Disney’s live-action reboot of Mulan is coming at us next March, and so far, it’s looking pretty good. The film’s producers have jettisoned the wisecracking dragon and seemingly adopted a more realistic storytelling approach, geographical inaccuracies aside. Let us hope that the minds behind the 2020 refresh will also nix the 1998 film’s overwhelmingly white soundtrack (the best song in the original was by Donny Osmond ffs) and go with local talent this time around.
And Disney, if you’re not sure where to start with that, relax — we got you: here’s RADII’s dream Mulan 2020 soundtrack.
Photo of the day: Vava Evokes Peking Opera in New Music Video
We stan a queen. VaVa may have only been runner-up to co-champions GAI and PG One on the first season of Rap of China, but she’s arguably stayed the most relevant, and definitely the most controversy–free. This track is off her fire solo debut, and works for Mulan because of the Peking Opera-flavored imperial swag on display in the accompanying music video. We realize this track was already on the Crazy Rich Asians soundtrack, but given the elaborate period costume involved it deserves a re-up.
Yin: Bastard, I Miss You
Naturally we need to give top billing to Li Yuchun (aka Chris Lee), ex-Super Girl and OG purveyor of androgynous pop realness. Li actually has a song called “Mulan,” arguably a better fit, but it’s not on Spotify, so we select her curveball 2015 collaboration with A.G. Cook of at-the-time extremely hyped London netlabel PC Music. It’s a mood.
Interview: 19-Year-Old “Rap of China” Finalist Lexie Liu
She’s not yet risen to Chris Lee-levels of stardom, but reality-show-famous singer and 88rising signee Lexie Liu also has a track called “Mulan,” from her debut EP, 2030, released in February. Lyrically this bilingual jam is the most on-target selection on this playlist: “Like Mulan going to war, war, war, war / For my family I do more, more, more, more.”
Miao Jing and Jason Hou Re-Image Egyptian Mythology in New Audio-Visual Project
Among artists incorporating elements of traditional Chinese music into fresh-for-the-21st-century compositions, Jason Hou of Beijing label/collective Do Hits is in the top tier. This cut off his debut full length, 2017’s 生 (Sheng), is inspired by “the repeated breath of the universe” and blends bamboo flute, plucked zither, and a tasteful trap drop to appropriately cinematic effect.
Yin: Sci-Fi Flavored Future-Rock from Shanghai’s Duck Fight Goose
What would Mulan be without her noble steed? Though there are more classical jams that would serve the score well whilst 2020 Mulan is galloping across the countryside — such as the aptly named erhu tune “Horse Racing” — we prefer the cyberpunk edge of “Horse,” the stand-out track and festival favorite off Shanghai band Duck Fight Goose’s conceptually loaded 2016 album, CLVB ZVKVNFT.
Yin: Alex Wang Bugs the Machine on New EP “0%”
Alex Wang is a composer from northeast China — where the actual Hua Mulan might have come from, according to the original Ballad of Mulan — and this cut from his recent album 0% combines a filmic title, traditional musical elements like gongs and synthesized strings, an overriding tense atmosphere perfect for a mounting pre-battle scene, and guest vox by one of our favorites, the protean singer/songwriter YEHAIYAHAN.
I mean, obviously. If the title of this track, from the 2010 album of the same name by Taiwanese Mandopop trio S.H.E, doesn’t seal the deal, the hyper-swag glam metal vibes emanating off its music video in every direction sure as hell do. Mulan is the ultimate SHERO, after all.
Last but not least: let’s bring back this classic from pioneering all-women Beijing punk band Hang On the Box’s path-breaking 2001 LP, Yellow Banana, as a reverse-gender-reveal end credits bop. Much like Mulan, Hang On the Box had to fight their way through a sphere dominated by men with an aggressively military demeanor — in their case, the late ’90s Beijing punk scene — and have become legends in their own right.
Check back on RADII next month for an in-depth, illustrated history of Hang On the Box’s unlikely rise within the ranks of Beijing punk.
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