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From Lady Gaga to Anita Mui

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Going Gaga for Anita Mui
EAST BRUNSWICK, N.J.—I didn't watch much of Sunday night's Grammy Awards telecast; sure, I've heard of a lot of the nominated artists, and I've even heard some of the nominated songs, but my interest in today's American pop music is passing at best. (These days, I'm plowing through a complete set of period-instrument Mozart performances—which, I think, gives you a bit of an idea where my musical interests lie.)

But I heard from some of my friends on Twitter that the opening performance, a typically no-holds-barred Lady Gaga medley that eventually segued into a duet with Elton John, was one of the highlights of the night. I was a big Elton John fan back in the day, and still enjoy hearing his stuff; as for Lady Gaga—well, I initially simply heard hit tunes like "Just Dance," "Poker Face" and "Paparazzi" as standard overproduced electronic pop fluff until I read this essay at The House Next Door about her music videos and realized that people were indeed taking her whole package seriously as some kind of Warholian work of art. An astoundingly successful popular artist somehow using her fame and fortune to stage a mass meta-commentary on said fame and fortune? Call me shallow, but that sounded rather interesting to me...and day by day, I find my curiosity about her rising.

Well, I finally checked out that Lady Gaga/Elton John duet (the video of which is above), and it may have provided the final push to finally wade deeper into her music. Why? Because, simply put, the performance gave me honest-to-God chills...the kind of goosebumps that greeted my initial exposure to this artist:
That, my friends, is Anita Mui (1963-2003), the late, great Hong Kong pop star from the 1980s and '90s who was quite the obsession for me a year or two ago. Cinephiles, of course, will recognize Mui from such films as Stanley Kwan's Rouge (1987), Tsui Hark's A Better Tomorrow III (1989), a handful of Jackie Chan flicks (Miracles, The Legend of the Drunken Master, Rumble in the Bronx), Johnnie To's The Heroic Trio (1993), and others. But she was also the Cantopop sensation of the '80s, earning comparisons with Madonna for her flamboyant style and ever-changing public image—much the same way Lady Gaga is garnering serious criticism with her music and public persona now.

For all the flaunting of her sexuality and her extravagant stage manner, though, Anita Mui was, first and foremost, a wondrous singer, with a deep alto tone that could startle you and an emotional range that could knock you down flat. I remember the first video I ever saw of her, a live performance of a 1989 hit of hers entitled "夕阳之歌" (roughly translating to "Sunset Song"):

Under Mui's glorious voice, what could have come off as a bland love ballad felt instead like a searing emotional five-minute drama. As someone who barely knows Cantonese as it is, I didn't understand the words she was singing—but, on an intuitive level, I could grasp the deep, wistful emotions roiling underneath.

Here's Anita Mui tackling a more uptempo number (skip to 3:25 to hear the tune):

The song, by the way, is named "坏女孩," or "Bad Girl" in English. Looking at the way she moves onstage during that performance—yeah, bad indeed.

Why did Anita Mui cross my mind when watching Lady Gaga at the Grammys? Only one reason, really: Ah Mui could sing stunningly well live, even while doing all sorts of elaborate choreography and costume changes...and so, it seems, can Lady Gaga. I mean, I knew she had a fine voice based on hearing many of her hits, but that singing voice was often deliberately technologically manipulated for effect. Shorn of any technological safety nets, however? If anything, she sounded even better singing "Poker Face" live (it certainly didn't sound lip-synced to me). And—I didn't know this before seeing the Grammy video above—she can play the piano! And she did so with Elton John!

Anyone that can pull all of that off in six minutes of near-blissful stage pop spectacle automatically garners a certain level of respect from me. (Listen to Taylor Swift's off-key live Grammy performances by comparison—though, sure, being a mediocre live performer doesn't automatically make her an inferior artist or anything.) This new pop icon Lady Gaga, it seems, is also simply an immensely talented musician. Even if her current self-aware stage persona grows old—and inevitably it will—she at least has the technical chops to be able to do what Anita Mui (and, oh yeah, Madonna) did throughout her Hong Kong pop stardom in the '80s: become something of a chameleon, trying on different public images and stage personas, keeping her act fresh. Being a spectacular singer, like Anita Mui was, is certainly a good leg to stand.

Just for fun, here's a photo of a wax statue of Ah Mui that resides at Hong Kong's Madame Tussaud's Wax Museum, which I took during my Hong Kong venture last year:
And, oh

Re: From Lady Gaga to Anita Mui

Thanks for the posting.

Seems like there is more to the article.

Has the last part been cut-off due to text limit of one posting? Could you please upload the remaining ending part as a separate post?


Re: From Lady Gaga to Anita Mui

The ending part talked about Oscar nominations which doesn't have anything to do with Mui .

You can read the full article at this address :

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