Ed's note: Portrait of a Beijinger is an original video series for the Anthill by Tom Fearon and Abel Blanco. Each month, Tom and Abel will profile an ordinary Beijinger with an extraordinary story. The first episode in the series, along with Tom’s description of meeting its protagonist Liu Xinran, is republished with permission from the Anthill.
There's verve here. Brio. These singers are rouged with holy spirit and plainly happier than you and I, poor nonbelievers at Christmas Mass. Why do we continue to pay the price for our pride? Who are we to let the piddling inconvenience of no Gmail make us glum, corruptible, not-rippling as befits our 5,000 years, unfaithful and obfuscated and dark and meekly dying on sand? March to this goddamn battuta, guys. INTERNET POWER. Hotdamn.
I didn't want to like this -- and I probably still don't -- but I will say: watching it, it gets better. If your goal in a music video is to out-weird PSY and the Ylvis ("The Fox"), you probably should go all out like Rolling Wang Rong did and do stuff like this:
So, before I begin, I guess I should get one thing out of the way: I write that show that all expats seem to hate but Chinese people seem to like – see the sketch I wrote about potatoes.
Yes, of course you could no doubt do it better; and yes, I agree, why do they even bother employing us? We’re not even funny. Now that I’ve saved you the hassle of leaving those sentiments in the comments section, I’ll get to the nitty gritty.
DC rappers Pacman and Peso, who made waves in January after releasing a music video filmed in Pyongyang, North Korea (a trip that their friend and colleague, Ramsey Aburdene, documented for this site), are back with another video, this one set in Beijing. There's a lot to love about this, including:
The world is slowly discovering that the Chinese music landscape is not limited to folk tunes and revolutionary ballads. As China’s indie rock, blues and trip-hop artists head abroad, avoiding the “Made in China” label has become a major concern.
Several more months of terrible air, bad publicity and one inspired brainstorm session with my friend Kyle convinced me that this was a movie that needed be made. Beijing right now is one of the most fascinating clusters of humanity in the world and yet it’s almost perpetually shrouded in a layer of physical and public relations pollution. I get that. I’ve read the history, I breathe the air, I eat the gutter oil, and yeah, that all sucks. But at the end of the day this place just has an energy that I’m in love with.
Tom Chou played the Chinese character in the music videos for "Chinese Food" and "Get In My Car," both produced by "Friday" producer Patrice Wilson. Although criticized by some as racially insensitive and tacky, the two videos together have amassed more than 16 million views on Youtube and Youku.
After two-plus years, Lady Gaga has been removed from China's musical blacklist, which means she can now perform on the mainland. Her third studio album, ARTPOP, has also been approved for release, as the singer herself announced in a tweet: "I'm so excited!!!! The Chinese Government Approved ARTPOP to be released in China with all 15 songs!"
Pacman, Peso, and I recently returned from a 16-day Asia trip that included a five-day stay in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (as in America, the N-word is taboo in DPRK). This journey started in August when our record label, Forest Hills Tenleytown Music Group, launched a Kickstarter seeking $6,000 to fund the trip and a music video called "Escape to North Korea." With the help of a five-page feature in the Washington Post Style section and a generous $5,100 donation from James Passin (aka "The American Who Bought Mongolia”), we were able to raise $10,400 and get a lot of attention in the process. People actually cared, for some reason.
Here's a laowai who loves his hometown of Cleveland so much that he raps about its charms to a Chinese audience. Cleveland, the city whose football team has had more staph infection lawsuits than playoff appearances since 1999, the city with a sulphuric I-71 cutting through it, the city consistently ranked one of the worst in the US, the city...
Ylvis's hit "The Fox" (What Does the Fox Say?) was the surprise viral song of the late summer. We can't believe it's taken all of nearly two months, but here, finally, is a parody of that video set in China, featuring that other wonderfully mysterious creature of the woods, by which we mean -- of course -- the giant panda.
We don't have a lot of information about this video just yet, but it was sent to us recently by YouTube user Scott AH, whose e-signature suggests he's with Comedy Club China. It's a good one, if only for this scene at the 19-second mark:
The wonderfully idiotic adults behind Rebecca Black's "Friday" have done it again, kidnapping what appears to be a sweet teenage girl and forcing her in front of the camera to perform the world's worst song. Ark Music Factory, led by producer Patrice Wilson (he's the dude in the panda costume; what panda costume, you ask? hang on), has topped itself with "Chinese Food," simply a glop of bewilderment and suburban American camp.