Being of Cantonese speaking background (however I am not descended from Hong Kong) I have grown up listening to the Cantopop that my parents listened to and I guess you could say that was and still is the best era of Cantonese pop music. Music from the 80s and 90s really were the Golden Ages, creating and producing singers who are now considered ‘legends’ and soaring Cantopop to new heights.
Music from 80s were I guess more my parent’s era but because they listened to it, I was able to cross paths with artists such as Leslie Cheung 張國榮, Alan Tam 譚詠麟, Anita Mui 梅艷芳 and Samuel Hui 許冠傑 (to name a few) who really really defined Cantopop and set in motion the Golden Era.
I was born in the late 80s so the its really the 90s Cantopop that I’m familiar with even though I really was too young to know what music is, but I what I did know was when to recognise good music. The 90s were pretty much dominate by the Four Heavenly Kings四大天王 who were Jacky Cheung 張學友, Andy Lau 劉德華, Aaron Kwok 郭富城 and Leon Lai 黎明. So much so that other male artists from the same decade were overshadowed and these include Leo Ku 古巨基, Hacken Lee 李克勤 and Andy Hui 許志安 to name a few. These were good singers but didn’t gain popularity until the Four Heavenly Kings had start to move into other fields or just simply semi-retire. Quite some years later, when the Four Heavenly Kings四大天王 had become pretty much inactive, the media and I believe it was Alan Tam 譚詠麟 who started it announced there New Four Heavenly Kings 新四大天王 and they Leo Ku 古巨基, Hacken Lee 李克勤, Andy Hui 許志安 and Edmond Leung 梁漢文. However the reaction to this was quite negative as the Four Heavenly Kings四大天王 were irreplaceable.
Lets not forget about the ladies, but unlike the male singers were wasn’t that clear of a distinct separation between the females. However if you had Kings then surely there should be Queens. The name Four Heavenly Kings四大天王 held so much weight and prestige that of course the media would make a Four Heavenly Queens 四大天后 and named Cass Pang 彭羚, Faye Wong 王菲, Sammi Cheng 鄭秀文 and Kelly Chen 陳慧琳. Unfortunately apart from Faye Wong 王菲 the others were just considered good and popular singers and not legendary that’s why that name never really stuck around.
I use music and TV dramas/shows to maintain my mother tongue so I’ve always been an avid Cantopop listener, however that all changed in the late 00s and became even more distant in the 2010s. Early 00s saw the debut new artists who will aim to become the new generation of Cantopop (such as Nicholas Tse 謝霆鋒, Janice Vidal 衛蘭 and Edison Chen 陳冠希), as well as artists who debuted in the late 90s gain new popularity and become a staple to the Cantopop industry (such as Eason Chan 陳奕迅, Joey Yung 容祖兒 and Miriam Yeung 楊千嬅). This was also the decade where a big number of groups and bands had debuted, however it was also this decade to churn out some some ‘not so good’ artists. The quality of artists to come out from the Hong Kong music industry also began a steady decline with the except of a few that could actually sing well. It got so bad that the industry became known as ‘as long as you have a pretty face/look good’ then you’ll easily become a celebrity in Hong Kong. My friends and I would joke about it often with me saying to my friends ‘just go roam the streets of Hong Kong you’ll surely be scouted’. I’m not going to waste my time naming all the quite frankly shit singers there are too many!! There are also a lot of over rated singers such as Joey Yung 容祖兒…. my gosh do I not understand how she became so big and so popular to be known as Hong Kong’s 天后, actually it’s because she’s had a helping hand from EEG (Emperor Entertainment Group 英皇娛樂集團) founder Albert Yeung 楊受成 (if you know what I mean) as well as having some quite good songs given to her. I admit to singing a few of her songs at KTV/karaoke even though I am not too fond of her. She couldn’t sing live to save her life (like so many Hong Kong artists), however she has definitely spent her 18 years in the industry improving herself as at least she can hold a note now.
I really have gone on about it and I can say so much more but what really made me write this post was because I watched the J.S.G. Awards Presentation 2016 – 2016年度勁歌金曲頒獎典禮. This is probably Hong Kong’s biggest music awards ceremony presented by (monopoly) TV station TBV. I thought I’ll watch it to see whats new and to listen to some new music. This is how I usually keep up to date with my Cantopop and I must admit I have picked up the odd few good songs that have been added to my playlist. I haven’t watched the last few years award show so I’m a little outdated when it comes to new singers, so I was somewhat looking forward to this yeas JSG Awards….. if only I knew before hand that I has just wasted a few hours of my life watching (skimming) through it… if only.
Back to the show it self… there were no award presenters which I found really strange, has it always been like that? Surely not.. right? They were giving out the Gold Song awards 金曲 like it was for free, some times even three at a time and I thought to myself “woah they are giving them out too quickly no? There’s only 10 of them” and then it hit me…. they must have given more than 10 of the Gold Song awards 金曲, I looked at the title of the show again and the 十大勁歌 is noticeably missing. Whereas before the title used be Jade Solid Gold Best Ten Music Awards Presentation 十大勁歌金曲頒獎典禮 they’ve decided to scrap just limiting the years songs into the top 10 best songs and instead they’ll just give it out to everyone. That’s what it felt like as I was watching, everyone got a Gold Song award 金曲 some even got multiple awards, it just takes the whole point out of an awards ceremony being special. Apart from the usual awards (best female/male, best newcomer, best group, best song and etc) the top 10 songs were to celebrate the pasty year’s music. But all meaning has been taken away!! JSG WHAT ARE YOU DOING!!!
Everyone person that wins an gold award sings (sorry bronze and silver winners), they sing a snippet of their winning song and I have to say it was pretty painful to my ears. Apart from the odd few such as Hins Cheung 張敬軒 and Joyce Cheng 鄭欣宜 who can actually sing and sing live too, the others should be banished! I was also surprised at Vincy Chan 泳兒 who I quite like and I know can sing however that night she was a disaster!! The key was too high and she was so out of tune I couldn’t believe my ears!! I did manage to find a “ohhh she is decent” in the form of JW 王灝兒. I thought she was a fairly new singer but she’s been around for 5 or 6 years… LOL she looks like a mash up of Fiona Sit 薛凱琪 and Stephanie Ho 何雁詩 (who by the way I thought was just an tvb kei lei fei)
There was also an influx of actor-singers or singer-actors and quite frankly 80% of them are just bad and the other 20% was just decent…. Did you see Nancy Wu 胡定欣 sing? Cringe worthy.
Oh there was one thing I liked about the award show…. it paid homage to the past as a lot of songs (from when times were better) were performed. Thankfully most of those performances the singing was pre-recorded and I didn’t have to endure bad/out of tune singing on songs that I have very fond memories of.
I’ve now become restless, I want to write more but that will just be ranting and it’ll probably make me more upset. So to answer my question, yes the industry has gone too far down hill to recover any of the glory days, but I guess that is to be expected. When something is just that great I guess nothing will top it and I guess the Chinese saying 一山還有一山高 just doesn’t apply in this case. It’s not all bad as I guess there are still the odd good singer/s to pop up every now and then, look at C AllStar, they are a really talent all male vocal group.
Maybe I’ll check out next years award show and see if anything has changed…..