The simple addition of (Chinese version) to Charli XCX’s smash hit pop song “Boys” doesn’t really do this remix justice. What does it even mean for a song to have a “Chinese version,” as if it’s an option you can select on YouTube?
In Charli XCX’s case, it means mastering an impressive grasp of Mandarin to record her catchy tune in Chinese, remixed by legendary Beijing DJ Howie Lee. The remix is shot through with Lee’s characteristic sounds: traditional Chinese harmonies re-imagined for the electronic era.
Charli XCX, a British pop star who cut her teeth writing for the likes of Iggy Azalea (remember Fancy? That had Charli’s stamp on it), is known for her boundary-pushing collaborations: she is loosely associated with the British label PC Music, whose ironic, turbo-charged electronic pop sounds have been an underground sensation in the UK. With “Boys (Chinese version),” she became one of the few foreign acts to turn a Chinese market-entry attempt into a genuinely original creative project.
The song was originally only released on Chinese platforms such as Xiami, QQ, and NetEase, where it garnered thousands of likes and comments and was popular with a niche audience. This pales in comparison to the Western success of “Boys,” which has 97 million views on YouTube, but as an ambitious and unexpected artifact of cultural synthesis, we reckon “Boys (Chinese version)” will be the one on our Christmas playlists.