One afternoon, Yoga Lin went to a small eatery hidden in an alley in Taipei to have a meal. “It was around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, and many shops had already closed for rest. The boss was taking a nap, and the lights in the store were turned off.” While Yoga Lin was eating his noodles, another customer suddenly came into the store. There was only one small table left, and the man with a crewcut sat down across from Yoga Lin. Because they were sitting very close to each other, Yoga Lin saw some unforgettable moments.
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Yoga Lin couldn’t be sure whether the man was a homeless person or not, but during his meal, the man took out a plastic transparent spoon from his shabby belongings. “It was a spoon with many scratches from previous use, but the man still used it carefully.” Was he afraid of being reprimanded by the owner, or did he cherish his belongings? Yoga Lin had no idea.
At that time, Yoga Lin had just released “Wordless Groans” and was promoting his new song online. But when Yoga Lin looked at the man sitting across from him, using his own spoon, he suddenly had a new idea: Could people who don’t usually use phones, like this man, have a chance to listen to his music? The radio broadcast playing in the eatery inspired Yoga Lin to make a “more direct song.”
“At that time, the radio in the store was playing popular songs, which made me suddenly realize that even a man who seemed so different from my life scene could have a chance to listen to my songs. Perhaps, when this man comes back to this store another day, he will hear ‘Garbage Baby’ while eating.” Therefore, Yoga Lin hoped to turn “Garbage Baby” into a more straightforward song that could have a positive impact on all listeners who heard it.
Many young people have already become accustomed to the convenience of the Internet era, but when we look away from the Internet, there are still many ordinary people who are busy with their daily lives offline. Yoga Lin hopes that his work can not only influence online listeners, but also provide direct comfort to those offline people who rarely have the opportunity to hear popular music. “I think that the impact of a song like ‘Garbage Baby’ may far exceed my imagination.”
“Garbage Baby” also reunited the behind-the-scenes team of “Wake Up” in 2011, 12 years later. The composer, Subyub Lee, and the lyricist, Wyman Wong, are both musicians from Hong Kong, China. Yoga Lin, who sang “Bad and Worse,” has always had a deep affection for Cantonese songs. Therefore, the Cantonese narration “Remember,” spoken by Wyman Wong himself, conveys the key message of “Remember that you are a baby, not garbage,” regardless of where you are.
“The most important message that ‘Garbage Baby’ wants to share with everyone is love. Love is sometimes like two people exchanging garbage and tolerating each other’s shortcomings. Through ‘Garbage Baby,’ I hope to let everyone know that everyone is a beloved baby, and your flaws are adorable. Therefore, in the last verse of the song, we even deliberately designed it to emphasize this point: ‘You are a baby, not garbage,’ which is not sung but spoken.”
Yoga Lin encountered a chance to share a table with a stranger while eating noodles, which led to the creation of “Garbage Baby”. Subyub Lee, a Hong Konger living in Taiwan, also gained wonderful inspiration for creation in a foreign land. In Taiwan, garbage trucks collect household garbage from every household on the street. While Subyub Lee was rushing to deliver garbage to the garbage truck, he heard the piano pieces “Für Elise” and “A Maiden’s Prayer” playing on a loop from the garbage truck, and the melody of this song immediately came to his mind.
Wyman Wong, a legendary lyricist who has created many wonderful works for Yoga Lin, such as “China Town,” “You Are What You Eat,” “Spoiled Innocence” and “Otomen,” contributed his Yoga-style whimsical idea again in “Garbage Baby,” saying that “love is exchanging black plastic bags and opening gifts while holding your nose.” Yoga Lin, who rarely sat so close to strangers, said eating noodles with a stranger was a novel experience for him. When creators get closer to a wider audience, they can create more good songs that resonate with the times.
Yoga Lin wants to convey the most direct positive message to everyone who listens to “Garbage Baby”: “I imagine that one day, no matter who you are or what your status is, you may lack confidence at this moment, you may have suffered some setbacks, or you may have just experienced a low point in your life. … I hope that after listening to ‘Garbage Baby,’ you will remember that ‘you are a baby, not garbage.’”
At the end of the “Garbage Baby” music video, a group of white-clad men and women sing “You’re My Precious” in unison like a choir above the rainbow-painted sky. Subyub Lee is also one of them. They provide a faint light for ordinary people in their bleak daily lives, tearing open a small gap for Yoga Lin, who is dressed in a bear suit and sitting helplessly in the garbage dump, as well as for quarreling couples, tense lovers, single mothers troubled by life, and men mourning their deceased loved ones.
Encountering Obstacles in the Album, Triumphing in Life’s Trials
Because he had been caught in heavy rain, Yoga Lin wanted to help others with his umbrellas when he had the chance. This is perhaps the fundamental intention behind his song “Garbage Baby” and the production of his sixth album: to encourage fans to move forward. Since the release of his fifth album Sell Like Hot Cakes in 2016, Yoga Lin, who has been absent from the Chinese music scene for seven years, has been in a state of struggling to make progress in his music career and personal life.
During the years of preparing for his sixth album, Yoga Lin seems to have become more and more understanding of one thing: “If a person relies solely on their abilities and resources, they cannot accomplish everything.” Especially in the past three or four years, Yoga Lin has spent a lot of time that should have been used for making music to accompany “important people in his life.” When others wondered if Yoga Lin, who had not released new songs for a long time, had intentionally withdrawn from the music scene, he was actually trying to support his family and get through the most difficult period of cancer treatment.
The experience and feelings of accompanying his family to various hospitals for treatment have deeply influenced Yoga Lin’s creative attitude. He witnessed many patients in the ward who “wanted to live,” but everything seemed to be left to fate. “When my family’s cancer was diagnosed, it was already stage 3 pancreatic cancer, which was almost impossible to remove surgically. I searched for information online and found that the chance of completely recovering was very low. At that time, it was like a bolt from the blue.”
Yoga Lin described it as “a very intense challenge for me.” But at this moment, he was fortunate enough to meet a senior from his high school band. The senior was originally the lead singer of the band, but he willingly stepped aside to become the second guitarist so that Yoga Lin could join the band. This was the first time that young Yoga Lin realized the principle of “doing things that are beneficial to others.” Fortunately, this senior has now become a medical expert.
“I am very lucky to have met this senior who is both a doctor and a musician in my life. Later, my dad’s tumor shrank enough to be removed, and the senior said it was truly a miracle. This made me deeply understand that sometimes you may have money and power, but you cannot exchange them for the health of a patient with stage 3 pancreatic cancer. In the past few years, it has been a very shocking life experience for me. There is a lot of love and luck in it.”
During the time he was supporting his family in their fight against cancer, Yoga Lin also became a father for the second time. He saw this long period of “paternity leave plus cancer leave” as a chance to challenge himself and improve himself. The stress of the situation led to his developing a severe gastrointestinal illness. During a checkup, he discovered that his colon was inflamed in multiple places, and he had to limit his diet. The doctor even suggested that he try writing gratitude journals to manage his stress.
Over the past three to four years, Lin has learned the importance of maintaining a grateful attitude in life. Despite facing setbacks, he believes that gratitude has led to a series of miracles, including his father’s pancreatic cancer and his own gastrointestinal illness being cured. For him, creating this new album with a fresh perspective and new ideas is the best way to move forward.
Lin is increasingly grateful for the many beautiful songs he has had in the past and the influence he has now. He hopes to use his influence to encourage his listeners to be more gentle and brave and to make the world a better place. Looking back, Lin sees his illness as a “gift” for him and his family.
In the comments section of his new song on QQ Music, a fan named “Stars Hidden in the Night” shared that listening to Lin’s music during difficult times gave her hope. In response, Lin expressed his hope that his future music could accompany her through tough times and that they could work together to overcome them.
Lin’s experience of fighting cancer with his family has given him a new perspective. When he has the inspiration to do something, he increasingly chooses to do things that benefit others rather than just himself, like when he stepped down as lead singer to make the band better. This is a significant shift in mind-set, as people tend to be selfish when making choices and may even feel a little difficult at the time. But Lin has achieved this.
Doing Good Deeds, Doing Things That Benefit Others
After experiencing profound changes in his life, when asked about his long-awaited sixth album, Yoga Lin used the plain and simple words “keep your expectations” and hoped that everyone would continue to do so. This is also the most honest answer from Lin when facing an unpredictable future. After years without releasing an album, the rules of the game have changed, and since everything cannot be foreseen, it is better to learn to accept change. “Yoga Lin is back! But what will tomorrow bring? Let’s keep our expectations high!”
“Just like when I released an album before, I did more than 100 endorsements in a month, but besides my fans, not many people knew that I released an album. But one time, I sang a song on a variety show that I don’t usually go on, and then everyone knew that I had released an album. These are all things that cannot be predicted.” Lin was talking about his story of singing “Step Aside” on a variety show; even the original singer Rene Liu encouraged him through their mutual friend, HIM International Music executive Derek Shih.
As he has been fortunate enough to receive help from his seniors on his journey, Lin hopes to pass on the spirit of “doing good for others.” He would go to university campuses to listen to Elephant Gym’s performances before they became famous and even invite them to collaborate on “The Shape of Mouth.” Before Terence Lam became popular, Yoga Lin had already recognized the demo of “Worse comes to Worst.” When Hong Kong junior Jer Lau (a member of Mirror) invited Yoga Lin as a guest performer at his concert, Lin agreed immediately.
The polishing time for the sixth album was too long, spanning seven years from 2016 to 2023, far beyond the normal production cycle for an album. Although Yoga Lin is also anxious about when the sixth album will be completed, he believes that good things will come to fruition at the right time and hopes to complete the sixth album by the end of this year. “I think the sixth album is quite incredible, and there have been some new changes slowly happening now.”
Currently, the number of songs accumulated in Yoga Lin’s sixth album has become more than originally planned, possibly exceeding the 10 songs of a regular album. During the preparation period of the album, Yoga Lin visited people who love playing the piano everywhere to gain inspiration for creation, including an antique piano owned by a piano collector in Shilin, Taiwan, and a piano from Soda Green’s Gong Yuqi’s private collection. One of the new songs, “White,” which focuses on piano elements, was also sung by Yoga Lin in this round of concerts. What’s even more special is that the piano in “White” is played automatically by a machine.
“White” is about a serious theme of life: when loved ones pass away, which is a situation that everyone may encounter. “The reason why I chose a mechanical piano is that we always face the fact that people we love will leave this world and cannot continue to live, but I believe that there is a kind of love that will always exist. Therefore, I also want to convey this feeling to everyone. In order to convey this message, I used an unmanned mechanical piano. I hope that this message can bring some comfort to some people as well.”
Another new song, “Wordless Groans,” was written by Yoga Lin himself, and the lyrics were co-created by Yoga Lin and teacher Yao Qian. Being able to come up with the concept of “ordinary yet stubborn” really impressed Yoga Lin, who admired Yao Qian’s unique creativity: “The word ‘stubborn’ is rarely seen in Chinese songs. I think it is a very special choice. I admire Yao Qian for being able to think of such a description. Every detail we established through lyric creation together is unforgettable.”
Regarding the song title “The Song of Stubbornness,” Yoga Lin hopes that he can continue to be stubborn in the right place: “For example, only doing things that are good for others is also a kind of stubbornness. We often face choices where we have several inspirations at the same time, but time is limited. Which one should I do first? Now, I will only do things that are good for others. This value also helps me execute things more easily.”
“In the past, when I made every decision, I hoped that what I produced would be perfect and only cared about whether I looked handsome in the camera. If I carefully checked every angle after taking a photo, it might make the people around me very tired. For example, if we work until very late today, as long as the meaning conveyed by the work is positive, we should let the work team rest first—this is a decision that helps others.”
Yoga Lin used to be a perfectionist, so he inevitably became trapped in his self-set “emotional black hole” and faced negative emotions and obstacles in life. The “stone” he moved in the music video for “Wordless Groans” actually symbolizes these negative emotions and obstacles in life. Now, Yoga Lin has finally learned not to dwell on small flaws anymore. After using emotions in the right way, the pressure on his performing career has also been reduced significantly.
Applying the concept of “doing things that are good for others” to the actual operation of every specific thing has allowed Yoga Lin to receive unexpected positive feedback in real life: “In order to express yourself better when conveying messages to others, you need to become the person who can face the kind of person you are talking to. For example, when accompanying family members to fight cancer, in order to save their bodies, you need to use methods that suit them to tell them some things. This is ‘doing things that are good for others.’”
“I had an inspiration at that time, which was to find a doctor about the same age as my family member to help them. My family member is older and has some deep-rooted ideas. The effect of persuading them with a doctor in their 60s is better than that of persuading them with a young doctor. They listened carefully and absorbed what was said by doctors their age, and then made some changes.” Later, Yoga Lin also applied this “successful experience of persuading family members” to the production and promotion process of his sixth album.
“Although the progress of album production is slow, I will express good ideas more accurately each time. Like the most critical sentence in ‘Garbage Baby’ — ‘Everyone is a loved baby’ — we said it instead of singing it.” In this ever-changing era, we must speak more directly in our works to better convey what creators think and feel. This is also a learning process for Yoga Lin to live in the present.
Love Can Overflow and Help People Escape the Black Hole
After a long period of dormancy, Yoga Lin was once confused about why these experiences happened in his life, feeling like a thunderbolt on a sunny day, and decided to restart the “idol” concert and upgrade it to the “idol 2023” world tour. This is a concept about how to “escape from a black hole,” and the key core of this upgraded concert is that only love can overflow from a black hole.
In fact, as early as when they started the “idol” concert in 2018, Derek Shih, the senior executive at HIM International Music, who worked closely with Yoga Lin, gave the concert a Chinese name called “Love More” (it was just not publicly announced at the time). Looking back now, Yoga Lin suddenly realized that “Love More” was actually the best interpretation of the “idol” concert. When Love More overflows, we who are trapped in the black hole can have a chance to be truly saved by love.
Regarding “escaping from a black hole,” Yoga Lin understands it this way: “Sometimes we encounter great difficulties, but it is also possible that we will receive more abundant blessings in the future. However, people usually cannot see things in the future. In my past difficult experiences, I learned a very important thing: We must always maintain hope, which is very important and what I want to share with my fans. What makes you feel desperate now may be a blessing in disguise.”
Being able to invite Ryuichi Sakamoto before he passed away to authorize cooperation, combined with various wonderful stage visual effects, made “idol” described by the industry as Yoga Lin’s career masterpiece. But in Yoga Lin’s eyes, the 1.0 version of “idol” was just a process of seeking answers without reaching a conclusion. Yoga Lin tried to use his current understanding of life and his own life experience to add new colors to the 2.0 version of the “idol 2023” concert.
“After three years of precipitation, the whole earth stopped. When I hadn’t worked on the ‘idol’ concert for a long time and had the opportunity to restart it again, I went back to look at this performance three years later and discovered that the first part of the concert was so shocking, like a ‘black hole.’ I seem to feel how I was at that time: he was always pursuing a big goal and achievement, but at the same time, he may also be looking for direction.”
At that time, although Yoga Lin had done the critically acclaimed “idol” concert, he still seemed to be trapped in a “black hole” and couldn’t get out: “At that time, I didn’t know which kind of life was right. What a person thinks will be reflected in every action he takes. All behaviors are closely related to your inner-motivation. In this concert, I also saw my most true inner-world at that time, confused and still looking for who I am.”
Yoga Lin’s thoughts at the time were infinitely magnified by the “idol” concert stage: “At that time, I wanted to have greater achievements. In other words, I put ambition first. This is endless, just like an insatiable desire black hole.” Life has countless black holes, and only overflowing love can fill these voids. The past three or four years have made the overall concept of the “idol 2023” concert more complete and allowed Yoga Lin to hear his own voice from the bottom of his heart.
Yoga Lin incorporated all the life setbacks he had experienced over the years, the life answers he had been seeking, and the taste of life he perceived in the “black hole” into every detail of the concert: “The ‘idol’ concert is a very good structure, combined with the cooperation of a work team that may be one of the top Chinese concerts, allowing me to put what I now understand into the concert again through this ‘idol 2023’ concert and go deeper into explaining some things.”
When singing “The Tightrope Walker” in the “idol 2023” concert, Yoga Lin had such a talk: “I believe that like me, everyone has many wonderful things worth cherishing in their daily lives, and there will also be some terrible challenges that happen in our lives. Every person will have moments of despair. I hope my songs can give you some encouragement and let you know that when every blow comes, besides feeling despair, we still need to maintain hope.”
Yoga Lin gradually realized that no one in this world knows what will happen in the next second, nor can anyone predict how their life will go next. Faced with various sudden “black holes,” the only thing Yoga Lin can do is give each listener a gentle hug with music. He hopes to always maintain this gentle and brave state to convey the warmth and love he wants to convey to fans, flowing into the ears of every audience member on-site and even into everyone’s hearts.
In the Cantonese-speaking region, Yoga Lin will sing his Cantonese song “Bad and Worse.” “Everything is bad, but we can still be happy.” This is Yoga Lin’s blessing to fans and himself: “There will always be some sudden challenges in life that we cannot know. But we still need to be grateful for having five fingers, heartbeats, breathing… For many things, we can still maintain hope. I also hope that fans can maintain a good attitude when facing different challenges.”
Becoming a Person Who Loves Others as Much as Oneself
Through the “idol 2023” concert, Yoga Lin upgraded his value of “doing only things that benefit others” in recent years to “always choose the decision that benefits others, which is the right decision to escape the black hole.” Yoga Lin almost tirelessly repeated this sentence at every stop of the tour, hoping to remind more audiences to understand and accept this reminder and thus be able to break free from the “black holes” in their lives.
“The ‘idol 2023’ concert is about how to escape from the black hole. This value actually affects my way of doing things in life and creation. Every day we have all kinds of inspirations, but now when I have to make decisions, I will choose the inspirations that are worth my time and energy and can mobilize the whole team to execute things. Any decision and inspiration that has a positive impact on others is worth my full effort to do.”
Regarding “loving others as oneself,” Yoga Lin also gave a very vivid description of a realistic scenario. “Suppose one day I am in a bad mood and have already had a big fight with my family before going out. When driving, I encounter another hot-tempered driver next door. I may be stimulated and get angry, roll down the window, and argue with him… There are many similar explosive ‘black hole’ moments in life. When you embrace the mentality of ‘loving others as oneself’ and think it over, the result will be completely different.”
The person who can avoid being swallowed by the “black hole” is the person who can share the burden with others. Yoga Lin, who has walked out of the “black hole,” now hopes to work with fans and friends throughout his life to become a person who loves others as much as he loves himself. Then, when the audience leaves the concert venue, they can remember Yoga Lin’s words at the concert: “Love others as you love yourself.” When more and more people become like this, this imperfect world will quietly undergo new changes.
“Love is mutual. Whether you have loved others or others have loved you, whether there is love flowing between on and off stage, that state of love can be fully felt. Fans sincerely support a singer they like, and I hope to give back to them through music, including the positive messages and values that I want to convey in music. This is what I think is the best feedback.”
One Great Show Can Change The World
Can a perfect concert make the world a better place? After going through many difficulties and finally returning to the stage, Yoga Lin has a very firm answer to this: One Great Show Can Change the World! “We can’t really change the world, and many things can’t be controlled by individuals. But that doesn’t mean that, as human beings, we can’t make an effort. We still need to love others more, just like we love ourselves.”
In his early years, Yoga Lin was also lost in the constant comparison with others. Later, he slowly learned that “it is natural and healthy to see the better qualities in others.” As in “Garbage Baby,” when you realize that everyone is a unique treasure, it will give you more courage. “In the past, when I saw that others were excellent, I wanted to become even better. This idea is not a problem. The key may be whether you can know that everyone is a treasure, including yourself.”
“My heart reflects in my music, written works, and interactions with colleagues. This is an important factor that has influenced my behavior in the past. Because I want to become stronger, I expect myself not to lose balance or create invisible pressure on the work team. If the motive is not good, it may lead to bad results in the end and may also bring heavy burdens to oneself and others – these burdens will eventually become a ‘black hole.’ I hope I can stay away from such ‘black holes.’”
Another way Yoga Lin wants to change the world is by using only black support flags that are given away for free at his concerts instead of all the glowing support items. This black concert, like a “black hole scene,” with its deep black reflection, is distinct from other concerts that sparkle with various fluorescent sticks. The line on the support flag, “Only Love Can Overflow Black Holes,” is also what Yoga Lin wants to say to his fans: only love can overflow black holes.
Yoga Lin, who loves environmental protection, admits that he has even considered whether to recycle the black support flags and flagpoles separately: “I care about environmental protection very much. Not only do I want to protect the earth, but we also need to manage and maintain this earth well. Everyone shoulders responsibility.”
Every decision Yoga Lin makes receives maximum support from his fans and friends. At the “idol 2023” concert, you will hardly see any audience members bringing fluorescent sticks into the venue in order to present the best performance effect. This reminds me of Yoga Lin’s famous saying at his concerts: “To convey positive ideas, face whoever you want to be!” When idols practice what they preach by doing things that benefit others, fans also follow suit. This is what it truly means to “impact lives with your life.”
At this stage of his life, Yoga Lin hopes that he has no negative thoughts about work. He is practicing a new attitude to face his future career in the performing arts. “I deeply understand the motivation for change. My entire state of mind is completely different. After doing this, I have a new understanding of working hard. What I do is no longer for better results or higher status but only to do things that benefit others. I hope to maintain this positive motivation first before achieving any additional success.”
In the era of short videos and hit singles, Yoga Lin has to consider how not to blindly follow trends but instead make healthy judgments about whether he should do something or not. “I hope to adjust myself in this way, only choosing things that benefit and help others. I don’t know if there will be any additional bonuses in my career during this process. If there are, it’s great; if not, I will still do things with this motivation.”
Yoga Lin hopes that his music can help listeners solve their life problems when they encounter an unbearable “black hole.” When they hear the values conveyed in works like “Garbage Baby,” they may have a chance to save their lives. “So now my motivation for work has changed. As long as it’s a city where I haven’t performed before, my life can bear it, and I can still sing, I will go there. No matter where it is, I can go.”
In order for the philosophy of “Garbage Baby” to influence more people, Yoga Lin has copied and pasted the sentence “Please remember that love is exchanging garbage with each other and tolerating each other’s shortcomings; also remember that you are a beloved treasure, not garbage” on different social media platforms countless times just to deepen everyone’s memory effect. As long as it’s something that benefits others, he will try his best to do it. The eight words “Do good deeds without asking about future prospects” are very suitable to describe Yoga Lin, who is overflowing with love at this moment.
–This story was written for Billboard China by Jifan Wang