It was my friend Adrian who first said, “Have you ever noticed every Chinese pop song has the word ‘kuàilè’ 快乐 in it?” He’s pretty much right. Of course there are about three songs getting air time on our campus radio that don’t mention ‘kuàilè’ 快乐, but if you start listening for it, you’ll see that word is all over the place.
I started thinking about other clichéd (that’s a 2nd tone) words in Chinese love songs. I decided to list the most common ones I’ve heard in Chinese pop music and write them all into one song. Here’s the original list (in order of appearance in the song):
- tiānkōng 天空 (sky)
- xīngxing 星星 (star)
- měilì 美丽 (beautiful)
- yuèliang 月亮 (moon)
- ài 爱 (love)
- tiānshǐ 天使 (angel)
- chìbǎng 翅膀 (wing)
- wēnróu 温柔 (tender)
- shǒu qiān shǒu 手牵手 (holding hands)
- kuàilè 快乐 (happy)
- xīntiào 心跳 (heart beat)
- mèng 梦 (dream)
- tiánmì 甜蜜 (sweet)
- kàojìn 靠近 (get close)
- húdié 蝴蝶 (butterfly)
- yǎnshén 眼神 (eyes / emotion seen through the eyes)
- xīnlǐ 心理 (heart / heart and mind)
- shēnbiān 身边 (by your side)
- xìngfú 幸福 (happy)
It then took almost no time at all to put those words into one long parade of clichés. But by then I was having so much fun I just had to put in a few more little phrases (like “bái mǎ wángzǐ” 白马王子), write a bridge, and finish the song.
The music also employs a few musical clichés from Chinese pop.
- The melody is exclusively pentatonic (you can play the melody using only the black keys on the piano). Traditional Chinese music has a long history of using pentatonic and even now many Chinese pop melodies stay within the pentatonic mode for most or all of the song (more on this later).
- I modulate up two key changes just like Tónghuà 童话 by Guāng Liáng 光良.
One common convention in Chinese pop music that I haven’t followed is the practice of not writing a second verse. Many pop songs just go back and repeat part or all of verse 1 after the first chorus. Since I still had more clichés to shoehorn in, I couldn’t afford not to keep writing.
Two more little cultural shout-outs in the song are:
- The line “yuèliang dài wǒ shuō ‘ài nǐ'” 月亮代我说爱你 to reference the most popular love song of all time in China: Yuèliang dàibiǎo wǒ de xīn 月亮代表我的心 (The Moon Represents my Heart).
- The mention of húdié 蝴蝶 (butterfly) to reference the ever famous Butterfly Lovers (Liáng Shānbó 梁山伯 and Zhù Yīngtái 祝英台) already immortalized in various songs.
I hope you enjoy Kuàilè 快乐 and wish you all happy every day!