On March 17, Alex Chilton, singer of “The Letter,” the greatest song ever written, passed away from heart failure, taking to the grave his storied legacy as the front man for The Box Tops and, later, Big Star.
While Chilton perfectly expressed the depths and urgency of un-repenting young love in less than two minutes, a number of contemporary Chinese artists have been penning songs so good, that their peers actually wish they’d written the songs themselves.
Personally, the song that hits me in the gut every time I hear it is “圈” by [The Gar / 嘎调](http://www.douban.com/artist/thegar). Although the band have ceased playing this hit in their live set, the recorded version of “圈” is an honest account of hopelessness and dead-end youth. Complete with a beautiful melody, simple bass arrangements and a lyrical guitar solo, “圈” is so good I wish it were my own.
Local DJ / promoter R3 of [S.T.D.](http://www.myspace.com/stdpromotions) cites noise rock outfit [Muscle Snog’s](http://www.douban.com/artist/musclesnog) song “Mind Shop Is on Sale” as “one of the first songs that introduced [him] to the underground rock culture.” Adding that he “played this song on repeat for an hour,” when he first heard it, R3 says, “With ‘Mind Shop Is on Sale’, they got the scale perfectly balanced.”
Electro-pop artist [Ben Houge](http://www.douban.com/artist/benhouge) is, not so surprisingly, in awe of Jay Chou’s “七里香” commenting that the song structure “is totally wacky [which is] kind of brave in a pop song.” He adds that “the melody is also really well-wrought. This is also true in the counterpoint between the guitar pattern and vocal line.”
On the heavier side of the register, [Kungfuology](http://www.kungfuology.com/andybest) blogger Andy Best and [Luwan Rock](http://www.luwanrock.com) producer Adam Gaensler offer [Subs’](http://www.douban.com/artist/subs) “Down” and [Demerit’s](http://music.douban.com/subject/1401853/) “Bastards of the Nation” as their respective personal picks.
Best explains his adoration for Subs guitarist Wu Hao, stating that “his music is always raw and powerful but at the same time, layered and interesting,” while Gaensler cites Demerit’s “social conscience ... love of freedom and unwillingness to settle for less,” as hallmarks of “Bastards.”
Finally, Little Punk, local indie queen and vocalist for [Boys Climbing Ropes](http://www.douban.com/artist/bcr), states that she’s “really fascinated with the lyrics” of [Sound Toy’s](http://www.douban.com/artist/soundtoy) “爱玲” “I guess only bastards write sad love songs. That’s a sad fact,” says Little Punk. “Anyways, girls always like bastards and they always cry when they hear the whole sad sound coming from this song.”
While taste is always just a matter of opinion, it’s clear that Chinese rock musicians are composing lasting pieces of substance that will invariably inspire future artists.