Eason Chan was never cut in the same mold as other Canto- and Mandopop stars who churn out anodyne, over-produced songs with mass appeal. He wasn’t exactly a rebel, but part of his popularity lie in the fact that he was unique, with songs that at least hinted at deeper meaning. Time called his album U87, released in 2005, “a bridge between past and future, showing off a rawness rarely found in Chinese pop.”
We’re not sure if “raw” is exactly the word to describe his latest album, …3mm, but its second track is certainly rare for a pop star with a substantial mainland Chinese fan base. As reported by Bad Canto, the song 非禮 (Not Polite) features the word “locust,” a pejorative that Hong Kongers use to describe mainland Chinese, specifically pregnant women who cross the border to give birth so that their child will have Hong Kong citizenship. It’s a politically and socially charged word, and one that one doesn’t expect to see in a pop album.
Bad Canto has painstakingly translated the song’s lyrics, and subtitled the video that appears above (and after the jump on Youku for those in China). The site explains:
After listening to this song for more than 20 times, I came up with this interpretation. “螻蟻” (mole crickets and ants) and “頹垣玉砌” (crumbling wall made of jade, I wrongly translated it as “ruins of jade” in the video) represent Hongkongers. “相稱禮貌” (both call themselves polite) describes that both Hongkongers and Mainlanders think they are polite enough and “相通禮貌”(both communicate with each other with “politeness”) portraits the scene which Hongkongers and Mainlanders insult each other. “隨時盛世，隨時亂世，隨時未世，街口街角只剩禮” (a prosperous period at any time, chaos at any time, the end of the world at any time, only “politeness” remains on the street) probably reflects that the lyric writer is not happy that people only argue with each other despite being ruled by a dictatorship.
Apparently opinion is divided along the mainland/Hong Kong border, with those on one side expressing anger and those on the other expressing approval. Sales in Hong Kong have been brisk, while on the mainland…
We’ll see, of course. The hell of it is, Chan seems to be pretty equal-opportunity in his criticism. Perhaps the majority of his fans will understand that. Then again, we are talking about pop music listeners here, so perhaps no one will care. The song has a decent beat, after all.