Faye Wong (born August 8 1969) is a Chinese singer, songwriter, actress and model. She is an icon popular in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and to some extent in the West.
One of the most distinguished female vocalists in recent music history, her fan base has grown so large and devoted that media in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and mainland China often place the title tiānhòu (literally Heavenly Queen) before her name, while Japanese fans call her "Diva of Asia". An intensely private artist, she is one of the very few singers widely popular on both sides of the Taiwan Straits, despite her apparent nonchalance toward the media.
She has acted in several TV shows and films, most memorably in Wong Kar-wai's Chungking Express, a role that won her "Best Actress" award at the 1994 Stockholm International Film Festival, and in 2046. She is known to many Final Fantasy fans for her Final Fantasy VIII theme "Eyes On Me", and has also been the spokeswoman of brands such as Head & Shoulders shampoo and Pepsi-Cola. Faye Wong has also graced the covers of Vogue Taiwan, Elle and Marie Claire Hong Kong, and has had spreads in Japanese Elle and other major Asian Fashion magazines.
During her absence, Cinepoly released a few compilations repackaging songs from her three albums.
A year after returning to Hong Kong, she burst into the spotlight with her 1992 album Coming Home, which incorporated R&B influences and was a drastic change in musical direction from the more traditional Cantopop fare of her earlier albums. In this album, she covered the song "Fragile Woman", originally sung by the Japanese singer Miyuki Nakajima. Faye's version became a No 1 radio hit, Song of the Year at several musical awards and lifted her to HK stardom. Coming Home also included her first English-language number, "Kisses in the Wind"; she is on record as stating that this is her personal favourite song.
The cover for Coming Home prominently shows the name "Faye", and from then on she changed her stage name back to "Wong Fei" (). In 1992-93 she also starred in TVB shows such as Files of Justice II (壹號皇庭II) and Legendary Ranger (原振俠).
In 1993, she personally wrote the Mandarin lyrics for her ballad "No Regrets" (執迷不悔) which led many to praise her as a gifted lyricist. In February, it became the title track to her album No Regrets. No Regrets features soft contemporary numbers, a few dance tracks and two versions of the title ballad: Wong's Mandarin version, and a Cantonese version (lyrics by Chen Shao Qi).
Faye has named the Scottish post-punk group Cocteau Twins among her favourite bands, and their influence was clear on her next Cantonese album, Random Thoughts (胡思亂想). Her Cantonese version of The Cranberries's "Dreams" was featured in Wong Kar-Wai's film Chungking Express. Besides covering songs and learning distinctive vocal techniques, Wong recorded her own compositions "Pledge" (誓言), co-written with husband Dou Wei, and her first and only spoken word song "Exit" (出路), which expresses some of her pessimism for the future.
While her hits in Hong Kong were noticeably alternative, her two Mandarin albums were more lyrical and traditional. Critics generally credit Taiwanese producer Yang Ming-huang for their success.
Four best-selling albums in Cantonese and Mandarin, a record-breaking 18 consecutive concerts in Hong Kong, and a widely acclaimed film (Chungking Express) made Faye Wong the most eminent female Hong Kong singer in the mid-1990s. Meanwhile, her distaste for the profit-oriented HK entertainment industry became more and more apparent. She was frequently in touch with the rock circle in Beijing. Given her somewhat reticent and nonchalant personality, she would sometimes give terse, direct, and somewhat unexpected answers when asked personal questions by the HK media.
In 1995, she released Decadent Sounds of Faye (菲靡靡之音), a cover album of songs originally recorded by her idol Teresa Teng, one of the most revered Chinese singers of the 20th century. A duet with Teng was planned for the album, but unfortunately she died before this could be recorded. Decadent Sounds sold well despite initial negative criticism, and has come to be recognised as an example of imaginative covering by recent critics.
In December, she released her Cantonese album Di-Dar which mixes an alternative yodelling style with a touch of Indian and Middle Eastern flavor. This album was a success, partly because it was so different from the mainstream Cantopop music, but—ironically—a couple of very traditional romantic songs topped the charts.
Although the album was Faye's personal favorite, the response from Hong Kong and Taiwan was less than desirable. Many fans who enjoyed her previous three Mandarin albums turned their back on Restless, which they considered to be too alternative and self-absorbed. There were few ballads which were radio-friendly—had Faye taken her experimentations too far? However, hardcore Faye fans, known as Fayenatics, worshipped the album and it became a cult hit. Wong has not released another fully artistic album since. After the release, Faye became the second Chinese artist (after Gong Li)—and the first Chinese singer—to be featured on the cover of TIME magazine.
From 1993 to 1995, Cinepoly released an EP of Faye each year: Like Wind (如風), Faye Disc (菲碟), and One Person, Two Roles (一人分飾兩角). Then in 1996-97, Faye recorded ten original songs in Cantonese all written by lyricist Lin Xi (林夕) and various composers, such as Wong Ka Keung, Adrian Chan, and Chan Xiao Xia, before her departure from Cinepoly. After her contract with Cinepoly expired, the company released eight of these songs in the two subsequent EPs entitled Toy (玩具) and Helping Yourself (自便). Although the EPs contained new songs—ballad hits like "Undercurrent" (暗湧), "Date" (約定), and "On Time" (守時)—and were welcomed by fans, they received lukewarm critical responses. The other two songs were included in later compilations; the last to be released was "Scary" (心驚膽顫) in 2002.
Her first album with EMI was Faye Wong (1997) (王菲), released in autumn 1997. Critics expecting another artistic breakthrough after 1996's Restlessness found – much to their dismay – a much more inoffensive and commercially oriented musical album. Simon Raymonde and Robin Guthrie of the Cocteau Twins wrote two original compositions for the album, but only one, "The Amusement Park" (娛樂場), was used. This release included an acoustic cover of the Cocteau Twins' "Rilkean Heart", renamed "Nostalgia" (懷念).
This album is filled with feelings of lethargy, languor and disengagement, yet most of the tracks sound warm and sweet, as opposed to those piquant self-centered ones before her motherhood. Reporters noticed that she began to smile more often in public and was not as icy or aloof as before. However, the album was released during the Asian financial crisis which swept East and Southeast Asia. Wong's old company Cinepoly, which retains the copyright on her previous records, released a Mandarin compilation at the same time in 1997 to counteract her new EMI album (and indeed outperformed it). Later, Cinepoly would release two compilations each year to compete with Faye's new releases, a tactic which has come under fire from her international fans. Faye Wong did not sell well in Hong Kong, but did quite well in Taiwan and mainland China. Although Wong had garnered some popularity with her 4 previous Mandarin albums, it was really this sweet yet slightly alternative album which had the Mainland Chinese audience listening. Her profile began to rise sharply in Asia.
At the beginning of 1998, Wong was invited to sing a duet "Meet in '98" (相約一九九八) with personal friend Na Ying (那英), a prominent mainland pop singer, at the 1998 Spring Festival Gala show hosted by CCTV.
Scenic Tour (唱遊) was released in October, and contained four songs composed by Faye: the opening track "Emotional Life", "Face", "A Little Clever" and "Tong" (both written for her daughter, the latter produced by Dou Wei). Amongst other songs were "Give Up Halfway" (sung both in Mandarin and Cantonese), which was one of the more commercially successful tracks from the album, along with the successful ballad "Red Bean" (紅豆).
Early in 1999, Pepsi-Cola made Wong a spokesperson. In March, she held two concerts in Nippon Budokan; she was the first Chinese singer to perform in that venue. After these concerts, she shot the promotional music video for "Spectacular" (精彩), which Pepsi used in commercials.
The album Only Love Strangers (只愛陌生人) was released in late September. This was her first album after she parted from her husband Dou Wei, and her first without any musical collaborations with him since their relationship begun. The title track was featured in Sylvester Stallone's remake of Get Carter. Faye also became a spokesperson for JPhone in October, performing in several commercials which aired in Japan.
The popular videogame Final Fantasy VIII, released in Japan in February 1999, featured the song "Eyes On Me", sung in English by Wong. It was the first time in history a Japanese videogame title featured a Chinese singer for its theme. The "Eyes On Me" single sold over 400,000 copies in Japan, winning "Song of the Year (Western Music)" at the 14th Annual Japan Gold Disc Awards. Later that year, the game was released in North America. The theme for the game became very popular in the West for non-Asian and Asian gamers who were not familiar with her music. While it was not a mainstream hit in the West (she had no desire to explore these markets), she did find herself many onlookers, many of whom were able to expand their exposure with her other works.
In addition, she began filming for 2046 in August, a project she would pursue on and off in the next few years, when she would have an opening in her schedule.
Fable represents a milestone in Faye's artistic development and constitutes an important album of her opus. It remains indisputably a ground-breaking contribution to the Chinese indie soundscape as well as retaining a special place with Faye fans.
Her other activities during this year included the Pepsi promotional duet and music video of "Galaxy Unlimited" with Aaron Kwok, the filming of Okinawa Rendezvous, as well as several concerts in China and Taiwan.
Nevertheless, the response from the public and critics alike were lukewarm at best. Die-hard Fayenatics felt it deviated too much from the trademark 'trippy/softrock' style established in her former albums. Even Faye herself admitted that she was not totally satisfied with some tracks, namely those produced by Taiwan 'father of rock' Wu Bai, which had an industrial electronica flavor reminiscent of Karen Mok's 'Golden Flower' album. She cited the two folk-style songs written by Singaporean singer-song writer Tanya Chua as her favorite picks on her album. The song that generated most noise from the press turned out to be one penned by former love Nicholas Tse.
Despite not being her most prominent album, Faye Wong (王菲) reached number 14 on the Japan Oricon charts - no mean feat for a Chinese singer in a large market that looks more towards the West.
While she was under contract with EMI and later Sony, she performed in the ensemble movie 2046 which had been in production since 1999 and finally wrapped in 2004. She performed at fund-raising concerts to benefit various charities, including ones that helped those who suffered from AIDS and SARS. She sang on tracks with other celebrities such as Tony Leung, Anita Mui, and Aaron Kwok. She also starred in a Japanese TV serial, Usokoi, and the film Leaving Me Loving You with Leon Lai. Meanwhile, her former record companies released several more compilations and boxed sets of her records.
She also recorded one of her few Japanese songs, the theme song for Usokoi, titled "Separate Ways", which was released as a single (another being Valentine's Radio ), as well as several solo, non-album tracks, such as the eponymous hit theme song to Hero and a Buddhist song containing similar sounds to some of her work on her album Impatience. In addition, she recorded a recitation of the Heart Sutra.
Meanwhile, she recorded 13 tracks for her album To Love (將愛), released in November 2003. 10 tracks were sung in Mandarin and 3 in Cantonese. She wrote the music and lyrics for 3 songs, the title track "To Love", "Leave Nothing" (不留), "Sunshine Dearest" (陽寶), as well as the music for "April Snow" (四月雪). Before the album's release, her Cantonese song "The Name of Love" (假愛之名), with lyrics by Lin Xi, was banned in some areas such as mainland China because the lyrics mentioned opium. According to interviews, she said that she preferred the Mandarin version of the song (the title track); she had penned these lyrics herself, and they made no reference to drugs. She also recorded "Passenger" (乘客), a cover of Sophie Zelmani's "Going Home". The album became more successful than her previous self-titled album, both financially and critically. Afterwards, she held numerous successful concerts for over a year. At the 2004 Golden Melody Awards, she was awarded Best Female Artist after being nominated many times. Her acceptance speech, in which she quiped "I've known that I can sing, therefore I will also confirm this panel's decision," was controversial to the local Taiwanese media.
On May 18, 2008 Wong performed publicly for the first time in over three years. She sang "Wishing We Last Forever" (但願人長久) near the end of the four-hour CCTV fundraising program for the 2008 Sichuan earthquake relief effort. However, one of her managers indicated that this appearance was only for charity and not an official return to showbusiness. Wong's stance on whether she will return at a future date remains ambiguous.
Their daughter, Dou Jingtong (竇靖童, lit. meaning "child of Dou and Jing" [from Wong's first stage name Jingwen]) was born on January 3, 1997. The baby's voice appears in the song "Tong" on the 1998 album Scenic Tour (唱遊), as well as the title track of the album Only Love Strangers (只愛陌生人) released in 1999.
However, the paparazzi, particularly those from Hong Kong, were the first to detect alienation between the two, especially during Wong's concert tour of Japan in March 1999. Several days later, they caught Dou with another woman inside a restaurant in Beijing. Asked who she was, Dou immediately answered, "She is Gao Yuan (高原). My lover". Wong was already famous in the mainland by 1999, so this news caused a shock in the entertainment industry across the Chinese-speaking world. Reports and rumours included one that said Gao admitted she and Dou had been lovers for years and had never really separated even after the wedding. Wong's enormous group of multinational fans maintained relentless attacks on Dou for a long time. However, he declared that the divorce had been set up by a record company. On the other hand, Wong and her friends in Beijing has since remained silent on the topic of this first marriage.
In March 2002 local news media reported Tse had been secretly romancing Hong Kong actress and singer Cecilia Cheung. Not long after this affair was made public, Wong severed ties with Tse and his career suffered because of it. However, after Tse's romance with Cheung ended months later in July 2002 (Tse and Cheung later married in 2007), Wong and Tse would resume an on-off relationship, until she met her current husband Li Yapeng in 2003.
Relying on photos and other sources, the paparazzi press reported Faye began dating and became subsequently engaged to Mainland TV actor Li Yapeng. It remained a mere rumor until their wedding in 2005. Around the time of her wedding, one of her manager confirmed that she might take an indefinite break from the entertainment circle.
Later that year, her Hong Kong agent confirmed Wong was pregnant with the couple's child. Li said that he will support whatever decision his wife makes with regards to her musical career.
On May 27, 2006, Wong gave birth to her second daughter, Li Yan (李嫣, lit. meaning "captivating"), by caesarean section at the Peking Union Medical College Hospital On Aug 12, Li published a thousand-word public online letter, "Thanks (感謝)", on his Sina.com blog. The letter served as an outlet for their gratitude towards all concerned parties, and confirmed rumors their daughter was born with a congenital cleft lip. He expressed their reasons for seeking medical treatment in California—due to the severity of Li Yan's cleft, the special reconstructive surgeries she needed were not available in China. Citing a South American folk tale, Li described his daughter as a special child, her cleft as a mark of an angel. The couple has since established the Smileangel Foundation with the goal of assisting children with clefts.
On December 26, 2006 Wong made her first public appearance since 2005 at the foundation's inaugural fundraising ball. She opted not to speak or sing, but her new composition "Cheerful Angel" (愛笑的天使) debuted at the event as the official theme song of the charity. At the second annual fundraising ball on December 8, 2007, Wong mentioned that although she will not return to her music career in 2008, she will consider it afterwards. However, she sang and produced an electronica-infused version of the Diamond Sutra for the event; it was played during her red carpet entrance. To date, the foundation has raised over 35 million renminbi, including 29.5 million from auctions during the two December fundraisers.
Since her release of Miyuki Nakajima's "Mortal World" (人間) in 1997, she has always ended her concerts with this song while shaking hands with the audience, then taking a deep bow to a horizontal position before leaving the stage. She does not perform encores, and usually exits by sinking below the stage via a platform.
She has given concerts in North America and Australia as well as many venues in East and Southeast Asia, including charity concerts. The key features of her three major series of concerts are set out below.
|Concert Series||Dates & venues||Songs on concert CDs that had not been on studio albums||Availability and trivia|
|Faye Wong Live In Concert 1994/95||18 concerts at Hong Kong Coliseum: 22 Dec 1994 - 8 Jan 95||(i) I Will Marry You Tomorrow (Emil Chau); (ii) One Thousand Words, Ten Thousand Phrases (Teresa Teng)||Released on CD and Laserdisc. The visual designer for the concerts was the film director Wong Kar-wai|
|Faye Wong Scenic Tour 1998/99||7 concerts in China and one in Japan, 17 concerts at Hong Kong Coliseum: 24 Dec 1998 - 9 Jan 99, then 5 more in Singapore, USA & Japan||(i) Bohemian Rhapsody (Queen); (ii) Auld Lang Syne||Released on CD and VCD. In the Japan concert, she covered Dou Wei's "Don't Break My Heart". After her divorce, she stopped performing "Pledge" for the remaining concerts|
|Faye Live Tour 2003-04||8 concerts at Hong Kong Coliseum: 20-27 Dec 2003, followed by various Asian venues through 2004||(i) Heart of Glass (Blondie); (ii) The Look of Love (Dusty Springfield)||Released on CD, SACD, VCD and DVD. She decided to perform "Pledge" again for these concerts. Pu Shu's "Those Flowers" was only covered for concerts in China. The title sponsor was the clothing company Baleno|