Chinese-born Vancouver singer-songwriter, guitarist and pianist Wanting Qu, who uses just her first name professionally, called her new sophomore album Say The Words; ironically, although the album debuted at No. 1 in Beijing, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau, Singapore and Malaysia, and is also out in North America, some of those words had to be changed for release in Asia because of cultural differences.
The first single released in Asia was the Mandarin-language ballad “Love Ocean,” while in North America it was the upbeat “STHU,” which stands for “shut the hell up,” and was inspired by cyber-bullying. That track replaces the word “shit” with “trash” for release in Asia. On the funky and fun English-language “Exit This Way,” the North American version includes the line “get the fuck out,” while the Chinese version doesn’t.
“With the lyrics, it’s very disrespectful to swear [in China], so we needed to create a clean version, but [doing] that is not dissimilar to what we do in North America,” says Terry McBride, who manages Wanting and releases her music on his label, Nettwerk Records.
“In North America, being confident in your work is a good thing… you toot your own horn. But in China, people take that as not being modest.”
Says Wanting herself, “In North America, being confident in your work is a good thing… you toot your own horn. If you believe in yourself, you tell the world how great your music is. But in China, people take that as not being modest, and modest is one of the ‘good’ traits.”
The rest of the songs on her new album are more tame: “My Little Friend” about Wanting’s cat; “Say The Words,” the childlike title song, with the lyrics “I will count to three/1 and 2 and 3/I love you”; and “Time, My Friend,” about how time allows us to heal.
Wanting – who moved to Canada from Harbin, China in 2000, when she was 16 and couldn’t speak English – saw McBride speak in 2005 at a music industry workshop. Months later, she bounded up to him at a Sarah McLachlan concert and got his business card. But she wouldn’t use it until 2009, when she had some songs recorded.
“What I heard was heart,” says McBride, who signed her that year and released the Wanting EP in 2010 in mainland China. “It was authentic – and [they were] great songs.”