Monday, November 30, 2009

Landy Wen: Dancing Queen of the Album Charts

After a two-year absence, one of Taiwan's pop princesses, Landy Wen (温岚, pinyin: Wēn Lán) is back with a new look (short-cropped red hair) and a new album, Dancing Queen. The album name is a fitting one for a singer unofficially recognised as Taiwan's Queen of Dance Music - though Jolin Tsai would also be a strong challenger for the title.

Dancing Queen is Wen's sixth studio album, and it finally made it to number one on the G Music charts in the fourth week of its release, narrowly outselling last week's number one, Love Moments by Jam Hsiao. As the title suggest, the album has plenty of upbeat numbers, and the first single, D.I.S.C.O, is a cover of a popular Korean dance track by Uhm Jung Wah. In additional there are a couple of tracks that show off Landy Wen's distinctive sultry vocals.

Incidentally her new haircut has a striking resemblance to that donned by A-Mei for her recent album release AMIT (as blogged about here). The two divas share not just similar hairdos and number one selling albums in 2009; both are also from the Atayal ethnic group.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Spanish Film Wins Golden Horse Award!

The Golden Horse Awards, one of the premier film awards for Chinese films, were held on November 29 in Taipei. Best film went to the favourite, the oddly-titled No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti (不能沒有你). Based on a true story, the film is about an unemployed single father who battles the authorities in his quest to provide a good education for his daughter. The low budget black and white film set in Kaohsiung has already won several awards on the festival circuit.

No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti's director Leon Dai (戴立忍) was also awarded Best Director at the ceremony. It's just the second directorial effort by the popular actor turned director. Altogether No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti won five awards (incidentally the Spanish title was used because an English tranlation, I Can't Live Without You, sounded too much like a bad pop song).

Best Actor award was shared between two vastly different performances: Nick Cheung (张家辉, pinyin: Zhāng Jiāhuì) as a sympathetic villain in the thriller The Beast Stalker, and Huang Bo (黄渤) in the comedy Cow. Cheung earlier this month was named Best Actor at the Mingpao Awards, and back in April won at the Hong Kong Film Awards. In contrast to Cheung's 20-year career, Bo is a relative newcomer who first garnered public attention with his supporting role in the 2006 comic hit Crazy Stone.

The Best Actress award was won by Li Bingbing (李冰冰) for her role as an intelligence officer in the spy thriller set during the Japanese occupation, The Message. Although the 36 year old actor has won awards before, most recently a Huabiao award two years ago for The Knot, her performance in The Message has been hailed as the best of her career.

The Supporting Actor award was given to veteran Wang Xueqi for his role as an ageing opera star in Forever Enthralled. Another industry veteran, Hong Kong actress Wai Ying Hung won Best Supporting Actress for At the End of Daybreak in which she played the mother of an accused rapist.

A full list of the award winners as well as all the nominees can be found at

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Super Girls to the Fore at Global Chinese Music Awards

The 9th Global Chinese Music Awards (第九届全球华语歌曲排行榜颁奖典礼), organised by seven radio stations spanning the Chinese-speaking world, took place on November 19 at the Exhibition Centre Theatre in Beijing. There were awards for Most Popular Male and Female Singers - Singapore's JJ Lin (林俊杰, Lín Jùnjié) and 2005 Super Girl winner Li Yuchun (李宇春, pictured right). And just a week after their Mingpao Awards for Most Outstanding Singers, Hong Kong superstars Eason Chan (陈奕迅, pinyin: Chén Yixùn) and Joey Yung (容祖儿, pinyin: Róng Zǔér) again triumphed, taking out the Best Male and Female Singer Awards.

Most Popular Band was Taiwan's Sodagreen (苏打绿, pinyin: Sūdá lǜ), while the Most Popular Group award was shared by girl group S.H.E and histrionic duo Shui Mu Nian Hao (水木年华).

Two other former Super Girl contestants also fared well. Jane Zhang (张靓颖, pinyin: Zhāng Liàngyǐng), who finished third in the 2005 season, picked up the award for the Seven Stations Most Outstanding Singer, one of three awards she won. And the girl who finished just ahead of her in 2005, Bibi Zhou (周笔畅 , pinyin: Zhōu Bǐchàng - pictured left), won the Seven Stations Media Award and Best Performer Award.

Jane Zhang and Bibi Zhou also featured amongst the seven regional winners corresponding to the seven radio stations responsible for the awards. Jane Zhang won the Beijing award (even though she's a Sichuan native), and the Guangdong award went to Bibi Zhou. The Shanghai award went to another Sichuan native, Wezei Purba (浦巴甲, Pu Ba Jia), and the Hong Kong award was given to neither Eason Chan or Joey Yung but instead to Jason Chan (陈伯宇). The Taiwan prize was taken out by Sodagreen, Singapore's award went to JJ Lin, and Malaysia's was won by Manhand.

The Best Album Award was jointly won by three artists: Eason Chan for H3M, Wang Feng (汪峰) for Faith is in the Air, and Khalil Fong (方大同, pinyin: Fāng Dàtóng) for Orange Moon. The Best Duet Award was also shared amongst three acts, and a Top 20 singles list was also announced.
(Jane Zhang performing at the Global Chinese Music Awards)

A complete list of all the winners follows (an original Chinese source is here at the Sina portal).

Best Male Singer: Eason Chan
Best Female Singer: Joey Yung
Most Popular Male Singer: JJ Lin
Most Popular Female Singer: Li Yuchun
Most Popular Band: Sodagreen
Most Popular Group: S.H.E and Shui Mu Nian Hua
Most Popular Newcomer: Cong Haonan, BY2, Rachel Liang

Best Lyrics: Wang Feng, In Spring Days
Best Composer: Feng Hsuan, Bad Guys
Best Arranger: Sodagreen, Sunlight
Best Producer: Wang Feng, Faith is in the Air

Most Popular Singer-Songwriter: Hins Cheung, Khalil Fong, Chen Chusheng
Best Performer: Huang Xiaoming, Li Yuchun
Seven Stations Media Award: Bibi Zhou
Seven Stations Most Outstanding Singer: Jane Zhang

Best Album:
Faith is in the Air, Wang Feng
H3M, Eason Chan
Orange Moon, Khalil Fong

Most Popular Duets:
Little Dimples, Charlene Choi & JJ Lin
Good Man Card, Huang Xiaoming & Zhao Wei
Another Heaven, Wang Lee Hom & Jane Zhang

Most Outstanding Regional Singers
Beijing: Jane Zhang
Shanghai: Wezei Purba
Guangdong: Bibi Zhou
Hong Kong: Jason Chan
Taiwan: Sodagreen
Singapore: JJ Lin
Malaysia: Manhand

The Top 20 Songs
Jay Chou - Fragrant Rice (稻香)
Li Yuchun - Why Me
Khalil Fong - Song Written for You (为你写的歌)
Wang Lee Hom - Heart Beat (心跳)
Jane Zhang - Could That Be Love (那不会是爱吧)
Bibi Zhou - Your Love (你们的爱)
Eason Chang - Don't Speak (不要说话)
Jade Liu - Tears Smile (眼泪笑了)
Sodagreen - Sunlight (日光)
Wang Feng - In Spring Days (春天里)
Xue Ziqian - Deeply Loved You (深深爱过你)
Hins Cheung - Daytime (披星戴月)
Fish Leong - No Maybe (没有如果)
Charlene Choi - Two Missing One (二缺一)
Joey Yung - Sleeping With Butterflies (与蝶同眠)
Shui Mu Nian Hua - Departure (启程)
Wang Xiaokun - Fragment Song (残缺的歌)
Wezei Purba - Love is That Simple (爱就是那么简单)
Feng Hsuan - Bad Guys (坏人)
Wang Ziqian - One Person's World Afraid of Loneliness (一个人的世界害怕孤独)

[Photos courtesy of Cao-Ji China news agency]

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Hsiaos Dominate Taiwan Album Charts

Two weeks ago Elva Hsiao (萧亚轩, pinyin: Xiāo Yǎxuān) returned to the top of the G Music album charts with Diamond Candy 钻石糖), making it four times the album has held the top spot since its release at the beginning of October. Her return to the top was short-lived however, displaced the following week by the new release from another Hsiao...Jam.

It's the second time this year Jam Hsiao (萧敬腾 pinyin: Xiāo Jìngténg) has had a number one album. Back in July he held the top spot for a couple of weeks with his second studio album, Princess (see my earlier post). Less than five months later he's back with another studio record, Love Moments (爱的时刻 自选辑) which went straight to the top of the G Music charts for the week 13 to 19 November. Oh, and in the intervening period he also found time to put out a 2CD live concert version of Princess plus DVD.

Love Moments features mainly cover songs originally performed by some of Mandopop's leading divas such as Faye Wong and Jolin Tsai. Also included on the album is Endless Love (not the Diana Ross classic but a song originally by Taiwanese singer Wan Fang), which Hsiao first performed on the TV talent show that made his name, One Million Stars.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Rosy Business Sweeps Ming Pao Awards

The 41st Ming Pao Awards, organised by the Hong Kong weekly magazine of the same name, were held last week. TVB's hit costume drama series from earlier this year, Rosy Business (巾幗梟雄), was the biggest winner, taking home awards in all four categories of the TV division. Sheren Tang (邓萃雯, pinyin: Dèng Cuìwén) was awarded Most Outstanding Female Artiste, while co-star Wayne Lai (黎耀祥: Li Yao Xiang) won Most Outstanding Male Artiste. Not surprisingly, the show won Most Outstanding Television Programme - especially with the absence of Beyond the Realm of Conscience amongst the nominations - and the Rosy Business writers were recognised with the Most Outstanding Behind the Scenes Experts award.

The Ming Pao Awards also present awards in the music and film categories. Eason Chan (陈奕迅, pinyin: Chén Yixùn - pictured right) was the most successful in the music awards, taking out four awards in total. He won Most Outstanding Male Singer and Most Outstanding Album for H3M. He and his production team also took out the Most Outstanding Behind the Scenes Experts award for H3M. Eason Chan was also given a special award, Ming Pao's Ten Year Highest Honour Award. Most Outstanding Female Singer went to Joey Yung (容祖儿, pinyin: Róng Zǔér)

The four film awards were spread evenly across five different films this year. Most Outstanding Movie was the thriller Overheard (窃听风云), beating out a strong field of nominations including Ip Man and Shinjuku Incident. Nick Cheung (张家辉, pinyin: Zhāng Jiāhuì)) won the Most Outstanding Male Artiste award for his performance in Beast Stalker, following up on his earlier Best Actor at this year's Hong Kong Film Awards. The Most Outstanding Female Artiste award was shared by Karena Lam (林嘉欣, pinyin: Lín Jiāxīn) for Claustrophobia and Prudence Liew (刘美君, pinyin: Liú Měijūn) in True Women for Sale. Director Derek Yee (尔冬升) won Most Outstanding Behind the Scenes Expert award for Shinjuku Incident.

The full list of nominations and winners (in bold) were as follows (thanks to hyn5's TVB blog and her translations of the original Mingpao articles):

Television Category
Most Outstanding Television Programme

Rosy Business
Sunday Report
Hong Kong Gossip
You're Hired

Most Outstanding Male Artiste

Wayne Lai, Rosy Business
Ngo Ka Nin, Rosy Business
Dayo Wong, You're Hired
Lo Hoi Pang, Hong Kong Gossip
Michael Tse, E.U.

Most Outstanding Female Artiste

Sheren Tang, Rosy Business
Sandra Ng, Club Sparkle
Charmaine Sheh, You're Hired
Kathy Chow, E.U.
Susan Tse, Rosy Business

Most Outstanding Behind-the-Scenes Expert

Cheung Wah Biu & Chan Ching Yee, Rosy Business, Screenwriters
Chu Geng Kei, Leung Yan Tung & Lee Yee Wah, E.U. Screenwriters
Lee Tim Sing, Rosy Business, Producer
Wong Wai Sing, E.U., Producer
Yip Sing Cheung & Mai Wai Bong, Hong Kong Gossip, Producers

Music Category

Most Outstanding Album

Eason Chan, H3M
Khalil Fong, Timeless
Denise Ho, Ten Days In The Madhouse
Danny Summer, 力量
Juno Mak, 天生地夢

Most Outstanding Male Singer

Eason Chan
Khalil Fong
Hins Cheung & George Lam
Juno Mak

Most Outstanding Female Singer

Joey Yung
Denise Ho
Janie M. Vidal
Kay Tse

Most Outstanding Behind-the-Scenes Expert

Eason Chan & 10 others, H3M Producers
Adrian Chow, Lyricist
Chet Lam, Producer
Hanjin, Ho Bing Sun & Denise Ho, Producers
Swing, Producer

Movies Category

Most Outstanding Movie

The Beast Stalker
Shinjuku Incident
Ip Man

Most Outstanding Male Artiste

Nick Cheung, The Beast Stalker
Louis Koo, Overheard
Jackie Chan, Shinjuku Incident
Donnie Yen, Ip Man
Sean Lau, Overheard

Most Outstanding Female Artiste

Karena Lam, Claustrophobia
Prudence Liew, True Women for Sale
Fala Chen, Turning Point
Shu Qi, Look for a Star
Lynn Xiong, Ip Man

Most Outstanding Behind-the-Scenes Expert

Derek Yee, Shinjuku Incident, Director
Ivy Ho, Claustrophobia, Screenwriter
Dante Lam, The Beast Stalker, Director
Alan Mak & Felix Chong, Overheard, Directors
Wilson Yip, Ip Man, Director

Friday, November 13, 2009

Three Chinese Films Amongst the Decade's 100 Best

As we draw closer to the end of the Noughties, London broadsheet The Times has selected its 100 Best Films of the Decade. As you might expect from the British media, it's very anglocentric and a little eccentric with its odd mix of arthouse and megaplex crowdpleasers.

Although this past decade has hardly been a glory era for Chinese film-making, that only three Chinese films made the list seems an underrepresentation. Perhaps that's more the fault of today's film distribution system rather than The Times critics. It's strange that as the economy becomes increasingly globalised, and a greater range of products from all over the world are available to consumers, the choices of filmgoers in the English-speaking world are steadily being reduced to a bland menu of mainly American fare. In Australia, for example, this year only one Chinese film received a general cinema release, and that was a condensed version of the two Red Cliff movies.

Back to The Times list, and the highest-ranked Chinese film was arthouse favourite In the Mood for Love (花样年华) at number 37. Directed by Wong Kar-Wai (王家卫), the romantic, atmospheric and very stylish love story starred Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung as two neighbours trying to resist their growing love for each other. The Hong Kong produced film was released in 2000.

The second Chinese film on the list was at number 82, Yi Yi: A One and a Two (一一) directed by the late Edward Yang (杨德昌). Set in Taipei, this family drama was completed in 2000, just before Yang was diagnosed with cancer. The film won Yang the Best Director Award at Cannes, amongst numerous other awards.

Finally, at number 93 is The House of Flying Daggers (十面埋伏) from 2004, which for some reason The Times found a better film than Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Presumably the list-makers felt they needed to include at least one Zhang Yimou (张艺谋) film on the list. The martial arts epic, set towards the end of the Tang Dynasty, starred Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Ziyi and Andy Lau.

Incidentally the number one film on The Times list was a French movie, Hidden, which I haven't had the pleasure of seeing. Of course these lists are highly subjective and therefore shouldn't be taken too seriously. After all, what credibility does a list have that puts The Wedding Crashers and Anchorman ahead of Infernal Affairs, which failed to make the list at all?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Yoga Levitates to the Top of the G Music Charts

There's a new number one on the G Music album charts, Yoga Lin (林宥嘉, pinyin: Lín Yòujīa) with his second studio album Senses Around (感官/世界), accounting for 33 percent of all album sales in Taiwan for the week 30 October to 5 November. Lin ends Elva Hsiao's impressive three week reign at the top with the album Diamond Candy which drops to third position. Apart from Jolin with a six-week rule at the top no other artist has had more consecutive weeks at number one.

Yoga Lin, still only 22 years old, was the inaugural winner of the Taiwanese singing contest One Million Stars (超级星光大道) back in 2007. In that competition he obtained a perfect score from all five judges in the final, a performance that included a rendition of Radiohead's Creep, to show off his alt-rock creds. The following year he released his debut album, Mystery, which like Senses Around was an immediate best-seller and critical success.

Lin's musical style is a bit hard to pin down, as he incorporates several genres in his work including Mandopop, R&B, rock and jazz. The first single from Senses Around, You Are What You Eat (看见什么吃什么), is a good example of his eclectic style. Lyrics that ruminate on cannibalism (!) are set to a swinging tune that mixes 12-bar blues and rock with a big brass backing. The music video is pretty out there too. A review of Senses Around can be found on the Urban Voices website.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Singapore HIT Awards Part 2

Taiwanese bands S.H.E and Mayday (五月天, pinyin: Wǔ Yuè Tiān) took home the most awards from the Singapore HIT Awards (新加坡金曲奖), each collecting four awards. Female trio S.H.E (pictured left clowning around after the ceremony) won awards for Best Group, Asia Media Recognition Award (Group) and All-round Entertainers at the main ceremony on Friday night, 6 November. The three-trophy hauled added to their Best Regional Award announced a couple of weeks earlier (see my earlier blogpost). Mayday's awards were for Best Band, Most Popular Group and Asia Media Recognition Award (Band), as well as their earlier announced Shining Artiste award for most chart songs in the year.

The dominance of S.H.E and Mayday was no surprise, but eyebrows were raised when Jam Hsiao (萧敬腾 pinyin: Xiāo Jìng Téng) took out the main male performer trophies over some more fancied competitors. Hsiao took out both the critics' Best Performing Male Artist award and the publicly voted Most Popular Male Artist ahead of names such as Jay Chou and Wang Leehom.

Rachel Liang (梁文音, pinyin: Liáng Wényīn) was also a surprise winner of the Most Popular Female Artist, one of three awards she won on the night. The 22 year oldTaiwanese actress-singer came to prominence with her starring role in last year's hit movie Cape No 7, in which she also sang the theme song. At the HIT Awards she also won for Outstanding Debut Artist and Most Popular Newcomer. The critics however gave their Best Performing Female Artist award to A-mei (阿妹).

Amongst the local artists, Tanya Chua (蔡健雅 pinyin: Cài Jiànyǎ) was the most successful. For the second year in a row she was named Best Local Musician, one of three awards she collected on the night.

A full list of award winners in English can be found at the Asian Fanatics forum.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Singapore HIT Awards Part 1

Tomorrow, November 6, Singapore's 15th Golden Melody Awards (新加坡金曲奖) will be handed out to honour the best in Mandopop over the past year. More commonly referred to as the Singapore HIT Awards to prevent confusion with the better-known Taiwan Golden Melody Awards, they are organised by one of the main radio stations, Y.E.S 93.3 FM.

This year for some reason, six of the awards were announced a couple of weeks before the official ceremony, perhaps as appetisers for the main course. American-born but Taiwan-based Leehom Wang (王力宏, pinyin: Wáng Lìhóng - pictured right) was awarded Single of the Year for the title track of his most recent album Heart.Beat (心跳). And Taiwanese band Mayday (五月天, pinyin: Wǔ Yuè Tiān) was sucessful in the category of Artiste with Most Chart Hits. They had six songs in the charts over the past year, most of them from the Poetry of the Day After album.

The HIT Awards for Outstanding Regional Artistes (i.e non-Singaporean) were also announced last month. In a commendable display of sharing the glory, neither Leehom Wang or Mayday was the Taiwanese winner. Instead the honour went to girl group S.H.E - the second time they've won the award in the past three years.

The award for Outstanding Regional Artiste from Hong Kong went, for the second year in a row, to Eason Chan (陈奕迅, pinyin: Chén Yixùn). Malaysia's Fish Leong (梁静茹, pinyin: Liáng Jìngrú ) also won for the second successive year. In a bit of an upset, Outstanding Regional Artiste from Mainland China was awarded to Bibi Zhou (周笔畅 , pinyin: Zhōu Bǐchàng). She is yet another singer to emerge from the popular TV show Super Girl - finishing as runner-up in the inaugural contest in 2005. The versatile but reluctant star has taken extended breaks from the music scene in the past, but this year returned with the release of her fourth album, Time.

Monday, November 2, 2009

October Flavour of the Month: Jiang Wenli

Actress Jiang Wenli (蒋雯丽) may be considering a larger trophy cabinet after last month's triumph at two different film award ceremonies. At the prestigious Golden Rooster Awards she shared the Best Actress prize for her moving performance in And the Spring Comes (立春). The day before she won the Audience Award at the Pusan International Film Festival in Korea for her directorial debut, Lan (Chinese title 我们天上见 or We See the Sky).

And the Spring Comes was released back in 2007 - the Golden Roosters are held every second year so 2009 was the first year she was eligible. She had already been honoured for her performance at the Rome International Festival in 2007, where the film received its premiere. The film, directed by Jiang's husband Gu Changwei, takes place in a bleak northern industrial town. The role of a plain-looking woman possessed with a beautiful voice and grand dreams of an opera career required Jiang to put on 30 pounds, and make-up effects to make her face blotchy and teeth uneven.

Lan is a film that has been five years in the making. A labour of love for Jiang, she not only directed it but wrote the original screenplay, and the film has strong autobiographical elements. It's set during the 1960s and 70s, a period which many Chinese from Jiang's generation now view with a certain nostalgia despite the turmoil of the Cultural Revolution. It tells the story of the relationship between a young girl and her grandfather who has the responsibility of raising the girl when her parents are sent off to a collective farm.

Jiang Wenli was born in 1969 in a small town in Anhui province, and might have spent her life working in the local waterworks if she hadn't been accepted into the prestigious Beijing Film Academy. From the start she showed a talent for expressing genuine emotion and made a memorable early appearance in the classic Farewell My Concubine in 1992 (she played the prostitute forced to give up her child at the beginning of the film).

It wasn't until 1997 however that she became a household name, starring in the TV drama series Hand in Hand (牵手). At the time the series was the most popular ever shown on Chinese television and her performance won her China's Emmy - the Feitian TV award for Best Actress. It's for her TV roles that she's best-known in China. She played the Miranda character in China's version of Sex and the City, Longing for Tan Ailin (好想好想谈恋爱) in 2003. She then won multiple awards for her performance as a long-suffering wife in Golden Anniversary (金婚) - a series that showed through a couple's 50-year marriage the changing face of China itself.

Jiang has yet to feature in a blockbuster film that might win her the global popularity her acting probably deserves. And as she enters her forties the chances of her being cast in a James Bond film or martial arts epic are quickly diminishing. Hopefully her blossoming directing career can win her further plaudits and wider international recognition of her talents.
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