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Eason Chan
Photograph: Courtesy Spotify HK

5 classic Cantonese love songs about breakups

They say laughter is the best medicine – well, crying works pretty well too.

Written by
Time Out Hong Kong

Roses have thorns, and Valentine’s Day doesn’t always mean rainbows and butterflies. Whether you’ve just had a big fight with the person you care about the most, are going through a breakup, or you just feel like bawling your eyes out, this playlist of Cantonese breakup songs will be just what you need for a therapeutic crying sesh.

RECOMMENDED: Want to treat yourself to a meal away from prying eyes? Take a seat at one of these restaurants that are perfect made for solo diners.

5 Cantonese breakup songs

Lingering (綿綿) by Eason Chan

綿綿 (pronounced 'meen meen') loosely translates to mean 'lingering'. The sombre melody goes perfectly with the melancholy lyrics written by Albert Leung (林夕), one of the most esteemed, award-winning writers of Cantopop. The Cantopop king of our era, Eason Chan, uses his hoarse voice to depict a lonely man’s monologue – the denial, his longing for love is clear in the way he lingers on to past memories.

I’ve never loved you, just lingering; but what a shame that I like to reminisce
從來未愛你 綿綿 可惜我愛懷念
Especially with the records that get me sad
I’ve never loved you, but I’ll always be a giver
從來未愛你 但永遠為任何人奉獻
I’ve never really counted how many hairs we lost as we napped on a rainy summer day
從來沒細心數清楚 一個夏雨天 一次愉快的睡眠 斷多少髮線

Rashomon (羅生門) by Juno Mak & Kay Tse

This groundbreaking collaboration between Juno Mak and Kay Tse once swept the Cantopop charts when the single was released in 2015. Renowned lyricist Wyman Wong beautifully conveys a conversation between two old flames – he cannot forget about her and asks how she’s been, while she convinces him to move on, because truthfully, she has long forgotten about the romance that happened 10 years ago. She feels bad for him, but there’s nothing else she can do aside from telling him to let go.

No need to keep looking back on those touching moments
那動人時光 不用常回看
Put the memories away when you’ve gathered enough warmth to get through the cold
能提取溫暖以後渡嚴寒 就關起那間房
The most touching moments don’t have to last until the end of time
最動人時光 未必地老天荒
It’s only unforgettable because you won’t stop reminiscing 
You’ve been holding onto this for 10 years; the hardest thing is to let go
容易抱住誰十年 最難是放


Wood Grain (木紋) by Denise Ho

Denise Ho has been known for her angelic singing voice and her touching interpretation of tragic love stories. Wood Grain is one of her earlier classics that she’s most known for. Using the connection between a tree and its gardener as a metaphor for a relationship coming to an end, this song reveals a story of a heartbroken gardener who doesn’t want his/her tree to be chopped down, even though he/she knows that it’s already dead.

A withered tree would not feel pain if you chop it down
如果 一手鋸開枯樹 木不會發現痛
But I, who have been watering it every day, would feel hollow inside
不過 日日澆水的我 覺得被挖空
I can’t pretend I’ve not invested in this relationship if you end it now
如果 必須結束關係 難扮成從未栽種
As I count the tree rings, every tree ring makes my heart ache
讓我數著年輪 這些年輪 我的心會痛

Disheartened (心淡) by Joey Yung

Since Joey Yung’s debut in 1999, she has won countless awards as one of the best female singers in Hong Kong. One of many Hongkonger’s heartbreaks go-to, the song Disheartened tells the story of a woman who’s gradually realising how one-sided her relationship is, and comes to terms with the fact that she must pick herself up and gain her self-respect.

From now on I’ll be timing between the spring winds and the autumn rains
由這一分鐘開始計起 春風秋雨間
Within six months’ time, I won’t be hung up on you anymore
限我對你以半年時間 慢慢的心淡
Paying everything forward, my feelings for you will quietly but surely die
付清 賬單 平靜的對你熱度退減
My heart has been hurting every day for hundreds of nights
一天一點傷心過 這一百數十晚
It must be enough to send me to hell and back again
大概也夠我 送我來回地獄又折返人間
We broke up in spring, and I’ll get used to it in autumn; even bitterness fades
春天分手 秋天會習慣 苦衝開了便淡


Unfortunately, I’m an Aquarius (可惜我是水瓶座) by Miriam Yeung

Miriam Yeung sings of a wounding breakup in this Cantopop classic that has been a big karaoke hit since the mid-2000s – a bygone era that some might say was the peak of Cantopop. The lyrics describe a heartbroken woman attempting to leave a toxic relationship, as she tells the other person to stop torturing her and that they should both just let each other go.

I’ll be on my way back, so don’t make me cry
我就回去 別引出我淚水
Especially when you know Aquarians have a lot of tears
If saying goodbye is your next line, then stop talking now 
若然道別是下一句 可以閉上了你的咀
No point for us to ever meet again, for it’ll only cause heartaches
無謂再會 要是再會 更加心碎
There aren’t any painkillers if I go back
要是回去 沒有止痛藥水
Get me some long island iced tea so that I can get a half night’s sleep
It all ends badly, whether I’m losing you now or ten years later
十年後或現在失去 反正到最尾也唏噓
Heartless enough, I’ll see myself out
夠絕情 我都趕我自己出去

Plenty of ways to keep yourself busy and happy in Hong Kong

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