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]

A week of Meteor Garden, day one: the boys that made it possible

“絕不能失去你” by F4 | This week Shalla and I are flying to Taipei, so what better time to revisit Meteor Garden? Yes, that Taiwanese television series that took the Philippines by storm roughly fourteen years ago. Ah, those were the days. I was just 14. My sister and cousin – one and two years behind, respectively – were really into this series. I can’t remember who they were into, but I’m pretty sure one was for Vic Zhou and another was for Vanness Wu. Me, I just watched the series, keenly interested. This song was everywhere when the show was. Even the radio stations that usually wouldn’t play anything that’s not in English did. This was inescapable, and so it was seared in our collective memories, that when Meteor Garden was aired again on ABS-CBN (with much fanfare) this became the de facto theme song, and not the actual theme song, which we’ll write about tomorrow. (Apparently, turns out, this is the theme song to the second season of Meteor Garden, which I enjoyed less because… who the hell is that girl?) But why not? Growing up we saw everybody imitate F4 – Jerry and Vic and Ken and Vanness, pointing to the sky, moving their arms at just the right speed. So dreamy, so optimistic. What a world that was back then. [NB]