“Sa pag-alis, ako’y magbabalik, at sana naman…”

“Nobela” by Join the Club | The circumstances behind me writing about this song aren’t exactly the best: a neighbor was blasting out the karaoke one night, and he – he was the only one singing – was singing this terribly, out loud. Shalla and I were hanging out at my place, settling in to watch an episode of Sisters’ Slam Dunk, that Korean variety series revolving around the creation of a girl group (it is educational), when we got so distracted we ended up talking about this song. She thought the band was named “Join da Club”; I was perhaps the first person to think that’s ridiculous. But then, it was a flashback. This song’s a decade old, more or less. This played a lot on the radio when I was in college – bus trips back and forth from La Salle, me listening to whatever radio station struck my fancy then. I didn’t like LS then, but they played this a lot. I’m sure NU did, too. Magic, I think so, too. Anyway, what I always liked about this song is the key change before the final chorus, how it takes the whole thing on a very sad, resigned note. It’s not a shrug. There is some resistance to it. But there’s a hovering “oh, fuck it!” over the whole thing now, and I found that fascinating. The band’s still around, but back to their underground roots. I read they’re releasing a bunch of things but haven’t really made much of a dent, arguably, outside the usual circles. It’s a shame. [NB]

“Doesn’t it feel much better when you’ve had a better day than yesterday?”

“So Human” by Lady Sovereign | I do follow through on my plans. I did listen again to Couleur 3, and while I can’t write about this French song because I can’t find any lyrics to it, I will write about this song they played on the same stretch. Also, I have a question. Whatever happened to Lady Sovereign? When I was still stumbling my way into British music, she, somehow, was up there on the list. Maybe it’s the ill-informed “novelty” of a female rapper. Maybe it’s me actually liking “9 to 5”. (As well as “Nine2Five”, the one with the Ordinary Boys.) Ah, the days when I was still stumbling towards British music, when everything was (to me) fresh and new and ripe for the learning and understanding. And now you play some songs more than others, and some songs you like fall by the wayside, only to be rediscovered. So whatever happened to Lady Sovereign? She hasn’t released anything since Jigsaw back in 2009. There’s this thing about her coming out as gay and getting involved in a spitting scuffle in Australia. And then, no leads. [NB]

A week of Meteor Garden, day four: the sort of spin-offs

“My Everything” by Lee Min-ho | All right, this is cheating. Lee Min-ho, of course, is Korean. I could have talked about the other cast members of the Meteor Garden series – I already wrote about Rainie Yang before; Barbie Hsu was a singer (with her sister) before getting into acting; even Michelle Saram, the other girl on the second season, did some songs – but that’s missing the wide impact of the whole series altogether. Meteor Garden, of course, was based on the manga series Hana Yori Dango. The Taiwanese love their Japanese culture (really, it’s everywhere) and transferred that to television first; the Japanese did it next (the theme song was Arashi’s “Wish”), and then the Koreans followed suit. That meant Lee Min-ho singing a song from the soundtrack (but not any of the theme songs; T-Max did the opening, while both ending songs were from SS501, whose member, Kim Hyun-joong, stood in for Vic Zhou’s role). That also made him really popular here in the Philippines. Min-ho became like Jerry, complete with Bench endorsement deals. So, you know, parallels. And yes, there are two more versions: mainland China has its own, and even India does. As for us, well, we didn’t do our own version of this, did we? [NB]

A week of Meteor Garden, day three: that feels-y end theme

“你要的愛” by Penny Tai | I was looking through the Meteor Garden soundtrack and just realized that almost all of the songs are Western ones – and, notably, they’re relatively cheesy ballads. Looking back, it makes things much more picturesque, eh? A couple are from Taiwanese artists, and then there’s this one, from a Malaysian. Penny Tai got her start from a songwriting competition in Kuala Lumpur, but was offered a recording contract in Taiwan, so there she went, and here we are. When Harley Wu’s theme song was comforting, this one is cathartic with a capital C – although it did not prepare our weak little hearts for what was to happen next. (This clip of Shan Cai running after Dao Ming Si which closed an early episode is oft-parodied and much-remembered.) (Also, that clip had this song. Talk about gloopy.) (Also, poor oranges!) This one had the right amount of growl for us to channel those frustrations. Anyway, while Penny remains best known for that song, she’s also released a bunch of other albums, as a solo artist and as a band. But, still, this. [NB]

A week of Meteor Garden, day two: the show’s actual theme song

“情非得已” by Harlem Yu | For a moment I was distressed to learn that the F4 song I wrote about yesterday is not Meteor Garden‘s theme tune, and then I remembered that it’s this one – and I remembered that I liked it very much. Let’s put it this way: F4 was a childhood thing, so to speak. This song, I quite enjoyed. There is a bit of a carefree feel to this one – consider how idyllic high school could seem, more so in a place that’s colder and more picturesque than the Philippines will ever be. (The first time I went to Taipei, I stayed in a place across an elementary school. Close enough.) Anyway, this tune – Harlem Yu is a veteran in the Mandopop scene, having released his debut in 1986 and continuing to do so steadily. So that explains the gravitas this song has when I heard it the first time around. So assured. And, well, so picturesque. [NB]