There’s a particular draw to Shanghai that other cities in China may never be able to replicate.
For many of us who’ve lived in the ‘city on the sea,’ the lure is the nightlife – where debauchery runs rampant in a place with captivating history.
Julian Chou-Lambert, who also goes by his stage name Lynton (隶霆), moved to Shanghai in 2005. While studying Mandarin at Shanghai International Studies University, he fell in love with the city and has returned just about every year since – barring a global pandemic.
Julian Chou-Lambert, AKA Lynton
The British-Chinese singer and musical artist grew up across cultures in the UK, Singapore and Shanghai. With musical training from the Royal Academy of Music in London, Lynton has developed a diverse musical skillset that’s evident in his debut single, ‘Yeah Shanghai!’
“I think everyone knows Shanghai’s glamour, but there’s also a less glamorous side that gives a more authentic impression of the city,” Lynton tells us over the phone from London. The song kicks off with a sample of Zhou Xuan’s 1940s classic ‘Night Life in Shanghai (夜上海, Ye Shanghai),’ before diving into the wild and wicked world of Shanghai.
Zhou Xuan. Image via Sogou
‘Yeah Shanghai!’ was released in China earlier this year before a worldwide release in the coming months.
Lynton describes the single much like the city – “a combination of old and new, East meets West,” adding that it’s an “upbeat love letter to Shanghai.”
Throughout the song, we hear a mishmash of English, Mandarin and even a few Shanghainese phrases thrown in for good measure. The instrumentation combines Chinese classical instruments like the erhu with Western production value.
“I think the idea of ‘Yeah Shanghai!’ is a party track. You play it when you’re having a good time, like at a nightclub. Or, in a jazz bar as an acoustic version,” Lynton says.
The song strings us in from the beginning with Zhou Xuan’s hauntingly beautiful voice, which Lynton received permission to use from China Record Corporation, the Chinese government’s oldest record company established in May 1949.
From there, the song establishes the “glam and gritty” of Shanghai, with shout-outs to migrant workers and laowai trophy wives, among other Shanghai-centric topics.
Still from ‘Yeah Shanghai!’ music video
The end of the first verse wraps up matter-of-factly with this line: “So get your Alipay ready, but hold your head steady ’cos these Shanghai nights are bound to get messy!”
Lynton and a small team created a music video for ‘Yeah Shanghai!’ following the completion of the track. The three-minute video stars Wang Yuke and takes the viewer on an intoxicating journey from day to night around Shanghai landmarks such as Xin Tian Di and Yu Garden.
Wang Yuke in ‘Yeah Shanghai!’ music video
“The music video has more of a documentary style that gives a unique view of Shanghai, rather than a performance-style hip hop video,” Lynton tells us, adding that there’s a degree of grittiness that’s meant to turn it into a dream-like trip.
There are also elements of the video inspired by Zhou Xuan’s films, from putting on lipstick in the mirror to the barrage of illuminated street signs permeating through the city.
Shop signs in ‘Yeah Shanghai!’ music video
When asked what the song most reflects, Lynton throws it back to Zhou. “She lived a glamorous but tragic life and died quite young. There are risks in Shanghai as well as rewards,” he says, adding that beyond Shanghai’s shiny exterior are things you might not know behind the scenes, which makes the city even more interesting.
While Lynton rides out the remnants of this global pandemic, he looks forward to the next time he can visit the ‘Never Sleep City’ and perform the fun, upbeat track for a live audience.
Check out ‘Yeah Shanghai!’ below (VPN off):
Lynton’s ‘Yeah Shanghai!’ is available on QQ music.
[Images provided by Lynton]