Okay, I can see why the average American would think this is bizarre:
- It takes a Lady Gaga song
- Translates it into Chinese
- And makes a bunch of elderly people sing it
- Occasionally off key
- While dancing
- Along with some young women in tutus
- Holding plastic renditions of traditional Chinese instruments
Here are a few things about Chinese culture that might make viewing this video feel a little less odd:
- Chinese people do not have as many inhibitions as Westerners do. Say you're walking through a park in China. You will see at least one of the following: a large crowd practicing tai chi; a large crowd dancing, either ballroom dancing or a more energetic, dance routine (usually there's a boombox set up to provide music); someone singing opera of some kind with a crowd gathered to watch; people walking backwards (this is believed to improve mental dexterity); someone playing a musical instrument; numerous games of hacky-sack; lots of badminton. Many of the people involved in these activities are retired. They have time and this is the way they have fun and stay healthy. It's totally normal.
- Chinese people love to perform and they love to watch others perform. It's a national pastime. If you've ever been to a Chinese banquet you know this when they force you up in front of everyone to sing "Doe A Deer" a cappella. This is also why karaoke is so popular in Asian cultures, because singing in front of people is totally normal and wonderful and expected. In fact, if a Chinese person at a banquet asks you to sing, you'd better sing, brother.
- It's not so important to stay on key. This should be comforting if you're ever pulled up to the front of a banquet hall in China and asked to sing a cappella. Chinese opera is very forgiving in this way, and since this is probably how most of the singers in the video were trained, they're more concerned about volume than pitch. This is not a criticism. It's simply style. I actually learned to sing a section of a famous southern Chinese opera called Butterfly Lovers. I performed it quite a few times at different venues with my opera teacher. So, I've heard my share of Chinese opera and it is an amazing art form! The movements are precise, but the pitch ... not as important.
- No comment on song choice. Not positive why Lady Gaga was chosen, and my Chinese isn't good enough to know if they translated the lyrics exactly, but... Yes, they do look cheerful for singing about heartbreak and bad romance. But the tune is kind of catchy, right? **
American life, on the other hand, is very ... predictable.
**Giora very kindly provided more explanation in the comments (thank you, Giora!). I wanted to include his words, because they are very important to understanding this performance: "The lyrics are very different from that of "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga. The lyrics are about eldery people sining to their son that he is too busy to visit them and they hope that he will see them singing the song." Isn't that helpful? I'm becoming more and more attached to this performance all the time!