Asian American Commercial Watch: Panda Express – ‘Wok-Fired Shrimp: Now Back at Panda Express’

A former colleague and friend Mike passed this recent Panda Express commercial to me that I had not yet seen. He was intrigued by the Mandarin version of Johnny Cash’s classic, Ring of Fire – quite a clever song for Panda Express to use for their ‘Wok-fired shrimp,’ which is literally cooked in a ring of fire:

“Back at Panda Express for a limited time, try flame-crafted Wok-Fired Shrimp. This mouth-watering masterpiece is made with crispy sugar peas, fresh red bell peppers, and juicy shrimp—all seared to flavorful perfection. Try it with another favorite like Orange Chicken, Honey Walnut Shrimp, or Black Pepper Angus Steak while it’s still on menus.”

For some reason, my friend thought that maybe there was some sort of advanced AI that replaced the original vocals or some midwestern guy who likes to sing Mandarin covers, but from the YouTube description, the vocalist credit goes to Taiwanese American Ben Han-Wei Lin. When I saw Lin’s photo on his website, I was shocked that such a deep voice could come from him.

A lot of people in the YouTube comments want the full version of the song, but I doubt that will ever officially happe. This cover was specifically produced for the television commercial which, through some basic Googling, I discovered was produced by Wolfgang L.A.

Watching this commercial instantly reminded me that Panda Express had also used a Mandarin cover of Frankie Valli’s Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, which I blogged about, sung by Katherine Ho, who also sang the Mandarin cover of Yellow by ColdPlay for Crazy Rich Asians – which I absolutely loved (the cover and the film).

This commercial got me thinking, since director Jon M. Chu recently joined Weee! As Chief Creative Officer, that wouldn’t it be great if Chu commissioned a bunch of classic American songs in various Asian languages like he did with Yellow and also get the full versions of Can’t Take My Eyes Off You and Ring of Fire and use them in Weee! TV and web video commercials? I’d love to see that. There is just something that strikes an emotional chord with me to have something so familiar musically sung in a different language that I’m familar with. Chu knew what he was doing when he had many Mandarin covers of songs originally sung in English. Looks like Panda Express also knows too!

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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