Older Cantopop/Mandopop hits on Spotify?
August 8, 2019 5:56 PM   Subscribe

I'm going on a road trip with my parents later this year and am tasked with finding music to keep us awake on the drive. My parents are tolerant of 80s-90s U.S. radio hits but prefer listening to Cantonese pop music from that time period. Mandarin's ok, but they tend to like Cantopop more (I'll list some examples under the More Inside). What are some older Cantopop/Mandopop hits from the 70s-90s, available on U.S. Spotify, that I could add to our road trip playlist?

Examples of songs I already know they like (as tested on previous drives):

- George Lam - 男兒當自強
- Teresa Teng - 甜蜜蜜
- Faye Wong covering the Cranberries' "Dreams" (夢中人)
- Frances Yip - 上海灘
- Sam Hui - 半斤八兩
- The older songs on the Crazy Rich Asians soundtrack, like Sally Yeh's cover of Madonna's "Material Girls" (200度)

What are some other Cantopop/Mandopop songs in the above vein (on Spotify) that I could add to this playlist?

Other notes:
- They're ok with Jay Chou songs in the style of older classics, like 蘭亭序 or 千里之外, and generally prefer ballads or soft rock/adult contemporary pop.
- They do not like most of Jay Chou's other songs and generally do not like most modern pop (too discordant or silly/childish for them).
- I think most of the songs they like were popular in 80s Hong Kong? Are there HK equivalents of Billboard Top 100 charts for the 80s-90s I could look for?
- Cantonese or Mandarin covers of 80s-90s pop songs have had some success - please feel free to suggest any I haven't mentioned!
- The more theatrical/over-the-top, the better - especially if they're karaoke/ktv staples, and extra especially if there's any traditional Chinese instruments (erhu, pipa, guzheng, etc) involved. Unlike me, my parents don't really like rock music. But any U.S. Spotify-available recs would be appreciated!
posted by rather be jorting to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Probably can't go too wrong with Jacky Cheung. A quick search indicates that he is definitely on Spotify. This Mandopop one is a 1990s karaoke classic.
posted by mhum at 6:08 PM on August 8

Jacky Cheung was my first thought as well. The one I know best is 每天愛你多一些.

How about more Teresa Teng? Would "The Moon Represents my Heart" be too cliche?

I'm more familiar with Mando-pop, so I have a few recs for those if you don't mind. The following are on Spotify where I live (Malaysia), so not sure how to check if they're available in the US, but here goes:

- "Tong Hua" (童话) by Guang Liang is a classic. So is Emil Chau's "Peng You". "Xiao Xiao Niao" is an oldie by Richie Ren, but was recently revived by Della Ding. 小薇 (Xiao Wei) by Huang Pinyuan has almost a country feel. (In that vein, this is in English, but so many Chinese people I know who are in their 40s and above seem to like John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads". Go figure.)

- Wang Lee Hom's "Hua Tian Cuo" comes to mind as something that incorporates erhu. His "Forever Love" is a popular ballad. He has a half-Mando/half-Canto duet with Candy Lo, called 好心分手.

- You already mentioned Jay Chou. More of his non-rock/rap songs (besides Lan Ting Xu): "Ju Hua Tai" (菊花台) (was in the movie Curse of the Golden Flower), 雨下一整晚 - lovely, slow ballad with poetic lyrics, this one has elements of Beijing opera, and erhu, Beijing drum, guzheng, etc. 发如雪 is also nice and mellow.

- Leo Ku did a brilliant medley of popular songs called "Qing Ge Wang". It's a 12-minute long mashup of the top love songs of the 90s. I've discovered a few new (to me) songs/artists by tracing the originals that the clips are from. e.g. David Tao (R&B), Stefanie Sun, Karen Mok, Leon Lai, etc. "Ting Hai" by A-Mei is an iconic karaoke song on its own. So is "Yan Lei" by Mavis Fan.

Something to throw in as a compromise between the oldies and a fresher sound:

- Khalil Fong is a young artist but has a very soul/rnb/ballad vibe. Kind of like an updated David Tao. Try "Singalong song" and "小小蟲" and "愛愛愛".
- "Pu Tong Peng You" (普通朋友) by David Tao.
- "Jin Tian Ni Yao Jia Gei Wo" (今天你要嫁给我) - David Tao and Jolin Tsai. Cutesy love song.
- "Bu de bu ai" (不得不爱) by Pan Wei Bo (Wilbur Pan)
- JJ Lin: Singaporean artist. I was introduced to him via the duet with Charlene Choi called 小酒窩. He has since come out with a lot of new stuff, but I'm out of the loop.
- Just for kicks: Xiao Ping Guo. Upbeat, dance-y kind of thing, almost annoyingly catchy. Try it on for size as a palate cleanser, then switch tracks if someone complains.
- a funny little ditty called "Ben Xiao Hai" by Andy Lau.
- Wang Lee Hom recently did something with Namewee called 飄向北方. More rock/rap though, so maybe something for you rather than your parents. Also: "One Night in Beijing" by Shin - fun to belt out during karaoke nights. "Wo Xiang Xin" (我相信) by Roger Yang. And the latest hit I've heard: "Wo Men Bu Yi Yang" (我們不一樣) by Da Zhuang (大壯).
posted by pimli at 8:55 PM on August 8

Alan Tam's 爱在深秋 has to be on your list (and it's on Spotify).
posted by yellowcandy at 10:32 PM on August 8

I'm not familiar with Spotify but I would suggest going on Youtube, plugging in a few songs that they already like and see what Youtube suggests. There are also playlists grouped by era like 80s or 90s Chinese hits. You can then search for the titles on Spotify.
posted by whitelotus at 1:32 AM on August 9

Seconding everything pimli has mentioned. I'm adding some more, though I don't use Spotify so I have no idea if they can be found there. (I do know that they're on Youtube though, so you can look them up and take a listen there.)

Jay Chou: "Dong Feng Po" 东风坡 features the pipa -- not only is it played, it's also explicitly mentioned in the lyrics. I think "Qing Hua Ci" 青花瓷 has the guzheng. Traditional sounds and instrumentation are in a lot of Jay Chou songs -- it's one of the things that made him famous.

Beyond is (was?) a very famous Hong Kong male band from the 80s and some of their songs are classics. I'm thinking of 喜欢你 and 光辉岁月 but I know there's more. 喜欢你 was recently redone by a female known as G.E.M. and that rendition would probably suit your parents too.

I know there's more but I can't think of them at the moment -- I'll have to go through my song collection sometime and hunt them out!
posted by ditto75 at 3:50 PM on August 9

Not in the US right now, but I can see these artists on Spotify:

Hacken Lee
- 紅日 (you have definitely heard this song)
Eason Chan
- 明年今日
- 陀飛輪
Faye Wong
- 容易受傷的女人
Jacky Cheung
- 祝福

In English, but were used for some hugely popular 90s TVB series:
Selena, Dreaming of You
Leo Sayer, When I Need You
posted by airmail at 9:31 AM on August 10

Thanks everyone for the suggestions so far!

I'll give these a thorough listen when I'm back in the office (quieter environment, good for really listening to new-to-me music). There's probably a few songs I might recognize from childhood osmosis, but I only started learning Mandarin/becoming semi-literate in Chinese as an adult, so I won't really know until I actually listen to the track with the artist and song title info handy. Out of the artists I already recognize, their existing discographies are usually so vast that specific song recs help a lot - I'm basically operating from a position of having too much to choose from and no reliable additional English-language filter or much personal context to sort through the stuff available to me. (Whereas if my dad asks me to find a Springsteen hit but can only remember "it's the one with Monica in the video," I immediately know he's referring to Dancing in the Dark.)
posted by rather be jorting at 12:32 PM on August 11

Back in the US, found this Spotify playlist. I recognize a lot of the music my parents listen to on here.
posted by airmail at 1:34 PM on August 11

mhum: This Mandopop one is a 1990s karaoke classic.

Oh whoops. That's a link to the album. The song I meant to link to is 吻別 (Kiss Goodbye). It's the one Mandopop song that almost all of my (nearly exclusively) Cantonese-speaking, Hong Kong friends can do at karaoke.
posted by mhum at 12:47 PM on August 12

PS. I was watching Big Brother (with Donnie Yen) over the weekend and it had the song 對面的女孩看過來 (Dui Mian de Nü Hai Kan Guo Lai) by 任賢齊 (Richie Ren) (originally by Malaysian singer 阿牛 (A Niu). Another karaoke classic!
posted by pimli at 7:49 PM on August 14

After doing a little Wikipedia reading, I think I'm overall looking for even older oldies, skewing more towards the 70s/80s, maybe prior to the musical shift associated with the 1990's Four Heavenly Kings era?

- My parents have been decidedly lukewarm about Andy Lau & most pop afterwards, with the occasional exception for specific hits (e.g. Faye Wong's "Dreams" cover and the Jay Chou songs in the "中國風" Chinese wind/Chinese wave style). I'll go ahead and add the more upbeat/power ballady 90s and older tunes to the list though, and we'll see how it goes.
- The closer the singer sounds to a vintage diva, the more the background session band instrumentation sounds like strings out of an old film, the better! Some of the random tracks I'm shuffling on this The Sound of Vintage Chinese Pop AI-generated playlist sound closer to the sounds I'm looking for, though most of the selections skew perhaps a little too much older (lol).
- airmail, I'll def check out the playlist you've linked!


Anyway, I've now had the chance to listen to most of these songs more than once:

mhum, Jacky Cheung's 吻別 is a great example of the parameters I'm looking for - nice use of erhu and a good melodic build-up that I think they'll like.

pimli, I had a lot of fun checking out your recs!
- "The Moon Represents my Heart" isn't too cliche afaik, it's probably just the kind of gentler adult contemporary classic pop they'd dig - adding this one for sure. Teresa Teng's back catalog likely will have other jams to add, so I'll give her more of a listen.
- The Jay Chou recs should work a treat as well. 菊花台 is probably too slow for road trip purposes but 雨下一整晚 should be great, thanks for describing it so well - all those keywords (elements of Beijing opera, and erhu, Beijing drum, guzheng) are just the thing.
- Leo Ku's medley is interesting, but probably covers too recent an array of songs for my folks - I recognize a few from when I was studying Mandarin in college, and they generally didn't like any of those?
- Similarly, basically everything in the compromise between the oldies and a fresher sound are likely all "too modern" for my parents - they dislike R&B/dance/electropop style beats and other musical flourishes featured in 00's pop. (As for me though, I do like Wilbur Pan's 不得不爱 and Khalil Fong's 小小蟲.)
- 對面的女孩看過來 kinda works - it's more of a comedic novelty song in my parents' view (though I do think the chorus is a legit bop, and I've certainly enjoyed seeing the memes of it in Subtle Asian Traits).
- I'm good on English-language recs, but coincidentally, I've already added "Take Me Home, Country Roads" to a parallel English-language road trip playlist, haha. It's a fave of mine to sing in the car, and my parents both like that style of 70s folk/pop.

yellowcandy, hopefully this isn't 80s Chinese pop blasphemy, but I don't think I've ever heard Alan Tam's 爱在深秋 before. (Or if I have, I can't remember...) Adding it to the playlist, though!

ditto75, those are also some great Jay Chou recs - I think my dad actually asked for 青花瓷 last time I was shuffling through Spotify. Beyond's 喜欢你 also sounds like a good older Cantopop track to add, but I'll skip the G.E.M. cover (the production's prob too modern-pop for their liking).

airmail, that's my fave Selena song! I had no idea it was also a 90s TVB theme. "TVB" was a great detail I hadn't thought of, it's helped me find some other songs that might work, like the Roman Tam Condor Heroes theme.
- Faye Wong's 容易受傷的女人 sounds vaguely familiar - I'll throw that on as well.
posted by rather be jorting at 6:45 PM on August 19

For future reference (and for my own curiosity's sake), I made a quick little spreadsheet of the songs mentioned in the comments so far, sorted by year (as best as I could figure out from googling/checking the available Spotify track):
1977	Teresa Teng		The Moon Represents my Heart
1984	Alan Tam		爱在深秋
1990	Beyond			光辉岁月
1991	Jacky Cheung		每天愛你多一些
1991	張惠妹			聽海
1992	Hacken Lee		紅日
1993	Jacky Cheung		祝福
1993	Jacky Cheung		吻別
1995	范晓萱			眼泪
1996	Beyond			喜欢你
1997	Emil Chau/Wakin Chau	Peng You
1998	Wang Lee Hom		好心分手
1998	Faye Wong		容易受傷的女人
1999	David Tao		普通朋友
2001	Richie Ren		我是一只小小鸟
2002	Huang Pinyuan		小薇
2002	Eason Chan		明年今日
2003	Jay Chou		东风坡
2003	Richie Ren		對面的女孩看過來
2004	Wang Lee Hom		Forever Love
2004	Andy Lau		Ben Xiao Hai
2004	Shin			One Night in Beijing
2005	Wang Lee Hom		花田錯
2005	Leo Ku			情歌王
2005	Wilbur Pan		不得不爱
2005	Jay Chou		发如雪
2006	Guang Liang		童话
2006	Khalil Fong		愛愛愛
2006	David Tao & Jolin Tsai	今天你要嫁给我
2006	Roger Yang		我相信
2006	Jay Chou		菊花台
2008	Khalil Fong		Singalongsong
2008	Khalil Fong		小小蟲
2008	JJ Lin & Charlene Choi	小酒窩
2008	Jay Chou		青花瓷
2010	Jay Chou		雨下一整晚
2010	Eason Chan		陀飛輪
2014	G.E.M.			喜欢你
2015	Yu Xiang & Dong Mei Yan	Xiao Ping Guo
2016	Wang Lee Hom		飄向北方
2017	大壯			我們不一樣
I feel like I've gotten a much better handle on 90's and 00's Chinese pop now, but not so much the 80s, which the Cantopop wiki page tells me is "The Golden Age of Cantopop." Would people have fave tunes from, say, Anita Mui, Leslie Cheung, George Lam, Alan Tam, Sally Yeh, Priscilla Chan, Sandy Lam, and/or Danny Chan?
posted by rather be jorting at 6:52 PM on August 19

Turns out my parents are even pickier than I had anticipated, with a hard no on almost all the post-80s suggestions from the answers here and lukewarm reactions to most of the other tracks I thought they might like.

But all was not in vain!

- My dad specifically requested Jay Chou's 青花瓷 multiple times, so thanks to ditto75 for reminding me about it.

- 水中花 (by Alan Tam) ended up being another favorite, which I found via shuffling through the playlist airmail linked, thanks for that! Neither of my parents had listened to Alan Tam for quite some time - "who is this?" - but immediately remembered who he was after knowing his name, so I shuffled through a few more of Tam's hits, but 水中花 remained the main track they were willing to listen to in full.

Mostly they just wanted to hear more of what they already knew I knew they liked, but they appreciated the effort and now I have another couple of tracks I know for sure they like. (And I, in turn, appreciate the effort from everyone who commented!)
posted by rather be jorting at 10:00 PM on October 15

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