We’re hijacking the Friday Song column this month to focus on Mandopop, which technically refers to all Mandarin-language pop music, but these days more often implies boy and girl bands, the type with seemingly interchangeable parts and high-energy, highly produced dance tracks.
The release of Rocket Girls 101 火箭少女 101’s latest single “Wind” is just as commemorative as it is bittersweet: The song is a celebration of the 11-member girl group’s first anniversary, but it also means there’s only one year left before their planned disbandment, which is set to take place next summer.
Why are they splitting? It’s not for the reasons you might expect, like an interband beef or someone embarking on a solo journey. Rocket Girls 101 was established as a temporary act from the get-go. Formed through the survival competition show Produce 101 创造101, which aired in 2018 and was a sensation, Rocket Girls 101 consists of 11 winners from the show, picked out of nearly 100 contestants via audience vote. The group has a two-year contract, with the individual members signed to different entertainment companies.
Together for just over a year, Rocket Girls 101 has become one of the most popular acts in the Mandopop scene. Because its 11 members — Meng Meiqi 孟美岐, Wu Xuanyi 吴宣仪, Yang Chaoyue 杨超越, Duan Aojuan 段奥娟, Yamy 郭颖, Lai Meiyun 赖美云, Zhang Zining 張紫宁, Sunnee Li Ziting 李紫婷, Fu Jing 傅菁, and Xu Mengjie 徐梦洁 — were picked through audience voting, the group was wildly popular from the outset. Later on, they continued to cement their dominance in the Chinese girl group world by putting out hit after hit.
As the group is entering the second year of its existence, the release of “Wind” feels like a landmark. Musically, the song is a major departure from the act’s previous singles like “Calorie” and “Sailor Moon,” which rely heavily on maddeningly catchy melodies to assure their virality. In contrast, “Wind” is a sentimental tune that emphasizes the group’s vocal abilities through its ballad styling. With silky smooth melodies and mid-tempo beats, the group’s 11 members sound in touch with their feelings, evoking a range of sentiments from listeners, especially for those who witnessed their growth as artists since the group’s formation.
The song’s lyrics are poetic, heartfelt, and genuine. At one point, they reflect on what they’ve been through by lamenting, “Painful but joyful. Is this how growing up feels like?” At another point, they assertively look ahead, singing, “I don’t wanna fall again because I’ve tasted the feeling of flying.” To conclude the song, the members entice listeners to embark on the second half of their journey with them. “Against the wind. Fly with us. Shall we?” the members harmonize, emblematic of the strong sense of self-assurance they’ve gained in the past year.
In tune with the song’s simplistic production and expressive lyrics, its music video lets the members’ charisma shine through in different natural settings. Throughout, the 11 members alternate between hanging out alone and singing together, wandering on mountains and chilling in a beautifully decorated room.
Mandopop Month will continue next week.