As it probably seems obvious, there are lots of Asian songs sung in English. Lots of people whine about how these songs sound “American-wanna-be”, how bad the lyrics are, and how funny pronunciations sound… However, there are some good ones that are great for people to start their Asian music journey with. This time, I am introducing a song by Anthony Neely (a Taiwanese singer): “Wake Up”.
The experience may vary from people to people, but “Wake Up” gave me a great listening experience. The rhythm is crisp and light, yet it’s strong and catchy at the same time, which made me start tapping my feet within the song’s first verse. The melody is simple and lighthearted, which makes it easy for listeners to sing along. What really impresses me is the lyrics – it actually makes perfect sense, and it has a pretty deep meaning to it; it’s not some combination of nonsense words, it’s not some easy lines for a love song. Some lines are inspiring, such as “If you want the truth, (then) go out and get it cuz it won’t find you.”
The MV, on the other side, is colored and filmed with a vintage and funky feeling to it, and a chain of symbolic meanings are laid throughout the MV in the scattered scenes, tying the MV back to the meaning of the song. In the beginning we see a man (who is acted out by Anthony Neely, of course) dressed up in suits, sitting up in a sofa, scared and looking around. This represents the muddle-headed state that the man – who himself is a symbol of the majority of the people in the world – is in: compared to finding who he truly is and what he truly wants, he would rather stay inside the box, do whatever everyone else is doing, and keep it that way. That’s why he is so scared when the “alarm clock” of his life rings – he’s afraid of stepping out. In addition, the modern and materialistic elements such as the suit, the luxurious watch and the car all reveal the sophistication and disillusion of the society, further emphasizing the conforming life of the man.
Then the crazy scary clown comes in. The clown looks scary as he is holding a hammer, but indeed the clown represents the inside dream and the true self of the man, trying to chase the muddle-headed body and wake him up (or crush the muddle inside the man’s head using the hammer). The clown is portrayed in a funky and almost frightening way because to the man, or say, to we ourselves (the audiences), realizing the fact that “we are not awake to ourselves” is frightening. We ourselves are scared of realizing who we are, we ourselves are so used to the mode we live in that we are scared of breaking out of it and find our true selves, hence we see the clown as evil and frightening. The same technique is used on the muse park: the muse park looks creepy, but in deed it is the forgotten dream, the true desire, and the innocence and happiness of the man.
Throughout the MV, the man struggles with himself. He tries to escape from his true self, but at the same time he is yelling from the inside, struggling with the “water of messed-up life”, trying to wake up. In the end, he finally takes the courage to convert himself into one of the clowns, smashes the alarm clock, and welcomes his awakening. Here it’s also sarcastic because as the man smashes the alarm clock, he looks insane – but is he really insane? No, he just looks insane in the eyes of us, or the eyes of people who still curl up inside the tiny “box” and are afraid to step out – they are scared of this “ridiculous and wrongful” act of finding true self and awakening. At the very end of the MV, the man who already turned into a free clown and the other clowns give a mysterious laugh and wave at the audience, as if asking us:”Are you going to join us? Are you going to ‘wake up’, or are you just going to stay as a muddle-headed conformist in life?” The heavily sarcastic, symbolic and even frightening MV combines with the lighthearted and carefree melody and creates a funky clash.
Overall, from the music, the lyrics of the song, to the costume and the styling of Anthony Neely, the setting and the storyboard of the MV, “Wake Up” exhibited a funky American style that almost fooled me into believing that it’s an American song until I felt the Chinese-pop integration in the details of the song. Take the lyrics for instance, some parts of a word are repeated like “what you do-do-do-do”, “love-love” and “won’t-won’t find you”, and that is something heard often in Chinese pop (actually, all Asian pop). Also, the underscore at the bridge and some of the drum transitions are pretty typical in Chinese pop as well. And of course, some lines are sang in Chinese.
Another notable point of “Wake Up” is that Anthony Neely wrote the the lyrics himself and took part in the composition of the song. Yes, he is biracial – in fact, it’s probably this special culture combination that he grew up with that made the American funkiness of this song. What’s more, Anthony Neely always takes some responsibility in all of his songs. As a young, talented, and even good looking artist, I personally think Anthony Neely deserves more attention and value.
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Check out some other good songs by Anthony Neely:
“Nightmare”: this is a song resembles the story of Jekyll and Hyde. Jekyll laments how he can’t even see himself anymore, leaving only Hyde, the dark side of him, living in this world.
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“Awakening”: this is a song as a response to the rumored “the end of the world in 2012”. The world still exists, the morning still comes, so what are you worrying about, what are you waiting for?
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“HELP/ Save Life”: Only you can save your own life. If you don’t let go yourself, no matter how hard you cry for help, nobody is going to save you from the hell of your mental illness.
(English translation of the lyrics can be found here.)
*All pictures come from snapshots I took from the MV of “Wake Up” and the Internet. All rights reserved to original authors. All rights related to the writing reserved to Asian Music Invasion.