A Faye Wong television appearance

This is a television clip from late 1999, for which Faye Wong was invited to sing experimental versions of a few songs. It is incredibly entertaining, worth watching if you understand Mandarin. The two hosts guide the conversation with a constant stream of jokes; the music is well arranged; and Faye Wong is her usual self, shy and charming and effortlessly good at singing.

The clip is from a Taiwanese variety show, Super Sunday 超級星期天, which ran on Sunday nights from 1994 to 2003 and was succeeded by a similar show, Happy Sunday 快樂星期天, that ran until 2008. At the time, it was broadcast on the major free-to-air channel CTS 華視. The clip here was an instance of a recurring performance type on the show called “Harlem night club” 哈林夜總會, a title that alludes to the host Harlem Yu’s 庾澄慶 English name, the Sunday night timeslot, and the Chinese title of the 1989 American film Harlem nights. In these performances Yu and a guest artist would sing songs that he rearranged. Yu, the host on stage right, is a recording artist himself; the first song Faye Wong covers here, “True love song老實情歌 (1993), is his song. The other host in the oversized sports jacket is the particularly quick-witted Mickey Huang 黃子佼.

From the brief clip we see the excitement of Taipei as a cultural center in the globalized age. They speak in Standard Mandarin, the language imposed by the Nationalist government that continues to be the primary language today, but Huang transitions briefly into Taiwanese Hokkien when demonstrating backup vocals, Yu references Hakka mountain songs, and they conclude with two English songs: “Please Mr. Postman” (1961), covered by the Carpenters—whom Faye Wong is particularly fond of—in 1975, and “Top of the world” (1972), an original Carpenters song. The musical genres, per usual, are fully imported from the West, as are the colorful postmodern set pieces in the background. The three people on stage are assembled from across the ethnic Chinese world, as is common in the entertainment industry: Yu was born in Taipei to a prominent immigrant family from Yunnan (his grandfather was a businessman and a mayor of Kunming, and his father was a member of the National Assembly 國民大會); Huang, also from Taipei, is a descendant of early Han Taiwanese settlers; and Faye Wong, visiting from Hong Kong, speaks in the Beijing accent acquired during her youth in the capital. She was already an international star at this time: earlier in the year, in February, she had recorded an English song, “Eyes on me”, for Final fantasy VIII, which was popular in Japan and introduced her to North American audiences; in March, she held two concerts at the Nippon Budokan 日本武道館 in Tokyo; and her album Lovers & strangers 只愛陌生人 from September, whose posters the audience holds here, topped the charts in Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Singapore, and Malaysia. Besides the songs by Yu and the Carpenters, they perform Faye Wong’s earlier song “I do我願意 (1994) and “Yuanxiang qingnong原鄕情濃, a song originally recorded for the 1980 Taiwanese film My native land by Teresa Teng—herself a figure like Yu, born and raised in Taiwan to immigrant parents from China. Wong had idolized her music during her childhood in Beijing, releasing several cover albums of her songs while in high school and, much later, in 1995, a studio album of rearranged covers, Decadent sound of Faye 菲靡靡之音. The album was meant to include a new track sung by Wong and Teng, but a week into the recording process they received news of Teng’s tragic early death in Thailand.

April 2021