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Wednesday
Oct152014

A Beginner's Guide to Chinese Karaoke

If you like the classics:

It doesn’t get much more classic than Teresa Teng, and you won’t go wrong with any of her songs. But the first two selections here are perhaps the most popular -- and it doesn’t hurt that the lyrics are incredibly easy to learn. Incorporate cheesy hand gestures and they become crowd-pleasers as well. The third selection, “A Lover’s Tears,” is also a widely-covered classic that could rightly be cross-listed under “Workin’ through some stuff.”

  • 甜蜜蜜  (邓丽君) “Sweet”

  • 小城故事 (邓丽君) “Small-town Story”

 

  • 情人的眼泪 (蔡琴) “A Lover’s Tears”

 

 

For anyone with two ears and a heart:

I have made it my life’s mission to make everyone I know watch the first song listed below, Jin Chi’s audition on The Voice of China. It is emotional and heartwarming and her voice is off the charts. She didn’t win that season, which frankly is a travesty, but at least we have these excellent karaoke tunes to help us deal with it.

  • 夜夜夜夜 (金池)

  • 心在跳 (金池)

 

Turn it all the way up:

Have you ever been out singing karaoke and looked up and realized you can’t see the table in front of you for all the empty beer bottles and peanut shells? Maybe you’re also feeling like it would be a good idea to order another round or two cause you’ve been having so much fun? Well, instead of imbibing your way into an alcoholic coma, select one of the following songs to belt out with your friends. Neither is very easy to sing in tune at maximum decibel levels, but by this point you are likely too drunk to care.

 

  • You Are My Superstar (S.H.E.)

  • 死了都要爱 (信乐团)

 

If you like a challenge:

Everything by Jay Chou (周杰伦)

Do not trust your ears while trying to learn the lyrics to these songs. Jay is my fave, but his putonghua is not what you would call “standard” or even “intelligible.” Still, he is one of the most talented Chinese musicians alive today, and most of his songs are top-notch. He touches on classic themes like love and loss, while his song “Listen to your Mom” (听妈妈的话) emphasizes filial piety (plus, the rap section is great for testing your language limits). The final song listed here, “The Secret That Cannot Be Told,” is also the theme song of a 2007 sci-fi-romance-thriller by the same name, starring Jay Chou himself.

  • 发如雪 “Hair Like Snow”

  • 听妈妈的话 “Listen to Your Mom”

  • 龙卷风 “Tornado”

  • 不能说的秘密 “The Secret That Cannot Be Told”

 

Workin’ through some stuff:

What good is karaoke if you can’t use it to deal with the feels? Not much. Each of these songs is about a different flavor of rejection. The “Happy Breakup” I’ve listed here - the cover by Taiwanese rock band Power Station - is actually the more upbeat of two versions of the song. If you’re feeling too mopey to tackle their take on it, go for the original with Fish Leong (梁靜茹).

  • 可惜不是你 (梁靜茹) “It’s a shame it wasn’t you”

  • 分手快乐 (动力火车) “Happy Breakup”

  • 普通朋友 (David Tao - 陶喆) “Just Friends”

 

Duets!

Science has proven that two mics are better than one. For optimum fun, run through these ahead of time with your duet partner and wow the shit out of everyone in the room. Bonus points for “You Are a Song in my Heart” -- the harmonization will require you to actually practice, and parts of it are in Hokkein, not Mandarin.

  • 你是我心内的一首歌 “You Are a Song in my Heart” (Leehom Wang & Selina)

  • 千里之外 “Far Away” (Jay Chou & Fei Yu-ching)

  • 今天你要嫁给我 “Today You Will Marry Me” (David Tao & Jolin Tsai)

 

So you wanna dance with somebody:

This song is pretty ridiculous, but it will get everybody on their feet. You’re only really doing it properly if you make the same nonsense noises as the singers in the video and crank up the volume for “1, 2, 3, GO!” Use the tambourines too. That’s what they’re there for.

  • 嘻唰唰 “Xi Shua Shua” (花儿乐队)

 

Trying to be smooth, huh?

Accept no substitutes: David Tao’s “The Beach” is the song you’re looking for. His crooning melody and melancholy expression will have all the girls/guys swooning over you in no time.

  • 沙滩 “The Beach”

 

I love you, man:

Like a Chinese version of “Closing Time,” Zhou Huajian’s “Friends” is a great song to end the night with. It’s got everything: a music video of rugby players hugging it out, easy-to-remember lyrics, and a heavy emphasis on how awesome friends are. This song almost always ends with everyone putting their arms around each other’s shoulders and swaying back and forth. Be careful of selecting it too early or the rest of the night can get a little anti-climactic.

  • 朋友 “Friends” (周华健)

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