My Favourite Music #8: Sandy Lam


Sandy Lam

Sandy Lam is the diva in Chinese pop. While the artists in my previous blogs may not be well known outside Hong Kong, Sandy is very popular and much loved by millions of fans across China, Taiwan, Malaysia, Singapore, and the Chinese diasporas around the world.

Sandy started her career in the mid 80s and released her debut album when she was 19. Initially she went with a Japanese-style cute girl image, but her immature voice did not attract many audiences. She quickly changed her style by the second album though, and her song 放縱 Intemperance was her first major hit, with the famous lyric line "I'm empty, I'm lonely, I'm cold" still well known today after 30+ years.

She switched to urban adult contemporary music genre and significantly improved her singing technique over the years. Cantopop in the 80s and early 90s was dominated by foreign song covers, and Sandy was no exception. Many of her Cantopop hits were covers of songs in English, such as:

OriginalSandy's cover
Take My Breath Away by Berlin激情 Passion
Heartache by Pepsi & Shirlie灰色 Grey
Love Is You by Santana早晨 Morning
Are You Ready For Love? by Robbie Dupree滴汗 Sweat
Don't Rush Me by Taylor Dayne講多錯多 Talk Too Much
You Are My Man by Viktor Lazlo你是我的男人 You Are My Man
The Lover In Me by Sheena Easton一分鐘都市・一分鐘戀愛 One Minute City, One Minute Love
I Still Believe by Brenda K Starr依然 Still
Something About You by Yoko Oginome你令我性感 You Make Me Sexy
On The Strength by Flame (with Tony Terry)傾斜 Sliding
Crazy 4 U by Sybil ft. Salt-N-Pepa瘋了 Crazy
Promise Me by Beverley Craven沒有你 還是愛你 Without You, Still Love You

By 1990, Sandy became one of the most popular female singers in Hong Kong, winning the Gold award for female artist at the Ultimate Music Awards for three consecutive years. She then expanded her career to Taiwan and Japan and released Mandarin and Japanese albums. Her Mandopop songs were particularly popular, with many great hits such as 傷痕 Scar and 至少還有你 At Least I've Got You, and she sold millions of records. In 2017, her popularity reached another new height when she won the season 5 of Singer, a popular TV contest show in mainland China. She released Gaia in 2012 and 0 in 2018, the two exceptional albums earning her Best Female Singer twice at the prestigious Golden Melody Awards in Taiwan, the equivalent of the Grammys in Chinese pop music.

In this blog, I will pick few of my favourite songs by Sandy, including some obscure side tracks that may only be familiar to her die-hard fans.

Goodbye Sorrow

Goodbye Sorrow was from her 2005 album, not long after her divorce. This song lyrics were widely considered one of the best from Lin Xi, the grandmaster of Cantopop lyricist. In an interview of Lin, he said that writing lyrics for Sandy was always a torment. While other artists would fully accept his works and sing whatever he wrote, Sandy would demand him to keep improving and revising the lyrics, and this song was rumoured to have been rewritten 8 times.

再見悲哀 Goodbye Sorrow

music by Eric Kwok, lyrics by Lin Xi

* 再見悲哀因我不再計較任何結果
Goodbye sorrow because I don't haggle over the outcome anymore
Everything can be frank and not to mind who is at fault
What do I lose when I close my eyes?
Right and wrong also pass by
Don't be stubborn to ask why's everything

Goodbye sadness because I can't be easily held back by tears
Whatever the situation, I'd like to go through it naturally as it happens
At the end it's like forgetting my material world
Return to the origin of body and mind
Facing the mirror of the heart, it's completely calm
鳥聲瞬間閃過 (這麼最好不過)
The sound of birds flashes by (This is the best indeed)

除了心 只有心 可以解心鎖
Beside the heart, there's only the heart that can unlock the heart
煩惱多 因我要得多
Lots of agony because I want too much
微似砂 輕似煙 怎會有風波
As tiny as sand and as light as smoke, how could there be a storm?
有惆悵 跌入了恆河
Let the disappointment fall into the Ganges

情路太彎 過就過 當是個經過
If the path to love is too winding, pass through it and treat it as a journey
感動的愛 當做一次切磋
Let a touching love be a lesson
沿途上遇上甚麼 都欣賞過
I have appreciated everything along the way
When dived into it, let's be happy together

Repeat *

傻也好 痴也好 因你記得多
Naivety or infatuation, because you remember a lot
忘記的 比你記的多
Things you forget is more than those you remember
懷念最好 我便會 繼續愛惜我
Cherish the best memories, I'll then continue to love myself
花瓣飄過 美在不顧結果
Petals float past, its beauty lies in its disregard for the result
Human beings are like grains of sand flying by
Who has praised or criticised for whom?

Repeat *

This is the best indeed
All is a journey

I Can…But

I Can...But was a side track from her 1989 album City Rhythm Part II - Fuir la Cité. The song was about the struggle between ending and restarting a relationship. I particularly like the simple guitar arrangement and the quietness of this song.

可以...可是 I Can...But

music by Joey Ou, lyrics by Thomas Chow

看海的飄忽 海的拍子 那裡會知
Watching the sea drift, the beat of the sea, who would know?
But I'm paying attention while watching the sea
看浪撲一次 如無下次
Watch the waves crashing, as if there's no next time
卻又再一次 又再一次
But it comes again and again
情海一般放肆 想再開始
As unbridled as the sea of love, thinking to start over again

I can...but
Who would strive to start over once more?
I can...I can't
Who would refuse to leave behind a bit more meaning
I can...I can't
Who still want to try again after the mistake?
I can...I can't
Who is telling me that I'm willing?

已死的聲音 死的句子 那有意思
A dead sound, a dead sentence, is there still meaning to it?
已死的愛 卻在嘗試
But I'm still trying the dead love
Meeting you again I can't control myself
卻又再一次 又再一次
But again and again
聽心底的諷刺 怎再開始
Listen to the irony from the bottom of my heart. How to start again?

* 可以…可是
I can...but
Who would look forward to starting over once more?
I can...I can't
Who would look forward to meeting again today?
I can...I can't
Who still wants to be together after missing [the opportunity]?
I can...I can't
Who is telling you that I'm willing?

Repeat *


Hide was my other favourite side track from her 1992 album Come Back to Love. The lyrics, the melody, the musical arrangement and Sandy's voice were all excellent in my opinion. This is one of my own little hidden treasures.

躲起來 Hide

music by Dick Lee, lyrics by Calvin Poon

請你暫時 暫時准我 獨個躲開
Would you please allow me to hide by myself temporarily?
Hide from the stress around me
Hide from the daily pressure of love
躲開世上擾攘人群 避開
Hide from the crowd in the world, escape from them

請你暫時 暫時不要 罵我不該
Would you please not scold me for the time being?
No need to guess where I am
Don't worry I‘ll definitely come back
When I see you again, I wish to rekindle the splendour

* 人世間 要是有愛
In this world, as long as there's love
要是有夢 要是有情
As long as there's dream, as long as there's affection
要是有緣 定回來
As long as there's fate, I'll definitely come back
而我始終 信是有愛
And I always trust that there's love
信是有夢 信是有情
Trust that there's dream, trust that there's affection
信是有矛盾 依然相愛
Trust that although there's conflict, we still love each other
(信定會和你 更能相愛)
(Trust that you and I will definitely fall deeper in love)

休說別離 但求可以 暫且拋開
Don't say parting. Only wish I can leave things behind for a while
Secretly be by myself
Think about how to love
假使你此刻在彷徨 願放開
If you are anxious at the moment, let it go

Repeat *

Dawn Break

Dawn Break (and version 2) was a solemn song on life and determination. It is a fusion of classical Chinese music with Western tunes. It gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. For many Sandy's fans, this is not a song that can be played and listened to casually. Even Sandy admitted herself that when she sang this song back in 1991, she was too young to fully comprehend the meaning of the lyrics. I told my friends to play this song at my funeral if they outlive me (LOL).

破曉 I Dawn Break I

music by Dick Lee, lyrics by Thomas Chow

The sound of abandonment rings again
How much of the feeling of abandonment is left?
不聽 不觸摸 不痛楚
Don't hear, don't touch, then no pain
懶看 懶記憶 懶問我
Care less to watch, care less to remember, care less to ask me
Things I achieve today what're they called? I wouldn't care

*天 亦天天的了
Heaven, yet the same every day
地 天天的了
Earth, the same every day
But my heart couldn't anticipate
I'm no longer insignificantly tiny
Let yesterday be gone
或者 某月某日某宵 我倦了
Perhaps some month some day some night, I'm tired

How often would a person pick up the changes?
How often is a person determined to move forward?
One day is clear, one day the storm comes
似了 似了 不了 地了
It's almost there, but then no more
他朝得到的縱是小 不緊要
Although one day what you achieve is small, it doesn't matter

Repeat *

心 亦天天的了
Heart, yet the same every day
夢 天天的了
Dream, the same every day
Although it can't be anticipated
But my determination
It doesn't waver a bit
或者 某月某日某宵
Perhaps, some month some day some night...

破曉 II Dawn Break II

music by Dick Lee, lyrics by Thomas Chow

The sound of abandonment stops ringing
How much of the abandoned touch is left?
不聽 不觸摸 不痛楚
Don't hear, don't touch, then no pain
懶看 懶記憶 懶問我
Care less to watch, care less to remember, care less to ask me
Things I achieved that day what're they called? I don't care

天 亦天天的了
Heaven, yet the same every day
地 天天的了
Earth, the same every day
As if it's flaunting
I've seen the dawn break
Let yesterday be gone
或者 某月某日某宵 我倦了
Perhaps some month some day some night, I'm tired

How often would a person pick up the changes?
How often is a person determined to move forward?
One day is clear, one day the storm comes
過了 算了 失了 罷了
It's gone, never mind; it's lost, let it pass
他朝得到的縱是小 不緊要
Although one day what you achieve is small, it doesn't matter

心 若天天的了
Heart, if the same every day
夢 天天的了
Dream, the same every day
This can't be anticipated
But I'm no longer insignificantly tiny
It doesn't waver a bit
或者 某月某日某宵 我倦了
Perhaps, some month some day some night, I'm tired

Other songs

There are many other songs from Sandy that I love so much, and here are just a selection from my long list (in chronological order):

  • 鷹與星 Eagle and Star - this 1987 song told a fairy tale story about a cursed couple where the girl was turned to an eagle during the day and the boy was turned into a star at night.
  • 下雨天 Rainy Day (duet with Blue Jeans) - a song from 1988 became more popular recently when it was covered by many other artists such as Faye Wong
  • 微雨撲巴黎 Drizzle in Paris - a romantic journey to the City of Love, from her City Rhythm Part 3 - Faces & Places album in 1990
  • 都市心 City Heart - from the same album above, a sentimental song about lives in modern cities
  • 讓我笑吧! Let Me Laugh! (Cantonese), Love And Life And You And Me (English), also 走在大街的女子 A Girl Walking Down the Street (A Cappella version) in Mandarin - a beautiful song in any language
  • 心野夜 Heart Wild Night - the most feminine and the sexiest funk song from Sandy
  • 哈囉寂寞 Hello Loneliness (Mandarin) and 哈囉感覺 Hello Feeling (Cantonese) - a jazz from her 1991 album Dreamt, Crazed, Tired, which is widely regarded as one of her best albums
  • 愛的世界 World of Love - from the 1992 Come Back to Love album, this soft easy-listening song was the total opposite to the other power ballads from Sandy, demonstrating her diversity in music
  • 芝加哥的故事 Chicago Story - this musical inspired song from 1994 told a tragic love story between a bartender and a bar singer
    Every night I'm your woman, but life and death are your own matters.
    Every night I'm your woman, and soulmate.
  • 誰像你好 Who's As Good As You - this song followed the above immediately in her Sandy '94 album, another sensual song with her signature "dolphin pitch" towards the end
  • 不還你 Won't Pay You Back - this energetic dance number was from her 2001 Sandy album
  • 十二小時不下雨 It Won't Rain For 12 Hours - a lovely song about travelling on a long haul flight above the cloud
  • Encore - a disco beat specifically written for her 2002 concert (I attended this concert twice). It was one of the first songs written by Pong Nan. I started noticing him since then.
  • 日與夜 Day and Night (duet with Jacky Cheung) - the theme song of the radio drama of the same name in 2002, this was a rare collaboration between the Cantopop king and queen. Previously, Sandy stepped in at the last minute as the female protagonist in Jacky's musical Snow.Wolf.Lake, after the original cast quitting due to stress. Unfortunately, Sandy's performance at the musical was never recorded due to copyright issue.
  • Incomplete - this was originally planned for the lyricist Richard Lam to write, but he passed away before he could complete it. Instead of appointing another lyricist, Sandy sang the song without words as a tribute to Richard, who was deemed irreplaceable.
  • 哭 Cry (Live 2007) - the original version from 1996, while it was not bad at all, was written by her ex-husband Jonathan Lee. He brought great success to Sandy in Taiwan, but was blamed by many fans (including myself) for changing Sandy's music genre from R&B to this Taiwanese-style love ballads catered for the karaoke. Therefore, it was a great surprise when the song was rearranged and transformed into this exquisite live version featuring the cello, pipa and erhu.
  • 也許 Perhaps (Mandarin) and 兩心花 Twin Flowers (Cantonese) - this was the theme song of the movie Hi, Fidelity directed by the lyricist Calvin Poon. Sandy sang the song with her signature soft voice. She was also the co-lyricist of the Mandarin version. It won the Best Original Song at the 31st Hong Kong Film Awards.
  • 柿子 Persimmon - a dramatic song about environmental destruction
  • breathe in... breathe out (English) and 一呼...一吸 (Mandarin) - the first and last song from her 2018 album 0, setting the theme for this award winning album
  • 纖維 Angels - a very touching song about life and death

When talking about Sandy's music, I have to mention her 野花 Wildflower album. Released in late 1991, it was universally recognised as her best album ever and it represented the zenith of her musical achievement. The theme of the album was around the metaphor of Sandy being a wildflower, someone who did not grow up in the greenhouse, with no roots and could not easily settle down. When it was first released, it was considered an avant-garde and too much ahead of its time, and it did not sell well. The first single, 再生戀 Predestiny, combined traditional Chinese opera with R&B, and it was not widely accepted by the audiences back then. However, over the past three decades, Wildflower was highly acclaimed and often appeared in top 10 (if not top 1) list of the best Chinese pop albums of all time by many music critics. You can listen to the entire album here.

In addition, there are many covers, remakes and tributes by Sandy that I like a lot (beside those listed in the beginning of this blog).

OriginalSandy's covercomments
Open Your Mind by Eighth Wonder點唱機 JukeboxSandy's fans were pleasantly surprised when she featured this old and little known side track in her 2005 concert
Make It Real by The Jets夜了...沒有藉口 It's So Late...There Is No ExcuseAnother classic 80s side track
Love In A World Gone Mad by Agnetha Fältskog偷閒 Just Relax For A WhileA relaxing tune from her first of three urban themed City Rhythm albums
Run For Cover by Basia逃離鋼筋森林 Escape From The CityA dance beat from her second City Rhythm album in 1989
Happy Ever After by Julia Fordham痴纏 Crazy LoveA touchy-feely song from Sandy and very different from Julia Fordham's original version
And When She Danced by David Foster & Marilyn Martin此情只待成追憶 In Memory of Love (duet with Anthony Lun)A beautiful 80s love ballad with her long time collaborator Anthony Lun
On My Way Home to You by Michael Franks再不在乎 Don't Care AnymoreThe final track in her third City Rhythm album in 1990, a much loved side track by her fans. She surprised everyone by opening her 2007 concert with this song.
And So It Goes by Roberta Flack微涼 Slightly ChillyOne of the crowd favourites. Sandy quoted lyrics from this song when she had to do a press release on her divorce in 2004
薔薇之戀 Temptation of the Rose by Yin Fang Ling薔薇之戀 Temptation of the RoseA classical Mandarin song from the 60s. Sandy redid the song with a completely modern rendition of it.
夜來香 Moonflower by Yoshiko Yamaguchi夜來香 MoonflowerAnother famous song from the 40s by the renowned Chinese-Japanese singer during WW2. It has since been covered over a hundred times by various singers. In Sandy's version, a new verse was combined with the original chorus.
I Need You Back by Dick Lee沒結果 No ResultA passionate power ballad from 1992 that showcased her musical talent and cemented her status as the Cantopop diva
Baby It's You by The Shirelles由你開始 Start From YouSandy's version was in turn adopted from Cherrelle's 1991 remake of the song. It was a modern twist featuring the Chinese instrument pipa.
情人 Lover by Beyond情人 LoverAfter Wong Ka Kui, the lead singer of the band Beyond, died from a tragic stage accident in Japan in 1993, Sandy paid tribute and sang this song in tears.
Bizarre Love Triangle by New Order一個人 SingleReleased in 2006, it was a tribute to the 80s disco classic
路過蜻蜓 Pass-by Dragonfly by Leslie Cheung路過蜻蜓 Pass-by DragonflyPart of the 2012 ReImagine project on the 9th anniversary of the death of Leslie Cheung, the Hong Kong superstar. The song earned her the Best Female Performer award at the Golden Sail Music Awards, as voted by music industry professionals in Hong Kong.
Within You'll Remain by ChynaWithin You'll RemainA tribute to the first internationally recognised band from Hong Kong

Sorry this is a very long blog and mostly self-indulgent. But as you can see, I listen to Sandy pretty much all my life and she is my idol. I can keep writing about her music but have to stop somewhere.

To many non-Chinese, all these Cantonese covers of English songs may sound funny and weird. Bear in mind that this was the 80s and early 90s before the internet and music streaming, and access to foreign music was quite limited. For many locals, they would have never listened to the originals, hence these cover versions sounded perfectly normal. In fact, I only listened to few of the original version for the first time while researching for this blog. Covering foreign songs was a formula for quick turnaround and success in Cantopop in the 80s. The practice was only phased out in the 90s when the most popular radio station in Hong Kong stopped playing covered songs in order to promote and support local musicians.

Level 62
Mar 4, 2023
Wow, you are a big fan of cantopop. It doesn't seem that you like any other kind of music though. I am aware that I listen mostly to English language songs, so I make an effort to expand my horizons by also listening to Spanish language songs and Brazilian music and Japanese music and a variety of African artists and in a variety of genres including rock, jazz, Blues, country, soul, gospel, Afro-Beat, disco, film-scores, etc. I won't harp on it, but I am just wondering if you have listened to other kinds of music, or do you only like Chinese artists? No offense, either way.
Level 67
Mar 4, 2023
I do listen to other music, including songs in Mandarin, Japanese, Korean, Thai, French, Spanish, English, as well as classical and jazz. But as I explained in my previous blog, no one needs me here to write about Taylor Swift or Ed Sheeran.

I browsed the ones you listed, and of course I'm nowhere as knowledgeable as you are in Western music.

Level 62
Mar 9, 2023
Okay, I respect that.