to my collection (although I only added 9 songs from this list, since some of the songs on there were already in my collection). If your musical tastes lean towards the mainstream, you can probably skip the video, as there aren't a lot of big pop stars on it.

 

And now I'll list some of the most interesting Chinese songs I encountered this year:

 

  • 《昆仑山牧人》 Haya乐团xYamy郭颖 - Mongolian power rock with a wicked 马头琴 solo? Sign me up, please. Take this perfectly good song and add a rap interlude from a girl group member? Um, no? But, despite all expectations, this somehow works, and brilliantly. My favorite song of the year.
  • 《妹妹你大胆地往前走》 大波浪乐队x福禄寿FloruitShow - Remember that scene from the classic movie Red Sorghum where Jiang Wen sings that folk song? Did you ever think there should be an electronica version of it? Me neither, but to me, this is now the definitive version of the song. But maybe next year someone will do a reggae cover that blows me away. Anything can happen in 2021!

  • 《屋顶着火》 康姆士乐团 - A rock cover of a hit 2018 pop song from former K-pop girl group leader Song Qian. Significantly amps up the energy of the original, but also adds an irreverent spoken interlude that asks the question "what the **** do the lyrics of this inane pop song actually mean?"

  • 《恋爱的麻烦》 花季男女生队 - The first Chinese "hip hopera" that I've encountered. Sung by 5 rappers, each taking on a different role in the story of a girl whose love life keeps getting disrupted by her father.

  • 《小娟 (化名)》 谭维维 - Tan Weiwei has already proven herself time and again as one of the most interesting musicians of her generation. She further cements her reputation with this anthem, which manages the impressive feat of being one of the best songs of the year (number 50 on the top 100 list above) and getting the message out about violence against women.

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