張惠妹現象的彼岸觀點

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2000 / 2月

文‧李 珊


北京音樂圈有人說張惠妹是繼鄧麗君後唯一的天王巨星,甚至「是一個奇蹟」。事實上,大陸自九○年代後多年不曾出現像早期鄧麗君、齊秦那樣一位歌手席捲全國的現象。張惠妹四射的「妹力」究竟何在?演唱會的「火爆」反映了什麼訊息?對岸又怎麼看阿妹現象?


「聽演唱會要到處找票的情形很久沒有發生了,」大陸歌手李慧珍說到去年八月初去看阿妹演唱會的盛況,很不容易弄到票,到了現場,看到許多演藝圈的朋友,再次讓她驚訝;因為「能讓北京演藝圈對同一個人一致感興趣是很不容易的。」

「準備好了媽?」台下觀眾熱血奔騰、喊聲不斷,「阿妹、阿妹、阿妹」,阿妹上台大聲問到「後面聽得到嗎?要不要最辣辣的!」張惠妹在大陸各地演唱會常見的場面是:每首歌只要唱了幾句,台下就可以接著萬人合唱,「我喜歡舞台上很多人一起唱、一起跳的感覺,演唱會要比錄音好玩多了,沒有規矩可行,有好多刺激,好多感動,」張惠妹說,有次唱「我可以抱你嗎」前,和觀眾說:你可以用這個機會抱抱旁邊的情人、家人、好朋友,然後所有的人都抱在一起了,她在台上有說不出的感動。

「大家的熱情那麼大,那我就要比大家更熱情一百倍,才會讓大家感受到來看演唱會是這麼一件舒服的事情。」她在接受北京媒體訪問時說到,因此每次在台上都會毫不保留自己的體力,直到唱完最後一首歌,使出最後一把勁!

正是這份熱力感染了現場每個人。

「阿妹的演唱方式特別接近北方人直率、豪氣的個性,」大陸名歌手田震的製作人張衛寧認為,張惠妹是少數在流行領域中充滿個人風格的藝人,而這種人格特質和北方人內在的氣息相通,是能在北京城引起轟動的重要原因。資深樂評人金兆鈞也表示:有些南方喜歡的歌手,北方卻沒什麼反應,「九八年小室哲哉到上海表演很火爆,但是到了北京沒人理他!」「李玟會唱,但是不夠勁道,也引不起騷動,」他說,然而,北京是個指標,一旦在北方走紅,就會強力帶動各地人氣。

台灣樂界機制成熟

個人的魅力之外,「張惠妹的成功已經不是一個人的成功,」大陸音樂圈、媒體一致認為:阿妹現象反映了台灣流行音樂業界整體的實力,「從製作理念、市場定位、到傳播思路,是一整套機制運作的成功。」

中國百老匯副主編丁寧指出,去年阿妹演唱會開始的一個月前,全國性的中央電視台收視率高的幾個時段,以張惠妹代言的雪碧汽水廣告頻頻放送,與百事可樂以「瑞奇馬丁、珍妮傑克森、王菲、郭富城」的「新一代選擇」強力對抗。影片畫面上阿妹領著一批青年男女在都市街頭狂歌勁舞,然後衝進理髮店、小吃館,摘下一個個人們的面具,拉起他們一起共舞。密集播放的廣告歌「給我感覺」大紅特紅,人人朗朗上口。

此外,演唱會也創了幾個第一的紀錄:第一次在辦國慶等大活動的工人體育場開個人演唱會、高票價創紀錄、黃牛炒作等新聞點,吸引媒體爭相報導,「張惠妹回老家幹農活兒」、「性感歌衫」、「灰姑娘神話」等等,報導角度包羅萬象。龍頭媒體北京晚報還在張惠妹抵京前開闢系列報導,倒數計時,大小媒體總動員,形成一整個月的新聞熱點。

各方面因素匯集,對張惠妹人氣的推升,「可以說是一次無懈可擊的操作,」張衛寧表示。

「張惠妹演出的火爆與內地流行樂團的低迷形成了鮮明的反差,」北京晚報記者、資深樂評人戴方為文指出:學習港台,仍是內地歌壇很現實的道路。

大陸著名詞曲作者、製作人小柯不諱言,內地做唱片專業程度不夠,「前兩年唱片的作法還是錄音前臨時各處選歌,選擇的方式要不是依照歌手的喜好,就是製作人的喜好,」看到張惠妹,他說不得不敬佩台灣唱片公司的專業。

阿妹之有今日,「張雨生功不可沒,」是許多兩岸音樂人共同的看法,張雨生把阿妹的特質——「來自鄉野,充滿野性活力的山地女孩」,發揮的淋漓盡致,《姊妹》、《Bad Boy》不論詞曲特色、個人形象、宣傳策略都以此精神為主軸發展,為張惠妹打下堅實的基礎。

小柯以大陸一線歌手那英和台灣EMI唱片簽約、被重新定位形象、歌路為例說明,《征服》專輯在台灣大賣,進而帶動內地銷量,原因除了她的唱功實力,更因製作人將她北方人豪爽性格特質做了很好的結合,她的成功讓內地唱片業深刻地意識到這一點。

給我感覺,認真做自己

強大的商業機制雖然令對岸稱羨,但是也有不少人提出反思,「過度商業會毀了一個優秀的歌手,」北京文藝台DJ王東指出,張惠妹後期的專輯他聽來「沒有感覺,」他記得《姊妹》、《Bad Boy》剛進大陸時,雖然那時張惠妹在內地的知名度還不高,但是排行榜反響特別好,直到現在,阿妹歌曲受點評最多的還是前兩張專輯。

去年他在記者會上見到的張惠妹,「臉上活力沒有了,神采和上次到大陸賑災時差別很大,可能是商業宣傳太多,太累了,」他認為,台灣唱片業過度包裝,導致脂粉味太重,沒有感人的音樂,何以支持藝人長期發展?阿妹現階段的高峰是人氣和張雨生製作的前二張專輯在支撐,以後的專輯若不從內容上改變,可能就要走下坡了。

都已經半年了,雪碧汽水廣告仍在大陸播放,另一支影片畫面:阿妹在後台有點緊張,兩個同事努力勸她做回自己,然後她大唱「come on、 come on 、給我感覺,」隨後,她又起舞、衝浪,快樂的宣稱:這是我愛做的事情。

率真、自信,肆無忌憚的張惠妹激起了中國人世界的波波浪濤,大概愛之深、責之切,王東的看法並不孤單,大陸不少人已經或含蓄、或直接點出阿妹長期發展的問題,希望她能夠像「我就是我晶晶亮」這句廣告詞一樣,永遠做自己,保持那份渾然天成的性靈。           

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近期文章

EN

The A-Mei Phenomenon

Coral Lee /tr. by David Mayer

In Beijing musical circles, they're say-ing that Chang Hui-mei, better known by her nickname "A-Mei," is the first superstar in Chinese pop music since Teresa Teng. Some even say she's "a miracle." Throughout the 1990s no one took mainland China by storm the way Teresa Teng and Chyi Chin did in the early years of their careers. What is it about A-Mei that so captivates her audiences? What is the message of her super-charged concerts? What do they think of her in China?


"It's been a long time since I last had trouble getting tickets to a concert," says mainland Chinese singer Li Huizhen as she recalls her difficulty trying to get into A-Mei's concert early last August. Once there, she was surprised to see that so many people from the entertainment world had turned out. "It's very unusual that everyone in the business in Beijing would all be interested in a single performer."

The audience was excited, and kept calling her name. A-Mei strode out onto stage and asked, "Can you hear in the back? How do you want your show tonight? Hot and spicy?" At concerts across the mainland, tens of thousands sang along once the songs got rolling. "I like the feeling of lots of people on stage singing and dancing together," says A-Mei. "Concerts are a lot more fun than recording studios. There are no rules. They're so exciting and packed with emotion!" Once when she was getting ready to sing "Can I Hold You?" she urged the audience, "This is an opportunity to hold the person next to you, whether they're your lover, a family member, a good friend, or whatever." It was an indescribably moving experience to see so many people holding each other.

In an interview in Beijing, A-Mei explained why she gives every ounce of energy during a concert: "Everybody has so much feeling and emotion, I've got to be 100 times more so to make it worth their while to come out and see me." By the time the concert ends, you can be sure that A-Mei has nothing more to give!

This type of enthusiasm is infectious. According to Zhang Weining, producer for the popular mainland singer Tian Zhen, "A-Mei's performance style is suited to the outgoing, unrestrained character of the northern Chinese." He feels that A-Mei is one of the few performers in pop music with a distinctive personal style. Long-time music critic Jin Zhaojun notes that some singers who are popular in the south don't do so well in the north: "Komuro Takuya's 1998 concert in Shanghai was a huge event, but the people in Beijing didn't care for him. CoCo is a good singer, but she's just a so-so performer. There's no excitement." Beijing is China's "Big Apple" though. Once performers make it big there, they are almost assured of big success nationwide.

Slick music industry

A-Mei's success involves more than just her own personal appeal, however. It is widely felt in the mainland that the A-Mei phenomenon reflects the sophistication of Taiwan's pop music industry as a whole, including everything from production concepts to marketing strategies and distribution methods.

Chinese Broadway deputy editor-in-chief Ding Ning notes that on China Central Television (China's national television network) pop music stars dominated prime-time commercial spots in the month leading up to A-Mei's tour. While A-Mei plugged for Sprite, rival Pepsi-Cola fought back with Ricky Martin, Janet Jackson, Faye Wong, and Aaron Kwok. In one Sprite commercial, A-Mei leads a throng of youth in a celebration of song and dance in the streets. A-Mei runs into beauty shops and restaurants, where she pulls off bystanders' masks and invites them to join in the revelry. The song from the ad, "Make Me Feel Something," has become a huge hit in the mainland.

A-Mei's tour set a number of new precedents. It was the first time that the Workers' Stadium, often the venue for National Day celebrations and other major events, was used for an individual performance. Record-high ticket prices and rampant scalping received extensive press coverage, and the news media scouted out every conceivable angle for stories on A-Mei herself-"A-Mei Goes Home to Do Farm Work," "Too Sexy for Her Clothes," "A Cinderella Story," etc. The influential daily Beijing Evening News ran a series on her prior to the beginning of the tour. The concert tour sparked a month-long media frenzy, with news outlets large and small getting swept up in the excitement.

Spotlights from all quarters were trained on A-Mei, causing her popularity to skyrocket. "You have to hand it to them," comments Zhang Weining, "it was an impeccable public relations blitz." Veteran music critic Dai Fan wrote in the Beijing Evening News, "A-Mei's electrifying concerts contrast sharply with the performances of mainland Chinese pop musicians." Dai went on to advise mainland musicians to learn from artists in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The noted mainland Chinese songwriter, composer, and producer Xiao Ke states flatly that mainland recording studios are not professional enough. "Even as recently as two years ago, the process for deciding what songs to include in an album was positively primitive. People just decided at the last minute. Sometimes they would go with the singer's favorites, and sometimes it would be whatever the producer liked personally." After seeing A-Mei, says Dai, he had to tip his cap to the professionalism of music companies in Taiwan.

Many music industry insiders in both Taiwan and the mainland agree that her former producer, the late Chang Yu-sheng, played a huge role in A-Mei's rise to stardom. In songs like "Sisters" and "Bad Boy," Chang masterfully brought out the "feral intensity of this small-town aboriginal girl." Chang used distinctive lyrics, catchy tunes, A-Mei's unique image, and an effective PR strategy to great advantage.

Xiao Ke points to another example of slick promotion in the Taiwanese pop music industry. When the very popular mainland singer Na Ying signed a contract with Taiwan's EMI Records, she underwent an image remake and started singing different types of songs. The resulting album, Conquest, was a hit first in Taiwan and then in the mainland as well. Apart from Na's own vocal prowess, this success was also due in large part to the fact that the producer had done such a good job of creating a product suited to the singer's free-spirited character. Her success brought this point forcefully home to record companies in China.

Praise for the Taiwanese commercial juggernaut is not unreserved, however. Many mainland Chinese caution, "Excess commercialism can ruin a good singer." According to Wang Dong, a DJ in Beijing, there is no feeling in A-Mei's later albums. He recalls the huge popularity of "Sisters" and "Bad Boy," which were released at a time when A-Mei did not yet enjoy such great fame. Even now, radio stations still receive the most requests for songs from A-Mei's first two albums.

Straight from the heart

When he saw A-Mei at a press conference last year, "She didn't have that spark in her eye any more. She just wasn't the same person who came here the year before to help with the flood relief effort. I think she might be tired out from all the commercial promotion." In Wang's opinion, Taiwan's music industry over-packages the "product" and leaves it looking like a gaudily painted lady. Without music that moves the heart, how can a performer last for long? A-Mei's current popularity rests largely on the strength of the first two albums that she made with Chang Yu-sheng. If no changes are made for future albums, her popularity could begin to slide.

It has already been a half-year since the mainland concert tour, but A-Mei's Sprite commercials are still showing on TV. In one of them, A-Mei waits nervously backstage while a couple of people give her encouragement. Their efforts apparently are successful, because A-Mei begins to belt out the words from her monster hit: "Come on, come on, make me feel something." She gets into a groove, dancing and having a good time, as if to say: Yes, this is what I love best!

The straightforward, confident, and unrestrained A-Mei has made quite a splash in the Chinese-speaking world. Perhaps it is not surprising that someone with such a distinctive personality would elicit strong feelings both positive and negative. Wang Dong is not alone in his views, for many in the mainland have asked how long A-Mei will continue her spectacular run of success. Hopefully she will always "speak" straight from the heart, and can keep that natural verve that set her apart from the crowd in the first place.

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