Sinophone Music in 2023: Old Wine in New Bottles?

As usual, here is a short review of the year 2023 in music. Not a “best of”, but rather a list of things that happened in 2023, some were good, some were bad. Some were weird (Shijiazhuang’s “rock city” project). We saw rock bands coming back after a (long) pause – Wayne’s So Sad and No Party for Caodong – the return of “The Big Band” for a third (and final?) season, and the passing of many great band members. 2023 is also the year Chinese bands toured again the world after years of COVID restrictions: Wutiaoren and Omnipotent Youth Society in New York, the riot grrrl band from Qingdao Dummy Toys in Europe, Carsick Cars in Australia, Wang Wen and FAZI in Taiwan… 2024 is going to be great for Sinophone music fans abroad.

I cannot recommend enough Michael Hong’s “Top 40 Cantopop Singles of 2023” and “Top 40 Mandopop Albums of 2023” and Jake Newby’s “2023 in review“.

I also made a Spotify playlist here.

The Big Band Season 3 – 乐队的夏天

For the third (and last?) time, iQiyi gave us a new season of their indie rock talent show The Big Band 乐队的夏天. In a more and more controlled mediascape, The Big Band is in itself, with all its flaws, a little miracle. So for maybe the last time we had the pleasure of seeing old rock bands taking the stage (and maybe improve their lifestyle): the veterans Second Hand Rose 二手玫瑰 (of course the winner of the show), Supermarket 超级市场, Buyi 布衣 and Soundtoy 声音玩具, the well-known indie bands Nova Heart or Berlin Psycho Nurses 柏林护士, and some interesting discoveries, as Young Drug 回春丹. Maybe not as fun as the second season (remember that it had Wutiaoren, Joyside and Re-Tros on the same stage), this third season was the first one after the lifting of the COVID restrictions – and only two Taiwanese bands were featured.


No Party for Caodong 草東沒有派對 – “The Clod” 瓦合

Like Omnipotent Youth Society, No Party for Caodong waited a long time to release their long awaited second album – “The Servile” (醜奴兒) was released in 2016. The band did not rest for seven years, they made songs for the Taiwan video game “Devotion”, and past members of Caodong played in other indie rock bands as FUBAR or Deca Joins. The Taiwanese indie rock sensation unfortunately lost their drummer Fan Tsai in 202 – she was found dead at a quarantine hotel in Taipei after the band’s return from a tour in China. This second album is not the electroshock that was “The Servile”, and sometimes it feels like Caodong is repeating itself (“Pool”). But after a few songs, Caodong is expressing new emotions – no more teenage angst but real pain (“Damn”, “Lie”). Needless to say, concert tickets were sold-out in a matter of minute.


Shijiazhuang Rock Home Town

Rock for 石, Home for 家, Town for 庄. It was fun while it lasted. I talked about it in this post.


The MayDay Lip-Syncing Controversy

A Chinese fan uploaded a video of MayDay November 16 concert in Shanghai on Bilibili, accusing the Taiwanese pop-rock legends of lip-syncing at least 5 songs. Now the Chinese authorities are investigating the case, since lip-syncing is prohibited according to the Regulations on the Management of Commercial Performances in China (but is rarely enforced). But the story did not stop here, as Taiwanese intelligence officials claimed that Chinese authorities had for months pressured Mayday to publicly declare that both China and Taiwan belong to the same country, in order to influence the January presidential elections in Taiwan. The Chinese spokesperson for the State Council Taiwan Affairs Office dismissed the information as “fake news”. It’s not uncommon for the Chinese authorities to put pressure on Taiwanese artists before or after elections (remember the A-mei affair back in 2005)…

Artistically speaking, in 2023 MayDay released two singles featuring the Taiwan pop-rock band 告五人 Accusefive – who also released a new album (“We Will Be Fine” 帶你飛).


Chinese Football – “Win&Lose”

The third and final album of the Wuhan post-punk band “Game trilogy” (after “Here comes a new challenger!” and “Continue?”) was released on the last day of 2022. The Wuhan band states that “Chinese Football failed to be famous”. We beg to differ, as Chinese Football is (rightfully) recognized as one of the best post-punk band from China, appreciated overseas (just look at the comments on the band’s Bandcamp’s page). “Win&Lose” is a powerful album, talking about life, disappointment, success and failures, and Wuhan.


The Admonished Trio 孝顺一族

The eponymous album of The Admonished Trio, a Taiwanese punk band, was released on December 2022, and I already talked about this album in my 2022 year in review. Unfortunately, the band’s guitarist, Wayne Liu passed away in 2023. Wayne Liu was the Wayne of “Wayne’s So Sad”. He was indeed melancholic and a real punk rock legend. The Taiwan scene will miss him dearly. “Qilai Holiday” “奇萊假期” is their last song, dedicated to Wayne.


Wayne’s So Sad 傷心欲絕 – “無名氏敬上”

Talking about Wayne’s So Sad, the indie-punk-rock band from Taiwan released another album this year, four years after the critically acclaimed “遜到簡直是個藝術品”. With Caodong new album, this year is full of indie Taiwanese older bands releasing new songs. A little more popish than usual, the new album tries to recreate their last effort, with a lot of interludes about a fictional story of anonymous love letters sent to the singer, Xu Zhengtai, who recites these sad story with his sad voice.


C.S.B.Q – “曾经的,伟大的,笑话”(Once Upon A Time, Great, Joke)

The Changsha great punk band returns with a new album in 2023. The proletarian punk band is maybe a little less powerful in this album, but the spirit is still here. Power to the people, internationalism and saxophone, the recipe of any good C.S.B.Q song.


Hualun 花伦 – “Tempus”& bié records

Wuhan post-rock legends Hualun released a new album on bié records. Another great album with nine beautiful tracks. bié records also released several compilations, with Hualun, Sun Dawei (Sulumi) and Lim Giong, among other legends.


my little airport new single “駱駝”

The Hong Kong anti-folk legends released a new single after their last album published in 2022. Even a single is sometimes enough to express what’s going on these days.


Wu Bai 伍佰 & China Blue – “純白的起點”

Even if it’s not the best Wu Bai, I have to mention the new album of the Taike legend!


Tizzy Bac – “Human Error”

A lot of Taiwanese albums this year are haunted by death – Wayne Liu from Admonished Trio and Wayne’s So Sad, Fan Tsai from Caodong, and the bassist Xu Cheyu of Tizzy Bac. The new album from the indie rock (now) duo is a beautifully crafted tribute to their late bassist – especially “冬日花朵”:


Denise Ho 何韻詩 single “威廉”

After everything, Denise Ho is still in Hong Kong and still singing. “威廉” is one of her two singles released in 2023 (with “比生命更大” Larger Than Life, an Anita Mui cover posted on December 31st).


新裤子 New Pants – “悲伤朋克” EP

In 2023, New Pants gave us a very boomer EP, “悲伤朋克” (or “sad punk”). While participating to The Big Band jury for the first time, Peng Lei is revisiting his punk youth, in a sad and humorous way. OK 打口!


黑名單工作室 Blacklist Workshop – “浮生錄廣財與樂手” The Answers: Ngerenger Darusakiv and Friends

The legendary Blacklist Workshop, who challenged the Taiwan censorship system in the 1980s and introduced hip-hop in taiyu, are back after their second album released in 1996. They recorded near Taitung, with the indigenous artists Ngerenger Kazangiljan and Ara Kimbo, mostly in Paiwan. The album is sadly not available on the platforms, but you can listen to their song 土地 on YouTube:


Wasted Laika 丢莱卡 – “Right Now / Left Here”

No new album, but a live record from one of my favorite Beijing band, Wasted Laika. With some new materials, as “La Dame de Brassempouy”, the name of one of the earliest known realistic representations of a human face found in France in 1894.


Dao Lang 刀郎 – “山歌寥哉”

Maybe the biggest surprise of the Chinese music market in 2023, the return of Dao Lang, a Chinese well-known folk-pop artist from Sichuan province, accused of vulgarity by renowned musicians as Na Ying (who famously said “Those who sing Dao Lang’s songs in KTV are all peasants”), and of stealing Xinjiang folksongs by Uyghur musicians. Dao Lang broke some kind of record with this album inspired by Pu Songling. Many netizens argued that the album is a critic of Dao Lang’s haters, as Na Ying, trying to find the hidden meaning behind each song.


Mong Tong – “Tao Fire” 道火

The Taiwan experimental electronic duo released a new album in 2023, and toured the region – they did an underground concert with Gong Gong Gong in Hong Kong. As usual, the duo is using the tropical island of Taiwan and its multi-layered cultural references as a focus point for their music. This album is centered on Taoist themes with a touch of tropical music.


The Long Season “漫長的季節” TV Series

Not an album, but a TV series (and nothing to do with “The Big Band”), directed by an ex-member of the Beijing punk band Joyside. “The Long Season” is a beautifully crafted TV series, on Dongbei, the economic reforms, modernity and murder. The originality of “The Long Season” is that it features a lot of Chinese indie-rock music, such as Joyside, Rolling Bowling, Hiperson, FAZI, The Molds or Supermarket. These songs were not produced in 2023, but I can’t finish this list without Hiperson so here it is.



Citer ce billet
Nathanel Amar (2024, 9 janvier). Sinophone Music in 2023: Old Wine in New Bottles? Scream For Life. Consulté le 1 mars 2024, à l’adresse https://doi.org/10.58079/vk5v

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