The song “Zhang Zhichao, where did you hide my key” is a story about a college boy who mocked his roommate for his busy dating life by locking him out of the dormitory. It went viral online because the song touched on an experience to which many people can relate, of being betrayed by a friend for his or her interests. It is about growing up. The song’s composer, Rainbow Chamber Singers, and its conductor Jin Chengzhi have become web celebrities in China for a reason.
A new style of choral music
Two other popular songs from Rainbow Chamber Singers – “Feeling empty” and “Self-protection guide for Chinese New Year” – are a hit with Chinese netizens as well. The lyrics of “Feeling empty” lament the vicious cycle of working overtime, while the latter makes jokes of relatives’ incessant questioning during family reunions over the Spring Festival holidays.
A sore spot in Chinese culture is that relatives or neighbors tend to ask very personal questions such as “How much did you earn this year?”, “Why are you still single, not married?” and so on. Both songs were shared on China’s largest social platform, WeChat Moments, and gained more than 100,000 hits respectively within a few days.
Again, these songs touched the hearts of the young generation – working alone in a big city, and the desire for love while being unable to find companionship.
The fine line between funny and serious
Conductor Jin, aged 30, once was a “serious” music composer. However, his favorite song “Seacoast” only generated 6,000 hits on bilibili. But he was right about one thing: trying to combine his immediate feelings and emotions into his songs. Jin insists on composing and making lyrics himself. All songs by Rainbow Chamber Singers are also conducted by him.
“Rhythm and lyrics are indeed one piece. They should not be separated,” said Jin. “I hate to accommodate others. Even under some circumstances that we have to do some adjustment, it should still follow my own main frame in that case.”
Will the choral fever last?
Besides Jin, the other members of Rainbow Chamber Singers are amateur choral music lovers from different professions. The group’s popularity brought more opportunities to showcase Rainbow’s music to the public, and they broke even with income from its show tickets and advertising. But Jin said that they are in their comfort zone and are also open to investment.
The Internet has reshaped communication with the influx of fragmented information, and people are getting lost in its impetuosity and uneasiness. A humorous song to relax one’s mood and emotions is welcomed. Hence, the opportunity came for Rainbow Chamber Singers’ light-hearted performances.
However, two questions need to be considered: how long will their popularity last? And how much love can they receive from the public with this kind of music performances?
Life as a web celebrity
Jin is happy to gain recognition from the public. “More and more people get to know you first. Then, you have a chance to make them love you.” He admitted that there is a chemical change in popularity.
Results from Baidu word search of “Rainbow Chamber Singers” and “Zhang Shichao” show that:
- Each popular piece generated hot hits and then its popularity fades.
- Rainbow Chamber Singers are gradually raising awareness.
However, classical music belongs to a niche market, and Rainbow Chamber Singers tagged with these humorous songs may last for a while. Jin thinks conducting is his main work which must be done well. Composing and lyrics, things which he loves, are secondary.
“A lot of friends used to think I am a dancer on the stage,” said Jin. Finally, his friends understand that he is not dancing at all – thanks to the fame of Rainbow Chamber Singers.
(Top photo from the official WeChat account of Rainbow Chamber Singers)