Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Wang Rong – Chick Chick

Several years solid, it’s David M. with the CONTROVERSY…


David Moore: Some of my most powerful childhood music memories were made possible by my dad. He was early to the Internet, and via his online comedy music networks in the late ’80s gifted us kids the best set of curated Dr. Demento cassettes this side of the exhaustive Dr. Demento’s Basement Tapes. In what would become a lifelong habit, I’d lie on the floor of our living room, ear close to a boombox speaker at low volume, listening to those tapes over and over again, smiling, laughing, getting bored, then getting interested again at some new little cranny into freshly discovered sounds and ideas. It was through those tapes that I learned, among other things, animal versions of popular songs and genres long before I discovered their “legitimate” sources, surveying jazz, punk, disco, new wave and more, all by way of clucks, kazoos and farts. Two standouts from those tapes in the venerable cluck-rock subgenre, to which I’ve turned my attention recently for obvious reasons, are “Psycho Chicken” by the Fools and the poultry rendition of Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood” by Ray Stevens and the Henhouse Five Plus Two. (Chuck Eddy, who formally examines only duck-rock in his genre-melting Accidental Evolution of Rock ‘n’ Roll, recently shared more chicken noises that might have introduced me to Italo disco, Belgian synthpop, or psychedelia.) This chicken-centric view of popular music squared with what I’d gleaned from The Muppet Show, from my dad’s spontaneous recollections of his own childhood popular culture (in the middle of a long drive, breaking the silence: “Be kind to your web-footed friends / For a duck could be somebody’s mother!”), and above all, from my intermittent, inchoate urges to make chicken sounds and all other manner of horrible din around the house. All of it was normal; all of it was home. My wife and I had our first child in April, so my thoughts are back in that living room, on those tapes, imagining and in some cases revisiting the stupid stuff that united my family, briefly, in shared, unrepentant silliness, even — maybe especially — in dark times. (What else was there to do but laugh?) Now I understand the appeal from the other side: it’s amazing just how silly my days have been these past few months, raising the baby. It turns out you don’t really “raise” a baby; you mostly observe and marvel at him. You lie on the floor, and smile, and laugh, and get bored, and then get interested again at some freshly discovered movement or moment. Sometimes you listen to music — a lot of novelty music, it turns out — and of course, you make lots of chicken noises. Baby laughter is manna. And you wonder: What will we share? What will keep us laughing?

Crystal Leww: 哎呀,这是给老外看的!

Iain Mew: Records for the fastest YouTube success for a Chinese-language song all got broken last month — by Jolin Tsai. Kudos to Nolan Feeney at Time for actually covering that one, and with a headline about the year’s best pop video. Meanwhile, because talking about a great pop star performing in a recognisable style but a language other than English is way too much work, far more Western outlets were focusing on an apparent “Internet sensation” that at the time had a fraction of the number of views. That focus came in the form of articles putting Wang Rong being “C-Pop” at the forefront while demonstrating zero knowledge of it — contrast to no one calling Ylvis N-Pop or Norwegian pop stars. Satire, manifestations of different pop culture niches, and probable audience-baiting deliberate weirdness all get flattened into one long “check out this Asian video, it’s so WTF!”. I usually have a policy of not reacting to the responses to a song, but the rudimentary mashing of beat and animal noises doesn’t have enough to it to support anything else.

Alfred Soto: Or: “What Does The Chicken Say?” Or: Yoko Ono and Cindy Wilson for the “Gangnam Style” age.

Katherine St Asaph: It took me 11(!) Google search result pages (PAGES!) to find someone who treated this as music and not gawkfeed. (Credit where it’s due: Adrienne Stanley for MTV Iggy.) “Chick Chick” could be the best song of 2014 and it wouldn’t outweigh that.

Sabina Tang: I last (and first) heard of Wang Rong in 2004, when she had a minor Mandarin hit titled “I’m Not Huang Rong.” Huang Rong, for the record, is the heroine of a famous wuxia novel; imagine a teenpopper named Arden putting out a single titled “I’m Not Arwen” about how she didn’t need a guy as hardcore as Aragorn or as pretty as Legolas as long as he was a suitably romantic boyfriend. The clickbait tendency existed in retrospect, though I still find the older video charming: her nasal voice burbling along out of tempo with the brass’n’b trimmings and — yes — the dinky animal costume. But Wang Rong turns 34 this year, her best-of was released in 2006, and the clickbait’s been honed to a fine point of desperation I have too much context to ignore.

Brad Shoup: I see this as a backporch annex to Rednex: the provenance don’t matter, and the intention never does. What’s important is the harvest. The screeched bit is the best pop vocalization since Nicki Minaj’s headspinning peak, and as dumb as the melodic hook is, it’s sticky as hell. Sure, they’re way too pleased with the concept, but most people don’t even get the one.

Josh Winters: *sets as morning alarm*

Anthony Easton: The sheer bizarre excess makes it my favourite chicken-themed pop song since Brad Paisley did those outtakes sometime in the last century. 

Cédric Le Merrer: Having as a very small kid been a fan of La Danse Des Canards, and still being guilty of cranking out the Giga Pudding song from time to time, I can appreciate a good novelty song when it has me surrounded. Since I can’t give it both a [10] and a [0], though, a [5] will have to do.

Edward Okulicz: Chicken noises are not inherently funnier or more ridiculous than the Western alternative, which would be Redfoo. We lived through “The Fox” and “Friday,” so this doesn’t even make me angry, it’s just below-average novelty pop.

Juana Giaimo: Repetitive songs hammering your head for three minutes are rarely worth listening to more than once — and if they are, 99.9% of the time they don’t involve a chicken.

Thomas Inskeep: Oh, so that’s what the Chicken Lady‘s been up to since The Kids in the Hall ended its run.

Jonathan Bradley: This is like the kind of dance song you might hear in a nightclub, except when the hook comes, there are animal noises! It’s very strange, because mostly in pop songs, the chorus is about love or sex or kissing u thru the phone. Usually chart hits have a singer or sometimes a rapper, but Wang Rong has a chicken. That’s so silly!

Patrick St. Michel: This has been compared to “Gangnam Style” frequently and, ignoring the head-slapping reason why — Asia, it’s all about the same, right? — it isn’t right. Psy’s massive success was an accident — “Gangnam Style” never intended to be a YouTube-breaking hit, Psy just chanced across the perfect song/video combo for the social media generation. “Chick Chick” has far more in common with “The Fox,” the first post-“Gangnam” viral hit to be totally aware of itself. “Chick Chick” is a blatant stab at the same WTF and LOL, while also cashing in on the West’s lingering obsession with “weird” Asia. But it is most notable as the mainland Chinese music industry’s first stab at spreading itself globally, to the point of apparently not being that much of a deal in China. There are definitely better pop singles in China then this, but good luck selling those to the West. But this wins itself points for doing something Psy also did on this year’s “Hangover”: “Chick Chick” revels in how off-putting it sounds, because people aren’t clicking this for the music and Wang Rong maybe knows they deserve what comes out of their laptop speakers. 

Josh Langhoff: It’s no “Holiday for Strings”!

Will Adams: Every fall my university offers a lecture about Internet law and culture. A popular option for the final project (read: the easy A) is a group project in which you demonstrate what you’ve learned about fair use and remix culture by creating a “viral” video or meme. Two years ago, my group made a video of Arnold Schwarzenegger clips set to The Wanted’s “Glad You Came” (not linking because I’m embarrassed for myself). This year’s project is a parody of “#Selfie” (not linking because I’m embarrassed for my friends and also fuck that song). These projects end up feeling forced, cynical and ultimately stupid, because they take for granted the accidental nature of viral culture, thinking that trending topics can be divined by scientific procedure. “Chick Chick” sounds like it could have been one of those projects: it’s virtually unlistenable dancepop with excruciating animal sound FX that’s neither interested in musicality nor creativity, but rather WTF and LOL votes. In a classroom, it probably would have passed. As real-life music, it fails.

Sonia Yang: This is has so thoroughly fried my brain (pun intended) that I don’t even know where to begin. Is it a poorly veiled attempt to birth a viral meme? Is there any social commentary? Or is it just ridiculous? If we’re going by how hard this made me laugh at work, I’d give this a [10] hands down. But from a musical standpoint, I’d rather listen to Regina Spektor make dolphin noises for two hours.

Zach Lyon: Sorry David =(. No idea if you had designs on it or if the readers beat you at your own game, but “Hey QT” would’ve looked so great here. “Chick Chick” fails. The aesthetics, chickens and all, actually check a lot of my boxes, but they don’t mesh enough to form into anything but a distraction and they don’t de-mesh enough to be loved in slices. The trolling, chickens and all, would — well, it would also raise my score, but this isn’t trolling. It’s just kinda trolling.

Reader average: [4.4] (5 votes)

Vote: 0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10

28 Responses to “Wang Rong – Chick Chick”


    fun fact: she was my favorite artist as a middle/early high-schooler. i learned how to play like most of her songs.

  2. also great blurbs everyone!

  3. I like how it sounds like she’s saying ‘now I want a Grammy’ at the end.

  4. (Overall I prefer La Danse des Canards, blame the holiday park at Hayling Island for that)

  5. LOL @ Crystal

  6. Barring future controversy, which isn’t unheard of in Amnesty Week, this finishes a respectable 3rd to QT and Seven Lions at 1 and 2. (I will admit that both of those feel more “controversial in 2014” than this does.)

  7. Cedric’s blurb reminds me of Erika’s grappling with “Combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell,” while Jonathan’s [12] (based on the blurb) seems to have been accidentally entered as a [2].

  8. Also Cedric that is one effing big pudding

  9. @Josh – my first exposure to Regina Spektor was pulling programming project all-nighters to her Live in London album. When the dolphin noises came on I was like wtf? and actually paused what I was doing

  10. Nobody has mentioned that in China “chicken” is slang for “prostitute”. That’s the joke, and it’s odd that the only people listening to the song are the ones who don’t get it.

    I like Chick Chick only because it’s deliberately grating. Chinese pop music generally puts a priority on avoiding offending *anyone*, and as a result I find the majority of it to be simpering, cloying mush. Actively making something that’s sonically horrible to listen to, as pop music – that’s something new, and while I don’t actually want to listen to this song, it stands as a promising sign of things to come, at least I hope so.

  11. bo beep bo beep bo beep bo beep bo beep OH

    that SLAY-ARA impact!

  12. Wow Kat, you know of La Danse Des Canards ? It’s great to know French polka pop traveled oversea, even if it was such a short patch of sea.

    Also, thanks Iain for bringing up Jolin Tsai’s Play. I considered it for my amnesty pick and now regret now one else picked it.

    I wish I could drown my regrets in a Giga Pudding.

  13. The English version was inescapable.

  14. James, we’ve banned the use of puns. State orders.

  15. with such a concentrated potential for fowl novelties, it’d be a real canard if i were to leave this comment thread un-goosed by mention of this.

  16. Only listening to this now (um, attempting, failed) and I’m kind of surprised that the chicken=prostitute explanation got brought up and no one invoked “A Bushel and a Peck“, (whose lyrics I have seen transcribed as a kids’ book, original context unmentioned).

    A very quick glance as Gail Hershatter’s Dangerous Pleasures comes up with “salt-pork shops” as slang for brothels and “pheasants” as slang for lower-end prostitutes in 1920s-1930s Shanghai. (That book is fantastic. I’m sorry I haven’t looked at it in so long.)

  17. wait, bushel and a peck is about whoring, who knew? how did i nto know?

  18. It’s the setting for a stripping routine, no? Although now that I think of it I’m not sure; I tried looking it up but kept getting high school productions, which are going to tone down what was tuned down in the first place.

  19. Whoa, well, not quite. It’s just a saucy vaudeville act in “Guys and Dolls,” and so grating (purposefully), I never saw any suatriness in it. Even though it’s a musical about gangsters, it’s rather wholesome, and the innuendo might be as unintentional as calling a good time “gay.” There’s lines in “If I Were a Bell” that could be read as way dirty (“if I were a salad, you know I’d be splashing my dressing”) but were written to just be cute.

    Unless, you know, the songwriters slipped some absolutely filthy stuff into there…being subversive about codes and all that…

  20. *sultriness

  21. For truly subversive* material, there’s “Kiss Me Kate,” which came out two years earlier and seems to have innuendo in about a third of the songs. I’ve seen productions that toned it down, and productions that ramped it up to like, simulated sex slapstick (like for the song “Brush Up Your Shakespeare”).

    *relatively, I mean, it’s still all hetero patriarchal, heh

  22. A belated note — interestingly, “La Danse Des Canards,” technically a *duck-rock* progenitor, is more popularly an instrumental in the US where it is called the “Chicken Dance.” However, despite the intercultural fowl-swapping, there are no actual chicken noises in the chicken dance song (in any version I”m aware of), leaving it up to the dancer to add them at the end of each phrase.

  23. (For those of you who’d like to try it at home, the chicken dance song lends itself to the following onomatopoeia substitution: “bucka bucka bucka buck, bucka bucka bucka buck, bucka bucka bucka buck, buck-buck-buck BGAWK.”)

  24. A belated note — interestingly, “La Danse Des Canards” is more popularly an instrumental in Australia where it is called the “Chicken Dance.”

  25. Apparently it’s also popular in the UK — or it was in the early ’80s, when it went to #2 on the charts there. It’s so weird how things that happen in America also happen in places that aren’t America.

  26. I think that’s what Kat’s talking about above – I don’t know that anything with an actual French name that wasn’t sultry or moody would be released in the UK.

  27. (‘Ça plane pour moi’ is the sultriest of all, obv.)

  28. “It’s so weird how things that happen in America also happen in places that aren’t America.”

    OMG I just saw this!! I accidentally set off a Bradley pet peeve that I am very sympathetic to, like instinctively defending Taylor Swift even when the song is just OK as long as she mentions a weekday in it.

    I didn’t mean “this only happened in America,” but I see how that was a side-effect of my pretentious phrasing. I only meant to say that “this is how I heard this song in the US,” because I am a very poorly-traveled American, not because I assume no one else has the chicken dance! My apologies to the global community.