Pop Music Against Oppression

‘Fragile’ 玻璃心 Goes after Little Pinks’ Tender Hearts

Screen shot from Namewee and Kimberly Chen's music video for "Fragile” (玻璃心). © Namewee. https://youtu.be/-Rp7UPbhErE

Don’t be angry lil’ pinky

You have shown pinkish heart with purity

Desiring for dogs, cats, bats, and civets

It is illegal to breach Firewall

You’ll be missed if the Pooh discovers it

                          from the lyrics to “Fragile,” Namewee.

Sometimes it is necessary to take a break from the sadness and horror of the bare facts of oppression and destruction of human culture. It can be good to see another way of telling this story, one that has reached millions of young people in Asia and around the world.

Chinese-Malaysian rapper Namewee and Australia’s Kimberly Chen’s great Mandarin single,  “Fragile” (玻璃心 or Glass Heart) does just that.  The video is addressed to the mainland online Chinese patriots known as Little Pinks, who complain their “feelings are hurt” by criticism of the communist State. First issued in October 2021, the singers were banned in China within 24 hours, but with 60 million views in the song’s first year on YouTube alone, word seems to have gotten out.

Kimberly Chen, Screenshot for video “Fragile,” © Namewee.

The hit tune’s story is of a love relationship, but every line is political satire.  An online translation with greater accuracy than the translation in the video, with line-by-line explanations of the political and social inferences in the sometimes obscure words, is available on the Lyrics Translate website. The song’s references to China’s exotic meat industry and its bats/Covid and civets/SARS will be obvious to all, and harvesting cotton will be understood to refer to forced labor in Xinjiang. However, even its more opaque lyrics are readily understandable to Chinese listeners steeped in State propaganda: the line “Don’t change shoulders (walked ten miles)” refers to a propaganda documentary that claimed Xi Jinping carried 100kg of grains for ten li (5km). “Harvesting chives” is a Chinese idiom for exploitation of young employees by bosses.

This isn’t the first time Namewee has been blocked by Weibo. Earlier in 2021 he posted eight “Tips for the Taliban,” based on China’s repressive policies, ostensibly to help them promote Afghan nationalism and become a superpower like America in three years.

Namewee’s arrest in Malaysia in 2016. Screenshot.

Namewee (aka Wee Meng Chee) is a controversial artist who uses wit, sarcasm, insult, juvenile humor, and outright silliness to get his point across, but his songs can also be lyrical, nostalgic, and very tender. He has more than a history of challenging authority; in his home country, he has a rap sheet for being offensive. He made a name for himself in 2007 with a video mocking the Malaysian national anthem, narrowly evading a sedition charge. A 2016 video, Oh My God! was, yes, offensive to Muslims, Christians and Buddhists, though Namewee said he was promoting racial harmony. In 2018 he was briefly arrested for his video, Like a Dog. In 2021, a warrant was again issued for his arrest in Malaysia for his one-hour drama, Babi, which was held to have “tarnished Malaysia’s image.” The film received nominations at Taiwan’s Golden Horse Awards and the Berlin International Film Festival. He returned home from Taiwan to surrender, writing in a Facebook post:

“A lot of people have asked me why I was so stupid to return and surrender. This is my home and my parents are waiting for me. I’ve done nothing wrong, why should I run?”

Namewee You Tube logo, © Namewee.

Formerly more of a cult figure – his work really is “over the top” – Namewee appears to have gained the financial resources to exercise his creativity. He issued Fragile as an NFT in November 2021 and it sold within 3 hours for RM 4 million (about $850,000). His first response was, “I’m honestly a little overwhelmed.” His second was to embark on a half dozen more film and music projects.

We should give Namewee the final word in this post. After his return to Malaysia to surrender to police, he had this to say:

“If something really happens to me, I want everyone to boldly follow the path of democracy and freedom. As long as all races are united and use the power of the masses to combat corruption and racial policies, the country will progress, democracy will raise its head and people will obtain freedom. Malaysia boleh!”

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