Not sure how many people read the news today, but looks like there is a pretty big ‘controversy’ brewing on Weibo right now and since I haven’t blogged about the HK music industry in quite some time, I figured this would be a good ‘relevant’ topic to write about…
First, here’s the ‘gist’ of what happened….
Food connoisseur (and former actor as well as entertainment reporter) Benny Li (李純恩) wrote an opinion piece for a local magazine entitled “The Death of the HK Music Industry”. In his editorial piece, Benny states his opinion that the ‘death’ of the HK music industry is due to the lack of musical talent in HK currently, with majority of the blame being placed on songwriters (specifically lyricists) for their ‘messy’ lyrics that in many cases, boil down to ‘nonsensical jibberish’. He claims that many songwriters nowadays lack the ability to write lyrics that truly resonate on an emotional level with music fans – unlike past songwriters who actually wrote songs that were meaningful and had the ability to move people.
After Benny Li reposted his opinion piece on Weibo, HK lyricist Wyman Wong (黄偉文) replied to his post with a ‘scathing’ post of his own, pretty much scolding Benny for what he wrote and also insisting that Benny doesn’t know what he is talking about. Based on his response, looks like Wyman took personal offense to Benny’s post and even went so far as to ‘infer’ that Benny was referring specifically to him….even Benny asked Wyman on Weibo ‘Wyman, was I referring to you specifically in my post?’ to which Wyman replied ‘What do you think?’ (um, ok, to be fair, Wyman’s name wasn’t even mentioned in Benny’s post – as an ‘outsider’ reading the article, I actually felt that he was speaking more in a general sense rather than targeting anyone in particular).
Well, the ‘controversial’ part is that almost immediately after Wyman’s response, many HK lyricists as well as singers such as Anthony Wong, Hacken Lee, Kay Tse, Richie Ren, etc. responded to the issue on Weibo – pretty much all of them expressed similar sentiments as Wyman and insisted that the HK music industry is ‘not dead’.
Honestly, I don’t see what the big deal is. Benny Li was just expressing his personal opinion of the HK music industry – true or not, it’s his opinion based on his experience. Therefore, to me, Wyman overreacted – not sure why he would take offense to Benny’s post or why he felt that Benny was referring specifically to him (based on Wyman’s response on weibo, sounds to me like he harbors a personal dislike of Benny and so took this opportunity to chastise him??).
Besides, it’s not like what Benny said is false – he actually does have quite a few valid points in his post…and come on, I’m sure anyone who isn’t blind can see that the HK music industry has deteriorated greatly from what it was in the past. Sure, saying that the music industry is ‘dead’ might be a bit too exaggerated, since there are still some truly great talents left in the industry – but let’s face it, the music industry isn’t exactly ‘flourishing’ either.
Personally, the part that I find disappointing is how so many people within the music industry are ‘jumping on the bandwagon’ to defend Wyman and bash Benny – that just shows me that a lot of industry people are still in ‘denial’ mode about the state of the music industry….I mean, if people within the music industry refuse to even acknowledge the problem, then how much hope is there that things will get better?
Of course, I can also see why the music industry people would respond the way they did – after all, they don’t want the younger generation and others still active in the music industry to feel disheartened or discouraged from making music. BUT STILL….it goes back to my original point – I’m not faulting anyone for trying to be positive and optimistic, but there comes a point when we have to face reality….besides, the below is Benny's personal opinion -- if his opinion doesn't matter and he doesn't know what he's talking about, then why should anyone feel 'discouraged' by what he said?
Anyway, below is Benny Li’s editorial piece in Chinese (didn’t get a chance to translate it yet, so my apologies to those who aren’t able to read it…if I get a chance later on, I’ll translate it and re-post it back up):
Edit: Here's the translation of Benny's editorial:
HK Headline Editorial: The ‘Death’ of the HK Music Industry
Written by: Benny Li
While eating dinner at a restaurant, a charity fundraising program started airing on the restaurant’s television set. The program featured performances from many of the HK music industry’s newbie singers and as they were singing, the lyrics to their songs were displayed on the screen as well. Reading the lyrics to some of their songs, nine out of 10 were ‘unintelligible’ – I couldn’t identify a single song whose lyrics were clear and coherent. And to think that those singers tried to sing those songs with as much emotion as they could muster.
When it comes to a song, the melody is what attracts people to it and the lyrics are what moves people emotionally – in this world, there is not a single ‘classic’ where only the melody is nice to listen to but the lyrics are unintelligible. The reason why the HK music industry is ‘dead’ now is because lyrics are ‘dead’. If lyrics are ‘dead’, then they can no longer move people emotionally and without this trait, a song naturally ‘dies’ as well. In today’s HK music industry, the lyrics to many ‘works’ can’t even fulfill the ‘basic’ requirement of being coherent and intelligible – most of the lyrics don’t even flow and in many cases, are merely sounds mixed in with musical notes. With these songs, it’s hard enough for the singers to even remember the lyrics, let alone expecting them to resonate with and move audiences. Given this problem, how is it possible for these ‘works’ to continue to be passed down to future generations?
The HK music industry was once a thriving, flourishing industry that had a significant impact on the Chinese community all over the world. So many classic hits were passed down from one generation to the next and continued to remain strong even as the years passed, to the point that even people who didn’t understand Cantonese could still sing the songs. The reason for this is because the lyrics to many of those songs resonated with the masses and therefore were able to touch people’s hearts.
Today, the music industry is very different. Even in Taiwan and Mainland China, there are many great memorable songs, yet the younger generation of HK singers don’t seem to have very many songs that people actually remember. Why? Well, one of the main reasons is that people don’t even know what in the world these singers are singing because the lyrics are ‘messy’ and pointless – when we look at the lyrics to a lot of these songs, they are merely a bunch of Chinese characters strung together haphazardly.
The weird thing is that many of the HK songwriters nowadays seem to be ‘illiterate’ and don’t know how to write. If not, how else can we explain why our music industry produces so many such ‘unintelligible’ songs? This is what I call a ‘self-inflicted calamity’ and as the saying goes, ‘when we bring calamities upon ourselves, no one can save us from it!’ With the HK music industry being ‘dead’ to this point – all I can say is: serves us right!
And below is Wyman’s response on Weibo:
Translation: Wyman Wong’s response: Facts speak louder than words! Mr. Li is the same person who also claims that ‘after Peter Lai (黎彼得), there are no good lyricists in HK’ – the type of person who makes such outrageous statements! So does this mean that I’m just blindly writing jibberish songs in order to cheat royalty fees or is he [Benny] trying to cheat writer’s fees with his nonsensical barking? I’ll let you guys be the judge.
What are your thoughts on this issue?