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Here are China’s “Hot 5” Bands for Summer 2019*

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Streaming platform iQIYI’s Rap of China for rock music unveiled its 5 finalists last night after an 11 episode run that despite some annoying elements has actually turned out better than many Chinese rock fans expected. With the finale still to come next weekend (in the form of a “big rock party”), The Big Band may not have had the game-changing impact of its hip hop predecessor, but it has brought a number of deserving bands closer to that mainstream spotlight.

Saturday August 3’s episode began with 7 bands, dismissing 2 to bring about the show’s “Hot 5”. Although this was the stated aim all along rather than a grand “winner” the remaining 5 bands were still given rankings — but these won’t be revealed until The Big Band‘s final outing next weekend.

So below, in no particular order are those 5, and if you want to dig further into Chinese rock, check out our Spotify playlist here.

Related:

China’s Feel Good Hit of the Summer is Bringing Rock Music to New Audiences

HEDGEHOG

No surprises here — Hedgehog are a band it’s tough not to love. They’ve been a Chinese rock staple for years now, but it’s taken The Big Band for many who’d been previously dismissive or simply unaware of Chinese indie to sit up and pay attention. Propelled by diminutive drummer Shi Lu, the trio have won fans with both their music and their backstories, as Fan Shuhong wrote previously on this site.

This was their best moment:

MISERABLE FAITH

The presence of this old-school rock act on a show full of cutesy graphics and “goofy” sound effects felt particularly incongruous, and even the host admitted to being intimidated by their grouchy personas. Yet despite being one of the biggest names in the mix, Miserable Faith were given a shock when they were booted from the show fairly early on. They expressed misgivings about fighting to rejoin via a special “resurrection” episode, but their attitudes clearly softened after they returned, helping them perform better with the show’s voters.

Here’s hoping bands of this ilk can give way to younger artists if there’s a season 2.

CLICK #15

To be fair to Miserable Faith, they were among those arguing for two bands to make it out of the “resurrection” special after they beat the relatively newer act of Click #15 by just a handful of votes. The show’s producers eventually acquiesced, allowing this funk duo back into the fold along with the older band.

Not that Click #15 are exactly novices — singer Ricky Sixx was part of Mötley Crüe-inspired Beijing band Rustic, who formed in the late ’00s. These days Ricky looks more to Prince however, and Click’s funk-rock and stories of underground hardship have really struck a chord with the show’s audience.

PENICILLIN

Oasis-wannabes Penicillin, who formed in 2012, were regularly touted as “new blood” on the show, but we can’t help feel their place in the final 5 should’ve gone to Jiu Lian Zhen Ren, a younger, relatively unknown act from Guangdong province. They fused brass elements and their local dialect into surging rock tunes, and even pulled in rap queen VaVa for a collaboration at one point.

Anyway, having made it to the final 7, Jiu Lian Zhen Ren didn’t quite make the “Hot 5” cut, leaving us with the less original Penicillin instead:

NEW PANTS

Beijing-based band New Pants have been a clear favorite to “win” the show since the very first episode. Started as a punk band in the mid-’90s, they’ve honed their crowd-pleasing mix of disco-fied songs and on stage antics at numerous festivals across the country. For The Big Band they’ve simply brought this mix into the studio — naturally, it’s gone down just as well there.

Shame they didn’t do this one on iQIYI though:

“These bands should be playing to packed out crowds at the Bird’s Nest [Beijing’s Olympic stadium],” argued Penicillin frontman Xiao Le in the show’s penultimate episode. Regular arena tours might still be some way off for this “Hot 5”, but despite some TV show silliness The Big Band has certainly had an impact for many of the bands featured on it. As teenage judge Ouyang Nana pointed out, the show has brought these bands to the attention of many in her generation (those born in and after 1990) who were previously oblivious to their existence.

While some artists turned their noses up at appearing on a reality show when it was first announced, we don’t expect the producers to have a shortage of candidates for a new season next summer.

Jake Newby
Jake Newby is a Shanghai-based writer and editor with more than a decade's experience living and working in China. Previously managing editor of Time Out Shanghai, he's also written for publications such as South China Morning Post and the Financial Times.