林夕/Lin Xi, Hong Kong cantonese and mandarin lyricist. Possibly the most prolific lyricist in Chinese music in recent decades. Undisputed commercial and critical success.
I consider 林夕/Lin Xi to be another genius writer-artist, with his better works showing his literary style and philosophical influences from 禅/Chan Buddhism and the 道/Tao. If 林夕/Lin Xi had not become a lyricist under the big bright city lights, he’ll probably be a monk somewhere, scratching out his beautiful lines on the temple walls or in the sand.
But of course, while Lin Xi may be a genius and has penned some of the most memorable lines in chinese/asian music, as a ‘property’ of the major record labels and by extension also under the thrall of the large entertainment/production houses and TV networks, he is guilty of some really bad songwriting; especially those cringe-worthy theme songs of the HK drama serials.
From his english wiki entry:
He has been a cantopop lyricist since 1985, using the pen name Lin Xi. The Chinese characters for this name, 林夕, written vertically, look like the compound character 梦 (pinyin: mèng), meaning “dream”.
He has written over 2500 song lyrics. He is well-known for composing lyrics very quickly. […] he admitted that his fastest record for writing the complete lyrics to a song is 45 minutes.
His slightly more substantial mandarin wiki entry.
I said the following some time ago, regarding a dispute over whether Lin Xi’s cantonese or mandarin works are better (he is known for writing 2 sets of lyrics, canto and mandarin, for many of the same piece of music):
Have to agree with (the view that Lin Xi’s cantonese works are better) here.
林夕/Lin Xi’s native tongue is 粤语/cantonese and his cantonese lyrics have always been better expressed than his mandarin works. While his mandarin lyrics can be adequately ‘metaphoric’ as well, his real poetic skills really comes through in his cantonese works, which goes beyond simple symbolism and reaches for the deeper evocation of 林夕/Linxi’s primary influence from 禅/Chan and 道/Tao.
Basically, 林夕/Lin Xi’s 粤语/cantonese lyrics reveals higher restraint and always have a more 脱俗(ethereal, sublime, away from the mundane) feel.
In this case of “富士山下/At the Foot of Mount Fuji”, the cantonese lyrics also have much better 韵律(rhythmic + rhyming scheme) than the mandarin lyrics and a stronger control of the 词(wording, imagery) balance.
Most of 林夕/Linxi’s mandarin lyrics have always been written in a ‘language’/manner that is easier to understand; while his canto lyrics are a more authentic reflection of his philosophical influences.
Another example (there are so many canto/mandarin lyrics he wrote!) are the canto and mandarin lyrics he wrote for the 王菲/Faye Wong song — “冷战/Cold War”。
Check it out, this one is obvious.
And here is the song referred above, “富士山下/At the Foot of Mount Fuji”, performed by Eason Chan, in cantonese.
(the video/visuals really bad, the music fair, the lyrics sublime):
[While 林夕/Lin Xi is no Wagner, I wager that possibly some time in the future, he may be at least as avidly studied as a living Sondheim.]