Joanna Wang playing at a concert

How Joanna Wang Redefines Mandopop in the TikTok Age

Fourteen years after debuting with a cover album, the singer-songwriter stays relevant to Gen Z with eclectic sounds and experimentation

Joanna Wang’s track “Alice in Wonderland,” a dreamy, nostalgic, slow-tempo cover of the 1951 animation theme song, featuring an 85-person Slovakian orchestra from her 2014 album Midnight Cinema, wasn’t made for the TikTok age, but that hasn’t stopped it blowing up on the short video platform.

As of April 2022, the 33-year-old Wang’s song is the backing track to more than 155,000 videos on TikTok, some featuring glittery strawberry cupcakes, girls with filters showing off shiny hair, and even sex-ed trivia. The number of the total views is unknown, but a measure of the track’s popularity is that the supposedly “viral” dance track “Stars Align,” by Mandopop megastar Jolin Tsai (co-produced by Morrocan-Dutch DJ R3HAB), is used in a paltry 25,000 videos on the platform.

With 41 percent of TikTok users aged between 16 and 24, Taiwanese-born American Wang’s success with “Alice in Wonderland” proves that today’s pop doesn’t have to be a bass-gurgling, volume-maxed-out EDM track made by a good-looking DJ to attract Generation Z. But how did a vintage re-worked theme song from a 1950s animated movie of the same name lend itself to videos of their lives?

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author Asian Pop Weekly

Established in 2010, Asian Pop Weekly is one of the only English-language platforms that specialises in reportings on Mandarin popular music. Informed by a multitude of disciplines and perspectives both practical and theoretical, diverse and with an ear to the ground; APW exists between cultural, disciplinary, and national boundaries precisely to demonstrate the possibilities that exist when you look beyond cultural differences. APW is obsessed with the notion of bringing Mandarin and Asian music to the world as a means of bridging cultural divides; unearthing the best of what the scene has to offer and presenting it to English-speaking audiences in ways that intrigue yet foster understanding.

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