Andy Lau is the kind of heart-throb
whose adoring fans seem to get younger as he gets older; he is destined
to be the sexy old Harrison Ford or Sean Connery of Hong Kong. A celebrated
actor and singer, he is one of Hong Kong's four 'Sky Kings' whose crooning
ballads sway the hearts of a continent of admirers.
His number one hit, Nan Ren Ku Ba Bu Shi Zui, translates loosely as 'men, go ahead and cry, it's no crime'. It is a sweeping, guitar-punctuated witness to the release of tears for manly men, and is one of the most-requested songs in any Karaoke hall.
I first heard the song in McDonald's in Shenyang. Like almost every restaurant in China it seems, the music that accompanies your dinner plays as one track on infinite repeat. That's right - one song, again and again. In Shenyang's Taiyuan Jie branch of McD's, this track was playing all day, every day, for at least three months. The staff, whom I assumed must have been driven barmy at this, were surprisingly cheerful. By the fifth play through, the screaming guitars and fuel-injected singing were about to destroy me. It had to be one of the most annoying anthems I'd ever heard.
And then, I heard it everywhere, and discovered it was essential Chinese knowledge. There are some songs in China that just everyone knows, and this is one of the highest on the list. They say that for music, familiarity inevitably leads to appreciation. The strange thing was that my appreciation of this song lead to Chinese appreciation of me - I astounded people by demonstrating that I knew the song, and this is the reason why every foreigner should learn about it. Chinese people love it when people from other countries attempt to learn their language, and the mastery of a simple greeting will inspire awe in Chinese aquaintances. However, if a foreigner knew how to sing the first line of the chorus of this hit ballad, then that would instantly label him as a Chinese expert of incontrovertible authority.
So listen to the song, spend five minutes learning to croon the line, nanren ku ba ku ba ku ba, bu shi zui - chant it until you get it - and win the respect and admiration of every Chinese person you know, again and again and again.