NOTE: Prior to this, I had no idea who the heck this “Juno Mak” was (I still think “Juno” is exclusively a girl’s name -_-). And even now, these are the only things I’ve seen from him.
I guess he has YouTube to thank.
I may call myself a C-pop listener, but there’s a huge aspect of the genre I’ve been ignoring. Normally I don’t listen to Cantopop, preferring Mandopop because, well, I understand the language. Cantonese, on the other hand? Not so much.
Before I review this “musical trilogy” (三部曲), I’d like to share how I, as a Mandopop listener, listened to these Cantopop songs.
1. “Dumbly” watch the music video and listen to the song.
I wouldn’t necessarily call it “dumbly”, but it gets the point across: just listen to the music and enjoy the music video. The “dumb” aspect of this is to give no heed to what the heck these people are singing about. In this case, it was much easier because there were no subtitles at the bottom. Sure, through the composition and the music video, you might get a general idea, but just don’t care about the actual lyrics when listening to this for the first time.
2. Now you can read the lyrics.
Though I wouldn’t call my Chinese good, I can at least read it, which, in this case, is good enough. The lyrics are provided in the description so the second time around I focused on that.
The Chinese I use is Simplified Chinese, while in Hong Kong where these Cantopop singers are based they all use Traditional Chinese. Still, I got the general gist, though there were a few characters I weren’t too sure of.
Whenever I listen to a Cantonese song while reading the lyrics, I always get the feeling that, “Oh, I should understand it. It just sounds slightly different because it’s a dialect”. Yet when there are no lyrics to look at, I can never for the life of me understand. I used to think that it was just pronunciation that was different, but Cantonese actually derives from the more traditional and old-time sayings that Mandarin has basically taken out (remember that Mandarin was integrated as the official language of Greater China because the Manchurians ruled). Sometimes Cantonese takes out some things in some sayings that they deem “unnecessary”. I THINK it’s sort of like Singlish, but only rarely (oh yay).
Remember: this is coming from someone who can’t even understand Cantonese, for goodness sake.
For example, the phrase “想讲你知” roughly translates to “Want to Let You Know” or “Want to Tell You”, but if you said it in Mandarin you would get weird looks. In Mandarin, you would have to say something along the lines of “想告诉你，让你知道” — that is, “want to tell you to let you know”, which is twice the amount of words. It also wouldn’t make a very good song title.
Even with these differences, if you have basic knowledge of Mandarin and can read Chinese, there’s not going to be too big of a problem with understanding the lyrics.
The Actual Review
念念不忘 means to constantly bear in mind, so that thing must be unforgettable.
From the song title and the melancholy tone, it’s clear that this song is a message to his previous love that he still has not forgotten about her. The song itself, from the mysterious-sounding instrumentals and arrangement to the composition, really brings out Juno Mak’s unique and breathtaking voice. It’s so powerful, yet at the same time so soothing, too. While he still has that mystery persona, and I can’t even grasp what he might be like in real life, his voice holds emotion and blurred out experiences.
Looking into the lyrics, it’s more specifically about how the decades pass, and he still longs for his first lover, secretly stalking her on Facebook when his wife is asleep, etc.
Unfortunately, I feel that something — this something — is lacking. At times the unique sound sounds, well, strained. While that’s a good representation of the struggle this song tries to express, I felt that it detracted from the song. I feel that the later part of the song was particularly weaker, even though it’s the emotional high point. Maybe I just got tired of the voice.
Even so, it the build-up sounded amazing, so there’s that.
The music video is incredibly simplistic, but gets the point across — he’s in the dark, and gradually gets further and further away. The shadows kept moving across his face — which was the one point of interest. That is, until he took out a cigarette, put it to his mouth, lit the cigarette, and, you know, smoked the cigarette.
What was the point, anyway? All it did, really, was basically throw me off, and wonder — wait, does he smoke in real life? *backs away* Especially as a singer, one shouldn’t be smoking. A pity, too, because his voice sounds amazing, and all that’s going to do is completely ruin it and his health.
(Okay, well, I don’t even know who he is, so . . . )
Music Video? 70%
It looks . . . like he has facial hair.
The first of the collaborations is actually with Karen Mok, which means he’s probably a lot more well-known then I previously thought. From the melody you can tell that this song carries hope, or is likely an ode between two lovers — in this case Juno Mak and Karen Mok. The song 瑕疵, which can be translated to “Flaws”, depicts how, despite the many flaws in their relationship, they’ve both made it through.
In this song there is a ton of overlapping, which sounds amazing, but it makes it really hard to follow the lyrics as they go along. In addition, when words overlap, they tend to get jumbled together.
Yet at the same time, it hints that both of them aren’t completely happy, either. Content, I suppose, but not happy. Then Karen Mok’s solo at the end says:
Long known the principle, haven’t you? Because of such I also haven’t been surprised.
To find happiness the lesson is to accept the worst
It’s one second to victory, isn’t it?
But the road to Enlightenment* is both fearful and far
I’ve won you how a stone breaks flowers
Once the beauty is over, you could kill me
Because of such I’m reluctant to part with this unanimity and it’s all collapsed
*谪仙 refers to the state deities are in once they’ve reached Earth; philosophers such as 李白 were pronounced as 谪仙
**颓垣败瓦 specifically means a wall or room collapsing; 垣 is the wall, that 败, or falls to 瓦 (the material)
My problem with the song is I get the feeling that if I listened to either of them solo for a long time, I would get tired of their individual voices (including the solo at the end).
Music Video? 80%
Okay, hands down, but this was just amazingness.
Juno Mak sang enough so we could appreciate the uniqueness of his voice without getting tired of it, leaving the rest to Kay Tse. Now Kay Tse is the type of artist that I’ve heard of, but just never bothered listening to, but this just sounds really, really good.
I love how the subtle bits of instrumental give off this nostalgic feel, gradually increase, and don’t get all that heavy until it’s time for Juno and Kay to harmonize.
My guess is that this is the more “mainstream” release of the trilogy, as it’s the one I can fully accept. The funny thing is, I can tell that both Juno Mak and Karen Mok have the more powerful voices, but I way preferred Kay Tse’s inclusion. (Karen Mok has a very unique voice, but I’m just not a big fan of it . . .?)
There was something familiar about the melody, too, but I suppose in a good way, because again — I just really enjoyed this song.
Now I’ve actually never been too sure of what 罗生门 actually meant. It’s the Chinese title of the 1951 Japanese movie Rashomon, and vaguely translates to “Into the Woods”. Like, somehow into obscurity?
The lyrics recount how while Kay knows Juno has loved her, she hasn’t admitted it to him. While it’s a pity they couldn’t end up together, if she told him, would he feel worse? She then questions, does he actually understand her? Kay would rather turn those memories off then recount those times, but it’s not that easy. If she bumped into him one day, she would pretend to be fine, but is she really?
In other words, basically sadness.
I actually like how the lyrics for all three of these songs were written, but this is definitely my favorite.
What made this music video . . . better was that while it was simplistic, there was enough movement that I still bothered to really watch it. From that, I basically got the feeling that there’s a HUGE part I’m missing. I don’t know. Maybe what really happened is just exactly what played out on the screen.
Music Video? 90%
Did you know . . . that I actually watched/listened to these in the opposite order of its release date (which is the order in which I reviewed these)? 😉