The promos may be pretty, but the single itself is just beginner’s play. Here’s why.
Ooh, click bait! You see, my friends, a blogger will sooner or later master the art of click baiting. And though readers know that bait is only bait, the mouse goes to the words and clicks. MWAHAHAHA!
Jacky Xue (薛之谦)’s single 《初学者》marks his “return” to the C-music industry after his very brief “hiatus”, during which he basically guest featured in pretty much every single talk show and variety show that was airing on Chinese TV.
Though 薛之谦’s popularity has greatly fluctuated over the years, often topping the music charts but never enjoying the stability of that of an A-lister, his recent foray outside of music has been largely successful. He’s a wonderful entertainer.
Now 《初学者》, for lack of a better description, is rather interesting. 薛之谦 appearing on all these shows has earned him quite a lot of money, as can easily be seen through comparing this single’s production value and MV with his previous works’. But at the same time, this single is so weird and IMO just a failed attempt of what could’ve been a huge hit.
Let’s break it down.
A far cry from Jacky Xue’s emotional ballads (such as his breakout hit 《认真的雪》 and recently popular “Actor”), it’s difficult to categorize “Beginner” into any genre or genres. And that’s where the flaws, one by one, start showing.
But before I start showering this track in criticism, I’d like to acknowledge that both the production value and arrangement are seriously good. I have no idea if the singer-songwriter Jacky Xue had any involvement in such or not, but whoever arranged and produced this definitely was no beginner.
While 《初学者》utilizes the often over-used electronic sound effects, the sound is compelling on its own yet accentuates rather than overpowers the main vocal melody. Though most electronic arrangements often wind up as a cacophony of mish-mashed sounds that tend to be headache-inducing to the listener, the contrast actually allows listeners to further hone in on Jacky Xue’s tender voice.
The first few lines are sung as any song of 薛之谦’s would be. Personally, I find Jacky Xue’s own compositions to be rather boring and unmemorable to listen to, much preferring his songs composed by others, but in general they sound, for lack of a better word, nice.
Initially, the listener thinks this track as any other ballad, just with electronic instrumentals and better production. But then out of the blue, he starts . . . screaming? Or is he chanting? Screaming-chanting?
The first few times it’s an interesting change. But then that’s pretty much what he does for the rest of the song until I just want to turn the music off.
Oftentimes that sort of scream-chant thing is used to represent the height of emotion. It’s effective when used minimally — or at most three or four lines per song. The point of emphasis, anyway, is that it stands out. If everything is emphasized, then nothing is emphasized. It also just sounds unnecessarily noisy.
Even worse, like I said, Jacky Xue’s compositions are generic and unmemorable. Juxtaposed with those weird screams, all I remember are the screams. And at the end of it all, I don’t even know what the song meant at all. Sure, my Chinese isn’t all that great, but I can always get a general idea of what a Mandarin Chinese song is about — even if the singer mumbles like Jay Chou.
Interestingly, the one line I remember (near the end) had something to do with a beginner (初学者) who failed (“你不及格”). I think it was the song “Beginner” that failed.
The Music Video
Way to end on a happy note. But it’s okay if I don’t know what a song means because there’s a music video, right? Well, the only time I listened to this was via watching said music video, so . . . no.
Like a ton of other music videos these days, I’m pretty sure “Beginner”‘s MV had nothing to do with the actual song, the same way most K-pop hits (in terms of the lyrics’ meaning, anyway) have nothing to do with idols dancing in some futuristic-looking room.
On second thought, thank goodness the song isn’t about a bed scene with an innocent-looking feline who bites you in the shoulder. Wait. Oops.
Though this MV is still directed by 黄中平 (who literally directed all his other MVs that all kind of look the same), it doesn’t follow that same weird template: there’s a strange color scheme and all seems normal until something really weird happens. >_<
In addition, props to the team for finally realizing that men tend to look more attractive when their hair aren’t parted in the exact middle. Not gonna lie — Jacky Xue’s looks alone are ample enough to cause fangirls to scream.
Perhaps the team producing the MV figured that, too, because 薛之谦 is purposely depicted as sexy. As he enters the separate rooms, including the “Regret Room”, and the hunting room I think (?) he is constantly tortured (?) by some woman in a sort of sexy yet SAPPRFT-approved manner. It’s a pretty MV but it’s really strange to the point of awkwardness.
If it comforts you, you can see 薛之谦 shirtless in the music video.
I think both the song and MV had the potential to be a hit but it badly missed the mark. It’s really weird.
Though more interesting than Jacky Xue’s previous self-composed works (do consider my over-generalization), I feel as if it lacks the sincerity and perhaps even emotion of his more common ballads.
Overall Rating: 4/10
P.S. For some strange reason, I managed to come up with around 1,000 words for a song and video that I didn’t enjoy, yet could never do so for stuff I actually really like . I suppose it’s because I had a lot to complain about, whereas I am generally satisfied with what I enjoy. (But I WANT to write more about what I’ve come to appreciate. )