Mayday (五月天; 五=five, 月=month, 天=day; the fifth month is May) is a rock band from Taiwan. Their songs are in Mandarin and Taiwanese. But don’t worry if you don’t know either language, I’ll translate. Also, for all the music videos, you can turn on captions to see the translation. Luckily for you and me, since Mayday is touring Europe soon, there is a video about Mayday’s story in English.
Even though I believe music can cross borders and language barriers, I have to admit that Mayday’s lyrics were the first thing to move me. I’m from Taiwan, I’m Taiwanese, and Taiwanese is my family language. Mayday was one of the first groups to combine Taiwanese lyrics and rock music. The Taiwanese songs immediately give me a sense of warmth that can only exist at home.
出頭天 (Breakthrough Day) is Mayday’s most recent Taiwanese song.
All the lyrics (and most of the music) to Mayday’s songs are written by Ashin. Mayday’s lyrics deal with the every day issues people go through: love lost, loneliness, and keeping up with the daily grind. Even though these things are not always positive, the lyrics do not make me feel sad. Rather, it makes me feel good that someone has put my emotions into words. It is reassuring that other people have the same feelings. Some lyrics are very positive and encourage the listener to keep on going and persevere.
Even though the song 如煙 (Like Smoke) is about life and death, it focuses on the most important thing in life: memories. The line that gets me each time is: 書包裡面裝滿了蛋糕和汽水 (A book bag filled with cakes and soda). When I hear that line, I am immediately reminded of my elementary school days in Taiwan. Those old rectangular school bags and stuffing soda and candy in spaces between textbooks and workbooks.
I am also moved by the melody of Mayday’s songs. Between two guitars, a bass, and a drum set, the melodies range from upbeat to peaceful. The melody to 笑忘歌 (Song of laughter and forgetting) was written by Monster. It’s an upbeat melody for when one wants to reminisce.
Besides the lyrics and melody of Mayday, what else would move me? That would be Mayday’s attitude towards their music and their influence on culture and society. Through social media, they promote other Taiwanese musicians, Taiwanese movies, and comment on social issues. Recently the song 入陣曲 (Battle Entry Song), which was composed for a period drama, became a rally song for a protest against the Taiwanese government. The lyrics are not translated, but I summarized the issues covered in the music video in the post “News about Taiwan: 入陣曲 edition”.
Lately, I’ve been very moved by Ashin’s words during a spoken section of 憨人 (Fool) from 五月天 諾亞方舟 世界巡迴演唱會Live 2CD (Mayday Nowhere World Tour Live 2CD). The album is also available on iTunes (link to US store); it’s track 11 of the 2nd CD. The statement is found in the CD lyric sheets (© 相信音樂 B’in Music).
Since I was very young, I kept hoping that I could be a special person,
I wanted to be an one and only person.
But I never took first place in exams, not once;
Then during speech competition, my score was zero.
When I signed up to join choir, I didn’t make it.
Finally, one day, I found one thing,
I found one thing I could possibly do (well), that thing is called music.
I am very lucky, because I actually have never been a vocalist who is good at singing,
Not a lyricist who is very good at writing lyrics, not a composer who is very good at writing music;
Even when I’m on stage, and I want to dance with everyone, I have never succeeded.
But I know, I am extremely fortunate.
Because when I do something a little bit well, my friends,
And I mean, not just these four people [the other band members], but all of you, are very generous.
I only hope, that the songs that we write, are able to accompany you,
During those times when no one sees you.
Then, you know that we will be with you, in our hearts,
Slowly singing, our most familiar melody
I think that accurately summarizes how Mayday moves me. Even though we are just specks on this planet, Mayday’s music makes you feel as if you’re important and special, even when no one else is paying attention. This is not only important for teenagers or children, but for each person on this planet. Mayday gives everyone the courage to pursue their dreams and live life to the fullest.
Mayday has already broken records in the Mandarin-speaking parts of the world, but they are constantly evolving. November 2013 marks the release of their first Japanese album, a best of CD with three new Japanese songs. Their NOWHERE tour that began in December 2011 after the release of their eighth album, Second Round, is now leaving Asia and going to the West: three stops in Europe in February 2014, and two stops in Canada and four stops in the U.S. in March 2014.
The album Second Round uses the concept of the 2012 Mayan apocalypse to explore past memories and second chances. The music video to the song 2012 is mostly concert footage.
The theme song to the tour and 3D movie is 傷心的人別聽慢歌(貫徹快樂) (Sad People Should Not Listen to Slow Songs (Stay Happy Through the End)). It’s actually quite a good song to listen to when you’re down because it isn’t slow!
With their never ending work ethic and ability to change with the times, Mayday can be an inspiration to everyone. It’s not about digging up their gossip or constantly following their every move – it is about taking the energy that their music gives us to improve ourselves and the world around us. Of all people to represent Taiwan to the world, I cannot think of a better and more deserving group. Seeing the words “Taiwanese rock band” on BBC was really cool.
Wherever Mayday goes, Mayday’s fans will be behind them, providing support and encouragement, because we can never thank them enough for bringing us laughter, tears, and great music.