Hey everyone, thanks so much for the support for my last post. I’m way too unhealthily invested in this show, and I really need an excuse to spazz and discuss with people, so I decided to do recaps! If you guys like it, I’ll keep doing it for the rest of the season :D
I’ll start with this week’s episode 7, which coincides with the first episode of the second round competition.
Second round rules:
- Top 8 contestants for each judge have to compose a new song within 24 hours, based on a theme given by their judge.
- The contestants are divided into four pairs randomly. Only one contestant from each pair gets to go into the next round.
- In addition, the judge gets to pick one contestant from the four leftover pairs to go forward.
- Next, the top 5 contestants will perform their composition on the big stage.
- 51 “media representatives” vote “Yes” or “No” on each contestant, so each contestant basically gets a score out of 51.
- After all the voting, each judge (excluding the competing group’s judge) gets to give 5 points to one contestant of their choice.
- Contestant with overall highest score automatically goes into finals.
- Finally, the competing group’s judge can choose the runner-up who will also go into finals. This choice is independent of the score, and is completely up to the judge’s discretion.
We start with judge 刘欢 Liu Huan’s group, whose theme is “去年”, meaning “last year”. His top 8 and their musical styles are:
- 裸儿 Luo Er – Experimental indie folk
- 刘胡轶 Liu Hu Yi – Ballad
- 马条 Ma Tiao – Folk
- 赵牧阳 Zhao Mu Yang – Folk-rock
- 人声兄弟 Ren Sheng Xiong Di (means “human voice bros” lol) – Acapella pop
- 那吾克热 Na Wu Ke Re – Rap
- 刘雨潼 Liu Yu Tong – Indie pop
- 杭盖乐队 Hanggai – Post-rock/folk-rock
The team allocations are:
- Team A – Ren Sheng Xiong Di, Hanggai
- Team B – Ma Tiao, Liu Yu Tong
- Team C -Zhao Mu Yang, Luo Er
- Team D – Na Wu Ke Re, Liu Hu Yi
The first part of the episode focused on the 24 hours composition process. The contestants each had a room to themselves, complete with a keyboard and guitar. They were given free reign to roam the building and do whatever they wanted in the time.
Liu Huan also invited a music producer and lyricist to help contestants with advice during the process. What was really nice was that even though the contestants were split into pairs, it’s ultimately still all about yourself and your music, so the sense of competition was actually not that high. I loved how they bonded over lunch and booze LOL.
- The music veterans Ma Tiao and Zhao Mu Yang were clear about what they wanted to express and quickly submitted their songs to Liu Huan after about 3 hours.
- Zhao Mu Yang said he dedicated his song, called 风儿吹 Wind Blows, to all the contestants on the show, because he feels really bad that so many contestants could not proceed, and he hopes that this round he stays behind so others can move forward.
- Meanwhile, Zhao’s neighbor, Luo Er has yet to start working on the music. Since the start, she’s been painting on her desk and even painted an entire glass panel. Liu Huan jokes that she’s converted to a 24 hour interior designer… She’s definitely an oddball, and a little clueless hah, but she’s so cute. After painting, though, she immediately found inspiration for her song and submitted it quickly after 12 hours.
- Liu Yu Tong struggled a lot for his song. He said he was on the verge of breakdown after nearing the 20 hour mark and still being unable to lockdown the right lyrics. Poor guy. But he made it through.
- Na Wu Ke Re is just adorable. Because Ma Tiao, his neighbor, left really early on, he said he finally felt free and started blasting beats in his room ha!
It’s a real pity that due to time constraints, the show did not reveal the entire compositions of every one. So for those who did not make it to the performance round, we can only fall back on snippets and trust Liu Huan’s judgement.
The top 5 contestants:
- Team A – Hanggai
- Team B – Ma Tiao
- Team C – Luo Er (Aww, you should’ve seen how happy Zhao Mu Yang was that Luo Er got in instead of him sniff.)
- Team D – Na Wu Ke Re (He was so shocked he made it. Adorable!)
- The fifth comeback contestant was revealed later on in the performance stage.
So, later that night or some time later (the editing and structure of this show is really unclear, since it was mostly pre-filmed…), we arrive at the performance stage for the top 5 of Liu Huan’s group.
First up was Na Wu Ke Re, with his song “四季” or “Four Seasons”.
- My score on the music: 7/10
- My score on the performance: 9/10
- Media vote: 45/51
- Comments: What an explosive performance! 简直嗨翻天 The level of his energy is absolutely infectious and the slower beat of the hook is catchy and works to balance out the rap verses pretty well. His lyrics are also adorable, and his passion for music definitely shines through. I especially like the “Oh no please” interjections which are pretty funny, but the icing on the cake is the “功夫不负有心人” transition phrase between the verse and chorus which really encapsulates his story and shakes up the song musically. Kudos to the producer who thought of the instrumental bridge, lovely touch. Maybe it’s just me but his rap is still the strongest in his native Uygher language. Is Mandarin is just less powerful rhythmically or is he just less comfortable speaking it?
Next, we have Luo Er with “呐喊” or “Scream”.
- My score on the music: 8/10
- My score on the performance: 7/10
- Media vote: 25/51
- Comments: She’s magical. Literally out of this world. I think this song isn’t as good as the song she submitted in the first round…I agree some of the transitions are a little jarring. But the entire imagery of this song is indescribable – about an angel who descends onto earth, and screams for the loss of beauty and the destruction. She found the inspiration for the song in her drawings. Perhaps I’m in this phase where I’ve gotten jaded by very precise, very produced music that the freedom of form and the purity in her music speaks to me, but I truly think she has something most of us today have lost, a certain purity that brings from an urge to protect and preserve and let run free.
Third is Ma Tiao with 收获, meaning “Harvest”. It’s a song he writes about his new born son.
- My score on the music: 7/10
- My score on the performance: 8/10
- Media vote: 38/51
- Comments: Liu Huan cried. He said that music that comes from the soul speaks to the soul. Ma Tiao’s heartfelt love for his son moves despite, or perhaps because, of its utterly stripped down simplicity.The melody is, however, quite conventional.
Hanggai, with 轮回 Reincarnation.
- My score on the music: 10/10
- My score on the performance: 10/10
- Media vote: 49/51
- Comments: This is sacred. Sacred. The magnanimity and spirituality of this song…just blows you away. It is so layered, so ambient, so emotionally affecting.
Finally, the revived contestant is Liu Yu Tong, with 留给昨天 Leaving it with Yesterday.
- My score on the music: 6/10
- My score on the performance: 7/10
- Media vote: 29/51
- Comments: Pretty good for a ballad, but still a ballad. C-pop has been way too oversaturated with ballads since forever, it is just too difficult to make anything that is still interesting.
Now, the judges cast their votes:
- Zhou Hua Jian: 5 points to Na Wu Ke Re
- Yu Quan: 5 points to Hanggai
- Tanya: 5 points to Hanggai
So overall, Hanggai wins with 58 points and advances to the finals. If anything is well-deserved, this is. Na Wu Ke Re’s performance was incredibly enjoyable, but in terms of the power of the music, Hanggai is in a league of its own.
Finally, Liu Huan has to pick out the second contestant to go with him to the finals. He prefaces his choice by saying that the theme of his compilation album is “随心“, meaning to follow your heart and do whatever you think in your pursuit of music. The moment he said that, I kind of knew who he was going to pick – Luo Er. He has always expressed how much he loved her free-spirited music, that is 天马行空, able to traverse across skies and worlds in the imagination. And it’s also telling when he and Tanya exchanged these really worried and disappointed looks at the results of her media vote earlier. Like me, he simply could not let her go just like that. She is too precious.
Dude, Liu Huan loves her so much seriously.
I’m really happy they changed the second round rules to a timed composition thing. Last season, the judges just worked on improving their contestant’s original songs, which made for a pretty boring watch. Although this is far from perfect, since music is something that you just can’t force out if the time is not right. Two things I have problems with: In terms of the elimination rules, it still seems arbitrary. Like at the end of the last episode, the judges just cut their groups from 14 to 8 arbitrarily, probably due to time constraints. Then now, it’s 8 to 5 then to 2, which also seems quite rushed and harsh. Secondly, I wonder who make up the 51 voting “media representatives”. Like are they music critics, music journalists… general public? There’s so much room for behind-the-scenes meddling here, which irks me.
Lots of people were really unhappy with Luo Er getting the second spot over others. They think she’s pretentiously artistic and her music is inaccessible, hence undeserving of the spot. I can see why people would support Na Wu Ke Re more, but I agree with Liu Huan in that what she has needs to be uplifted and cultivated, and that feeling that if he doesn’t do it, no one will, or at least he’ll never forgive himself for not taking the chance. I’m not sure what they’ll do for the finals – will they work on the first or second songs? or more new songs? – but I’m excited no matter what.