Remember when I said that the I Am A Singer 我是歌手 finale was going to be good? Well, I lied. It was pretty awful. In almost three and a half hours of airtime, we got about 24 minutes of good music. Proportionately, that’s like taking out all the main parts of a Pitbull song and just listening to the featured artist.
The first segment of the finale invited musical guests to duet with the seven finalists. Turns out, that wasn’t a great idea. And most of the finalists probably would have done better without their partners. Take a deep breath, here’s a rundown.
Shila Amzah & Huang Qishan 黄绮珊
When You Believe
Taking on the role of Whitney Houston meant that Huang Qishan had some pretty big shoes to fill. Not a problem for Ms. Huang since her shoes were huge. Literally. Huge. Look at them.
Metaphorically speaking, however, this was an embarrassingly flawed performance. The elder diva struggled with her English pronunciation, and chemistry was all but absent between the two singers. That they were both clad in black shows a poor understanding of the inspirational song. Issues with pitch and timing further mired the production.
In an unrelated twist, Huang’s ex-husband, Taiwanese music producer Michael Hu Tuiyan 涂惠源, was one the industry professionals in the finale audience. Awkwaaard. He also served as a mentor and producer for contestant Gary Chaw.
G.E.M 邓紫棋 & Khalil Fong 方大同
In Springtime 春天里
Khalil Fong is one of those singers whose songs are never really catchy on the first listen, but slowly grow on you later on. His influence was clearly evident in this performance because it was boring. The bluesy direction of the arrangement, accompanied by Khalil’s lazy singing, dragged the song and forced G.E.M to subdue her powerful vocals until the end (when Khalil stopped singing), by when it sounded out of place.
Also, G.E.M’s hair is red. More on that later.
Han Lei 韩磊, Zhang Jiayi 张嘉译 & Anson Hu 胡彦斌
Lift Your Veil 掀起你的盖头来
Han Lei actually had two partners instead of one, so it ended up being a trio rather a duet. Zhang Jiayi had been the original invitee to perform the duet, but fell sick and lost his voice. Anson Hu was quickly brought in to replace him. Zhang eventually recovered. Not wanting to exclude either of them, Han Lei kept both guests on. Still, Anson and Han Lei did most of the singing.
The trio performed a Uyghur folk song where a man asks a woman to lift her veil so that he may admire her beauty. (A peculiar song choice given Shila’s role in the competition). The audience cheered in surprise as Zhang Jiayi, an actor, first sang. His gravelled voice, though not remarkable, was adequate for his reduced part in the musical number, as Anson and Han Lei went head-to-head in the vocal runs. A fun, but repetitive, performance.
Zhang Jie 张杰 & JJ Lin 林俊杰
The Most Beautiful Sun 最美丽的太阳 + Wings 翅膀
Taking to the piano, JJ Lin proved to be one of the few guests who didn’t drag down their duet partner. This was actually pretty good. They performed together, jumping up and down, huddled like a couple of overly excited children. Their voices complemented each other well. Neither one tried to outsing the other or avoided complete eye contact. The two 杰s make for a good team. They should make more music together.
Gary 曹格 & Tan Weiwei 谭维维
Gary opened the song while Tan Weiwei provided her signature Tibetan vocals as backdrop. It worked remarkably well, making this the only other capable duet besides the 杰 buddies. Fears that Tan Weiwei would be uncomfortable singing in English proved to be unfounded as she reined in the second verse, country yodel-twang included.
The charismatic duo then proceded to deliver a vocal masterclass. Tan Weiwei has an amazing control over her voice. I hope Shila was paying attention.
Bibi Zhou 周笔畅 & Shin 信
Under the Same Moon 一样的月光
At 6’3 (191cm), Shin towered over the 5’5 (164cm) Bibi, leading the hosts to comment on their “adorable” height difference. Their perfomance began mellow and electronic, almost unrecognisable compared to the original rock arrangement, but it seemed like something Bibi would do. That lasted for about two minutes. The couple then transitioned into a heavy metal rendition of the song, leaving the audience stern-faced and visibly uncomfortable.
Bibi’s subsequent elimination meant she was unable to perform Offering to Love 爱的供养 by actress Yang Mi 杨幂 in the solo round, which had been widely anticipated by fans.
Ironically, Bibi had messaged Yang Mi on Weibo days earlier, wishing her a happy April Fool’s Day and reminding her to watch her performance in the finale. Bibi’s elimination sent a flurry of messages across Weibo with Shin apologising to Bibi, Bibi apologising to Yang Mi, and Yang Mi’s husband Hawick Lau affirming that Bibi is still their favourite singer.
Phil Chang 张宇 & Julian Chen 陈志朋
Sad People Should Not Listen to Slow Songs 伤心的人别听慢歌
If you’ve ever had two uncles get drunk at a family reunion and throw an impromptu karaoke session, then this should be familiar to you. Now, this wasn’t bad so much as it was cheesy. The hip swaying dance moves, the gyrations. I imagine Phil Chang, knowing that he would be eliminated in the first round, decided to go out with a bit of fun. And it was fun. Like Buster Bluth on juice boxes.
The pair, obviously taking the song to heart, took to the stage for barely more than two and a half minutes.
Rankings after the duet segment of the finale:
1. Han Lei
3. Shila Amzah
4. Gary Chaw
5. Zhang Jie
ELIMINATED: Bibi Zhou
ELIMINATED: Phil Chang
The top three results mirror most polls of netizens’ favourite singers on the show. Based on quality alone, there seems to be little reason for the uninspired performances of G.E.M and Han Lei to occupy the top two positions while Zhang Jie and Gary wallow in fourth and fifth place. But the show is, after all, a popularity contest. More than a few audience members must be voting based on fanship rather than the performances themselves.
After the first round, Han Lei led with 19.37%, while G.E.M trailed by only 0.6% on 18.77%.
The five surviving singers proceeded to the final, solo round, which was broadcast live.
Mr. Lonely 寂寞先生
Gary unleashed an incredible, stripped-down, emotional performance with this song. Understandably, the song touches on the shortcomings of a man which distances him from his lover. The performance apparently took place on his wife’s birthday, though the couple’s marriage is reportedly strained due to Gary’s drinking problem. The distressed singer missed occasional lines and ended his performance in tears.
Zhang Jie 张杰
Return to Lhasa 回到拉萨
I never realised Zhang Jie had a chin dimple before this performance…
Although vocally impressive at parts, this arrangement was never going to give Zhang Jie the victory. The percussion-laden interlude detracted from the overall song. And the dancers, whose choreography progressed little beyond jumping and punching the air, seemed like an unnecessary addition.
As we’ve learnt from two seasons of this show, if you want to pull off a song, get Tan Weiwei to sing it with you.
Han Lei 韩磊
Swan Goose + Roaming + Borrow 500 Years from Heaven 鸿雁 + 走四方 + 向天再借五百年
Let’s face it, Han Lei is the best-dressed contestant on this show. And check out the morin khuur player wearing royal Mongolian garb and headdress.
Interestingly, Han Lei incorporated the didgeridoo, an Australian Aboriginal instrument, overlaid by throat singing in his Mongolian-themed medley performance. Han Lei ended his performance with his own song, 向天再借五百年, an anthem beseeching Heaven for another 500 years of life to explore the world. This is the song the audience had been waiting all season to hear him sing. Extending his microphone, the audience sings along with him. This man is nothing if not charismatic.
Shila, an admitted Kpop fanatic, poorly chose EXO-M’s MAMA for her final performance. There’s a reason why Kelly Clarkson’s crowning American Idol moment was A Moment Like This, or why those upstart New Directions on Glee are so into Don’t Stop Believing. MAMA, on the other hand, is hardly a showstopper. Shila’s dancing affected her breathing. Her breathing affected her singing and pronunciation. But as the competition was essentially over for anyone who wasn’t Han Lei or G.E.M, Shila might have taken on the song as a freebie. However, it does raise the question of what kind of artist Shila wants to be. On this matter, she hasn’t been very consistent.
We Will Rock You + Nothing to My Name 一无所有 + We are the Champions
Unlike most of the top five finalists, G.E.M took to the stage without a costumed band or backup dancers. Hardly subtle, though, the Hong Kong-based singer included Cui Jian’s Nothing to My Name 一无所有, the unofficial anthem of the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests, in her rock medley. Depending on the context, the song itself is delicate, but not taboo, and it’s not uncommon to see it performed on television. What performers don’t commonly do, however, is dye their hair red alluding to Cui Jian’s symbol of protest, the red blindfold. Nonetheless, Nothing to My Name turned out to be the weakest of the medley, with her Queen songs sounding much stronger, ending her performance with a classic G.E.M display of vocal acrobatics.
The final vote gave the ultimate victory to Han Lei, with 28.31% of the vote, extending his lead over G.E.M who came in second on 24.95%. The remaining scores weren’t revealed, so we don’t know the rankings of the other singers beyond the top two. And that’s the end of the series for this year! (Though, HunanTV seemed to indicate that there’ll be another episode on next week… we’ll keep you posted!)
Watch the full episode:
If you’re feeling a little nostalgic, catch up on last year’s I Am A Singer finale here. And find out what last year’s trophy looked like. Was it a six?