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Music Talk: KUN - Blindfolded (蒙着眼)

Cai Xukun: "Hope more people listen to "Blindfolded" and get to know me better."



KUN wrote this song when traveling on a plane, with the frustration and anger built from the defamation and betrayal against him at the time. Despites all the criticism and pressure, he refused to give in and decided to confront the challenges with his pride and music.

The story told by himself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AASeRbfsSPo&t=29s

KUN revealed this song on the stage of Mango Youth Night, way before the release of its studio version. As he recalled later in an intervew, he felt a strong sense of relief when he finished that performance. KUN poured all his thoughts and emotions in his music and on his stages. Dusted it off and picked himself up, KUN was ready to move on. Therefore, when he sung this song again on the stage of GQ Anniversary Gala, KUN looked much more calm and confident.

Daphne, an IKUN from Singapore, likes this song so much that she translated the lyrics in English: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DTFhHGaUlps


It seems to be a heart wrenching song with brutally honest lyrics. How much do you actually understand it? Daphne shares her thoughts with us today:



Released six weeks after the debut of KUN’s second EP, the second and final track is a brilliant contrast to the adrenaline-charged and electrifying beats in “Young”. While both songs are included in the same EP as a tribute to KUN’s twentieth year, they represent the polarities of the experiences and events he has encountered. If “Young” is a song celebrating his youth and experiences thus far, in which he proclaims his potential and resolve to rise to the top amidst envious competitors and troublemakers, then “Blindfolded” must be acknowledging this bitter and murky rivalry, where he bares his thoughts on the matter, calling out his haters in style.


A Holter monitor beeps away in the background, growing louder as a crackling noise comes on, similar to that of static interference on a display screen. This introduction fizzles out before the accompaniment begins, featuring prominent and pulsating beats that radiate some degree of somber urgency, possibly hinting at the significance of the song and its message. In a video interview introducing the song, KUN revealed that the concept for "Blindfolded" was a mental image of himself, lying on a hospital bed in what is perhaps the final days of his life, being hooked up to an IV drip. It dawned on him that he has yet to give the public his account; there are still issues he wants to clarify, views he wants to express; so he sat up in his bed, pulled out the needles from the back of his hand and started writing the lyrics to “Blindfolded” — thoughts and emotions that he has suppressed over this period of time.



KUN comes right out and speaks his mind about the controversy surrounding him in “Blindfolded”, a move that has caught most off guard. Having remained silent about groundless accusations and criticisms (presumably stemming from envy and hate) up till the track's release, KUN has probably had enough of the unwarranted negativity, which has unfortunately spilled over into discrimination and verbal abuse on his fans, prompting him to respond to the cyber harassment by means of music. Unveiling how his colleagues and acquaintances view him in the opening verse, KUN shows us that he is not oblivious to the happenings in the Chinese entertainment industry. Unflappable as usual, he respects that it is human nature to pass judgments and partake in gossip, only because they are unable to identify with him on the importance and value of pursuing his dream. However, as these personal opinions get exchanged and disseminated on social media and in offline conversations — be it harmless small talk to while away time, or a calculated move to spoil KUN's reputation and image so as to elevate theirs by comparison — they grow out of hand, digressing from the original point and becoming misrepresented, simply because this makes good fodder for gossip. Unlike your typical drama lead, this shady scheme did not go unnoticed by the man in the eye of the storm. As much as he finds the whole development a ridiculous joke, he decides to take the high road; turning a blind eye to the prejudice and putting up with the discrimination he is subjected to as a result of the circulating fabrication, believing that this, too, shall pass.


We get a sense of frustration (arising from helplessness) towards the end of the first verse, where KUN attempts to rationalise the motivation behind this set-up. While he tries to empathise with the antihero(es), wondering if it is the irrational fear of being replaced that drove them to rally keyboard warriors to spread the hate on him, he contends that every individual — including himself — has feelings that deserve to be considered; no one should be relegated to a mindless, unfeeling tool, pushed around and exploited to safeguard someone else's interests. Rejecting the idea of being a puppet to others, KUN second-guesses the perpetrators, questioning who's the more pathetic party — the unfortunate pawn or the deplorable mastermind. He follows with "no pretending", challenging the inciter(s) to recognise the nature of their actions, at the same time suggesting that it is futile to keep up the pretence, alluding to his faith that the truth will reveal itself in time. Listeners also get a glimpse of this quiet confidence in the chorus, where the then-20-year old shares that he has long gotten used to the disdain people regard him with, and that it will not deter him as long as there is still a glimmer of hope; as long as his passion continues to burn; as long as his fans are accompanying him. KUN affirms that nothing can change this mindset as he believes the truth will eventually prevail, wishing for the public not to be blinded by hearsay.


The second verse delves further into the cyber harassment environment, where the musician gripes about the wide-reaching and deleterious effects such that people hop on the hating bandwagon to show that they are up to date with society's hottest topics, but are too intimidated to take on a differing view, albeit seeing through the motive behind the provoked controversy. Some even use the issues’ massive engagement to their advantage, hoping to get free exposure for themselves and their businesses, leading KUN to realise the competitive entertainment industry is a beguiling and treacherous one, because even the cultured, Mister Nice Guy can be plotting against him. Prejudice stemming from idol-hating has resulted in an irrational and sweeping contempt of idols, including their works and the good they have done. At the centre of this online hate campaign, KUN admits to being desensitised, and asserts that he's not pretending. This is a reference to the only English phrase in the first verse, plausibly telling his audience that his conscience is clear, that he has nothing to fear when the truth reveals itself.



As though he's writing a diary entry, the outro takes on a more subdued tone, almost as if we are given a peek into his internal monologue. Shrouded in doubts, wondering if he read the situation correctly or is he just finding an explanation for the malicious talk; wondering if he's standing up for himself or is he struggling in vain, "Blindfolded" is likely to be one of the "crazy" (read: contentious and unexpected) songs he mentioned he was undecided about releasing in an earlier video interview. I, for one, am glad that he decided to go through with releasing the song, along with the emotions and indignation that he kept a lid on all this while. To me, "Blindfolded" marks a turning point, or at least, the start of a turning point in KUN's discography. The singer-songwriter has always insisted on producing original music, using his experiences as inspiration for his lyrics, but these have been mellow and romanticised in a sense (a few even left fans baffled as they attempt to find the meaning behind those songs), up till his eleventh composition. Perhaps it is the nature of the theme in "Blindfolded"; the gravity of cyber harassment and its prevalence in the real world, or the extent of negativity he has been putting up with; it feels as though he bared his soul in this song, being pretty specific and overt with his choice of vocabulary. Coincidentally, KUN meant for this to be a marker of change too, as he likens the EP to Janus, the Roman god of beginnings and transitions. By writing and releasing "Blindfolded", the celebrity powerhouse at the centre of this idol-hating phenomenon has more than responded to the inciters, he has also found an outlet for his exasperation, effectively seeking a closure of sorts. This is echoed in the same video interview where he talks about his eleventh song, revealing that he felt helpless prior to writing the song; was livid when he was writing the song; felt partially appeased after he was done writing; and was at peace with himself after he first performed the song.


Going back to the lyrics in "Blindfolded", we see that after working things out on his own, KUN acknowledges that there is no point in letting fear or rose-tinted glasses mask one’s perspective, as all fantasies ultimately fall apart. And until then, there is nothing that can be done apart from gaining the experience and moving forward, after all, what doesn't break you makes you stronger. I find it interesting that he turns around to use "blinded" on himself; telling his listeners that these inciters have exposed him to the ugly and nasty side (or hell) of the entertainment industry, such that he can only choose to turn a blind eye to these episodes, focusing on what matters most to him — music.



Out of the twelve songs KUN has released thus far, "Blindfolded" is my personal favourite, not only because it serves as an outlet for his pent-up feelings, but it is also one of the classiest counter to online hate. He gets his point across — none of their schemes will get to him and his passion for music, and that he believes they will be exposed with time — without any of the awkwardly excessive pride and brutal allegations we are used to seeing in diss tracks. Fans are not wrong in naming the 21-year old one as one such celebrity role model with a positive influence on society. While it may be an understatement to say that it is admirable of KUN to focus on putting out more amazing works instead of stooping to the level of his haters and responding in kind, another fellow celebrity (who's been active in the industry for slightly more than a decade) appreciates his positive mindset and grit, applauding his decision in a backstage interview of an event, albeit keeping KUN's identity anonymous during the conversation.


Having established "Blindfolded" as a medium for KUN to express his views on the controversy surrounding him, I hope this song wouldn't be one that is only performed live once (after its official release) for the sake of serving its purpose. The greater public — outside of those involved in fandom — should be given the privilege to partake in this visual and auditory feast. To neutral parties with a hint of curiosity about KUN or the sensational social media topics surrounding him, "Blindfolded" is the most appropriate song to begin understanding him and his story. Quoting the heart of the song, I urge everyone not to be blinded by the subjective and probably, engineered content on the Internet, instead, give him his due, understand the situation before deciding which side to take, if any. Remember that we should not be an accessory to bullying.


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