In praise of China’s CROONING censors: Company songs NOW!

Singing in the pain, just singing in the pain

Glorious future of China

Something for the Weekend, Sir? Clear the desk of work, put the phone on voicemail, set your email to auto-reply and sign that restraining order against the increasingly desperate Madonna. Allow nothing to interrupt the 3:11 of sheer pleasure that is Cyberspace Spirit, the televised performance of the official anthem for China’s web censors.

As soon as I watched the video here on The Register, I knew this was the story of the century (so far) and thus my original column for this week was consigned to the bin.

Of course, some of you might suggest that the bin is the best place for such things on a more regular basis, but don’t worry, I confidently predict it’ll be unpicked of orange peel and the hairs blown away for publishing next weekend.

There is so much to love about this song, I don’t know where to start. It’s probably its very existence that gives me such a thrill. Rather than being ashamed or peeved to admit to the rest of the world that China’s censorship of internet access by its citizens is both cack-handed and doomed to failure, the very net spooks that put up the virtual No Entry signs are singing about how fantastic it is to be ill-informed.

I love the fact that, despite their tuxedos, the male lead singers appear to have been chosen to represent idealised IT workers: both bespectacled, one tall and skinny, the other short and fat. I love that they have been paired up with in-your-dreams girlies wearing mad smiles and flowing dresses last seen hanging off the Nolan Sisters in a 1977 edition of The Two Ronnies.

I especially love the flashy-but-dim Eurovision-style camera direction of the video as it sweeps past the backing choir while none of them is singing.

Even if this doesn’t light your fire, surely it must give you a snigger during the opening bars simply because it sounds as if they’re about to launch into that most romantic of St Valentine’s Day ballads, Sit On My Face.

Youtube Video

Imagining the song as a Chinese adaptation of the Monty Python classic certainly gives the video an extra buzz – and the singers’ cheerful facial expressions new meaning. I eagerly await some wag to add the SOMF lyrics as subtitles and re-issue the video back into China.

As they stand, the lyrics are incomprehensible, but this is probably due to the quality of the over-literal Wall Street Journal translation. I’m not quite sure what to make of “Incorruptibility is the clear rippling of a nation” but it makes me feel naughty and now I feel like searching for some online porn – which is, I’m pretty sure, precisely what the singers WON’T let me do.

I think the next line says something about having a hovercraft full of eels, but enough of that.

Censorship issues aside, the wonder of Cyberspace Spirit is that it took China so long to author a theme song about IT. Here in the West, before the influence of the net turned five-knuckle-shuffling into an Olympic sport, tech businesses revelled in their company songs.

The most famous of these was IBM. The story goes that some musically gifted employees of the old Big Blue spontaneously formed choirs and bands, rather like City ukulele orchestras and Glee clubs are run today, and then justified their time-wasting by performing songs in praise of their employer.

For those of us who suffered the indignities of, let’s say, a "traditional" school education, the very idea of a company song is too close for comfort to that of a school song. I’m not exactly Nigel Molesworth but the thought of IBM employees singing about IBM always makes me think of Latin lessons, board rubber chalk and carbolic soap.

On the other hand, it could be that the whole business was a scam for dossers. You’d be practising how to sing this shit during office hours, remember. But what if your line manager chose to object to such blatant time-wasting?

Well, reading through IBM’s 88-song lyric book, you may notice that for every generic “IBM! IBM!” sung to the tune of Jingle Bells and “Selling IBM, we’re selling IBM” to the melody of Singing in the Rain, there are half a dozen songs dedicated to individual members of the board of directors.

Imagine trying to get your work-shy, mug-carrying Larrys booted out once they’d composed an official company anthem to the tune of It's A Long Way To Tipperary extolling the virtues of the boss by name.

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