It’s official: There is no better way to make people clear a room than playing Kenny G, at least in China. Since its release, soprano saxophonist Kenny G’s 1989 hit “Going Home” has become a staple in Chinese culture, according to The New York Times, as a cue for people to scram. The song’s sultry, slow percussion and pining, adult-contemporary phrasing of one Kenneth Gorelick now play every day in the country’s shopping malls, schools, train stations and gyms as an indicator that it’s time to make like the song’s title suggests.
The tune played on a loop over the hustle and bustle of Beijing’s Panjiayuan Antiques Market for over an hour and a half one recent Saturday, the Times reported. A manager of the antiques market said playing the song has been its standard practice since 2000 – and did not know why. “Isn’t it just played everywhere?” she asked.
Similarly, the manager of a gym told the Times he did not know who Kenny G was or why it had become the country’s official “Closing Time” anthem. “All I know is when they play this song, it’s quitting time,” he said.
Students said that the song gets frequent play at weddings, banquets and “when they’re kicking us out of the school library.” One person, who works in finance, reported an almost Pavlovian instinct to work faster when the song comes on.
The song even accounts for four of the Top 10 videos played on the country’s major video-sharing site Youku.
Kenny G does not get regular pay for his song’s ubiquity, though he has sold more than 75 million albums worldwide since the Eighties and, incidentally, holds the Guinness World Record for the longest note ever skronked from a sax (a 45-minute, 47-second E flat). “Do I wish I could get paid for everything? Of course,” he told the Times. “But I surrender to the fact that that’s the way things go there.”
He reported hearing “Going Home” in Tiananmen Square, Shanghai, a golf course and a “restroom in the middle of nowhere.”
The sax player said that he doesn’t question why the song is so popular, but he does know where to put it in his set list when he performs in the country. “I save it for last because I don’t want everyone going home early,” he said.