Why has Dao Lang's latest song become a phenomenon?
Published: Jul 31, 2023 11:17 PM

One of the new songs by Chinese pop singer Dao Lang has become a top online trending topic in the past few days. The debate centered on whether this song was meant to be a "retaliation" against his rival singers, and why it was considered a good piece of music.  

The song "Luocha Haishi" has the same title as an ironic story in the famous Liaozhai Zhiyi, or Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio, by Pu Songling, a novelist in China's Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). It is included in Dao Lang's new album whose 11 songs are all based on Pu's works.

"Luocha Haishi" tells a story that took place in the sea market of the fictional state of Luocha more than 1,000 miles away from China. The hero, a Chinese businessman named Ma Ji, found that people there had three eyes, two noses, and reversed ears, which were considered beautiful by locals.

Since Liaozhai is well known as a typical satire, many netizens claimed Dao Lang's song was also a satirical song. Someone interpreted it as fighting back against his rival singers, who had criticized his songs as "unaesthetic" 10 years earlier, but a music insider said, "That's not true. As far as I know, he's not the type of person who is so narrow-minded."    

Dao Lang has yet to respond.

Dao Lang was born in 1971 in Neijiang, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, but his favorite place to live is Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, which covers some of the vast Gobi Desert. Obsessed by its landscape, he began his musical career there. 

In the early winter of 2002, Dao Lang was inspired by the first snowfall in Urumqi, Xinjiang, and later composed his hit song "The First Snowfall in 2002" in 2004. 

Its album sales reached 2.7 million, topping the charts for the Chinese songs back then, and Dao Lang rose to fame across the country. 

Despite his huge popularity among the ordinary people, especially blue-collar workers and farmers, some top singers criticized his songs as being "earthy," "vulgar" and "without musical value." Dao Lang did not respond to the criticism, but chose to retreat from the singing circle since 2013. According to the insider, since then Dao Lang has never made public appearances, nor attended any events.

It was not until July 2023 that Dao Lang released his new song. Without any advance hype, it immediately caused a sensation on many ­Chinese music platforms. 

By Tuesday, "Luocha Haishi" had been played billions of times and listened to by millions of people, its topic on Douyin reached more than 5.9 billion times. Following this trend, various versions of the song were made online with adaptations in different styles, including Peking Opera. 

Some fans joked, "I thought he had stopped singing and composing, but to my surprise, he had been 'sharpening his knife' over the past 10 years" (Dao literally means "knife" in Chinese).

A netizen who has been a fan of Dao Lang for nearly 20 years said, "Dao Lang is one of the top singers in China in terms of singing skills. His lyrics may be less refined, but by now he has made up for his last weak point." 

Pop singer Li Jian said, "There is a phenomenon in the musical circle of grass-roots singers not being recognized. Actually, pop music is a kind of contemporary folk music. As long as it is welcomed by the general public, it is reasonable for it to exist." He added, "Dalang is a very creative singer."

Some other professional musicians also believe that if "Luocha Haishi" is merely seen as a "retaliatory" work, its musical value is being underestimated. 

Dao Lang borrows from the ideas of Liaozhai for all the songs in his new album, demonstrating that his musical works have profound literary connotations, and the huge amount of play his most popular new song is receiving naturally shows it is a good work. This is the best response to the "elites" in the musical circle. 

On Wednesday, Chinese singer Wang Feng made his response to the new album Shange Liao Zai composed by Daolang in a 20-minute video.

Wang denied any prejudice against Daolang, and showed his respect for the latter for his 20-year devotion to music.

He said he did like some of the songs in the album though not the most popular one "Luocha Haishi." He also praised the perfect combination between the Chinese and Western music in the album, and would like to give a score of "93" to show it was "very well-done."

Wang also warned that audiences should not misinterpret something by relating it to morality. "If Daolang's songs can encourage us to think, that will be the biggest benefit he gave us." At last, Wang stressed that if Daolang could watch this video, he would realize that Wang understand his music.