Cries of Joy, Songs of SorrowChinese Pop Music and Its Cultural Connotations

Cries of Joy, Songs of SorrowChinese Pop Music and Its Cultural Connotations

Marc L. Moskowitz

Print publication date: 2016

ISBN: 9780824833695

Publisher: University of Hawai'i Press

Abstract

Since the mid-1990s, Taiwan's unique brand of Mandopop (Mandarin Chinese-language pop music) has dictated the musical tastes of the mainland and the rest of Chinese-speaking Asia. This book explores Mandopop's surprisingly complex cultural implications in Taiwan and the PRC. It provides the historical background necessary to understand the contemporary Mandopop scene, beginning with the birth of Chinese popular music in the East Asian jazz Mecca of 1920s Shanghai. An overview of alternative musical genres in the PRC is included, followed by a look at the manner in which Taiwan's musical ethos has influenced the mainland's music industry and how Mandopop has brought Western music and cultural values to the PRC. This leads to a discussion of Taiwan pop's exceptional hybridity. The book addresses the resulting wealth of transnational musical influences from the rest of East Asia and the United States, and Taiwan pop's appeal to audiences in both the PRC and Taiwan. In doing so, it explores how Mandopop's “songs of sorrow,” with their ubiquitous themes of loneliness and isolation, engage a range of emotional expression that resonates strongly in the PRC. The book examines the construction of male and female identities in Mandopop and looks at the widespread condemnation of the genre by critics and attempts to answer the question: Why, if the music is as bad as some assert, is it so central to the lives of the largest population in the world? In response answer, it highlights Mandopop's important contribution as a poetic lament that simultaneously embraces and protests modern life.