20 September 2012

Hay Hát Hơn Là Hát Hay

In my family, my late father was a good singer.  The talent skipped me and bestowed upon my son.  Or perhaps my son got it from the mother side.  My brother plays the guitar and learn the tunes by ears.  My wife is good at the Chinese zither, aka gu-zheng, and she got the kid into it, too.  He's good at it, he just hates the practice sessions.  I cannot carry a tune and don't play any instruments.  The only instrument I ever played was the recorder, in high school, and the only tune I knew was "Three Blind Mice", more popular known as "The Three Stooges Theme".

To make up for my apparent lack of musical talents, I made an effort to know song names and the performers.  I was much into music-listening when I came to the U.S. in 1980.  Radio-listening eventually got replaced by video-watching.  At the peak, I was watching America's Top Ten every Saturday morning and Friday Night Video.  Solid Gold, too.  When I had some money, I bought audiocassettes of The Police, Alan Parson Project, Sting, Heart, "Weird" Al Yankovic etc.  I also made use of whatever Queens Borough Public Library and New York Public Library had, all audiocassettes.  The public libraries did not have that many tapes for pop music so I ended up listening to a lot of classical music.  A chance borrowing of Hooked On Classics got me, well, hooked on classics.

Life got busy and for years I did not keep up with the music scene.  For a few years, while dating my future wife I listened to Cantonese pop music (Cantopop) as a way to learn more of the Cantonese dialect of Chinese.  Apple's campaign with Pepsi got me many "Weird" Al songs that I didn't know about, which led to the original songs, too.  The great thing with "Weird" Al is he's been around for so long, he parodied a broad spectrum of music.  Altogether, my musical knowledge was limited to the 80s, classical, "Weird" Al and whatever songs he parodied.  I thought I was pretty knowledgeable, at least with the 80s.  Then I discovered SongPop.

Name That Tune is the most obvious phrase to associate with SongPop.  The game is available on tradition computers and also on iDevice and Android.  In the game, you hear a tune and choose the correct song or artist name from a list of four.  You earn some points with each correct choice, the faster the more points.  Your opponent then get the same choices and would try to beat your score.  The winner gets three coins, the loser only one.  With the accumulated coins, you can buy new playlists, perhaps something you are more knowledgeable in.  Playlists include Love Songs, Female Singers, Alternative 90s, Movie Soundtrack, and more.  You can also buy power-up, the ability to eliminate two of the four choices to give you a better chance at guessing.

Much to my chagrin, I discovered that I am not that good at the game.  Some players are very knowledgeable and fast.  Then there are so many bands, singers,  and songs out there since the last time I closely followed music.  There's also much music before the 80s that I was not interested in.  Big names like the Bee Gees and ABBA I know some songs for but there were also the One Hit Wonders back then.  Strangely, I have not come across any Beatles songs, other than A Hard Day's Night in the Movie Soundtrack playlist.  Perhaps SongPop, the company, needs to have someone like the late Steve Job to negotiate hard to bring the Beatles into SongPop.

In Vietnamese, the phrase "hay hát hơn là hát hay" means "those who sings lousy often like to sing".  That's my case, except I like to play the game.  I try to get more knowledgeable by using YouTube and Wikipedia and it sometimes help.  With the Photoshopped playlist above, I should win more, but I enjoy the game whether I win or lose.

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