By Jocelle Koh
I first came across the name Zooey Wonder when an acoustic version of her song ‘Wonderland‘ was performed by Wang Leehom in cross-cultural short film ‘Lifeline’, and it has been a musical love affair ever since.
First starting out as a serene folk singer before making the leap to ambient/folktronica, Wonder released her dreamy pastel ‘Wonderland’ debut album in 2017, earning much critical acclaim in the process. While the ethereal singer has continued to be active on the live front and behind-the-scenes, her latest single ‘You Hurt Me Deeply 再也不見’ marks the first recorded work she’s released in over three years.
But the singer-songwriter has made sure her new material was worth the wait, looping in Sodagreen frontman and elfin wunderkind Wu Qing Feng 吳青峰 to share the stage on this quietly uplifting tune.
Starting off with nothing more than a whisper accompanied by lonely keys, the first two sentences are striking in their expression of self-doubt and negativity both in the lyrics and the melancholic melody. “When I was drawn into the abyss of sorrow/Nothing mattered, I’d already broken to pieces” Compared to Wonder’s previous works, which were often lightly optimistic, from the get go her new song demonstrates how her perspective has matured and changed over time.
However, soon after the lilting melody progresses back to Wonder’s enlightening trajectory as she continues: “It can’t be like before/Self righteously dedicating oneself selflessly“, gaining momentum and strength with every forthcoming note.
Whilst previously the soft-spoken singer’s works were characterised by floaty, airy vocals and vibrant, shimmery electronic soundscapes, in ‘You Hurt Me Deeply’ the childlike wonder has been replaced with the remnants of past pains; the kind that once experienced inevitably become a part of you. Yet this is not all I hear in Wonder’s musical transformation.
A steely determination that I have never witnessed comes to the fore in Zooey’s delivery of the anthemic chorus, aided by the unmistakable vocals of Qing Feng. Slowly but surely, as if picking themselves off the ground, long notes of unwavering resolve seem to stop time as they both sing “Oh I/Don’t turn against loss/Don’t promise/I am already left with nothing/Oh Love/Even if it covers your scars and takes away the pain/ There’s nothing to fear“.
Qing Feng continues Wonder’s tale of woe in the second verse, adding to her quiet sorrow a beautiful sense of dramatique whilst singing of ones’ loss of innocence. With striking vocals against a heady buzz of ambient sounds, he commands all attention in the space and lending strength to Wonder as she takes over; gathering momentum as she launches into the second chorus.
Here Wonder chose to pen different lyrics for this chorus, allowing us to catch a glimpse of her vulnerability and innermost thoughts as she sings of embracing her past self and sharing her newfound perspectives on life and personal growth. This is followed by a rousing bridge where Wonder and Qing Feng allow their voices to mingle and soar just as in the last two lines of each chorus ‘So let me freely fly/To the other side’ , before entering the final round of the chorus which once again features an intimate, simple delivery before fading into nothingness.
Though significantly bleaker than in previous works, there is still unmentionable strength in this latest piece. It is here that Wonder seems to have figured out for herself that the meaning of life is not always in the happiness we seek nor discover, but sometimes also exists in the presence of pain, doubt, and unfortunate circumstances. It is here that we learn to treasure comfort, are enlightened to new perspectives, and ultimately find a way to continue surviving. In the deepest hurt, Zooey Wonder has succeeded in finding light; creating a stunning new musical representation of herself that sets the scene for even more enchanting works from this sensitive soul.