Those Flowers – A Mystery?

Pu Shu (树) released “Those Flowers” (那些花儿, Na Xie Hua Er) in September 2003 and since then it’s been one of the most popular modern Chinese ballads ever. It seems everyone, pros and amateurs alike, has performed and recorded it. YouTube is filled with homespun covers. It doesn’t come close to the number of imitators for Faye’s “Eyes on Me,” but the numbers are way up there. Some refer to it as China’s version of the early-1960s American folk classic “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” Musically, I think “Those Flowers” is far, far better. It’s a beautiful ballad — one of the most beautiful I’ve ever heard. And a major reason is its simplicity. This is one song I don’t get tired of listening to.

The audio for Pu Shu’s version is below (D). It was ripped from a YouTube video of his live version, uploaded by Zuoricxzhyf on 14 Oct 2007. There’s also an MV, added to YouTube by Hisashilx on 24 Sep 2007.

A number of Faye’s “Those Flowers” videos are available on YouTube. All are amateurish fan recordings of poor quality, and of the ones that I found and viewed, all but one are from Faye’s 2004 Beijing concert. An example is Adelineshim’s YouTube addition of 11 Mar 2007. The exception is Fayechan’s 5 Dec 2007 YouTube upload, which is from the 21 May 2004 Shanghai concert.

There’s also an audio only version (see A below, “studio” version). I found it on Wubing’s Always There for You blog. A similar audio version is available on Imeem, uploaded by Kai M in Apr 2008. These are similar to the audio-only video, which I found at tv.mofile.com.

Of the three major Faye versions, A is far superior in quality.

Now, for the mystery. I’m not 100% sure that A, the studio version, is sung by Faye. The reason is the difference in quality. If she never entered a studio to record it, then it must’ve been professionally taped during one of her live performances in China. (It has to be China because “Those Flowers” wasn’t included in concerts outside of China.) Yet, as you’ll see when you listen to A, the background is absolutely silent. You don’t hear the audience at all. If this feat can actually be accomplished via sound engineering, then I’d have no doubts. But can it? You’d think some audience noise would seep in. The other alternative is that Faye actually did record this song in a studio but it was never released. However, I haven’t seen or heard any proof of this.

Some fayenatics believe that A is actually a cover by Fan Fan (Fan Wei Chi, 范玮琪). However, if you listen to Fan Fan’s MV (uploaded by Addie5101 on 9 Aug 2006) and live video (uploaded by Hahahehe168 on 23 March 2008), you can hear a huge difference. A is definitely not Fan Fan.

I’ve listened to other female covers of “Those Flowers” on YouTube, and the only videos that come close to A are Faye’s. If you listen to the Beijing version, you may not be totally convinced. But if you listen to the Shanghai version (B), you may be. I’m about 99% convinced that A is sung by Faye, and if it was recorded live, then it was the Shanghai concert.

Listen and see what you think. If you have any information that can help us decide, one way or the other, if A is Faye’s, then please add a comment.

A. This audio-only (“studio”) version is technically the best of the bunch, but is it Faye?

B. Faye’s live Shanghai concert version — sounds very similar to A.

C. Audio of Fan Fan’s MV version — doesn’t sound like A at all.

D. P u Shu’s live version.

Added 8.4.08:

E. Another version of Faye’s live performance submitted by Wubing 8.4.08.

[Added 10.8.08Those Flowers – No Longer a Mystery!]

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32 Responses

  1. I don’t think the first song is sung by Faye. This is not based in any facts, its just the opinion of someone that listens and knows Faye’s music. The voice is somewhat similar to Faye’s, but the way of singing seems to me very different. And there’s also all the other logical reasons you mencioned: “Those Flowers” was only sung by Faye live and this seems to be a studio version.

  2. Hi, Leelee2046. You’re right about the difference in voices.In A (audio only), the pronunciation of words is slightly different from Faye’s. Faye’s voice is a little warmer, less crystalline. But in the la-la parts, the similarities are very strong. I’m still not sure, one way or the other. If it’s not Faye, I wonder who it is. Thanks for the feedback.

    BTW, I revised the original post because the writing was so confusing. I decided to use letters such as A and B instead. Hopefully, it’s easier to follow now.

  3. Hi Feifan,

    I been a Faye’s fan since 1990, and I feel only she can give me a very special feeling when listen to her song, and when I listen to the studio version, it feel very Faye to me. I really don’t think anyone can do such a close to Faye feel other than Faye herself. What u think? Maybe she did this song for some compilation album, maybe she did this song cos she love it so much, after all as a queen of pop, she can easily access to record a song as and when she like. Maybe she did it for herself, but it was leaked out? A lot of maybe but to tell me it was sang by some one else, I feel abit weird.

  4. Think only she can la la la like that.

  5. At the end of the song, there is a “recording” sound like it was a stop or something, maybe engineered ? Maybe Faye did it while concert rehersing – hahaha I really dont know but just cant feel anyone can sing like that, if so, Faye is “so easily” replaced right. I just don’t think it is not Faye.

  6. Hi Wubing. As you can see from the article, I agree with you 99% that it’s Faye. Especially that la-la-la part. But there’s still that nagging 1% that says there’s enough of a difference in voice quality that it could be someone else. I just don’t know. But fayenatics that I respect a lot (Leelee2046, for example, as well as others) are convinced it’s not Faye so the 1% doubt remains. Until we have irrefutable evidence that it’s someone else or that it’s Faye, we won’t know for sure. You make a good case, though, for how the recording might’ve been done and distributed, but . . .

  7. Hmm ya than let me be one of your 1% too hehe.

  8. Comparing the A version to the recording from Faye’s concert, I’m not convinced at all the version A is Faye. As soon as I played version A I thought “yeah this sounds like Faye, the high notes are very crisp and the lalala’s are faye-like”. But as the song went on, the pronounciation and the way each word tailed off did not sound like Faye at all. Version A lacks the lilt and maturity in Faye’s voice especially if this version was ‘recorded’ around 2004. Version A has the technical ability of Faye but did not have the charm or personality of Faye in it. Throughout the concert version you can really hear the Faye nuances that us fans are very familiar with.

  9. Hey,

    It is absolutely not Faye, I have no facts, but I can hear it clearly, no doubt this isn’t Faye…

  10. I am sure it is not faye, faye’s singing style is very different in recent years

    This girl sings like faye did in 1994 and has a different voice

  11. Wubing, looks as though we’re in the 1% that believes the studio version may be Faye. We’re totally outnumbered. LOL!

    All we need now is for Faye to log in and say, “Lah, that’s me in the studio version!”

    IF this isn’t Faye, then who is it? If Faye (or Katie) doesn’t set the record straight (pardon the pun) or if no one can positively ID the singer, then we’re still at square one — 99 to 1.

  12. I dun think it is faye bcos the some part of the high notes are different with faye

  13. You’re right, Lonely Teacher, but I’d give anything to hear Faye do a studio recording of this song. She’d blow the competition away and have an instant megahit! I guess those who believe even just a little that this is Faye are just wishing that they could hear Faye do a decent recording of this song. Tkx for the comment.

  14. Hmmm, something’s wrong with this website, when i click ‘submit comment’, it shows me ‘discarded’…

  15. Hi, Dan. The message came through OK. I wonder what happened. Let me know if the same thing happens again.

  16. OK, try again. Hope nothing goes wrong…

    I search for version A using google, but no results…too bad.

    Here is a few more versions of the song.

    http://www.nowok.net/Music/fc0941bdb5456e5b.shtml

    A mainland male singer, Ma Tian Yu(马天宇)’s version of those flower(那些花儿).

    http://99.cn/music/56603/

    A mainland singer, Zhang Dan Dan(张丹丹)’s version of those flower(那些花儿).

    http://www.show160.com/music/gequ44689.htm

    A mainland male singer, Zhang Xiao Yu(张晓雨)’s version of those flower(那些花儿).

  17. Dan, so we still don’t know who’s singing version A. In time, I’m sure we’ll find out. Someone must know. I was able to listen to Dan Dan’s version. I like it. I wasn’t able to listen to the other 2 via the links you provided. I found Ma Tian Yu’s on YouTube and will post the recording I got off of that.

  18. From my 18 years of experience as a fayenatic, a is definitely not faye, b is definitely faye, hehe. A sounds more like teenage faye in her miss charming albums, it lacks many of the nuances we love about faye’s singing.

  19. LOL! Aznfayeth, I feel exactly the way you do! One side of me, the rational objective side, sez, “Nah, it’s not Faye.” But the other, hopeful and wishful side, sez, “YES! It’s FAYE! How wonderful!” LOL! Now you’re making me hope that it’s a recording that Faye made when she was younger. Just when I’ve about convinced myself that it’s not Faye. Oh no!

  20. Hmm, I dont think it is teenage faye because the song was released in 2003 according to your background story…

  21. Aznfayeth, yes, you’re right. In fact, Faye couldn’t possibly have sung this song as a teenager since it was released by Pu Shu in 2003. Thanks for the correction.

  22. This live version sang by Faye is AWESOME !!!

    I hope she could record this song again in her future album.

  23. Boon Wah, this is one of the best ballads ever written — not just in China but in the world. If Faye released a studio version of it, it would be an automatic mega hit! Her version would become the standard, and all others would pale in comparison.

  24. Version A is definitely not Faye, even the la-la-la part is not close to Faye’s version.

    Not anyone can sing like Faye, that’s why she is irreplaceable……

    I LOVE FAYE & I LOVE THIS BLOG, WELL DONE!

  25. I agree with u 100%! No one can sing like Faye. She’s a one off in voice, looks, style, personality — you name it. The vast majority of stars will do anything to be in the limelight. Not Faye. She remains true to herself and doesn’t fake it. This is the kind of integrity that places her on a pedestal that no other performer could ever hope to reach. And as Maggie Q sez, second place isn’t even close.

  26. Feifan, ever since you published version A, I’ve been listening to it 50 times and I have to admit the more I listen the more I am convinced it isn’t her. I also listened to various artists’ performances and true this one comes close. I noticed 2 technical aspects: (1) key – same key used – most artists will use key that suits their natural vocal cord when doing the same cover (2) lyrics – only Faye and version A use lyrics “xing yun de shi wo, ceng pei ta men kai fang” (sorry I am not familiar with Chinese character input) which are not used by Pu Shu in his original. However, Faye in 2 of her live versions used “du..” rather than “la..” towards the end. I absolutely agree if she will do a studio version in her next album it will be an instant hit arousing critics to compare with other versions.

  27. Man, jeffrey827, that’s a super fine analysis! Re #1: I didn’t realize Faye’s and A’s versions were in the same key. Maybe that’s why Wubing and I are still holding out an ever shrinking hope that it just might be Faye. I guess I can remove one of the 9s and say I’m only 99.9% sure that it’s not Faye. Re #2: You’ve got sharp ears! Faye and version A both use the same lyrics! OK, I’m down to 99%! Oh, but Faye says “la” rather than “du” — I guess I’ll have to tack a couple 9s back on — 99.99%. Seriously, though, this song is beautiful, and everyone sings it really well — Dan’s proven that with all his references to other versions. The problem is that all Faye fans know that she could do it a whole lot better with a decent recording. The live version that we have is a rare treasure, but the recording was done by a fan with minimal equipment and in an area with a lot of noise. When she releases a studio version, it’s going to set a new standard that no one will be able to reach!

  28. Now that I am hooked I listened to them a few more times. There are 3 lyrical differences between version A and the live version (by the way I think Wu Bing’s is the same as yours except yours didn’t start at the beginning):
    1. Before “you xie gu shi..” at 1:40-1:45 Faye uses Bjork like “i la..”
    2. The 3rd (and the last) time “ta men yi jing bei feng..” is supposed to be recited Faye sang it as “ni men hao xiang bei feng..”. This variation is the most intriguing part for me as I don’t know if she was spontaneous with words, or she forgot or she wrote it that way before performance. This is also the reason why I believe yours is the same as Wu Bing’s as both have such variation.
    3. The 3rd (and the last) time of “la la la..” Faye did it with a combination of “la, tu, a..” like a minority dialect which is similar to how Pu Shu sang it and for that I guess Faye admires him and purposely retained a bit of his style otherwise the 2 are of very different style.
    In fact, no 2 performers use the same lyrics (so far). Also the musical notes used for the “la la la” part varies from one singer to another (again version A is very similar to Faye’s). This phenomenon usually happens to folk song and that’s why the first time I heard I couldn’t believe a young sing-a-song-writer (Pu Shu) composed it just in 2003. Perhaps Pu Shu got an “enlightenment”, an inspiration so intense that it spreads.

  29. feifan, I did some googling and manage to find the original singer of Version A!

    She is famously known as babysbaby when she first posted this song on 9sky.com, however all links to this website are broken. I managed to dig out 1 which is still active and some information about this singer.

    Below are some of the links:

    http://a8.ent.tom.com/player/splay.php?songid=303445
    (link to the song ‘those flowers’)

    http://blog.fenbei.com/1033452
    (link to other songs by babysbaby)

    http://www.babysbaby.net/blog/33
    (link to her comments about this song)

    Well… The truth is out now, no longer a mystery.

  30. Hi, I am a fan of Faye too from Singapore. A is definately not Faye. It has a very different voice from her. Anyway, I just want to say that the girl sang quite well though.

  31. Hi, Photosophize. It’s funny how I loved A as long as I thought there was even a small chance that it was Faye. However, when Peppar (Oct 8) finally proved, once and for all, that A was sung by Babysbaby, I removed it from my playlist. I hope Faye does a studio recording of “Those Flowers” when she returns.

  32. The girl who singed (A) was deffenatly not Faye. She sounds so different compare to Faye

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