Beginner’s Guide to Leehom’s Chinked-Out

I think it’s time I get things in motion. With the release of Leehom’s greatest hits compilation [1], I find it hard to believe that people will need a place to start wtih his music. But alas, if you are looking to get yourself into the world that is CPop — Chinese Pop Music, for those not in the lingo yet — what better way to get into it than Leehom Wang?

WARNING: Getting to know Cpop through Leehom Wang (王力宏) could result in terrible disappointment with the Cpop music industry overall, because he’s hard to top. Unless you’re willing to try more indie flare~

Unlike my beginnings with Jay Chou [1], I really can’t remember what was the first song of Leehom that I ever listened to, but I do remember being blown away by the music he describes as “Chinked Out” — but do not freak out. Though the word “chink” is pejorative, Leehom is taking it back and creating the fusion of Chinese music — usually opera, but he combines a series of traditional Chinese instruments — with different elements of Western music starting with hip hop, going through ballads, passing through rock&roll, and ending with autotuned pop.

With a discography that spans 13 years with 14 studio albums, four live albums and countless singles, Leehom Wang does seem to be the Music Man. He plays over 10 musical instruments including the guitar, drums, piano, violin, the erhu (two-string Chinese violin), the harmonica, the guzheng [1], and the zhongruan [1], among others.

He speaks English (he’s American, after all), Mandarin, some Cantonese, some Japanese and French. Plus, he’s hot and is such a great person. Did you know he’s adopted 10 children from Laos? What more can you ask?

Because his discography is so extensive, this Beginner’s Guide to Leehom’s Chinked Out will be focusing on 10 Leehom Wang songs of the upbeat (fusion, Chinked Out style) kind with an extra five songs showcasing his ballads. All in chronological order, divided by album, so we can all see the evolution and variety of his music.

Let’s get started~

Forever’s First Day (永遠的第一天)

狂想世界 (Kuang Xiang Shi Jie) – Fantasy World

Released in 2000 — 11 years ago! — Forever’s First Day is an album that is pretty hard to find nowadays. Despite Leehom’s humble idol beginnings, he began showing signs of greatness with tracks like Fantasy World.

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You can actually check out a live version of a very young Leehom on YouTube.

The One and Only (唯一)

爱的就是你 (Ai de Jiu Shi Ni) – You Are my Love

The One and Only is one of the few, pun not intended, Leehom albums that was released in Japan — though it was released two years later in 2003 to promote Moon Child [1]. It was predominantly a pop album with pop ballads and hints of R&B and pop rock, with hits such as this one:

谢绝推销爱的你 (Xie Jue Tui Xiao Ai De Ni) – Decline to Sell your Love

But with songs such as Decline to Sell your Love, Leehom also shows hints of wanting to venture into musical fusion.

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YAM Magazine editor, photographer, blogger, translator and part-time web designer. Film junkie, music junkie… and lately series (a.k.a. TV) junkie.

18 Responses

  1. Jim says:

    First off, I love the article, I think you did a great job writing it.

    Intro (more personal) ====
    I’m a big fan of his music. He was actually the drive behind my interest in Mandarin music. I am Chinese, but I grew up speaking Cantonese in the US. He actually grabbed my attention when I first started to learn Mandarin Chinese a few years ago. I actually self-discovered his music through youtube. I’m still not fluent but I do take the initiative to learn his lyrics (meaning/characters I don’t know) as well as other singer’s lyrics as well.

    What do I think of Leehom’s music? ====
    I think his music is outstanding. I agree with you, you’re not really going to find people that top his music in the Chinese music industry. He have so many great qualities. He plays so many instruments, have great vocals, composes his own music, and doesn’t limit himself to one genre. His willingness to explore and experiment with new music is something to be admired. It shows that he makes music for music. Unlike you, I still love his ballads more, but I did began to love his chinked-out music a lot too. I don’t think I get biased about his music because there are songs I don’t like from him and I’m not going to suddenly like them because of him.

    Besides composition, I love the way he expresses himself through his music. Sometimes when you listen to his music, you can feel that it is him because he often composes/write through his own experiences. It been rumored that many of his ballads are based on his love life. If it is true (which I strongly believe is), it is unfortunate, but his music is very touching and feels almost like a diary.

    What are my favorite Leehom songs? ====
    Favorite one is actually 永远的第一天 (Forever’s First Day). It’s an old track from 2000, but I love it. People usually say it is romantic, I agree that it is but I usually find it more powerful/sad. I think it is sad because to me it shows such a strong desire to reunite with the other part and that he loves her so much, but it may only stay as a dream.

    Other Top Favorites of Mine ===
    Mostly songs that I find his vocals best
    安全感 (Sense of Security)
    爱错 (Loved Wrongly)
    Kiss Goodbye
    唯一 (One & Only)
    你不在 (You’re not Here)

    All of which I believe he performed great live.

    I like his new single “open fire,” but I’m not too big on it because of the musical style, just not my usual taste. I do love the lyrics actually because it’s very bold and expressive. When you listen to it you can think, this is leehom, this is him speaking his mind and not focusing on playing safe.

    I wrote a bit more than I expected, I apologize for that lol.

    • amy says:

      @Jim, thanks for the comment.

      I love when artists get you to learn their language to be able to understand their songs. It’s unusual to find fans that predate all the way back to his 2000 album. I would have probably made this a 20-track list if I’ve had access to some of the previous albums.

      I also love Leehom’s ballads, though his voice doesn’t move me as… let’s say Zhou bichang, I admire his talent. I really really wish he were more famous beyond the Chinese language music scene. I also don’t like some of his tracks, but I think he makes up for those skip songs with some of his best tracks. It’s not like he puts one-track albums like some other artists. xD

      I would love to see him live once.

      • Jim says:


        Yeah, despite not being an early fan of Leehom’s, I have explored his earlier works. Usually this is discouraging for artists with 5+ albums (and he had like 13), but because he doesn’t do one-track albums like you said, and he often maintain variety, I have found many of his albums quite rewarding to visit. His first set of albums, of course, is still harder to get into as it it comes from an earlier decade, but still many I like:

        Last night, 如果你听见我的歌, 白纸, dream again, 愛在思念蔓延時, 信任, 公轉自轉, 愛你等於愛自己, 流泪手心, Julia, 失去了你, etc

        Furthermore how I can’t agree more that beginning with Leehom is dangerous for getting into Chinese music because he’s really hard to top. It’s unfortunate despite his popularity that it seems there are still many who don’t recognize his talent, usually classifying him as a primary ballad or hip hop artist, never seeing both or beyond that.

        Zhou bichang, I recognized her more as Bibi Zhou myself. I think you mistakenly classified her as a he above. I actually knew of her name for quite a bit of time, but it never clicked to me to listen to her as I never heard her music before. So I took the chance today to listen to a few of her songs and I liked it, I think I understand what you see in her singing.

        If you don’t mind, I would like to ask for some of your personal bibi zhou recommendations for starters.

        • amy says:

          @Jim, heh. the “I admire his talent” part was referring to Leehom’s. But that’s my own fault at writing. I do love BiBi, though.

          I love Leehom’s Julia as well, but I wasn’t able to get his older albums… so my collection of him only reaches until Forever’s First Day.

          In terms of commercial Chinese music, yes – starting with Leehom can be terribly disappointing, unless… you decide to explore more indie and not so popular music. I love that I’ve gotten to know a lot about the pop folk indie Taiwan scene (like Cheer Chen) – I particularly love Crowd Lu’s happy music. Then there’s also some older music like Mavis Fan – 范曉萱 – (I think if you love Leehom’s jazzy stuff, you will love her music) or Ding Wei 丁薇 even though she hasn’t released an album in like… forever!

        • amy says:

          @Jim, in terms of Bibi… we cover her career on the site, so just check through her tag. All her discography has been reviewed, and we’re expecting to get a profile on her sometime soon.

          Though I really REALLY love her voice in her ballads (like Season, or I Miss U Missing Me)… be it a pop ballad or an R&B one or a zhongguo feng one – I like her weird stuff like most of her fast tracks on her album WOW or some other tracks like Poisonous Mushroom 毒蘑菇.

  2. I first came across Leehom from a song called Gai Xi Xiong (I hope I spelled that right; I don’t pretend to know any kind of Chinese dialect). He thoroughly impressed me, I must say. However, I don’t know much about him beyond the song I just mentioned and another called Ge re Man (again, hope I spelled that right).

    It’s interesting that he’s been around for so long and that he’s released so much music. It’s also interesting to know how versatile he is. I’ll have to dig a little deeper and find some more of his music because he seems like quite an underrated artist (though, I imagine, not in Asia).

    • amy says:

      @Camiele White, LOL. The song you’re referring to is Heroes of the Earth (Gai Shi Ying Xiong) xD it’s also included on the list if you check it out. And I think the other might be Brothers (Ge Er Men).

      I think this list does a good job at showing some of the variety of Leehom’s music, and still leaves plenty of good stuff to listen to. So don’t forget to check out these 15 songs!

  3. ghost says:

    I don’t know how Leehom manages to release 3 compilation albums. It seems weird, but you managed to get a decent list compared to his compilation.

    • amy says:

      @ghost, I’ve never checked his compilation album. I wonder if he cheats and repeats songs in his collections hahaha. I think I was one of the first to compile all his studio albums (sans the rare years) into one file. xD

      Sorry, Leehom!

  1. September 24, 2012

    […] as Gwang-dae? Lee Hom Wang’s use of traditional Chinese music in pop songs, a style he calls “chinked out”? Taiko drumming, with its catchy beats and showmanship? Or could it be versions of American forms […]

  2. January 21, 2013

    […] but fluffy lyrics. For example, with past releases Wang has looked at environmental issues and Asian American culture and identity. But younger artists who don’t have the leverage to draw crowds or ink advertising deals […]

  3. January 21, 2013

    […] but fluffy lyrics. For example, with past releases Wang has looked at environmental issues and Asian American culture and identity. But younger artists who don’t have the leverage to draw crowds or ink advertising deals […]

  4. July 12, 2014

    […] song is pure chinked-out style [1] — I mean, dude, it’s a song about the 12 Chinese zodiac animals. The music video, […]

  5. July 7, 2016

    […] one with the most collaborations outside of the group. Selina even collaborated with Leehom Wang (1) in the song You Are the Song in my Heart (你是我心內的一首歌) […]

  6. November 18, 2016

    […] The song is titled Bridge of Fate (緣分一道橋, or Yuan Fen Yi Dao Qiao) and serves as the theme song for Zhang Yimou’s upcoming –and much vilified– The Great Wall [Trailer]. White-savior aside, the song is the most Zhongguo Feng-style I can remember Leehom being since the release of The 18 Martial Arts (十八般武藝), which gave us beauties like Bo Ya Cuts the Strings (伯牙絕弦) [MV]. But this here is definitely a new level of Chinked-Out Style. […]

  7. November 25, 2016

    […] La canción tiene el título de Bridge of Fate (緣分一道橋, o Yuan Fen Yi Dao Qiao) y es el tema de la próxima cinta de Zhang Yimou — a la que le dieron con palo en el primer trailer — La Gran Muralla. Salvador blanco de lado, la canción es lo más zhongguo feng que recuerdo de Leehom desde el lanzamiento de The 18 Martial Arts (十八般武藝), que nos dio gemas como Bo Ya Cuts the Strings(伯牙絕弦) [MV]. Pero ésto es definitivamente otro nivel de Chinked-Out Style. […]

  8. June 9, 2017

    […] have previously been set for this type of fusion music; most notably by Wang Leehom and his ‘chinked out’ style, it has been over a decade since the latter’s’ efforts were met with resonance. To […]

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