If you were a fan of Chinese pop during the early 1990s, you must have heard of Wang Jie 王杰, also called Wang Chieh or Dave Wang. He virtually took the Chinese music scene by storm with his powerful voice, melancholic songs and man on the street image.
Wang Jie’s songs have very simple lyrics. I even find them too colloquial and inelegant at times, but his singing is so sincere and authentic that the listener is inclined to forgive him. A painful past definitely helped Wang Jie in his expression of helplessness and despair in romantic relationships which are familiar to the general public.
Wang Jie’s popularity was due not just to his songs, but also to his image. He became a virtual friend and idol to the hordes of fans who have experienced unhappy relationships like he did. Wang Jie personified both strength and weakness. In strength, he was like a pillar. In weakness, he seemed to be seeking refuge and there were many listeners who imagined taking him under their wings.
I was an impressionable young adult back then, just graduated from university. I didn’t bother to buy Wang Jie’s albums as the nicer songs could be heard on radio all the time. It was just easy listening for me until I started putting on denim jackets and to some of my readers, I seemed to have invented a new genre called cynical romance.
The business of showbiz is not like that of F&B. It’s almost like fashion. Once people get tired of you, you’re out no matter how hard you try to impress. Ironically, the desire to make the most hay when the sun shines is usually the cause of a star’s demise. The record company was churning out CD after CD with little attention to quality. Their star was rapidly burning out.
爱得太多 is probably the last Wang Jie song that I had liked. I first heard it on a cold winter evening on the grey rapidly dimming streets of Dali in 1995. One of the shops there was playing it and Wang Jie’s easily recognisable voice resonated throughout the quaint Old City where the only mode of transport allowed were bicycles and horses. It struck a chord with me. Those were precisely my emotions at that point in time. From then only, it was pretty much a downhill ride for this former star. He held a couple of concerts, released a couple of albums, but was generally quiet.
I have not listened to any of them, but judging from the fact that I don’t hear them while his old songs are still being played, I believe that the unknown songs must be pretty mediocre.
Wang Jie made a comeback in 2009 with a concert named “I Am Back”. Musicians nowadays cannot survive on sales of CDs anymore. They have to hold concerts and perform live. In his 50s, Wang Jie is no longer the powerful singer he used to be. His voice became hoarse and weak, a far cry from his early days. He put the blame on poisoning and not surprisingly, it became the talk of the town, gaining him even more sympathy that his previous melancholic image did.
In all his recent interviews in the mainland, he blasted the HK media for their fake reporting which tarnished his reputation. He attributed this to having offended some influential people. He also claimed that he knew who poisoned him, but somehow still wanted to protect the culprit.
To me, Wang Jie is probably not as pitiful or blameless (at least not recently) as he made himself out to be. Character and personality aside, I still adore the doleful image that inspired my cynical romance.
You can read the details on his albums and career at Wikipedia.
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