Ten Chinese Albums to Brag About

Diving into the vast ocean that is music in Mandarin — we’re not even counting music in the sea of dialects that is the China/Taiwan/Hong Kong scene — can be a very intimidating task, especially for non-Mandarin speakers like me or maybe you. My journey through the Mando-music world isn’t as extensive as one would hope it’d be, barely covering four years since my interest in it sparked, yet it’s filled with a colorful palette of musical styles, genres and personalities that has kept me hooked to it throughout these years.

In my attempt to spread the love of music in Mandarin, I’ve chosen ten albums (no EPs, no minis) released between the years 2000 and 2009. The rules? One album per year, one album per artist. Hopefully, these picks will spark your interest in the diverse world of Mando-music to show you that it is not just about Mandopop and ballads…

Picking ten albums — JUST TEN ALBUMS — between a group of about one hundred albums (the ones that fulfilled the criteria) was a really excruciating task. Having to pick one artist over another, one album over the next… then again, on a broader perspective, one hundred albums over the span of 10 years is nothing, huh? It seems insignificant. What if I would have had to pick 10 albums out of 800 albums? I don’t even want to think about it.

Lucky for me (or not, depending if you’re my credit card), my music collection consists of a little over one thousand albums, so actually having heard 800 CHINESE albums seems like an impossible task at the moment. But someday, someday.

This list of music doesn’t actually show the variety that’s within the Chinese music industry — you will have to dive into the darkness of the Chinese indie scene for that — but it gives you a nice perspective of what’s in store. Most of the picks in here are major releases from known artists, with one or two exceptions, so I don’t want to read your comment saying, “I can’t believe you didn’t add…,” instead, please~

I ask you: What would your list of ten Chinese albums look like?

So without further ado, here are ten albums in Mandarin, which you can listen to as introduction to the Chinese music world… and then, you know, brag about it.

2000 – Faye Wong – Fable (寓言)

There is no list of Chinese music that respects itself if Faye Wong — the Diva of Asia — is not included, so we’re starting the millennium with her and her album Fable. Many will argue that Wong’s best work to date is her 1996 album Restless (浮躁) or her 2001 album Faye Wong (王菲) — you see WHY it was a hard list to put together?

Part Buddhism fairy tale hybrid with electronic pop rock songs, Wong’s vocals in the album soar transcending the barrier of musical genre — and possibly time and space — to take us where very few can.

You can listen to all of Faye Wong’s Fable on Xiami.

Suggestion: All of Faye Wong’s discography is worth listening to, but her body of work takes a turn from her 1996 Restless (浮躁) [Xiami] album forward until her last released album, To Love (將愛) [Xiami]. It’s exceptional.


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

5 Responses

  1. Adrienne Lew says:

    I’m so glad you picked Faye’s Fable to “brag about,” Amy.

    While Restless sure is an exceptional album by Western music standards, Fable has a special place in Faye’s discography in that the first five tracks constitute a mini-saga about the Buddhist beliefs of life, love, and destiny. Equally important is the fact that they were all composed by Faye herself, and so this mini-saga does serve as a prototype of the original Faye sound …

    And here’s my favorite track from this saga, The Cambrian Age:

    • amy says:

      @Adrienne Lew, if it’s Chinese music we’re bragging about… Faye’s gotta be there. It was either Fable or her 2001 release or Jiang Ai… in the end, had to pick one.

      What about the others? Who would you choose?

      • Adrienne Lew says:

        @amy, there’s one more album you might want to take a look at if it’s Faye’s Cantonese album we are talking about: Di Dar (1995). The title track, Vacation, Lost, and Shooting Stars were kind of trendsetting and pretty much defined Faye’s mystically tragic yet beautiful style of music.

        As for other singers, I would say it’s between Eason Chan and Jay Chou. Because of my personal bias towards rock, I’d prefer Eason over Jay (who’s strength is in producing Mandarin-style R&B).

        Here are my picks from these two singers’ discography:

        Eason Chan – Blurting Out

        Jay Chou – Williamsburg

        • amy says:

          @Adrienne Lew, I actually got almost all of Faye’s discography, and I have listened to Di-Dar :)

          I’m a little surprised… or maybe not, that you life Jay Chou. Hahaha. I don’t usually like his R&B style, but I definitely like his ballads. I also have a weakness for his country boy style hahaha.

          I’m not that familiar with Eason’s body of work, but then again… I have LOADS to catch up with~

          No pick of ten albums?

  2. Adrienne Lew says:

    @Amy, haha — no, Jay isn’t exactly my taste. But objectively speaking, he does rule in the Mandarin world of music in Asia … so I feel that I needed to pick a song or two from his discography that has this little extra something in it — like Williamburg. I love that he mixes the organ sound with the R&B beats. But between him and Eason, I’d say in a sense Eason could have been a lot more creative but is unfortunately bounded by the preference for traditional Cantopop style “karaoke” showpieces on the part of many music fans in Hong Kong.

    Speaking of this, there’s an album by Jan Lamb that’s pretty “non-mainstream” … “Thirty-Something.” And here’s my pick from that album:

    (I refer you to my blog coz there’s also the English translation — which is the whole point of this “pop song” … :P)

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