Faye Wong With or Without Makeup

In today’s People.com, we see another installment of an endless series of articles in one of the countless dailies that purport to rank or list famous beauties on the basis of one characteristic or another. You have to admit that when they’re not annoying or totally off the wall, they’re sometimes amusing and, every once in a while, interesting. I’m not sure what to make of this article.

Usually, they begin with Faye Wong (王菲) and include other prominent stars. In this article, they include Vicki Zhao (赵薇 Zhao Wei), her close friend, and Cecilia Cheung (张柏芝), the wife of Faye’s ex, Nic Tse (谢霆锋). At other times, they also include Faye’s other good friends Carina Lau (刘嘉玲) and Na Ying (那英). The point of these articles is to get the readers’ attention, which ia always good for the media business. The fact that Faye is always at the top of the list and her name is always included in the title says a lot about her appeal. The magic formula is (1) mention Faye first and (2) include a photo of her and you have an instantly popular article.

What’s interesting about this article is the point they’re trying to make — that makeup makes a tremendous difference in the beauty of stars. In this case, the writer says that Faye doesn’t look very good in the photo on the left but looks terrific in the photo on the right. But I think he just chose the wrong model to make his point. Faye is one of the few stars who looks just as great without as with makeup. Frankly, she doesn’t need makeup. She’s a natural beauty. She’s beautiful with or without. Period. All you have to do is look at her photos and videos. And these comparison photos are a good example of Faye’s beauty. Stunning on both sides.

What’s Stalling Faye Wong’s Return?

I’m sure this question has been on the minds of millions of Faye Wong (王菲) fans throughout the world for the last four years. Since her last No Faye, No Live! concert in Guangzhou on 10 January 2005, the release of the concert album in November 2004, and her To Love (將愛 Jiang Ai) album in November 2003, we have been waiting for a new album or concert performance.

Will 2009 be the year when Faye returns?

I’m not an insider like Katie Chen (陈家瑛 Chen Jiaying), Carina Lau (刘嘉玲 Liu Jia Ling), Vicki Zhao (赵薇 Zhao Wei), or Ma Jia (马葭) so I can’t answer this question with any kind of authority, but like most of you, I’ve been following her career very closely and have a number of thoughts on what may be keeping Faye from returning to her performing career.


(Photo source: 7_70)

There are a number of clues that might, together, provide an explanation:

Clue 1. Faye isn’t motivated by money. She never has been and probably never will. Thus, multimillion dollar offers may not have the appeal that it does for most people.

Clue 2. She’s not staying away because of the children, Tong Tong (竇靖童 Dou Jingtong) and Li Yan (李嫣), as many believe. Yes, she loves them and enjoys caring for them, but in the past, she resumed her career almost immediately after Tong Tong’s birth.

Clue 3. Since Coming Home in August 1992, every album has been different in the sense that, in each, Faye pushes the envelope, experimenting and trying new things. The point is that her discography since 1992 is a continuous progression, development, or growth. In her last album, Jiang Ai, Faye served as co-producer, with Zhang Ya Dong (張亞東), of the entire album. She also composed and wrote three of the songs, the title track “To Love,” “Leave Nothing” (不留), and “Sunshine Dearest” (陽寶), and she composed the music for “April Snow” (四月雪).

Clue 4. She’s not resting, as many seem to believe. Faye has tremendous energy and strength, and the reason for her absence from the limelight isn’t physical.

Clue 5. She’s not being restrained or held back by her husband, Li Yapeng (李亚鹏), as some believe. In fact, LYP is her biggest fan and would want nothing better than to see and hear Faye perform once again. However, to his credit, he’s leaving the decision solely in her hands.

Clue 6. Faye hasn’t lost her voice as some speculate. Her voice and talents are part of her DNA, and she can’t lose what’s a natural part of her. Also, her 18 May 2008 earthquake relief live performance with Faith Yang ( 杨乃文, Yang Nai Wen), Eason Chan (陈奕迅, Chen Yi Xun, ), and Aniu (阿牛) in “Wishing We Last Forever” demonstrated to the world that her voice is as beautiful as ever.

Clue 7. She hasn’t lost her looks. All one has to do is look at her recent photos and videos. She is absolutely gorgeous!

Clue 8. Faye isn’t restless, and this is a major reason, I think, for her reluctance to reignite her career. In the past, her creative juices flowed when she was restless or impatient. It’s almost as though she’s driven by an inner force that only she can feel — a force that can be released only through creative expression in music.

Clue 9. She hasn’t seen or heard anything in the current music scene to spark her creative energies. There’s no modern day equivalent of Teresa Teng (鄧麗君 Deng Lijun) or Cocteau Twins to inspire her. And her former collaborators, Zhang and Lin Xi (林夕), as well as C. Y. Kong, Dou Wei (竇唯), and Nic Tse (谢霆锋 Xie Tingfeng), haven’t been working with her to create new material.

Clue 10. Faye has never said that she’s retired or retiring from her career. And this is perhaps the most important clue. She’s leaving the door open simply because she may want to step into the recording studio when the spirit moves her. There’s no timetable. It’s just a matter of waiting for the right moment to strike, when her adrenaline and restlessness kicks in.

A Likely Scenario for Faye’s Return

So, given these clues, what’s a likely scenario for her return? My guess is that either or both Zhang and Lin Xi will have to make the first move by presenting Faye with new songs or concepts that could be exciting for her. It’ll have to be sufficiently different, new, and edgy, and it’ll have to be something that fits Faye and represents, for her, growth.

These two have collaborated extensively with Faye in the past, and, together, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I’d also toss C. Y. Kong, Dou Wei, and Nic into the mix. Faye brings out the genius in each of these guys, and, together, they could create the kind of music that would stir the restlessness or anxiety within Faye that seeks creative expression in music.

In this scenario, Faye would play many different roles, as she has in the past, when she felt in sync with her collaborators, and these roles will include bouncing off her partners and adding her own touches, including original compositions or lyrics or both.

These individuals, including Faye, intuitively realize that, alone, each can’t grow. It’s only in collaboration that they can transcend the limits of their own talents and create music that’ll take them and the entire industry to a whole new level.

So, how do we get this ball rolling? I’d say that someone has to take the initiative, the first step. And from where I’m sitting, the most likely candidate for this task is Katie. She has the personality, the power, and the talent to bring people together. She needs to make this happen by contacting the individuals and asking them to work with Faye to take up where she left off in 2005.

The goal would definitely not be to do an oldies-but-goodies rehash of past hits. Instead, it would be to continue the growth that stopped in 2005, to take the next step into a new and different sound that is purely Faye Wong.

Rare Songs – Faye & Chilam Duet on Heart Sutra

Here’s a fascinating and rare version of “Heart Sutra” (心經), featuring Faye Wong (王菲) and Chilam Cheung (张智霖, Zhang Zhi Lin, Julian Cheung), added to YouTube by QSelenan on 4 Aug 2008. This version was incorrectly identified as a duet with Nic Tse  (谢霆锋,  Xie Tingfeng), Faye’s ex, in the Aug 4 publication of this post. After a correction by Marc Chen (see comments), the post was revised and republished under its current title on Aug 6.

The song is in Cantonese, and I like the understated way they’ve approached the recording. The video is really audio with a static photo so I ripped the song and haven’t included the video. (But if you want to view it, click here.) I downloaded (from Cookie’s Buddhist Site) and added a second version of the same song on 8.6.08. The quality is better.

“Heart Sutra,” a duet with Faye Wong and Chilam Cheung.

Added 8.6.08: Here’s a second version of the same song from Cookie’s Buddhist Site.

Hong Kong Stars High on Faye Wong

Nic Tse (谢霆锋, Xie Tingfeng), Joey Yung (容祖儿), and Hins Cheung (张敬轩, Zhang Jing Xuan), Hong Kong stars who participated in the earthquake relief concert, were all very enthusiastic about Faye Wong’s (王菲) return. Nic and Joey, together, said they hope she’ll sing again. They said they love to hear her sing. Hins praised Faye’s charisma. He said that if Faye does a concert in Hong Kong, he’d support her whole-heartedly. In her blog, Zheng Xi Yi (郑希怡, Yumiko Cheng), a Taiwan pop singer, expressed hope that Faye will return to her career, saying that her songs “comfort the soul.” [Source: Sina Net, 20 May 2008; Star.pclady.com, 19 May 2008]

Nic Tse (谢霆锋, Xie Tingfeng), Joey Yung (容祖儿), and Hins Cheung (张敬轩, Zhang Jing Xuan)

‘To Love’ — Faye Wong’s Last Official Album

After all is said and done, Faye Wong (王菲) is about her music, her albums, live performances, and MVs. To even begin a discussion of her music is daunting. Where do you start? It’s nearly impossible to comprehend, but the entire body of her work is excellent. By far, though, in terms of recordings and pure sound quality, her CD albums are probably at the very top. Again, the problem is where to begin. They’re all, every album, every track, phenomenally good. It’s difficult to find a weak track in the entire bunch. Her last official album, released nearly five years ago, in November 2003, is perhaps as good a place as any to begin. (She did produce an album a year later, in November 2004, but it was a live recording of her Hong Kong Coliseum 2003 Christmas Eve concert.) It was the first official album that I purchased, after “discovering” her in 2005.

Each image is from one of the MVs, in track order.

The album title is To Love (Jiang Ai 將愛, Sony, Nov 2003). Here’s a list of the first ten tracks, which are all in Mandarin. Each is linked to a video.

1. To Love (Jiang Ai 將愛, written & composed by Faye)

2. Empty City (Kong Cheng 空城)
3. No Staying (Bu Liu 不留, written & composed by Faye)
4. A Beautiful Mistake (Mei Cuo 美錯)
5. Passenger (Cheng Ke 乘客)
6. Sunflower (Yang Bao 陽寶, written & composed by Faye)
7. Merry-Go-Round (Xuan Mu 旋木)
8. April Snow (Si Yue Xue 四月雪, composed by Faye)
9. Make Up (Ye Zhuang 夜妝)
10. Smoke (Yan )

If you’re new to Faye’s music and don’t have this album, I’d suggest focusing on listening in the first go around, rather than watching the video. The visuals are eye-catching and may be distracting if you want to get a feel for the full richness of her voice.

Many don’t realize the extent to which Faye is involved in the creation and development of her albums. For example, she wrote and composed three of the songs: “To Love,” “No Staying,” and “Sunflower.” And she composed a fourth, “April Snow.” Also, for the first time, she co-produced the entire album. The result is stunning. Every track is a masterpiece, unique yet an integral part of the whole. The opening drums in the title track will absolutely blow you away. And from there on in, to the very last track, you’ll be in for the ride of your life. In future articles, I’ll get into some of the songs, but for now, I’ll leave it to you to enjoy and appreciate.

The ultimate test for an exceptional album or any great work of art is staying power. You don’t ever get tired of listening to it, and every time you do, you discover something new, something you’d missed or overlooked. This is the way it is with Faye’s albums, they never get old, and that’s the way it is with To Love. After five years, there’s really nothing in the pop music landscape — in China or the world — that comes even close to rivaling what Faye has accomplished in this album. (And the same could be said for her other albums as well.) The creativity, the beauty, are unrivaled. And, I might add, this is the way it is with Faye herself. Her photos, films, MVs, and live appearances all have a quality that’s not unlike Mona Lisa’s smile, a mysterious depth that fascinates without end.

Closing notes: I couldn’t find MVs for the last three tracks, which were in Cantonese: “MV,” composed by her ex-boyfriend Nic Tse (Xie Tingfeng 谢霆锋), “In the Name of Love” (Cantonese version of “Jiang Ai”), and “Withered Flower” (Cantonese version of “Passenger”). My guess is that they were never made into MVs. “MV” is an especially beautiful song that spotlights Faye’s ability to use her voice as an instrument, and this song is an intricate dance between her voice and the other instruments.

The sound quality in these MVs is quite good and fine for normal listening. However, to get a feel for the beauty and quality of Faye’s music, you really need to get your hands on original-release CDs. New ones are hard to come by. Even this, her latest, is rarely available in new condition. Used copies come up once in a while in online sites such as Amazon, eBay, etc. The next alternative is re-released versions, and these are readily available at reasonable prices. Often, the quality “seems” better because of re-engineering made possible by advances in technology, but the changes may alter the sounds a bit, and for purists, this may not be acceptable.

Needless to say, the sound quality will also depend heavily on your listening equipment. The better your equipment, the greater your enjoyment. My favorite mode is via headphones, in this lineup: CD tracks ripped losslessly onto my hard drive > Foobar2000 audio player > USB > HeadRoom Desktop balanced headphone DAC/amplifier > balanced Sennheiser HD650 heaphones.