Last month, American R&B singer Kehlani and Chinese singer-songwriter Tia Ray 袁娅维 dropped a surprise collaboration — two versions of the same song, one in Mandarin and one in English. Kehlani was on tour in Beijing when she announced on Twitter that her song with Tia Ray was “somewhere floating on the Chinese interwebs.”
According to Kehlani, who is known for her 2017 debut studio album SweetSexySavage, Tia Ray reached out asking if she could record a version of “Just My Luck,” a song Kehlani had written in English. Tia flew to Los Angeles for the collaboration, with Kehlani singing and record producer Oak Felder arranging. The duo then recorded a Mandarin version titled 浪漫主义 (làngmàn zhǔyì — “Romanticism”). Both the English and Chinese versions appear on Tia’s new album, TIARA.
Kehlani, who has no background in Chinese, sings in impressively proper Mandarin (see the embed above). She gave a shoutout to her “translator” on Instagram but doesn’t go into any more detail — we can only assume she’s a natural.
Interestingly, the lyrics of the two songs are completely different. In the English version, Kehlani and Tia sing about a drunken night out on the town (opening line: “I happened to get real drunk”) and subsequent unsuccessful attempts to booty call (“It’s just my luck / I got your machine”).
In the Mandarin version, Tia and Kehlani croon wistfully about wandering through Paris and New York wanting to be clouds drifting across the Seine (“只想变成塞纳河对岸的云” zhǐ xiǎng biàn chéng sāinà hé duì’àn de yún). As its title suggests, romanticism — not fake IDs or shots, which crop up in the English version — is the lyrical focus.
Thus, in spite of the same relaxed R&B melody, the same instrumentals, and even the same ambient seaside noise, the two songs’ lyrical differences produce vastly different emotions. The English-language version is rueful and a little melancholic, and the Mandarin version is a candlelit, rose-petal adorned slow jam. Both, I think, are KTV-appropriate.
The two versions of the bilingual ballad are available on Spotify, QQ Music, and elsewhere. Here’s the English version: