Wednesday, March 08, 2006

It All Sounds the Same!

I was recently a judge for a Hong Kong Students' association's pop song contest, basically a karaoke contest incognito, which is what you might want to be were you to be forced into such a position of judgement. But not I. No. I relished the opportunity, truly.

I mean come on, how often do you really listen to Hong Kong pop (oops, sorry, didn't mean to offend), much less judge a contest? Unique opportunity here.

Now make no mistake. The contestants I heard were not talent passed over by Star Search or the Mickey Mouse Club (v. HK, of course) or anything. As the two judges who had musical training/background (one of my musicology friends also did this), we found plenty of ear-grating dissonances that, while perhaps interesting for its microtonal deviances in the context of crazy new classical music, has no place in HK pop. Still, the effort and motivation was there and it was fun to see the results. There were a few outstanding contestants as well who, from a purely musical perspective, redeemed the event somewhat.

Listening to ballade after ballade of cheesy Mandarin/Cantonese pop songs reminds me again the difference between Chinese and American pop songs: the former is a market whose consumers demand easily consumable memorable tunes while the latter is much less so. It's not that we LIKE cheesy songs that all sound the same but that we like singing as a social activity. And let's face it, it's much easier to sing a cheesy Chinese love ballade than it is to go tackle U2's latest hits (or GWAR). So yeah, they do all sound similar but there's a reason for it. (The same reasoning should not be applied to Asians' physical appearances unless you want to get a Kung Fu kick to the butt. Yes, we know Kung Fu. ALL OF US.)

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