I Am A Singer Ep. 8: Li Tarzan, Shoo Jane

A peculiarly dressed Jane Zhang is eliminated from the competition.

A peculiarly dressed Jane Zhang is eliminated from the competition. Who comes up with these headlines?

It was the Lunar New Year holiday last week, so our seven favourite singers have wandered off for a bit (happy new year to all of Cfensi’s wonderful readers, by the way).

Jane Zhang is in Beijing, not wearing make-up but still looking pretty, and preparing dinner. She says she hasn’t cooked in a long time. That’s probably why she holds her knife like she’s ironing a shirt. But I imagine she hasn’t ironed for herself in a long time either.

Sun Nan is in Sanya on Hainan Island, the “Hawaii of China,” where he demonstrates everything wrong with the Chinese entertainment industry today.
1) That’s a very wrong way of doing push-ups (Chinese celebrities don’t work out enough)
2) Vertical filming (there aren’t enough good cameramen working in Chinese television)

Awkwardly humping the sand is not a push-up.

Awkwardly humping the sand is not a push-up.

Tan Weiwei, like Jane, is in Beijing, drinking vegetable soup and munching on a carrot from a cardboard bowl. Her manager complains that she needs to eat more than just vegetables so she can put on weight.

The One is back in Korea, bringing Xiao Wu with him. They’ve ordered a whole stack of bento-like, dosirak takeout boxes, and The One is doing an awful lot of talking with his mouth full. You’d think all these celebrities would get nice fancy meals, but not so much.

A-Lin is in Taiwan, where she bumps into unsuccessful I Am A Singer challenger Li Ronghao. “Hey, you’re back?” he asks, reasoning that A-Lin must have been eliminated.
“I’m back!” she replies, perhaps not really getting that. She then bumps into Karen Mok, who says nice things to her, but is very clearly aware of who is the real A-lister between the two (it’s not A-Lin).

We don’t get to see Li Jian or Han Hong’s Spring Festival outings. Mysterious.

The I Am A Singer green room has a Chinese New Year tree with presents underneath it. I hope this doesn’t become a thing. I’m probably getting to that age where people feel comfortable about not getting you presents, so there’s no way I will benefit from this.
Oh, and Sun Nan takes over as host from Leo Ku, thus answering the question I’ve been asking for the past two weeks. But now who will host when Sun Nan leaves?

Han Hong
Olive Tree 橄榄树 by Chyi Yu

This episode is spending a lot of time on the introduction to this performance. Firstly, Tan Weiwei discovers that Han Hong is singing Olive Tree by Chyi Yu. “People always recommend that I sing this song, but I don’t dare to,” she says, citing the rhythm and timing of the song. “It’s really difficult.”
Meanwhile, Anson is helping out Han Hong with the arrangement. It’s probably part of his secret plan to get as much screentime as he can now so that the audience will vote him back in in the comeback round. Isn’t that the plot of the Chicago?

Han Hong tells the story of how her father died when she was young and her mother remarried. After that, she ran away to Beijing to find her grandmother, and hasn’t been with her mother since then. When her grandmother passed away, Han Hong was by herself, with no direction and no roots. Despite all this, there is still an olive tree in her heart, she says. That raises some horticultural questions.

Fellow Tibetan-ish singer Yangjima sang this song on Chinese Idol, where Han Hong is a judge. The performances are completely different so it’s hard to compare, but Han Hong’s is vocally more impressive. I can’t tell if her shoes are gold, or if they’re silver and it’s just the lighting that makes them look gold. The timing of the pause at the end is slightly off when the band starts playing before Han Hong starts singing. Tan Weiwei totally saw that coming.

The One
You Raise Me Up by Secret Garden

Allow me to be critical here. This is the exact same performance The One gave on the Korean version of I Am A Singer; from the musical arrangement to the choir’s oddly choreographed hand gestures, and even down to the oversized, fluffy, white boutonnière. I’ll accept that there wasn’t much time to prepare over the holidays (even the guy who normally does the cover images for the YouTube videos seems to have gone on break). But to do the exact same thing? It’s lazy and disrespectful to the show. Zero points from me.

Sun Nan
No Regrets 执迷不悔 by Faye Wong

Sun Nan goes for the loose tie, unbuttoned top collar look again this week. I don’t think he likes ties very much. Tan Weiwei gives her token, “This song is really hard to sing,” comment and we’re good to go. Sun Nan strums on his acoustic guitar as he hums out the first few lines. Is it just me, or does this song seem really easy to sing? He stands up towards the end of the song, relenquishing his guitar to belt out a few big notes. Surprisingly, there are a few moments where his upper register doesn’t sound really nasal. Why can’t you sing like that all the time, Sun Nan?

Jane Zhang
A Fire in Winter 冬天里的一把火 by Frankie Kao

In the early 1980s, Irish girl group The Nolans were explosively popular in Japan, with their single I’m In the Mood for Dancing reaching number one on the Oricon charts. A Chinese version of their follow-up single, Sexy Music, was recorded by Frankie Kao in 1982, bringing the song to Taiwan. And later, Kris Phillips performed this song at the Spring Festival Gala in 1987, spreading the song to Mainland China. Go on, watch that Kris Phillips performance. It’s really bad.
Given that every iteration of this song has been cringeworthy, it’s not entirely clear why Jane chose this song. To stick it to this year’s Spring Festival Gala organisers who cut her from the show, maybe?
Her outfit doesnt make much sense either. The song, the dress—it’s like a mix between Tom Jones and an ancient pre-Columbian American civilisation.

Tom Jones and a pre-Columbian American civilisation.

Tom Jones and a pre-Columbian American civilisation.

The performance is very Jane. It even has the part where she dances and the director cuts to people’s reactions of the dancing rather than Jane actually dancing. She sings it really well, especially the end, but at this point, we already know she’s going out tonight. Sad face.

Watch Alan and Chae Yeon prove that there is no way to look good while singing this song.

Tan Weiwei
Maybe Tomorrow 也许明天 by A-mei

Tan Weiwei has a new hairstyle, which sort of makes her look like Li Xiaolin, the daughter of Li Peng, the former premier of China. It’s not a flattering look. Her knitted trousers—if you can call them that—droop all the way down to the floor, in a Grinch-who-stole-Christmas sort of way.

Li Xiaolin and Tan Weiwei look awfully similar tonight.

Li Xiaolin and Tan Weiwei look awfully similar tonight.

Tan Weiwei is singing another A-mei song, making this the second week in a row. Who’s taking bets on another Tan Wei-A-mei performance next week? Tan Weiwei’s rendition of Maybe Tomorrow is not great. She nails the big note but sounds shrill through most of her upper register. It’s not as good as A-mei. And it’s not as good as Yao Beina, who auditioned for The Voice of China with the same song. Rest in peace, Yao Beina. You would have rocked this show. Remember to regularly check yourself for breast cancer.

Forget Hugs 忘记拥抱 by Wilber Pan

If you’ve been following this season’s I Am A Singer recaps, you can probably already guess what I’m going to say.
“This is not bad. But it would have been better if she had belted out that note in full voice instead of switching to falsetto.”
Yep. A-Lin has a style of singing that you either love or you hate… or you find completely adequate but also completely unsatisfying. It’s like going to Subway because you know you shouldn’t be having your third Big Mac of the week, but then feeling a bit listless about it all because now you’ve missed your chance to get that last McDonald’s Monopoly token you need to win that Subaru SUV, and all you have is Subway to make up for it.

Li Jian
When You Are Old 当你老了 by Zhao Zhao

Li Jian seems like the cool uncle you’d want to have growing up. Your mom’s younger brother who buys you lots of stuff as a kid—even though your mother disapproves—because he has no children of his own. And you get a bit older and he still doesn’t have any kids. Which you’re totally cool with, of course. But then something happens, and he stops coming to the family reunions. And the next time you see him, he’s with some guy named Terry. I dunno. Li Jian just seems like fun.

Anyway, you may recognise this song from last year’s Sing My Song. (Have you been following emsterz’s Sing My Song recaps?) Li Jian helped write the lyrics. The arrangement is a bit different to Zhao Zhao’s, featuring an instrumental La Vie en rose interlude. And this is probably the second time Li Jian has removed the harmonica from his performances. If you hate the harmonica so much, Li Jian, why do you keep picking songs with harmonicas in them?
The song isn’t very challenging, vocally, but he captures the sentiment of the song well.


1. Li Jian
2. A-Lin
3. Han Hong
4. Sun Nan
5. Tan Weiwei
6. The One
7. Jane Zhang [ELIMINATED]

So Jane is gone, which wasn’t too unexpected, but is still sad. Apart from maybe Anson, she was the only singer who consistently stepped out and took risks with her song choices. And, sure, those risks haven’t always paid off, but kudos to her for trying, especially when you consider that many of the other contestants are simply recycling songs they’ve already done before (looking at you, Han Hong, The One). Vocally, she didn’t have anything to prove. She could have sung every one of A-Lin’s songs and probably done it better every time.

In the next episode, Jane is rumoured to be singing an English song for her encore performance, and Malaysian singer Jess Lee will challenge the singers for a place in the competition.

Watch the full episode here.

9 thoughts on “I Am A Singer Ep. 8: Li Tarzan, Shoo Jane

  1. Personally, I feel that A-lin has been using a lot of strategy behind her song choices and vocals. I feel that her time singing in a pub has paid off since, based on what I have heard, it really lets you learn how to gauge the audience and know how to stand out. She may not be as vocally gifted as everybody else on the show but her experience definitely shines through to me and it is impressive what she has done with her knowledge of what audiences like, predictions of what other people will probably sing, and what she has ability-wise.

    Based on my personal experience, and rules of your place in the sequence during musical competitions aside, if she simply tried belting it, she would possibly put herself in danger of being forgotten since she cannot do it as well as some of the other contestants. The audience may simply forget about her when it comes to voting time. By singing something stylistically different, she allows herself to keep a place in the minds of the audience, which may explain why her standing has been relatively stable so far.

    Also, being able to belt can sometimes become a danger since you might become predictable in your song choices. You also come into danger of limiting yourself technique-wise since you can easily please the audience. Everybody knows that audiences gravitate towards music that is loud or fast or full sounding. However, there are other techniques that are harder to do but don’t necessarily sound very impressive.

    For example, romantic music with lots of peddle on the piano can sound very impressive. However, sometimes its the not-so-impressive sounding music with no peddle that is harder simply because you don’t have peddle covering over all your mistakes and you have to be very careful and time when you lift off on each note. Also, there are those songs that nobody will know are difficult unless they tried it themselves. These songs are usually difficult due to the simple mechanics of what you are doing like fitting everything in one breath or getting your fingers where they need to go without making a stumble and keeping everything smooth. Again, these songs tend to not sound very impressive as well.

    That being said, A-Lin’s success so far, to me at least, would be being different. Going into this competition, you can tell that she has changed her way of singing from before. Her voice is fuller and sounds more mature and a bit deeper. Just compare the album version of her first song in this competition and her actual performance. I feel all this has helped her survive being eliminated.

    • I have never heard of A-lin before watching IAS3 but I swiftly became a fan. I love her voice, it has a nice deep timbre that is different from the other singers. True, I often wished she would belt out some of the notes especially when she sang the Beyoncé song but then again, I am among those who are easily bored by the singers who regularly hit the big notes. Surprisingly, this season sees a shift in audience’s taste too. Singers like Li Jian and A-lin do pretty well while Han Hong and Sun Nan sometimes stumble. I say this because I always expect them (HH and SN) to regularly hog the top 3 spots based on past seasons. That said, I think this season’s participants are fairly consistent with their styles…well except Jane, but unfortunately I think she might have overdone things and then some (and seriously why does she always choose the weirdest songs and outfits). Honestly, there was no surprises. Everyone sings songs suitable to their style. It’s safe but kinda boring. There was no reversal e.g. Han Lei singing rock and singing it so well had me slack-jawed. However, it’s precisely because everyone played safe that the results are more unpredictable. It kinda boils down to the song selections and maybe a preference for the kind of voice that moves you most.

      By the way, I didn’t know The One recycled his performance but personally I wasn’t wowed by the song. You raise me up is a song that is often inspirational in whatever versions but his version sounded rather flat to me. And Jess Lee being the next challenger isn’t surprising since most Malaysian singers have already been on the show and fared non too well. Yet I’m meh about her just because she is known to be another big-notes-hitter kinda singer and thus, brings nothing new to the competition. I would love to have Fish Leung instead but maybe it’s not a good thing to have all Malaysian singers kicked out from the show. Heh.

      • That’s the thing. There’s a lot of people now who can belt on the show so if you do something different, you stand out. Just as if you listen to lots of loud music over and over again and then something quiet, the quiet song might strike you in a weird way or “stick” to you. It’s obvious A-Lin probably won’t end up first or something like that but in terms of survival and staying in the game, it looks like she’s been doing pretty well and by bringing more people that can belt onto the show, they are limiting the variety of music and kind of making it easier for her to stay as long as she keeps doing what she has been doing… unless the other singers suddenly decide to throw a wild card and change the way they start singing… then she might be in more danger of being eliminated…

  2. Happy Chinese New Year! (do you celebrate?) Wanted to drop you a note to say I’ve been enjoying your commentaries a lot. Love your brand of humour too.

    • Thanks! It’s always nice to know that somebody reads these posts~ :)
      I do try to celebrate the new year! Should probably hit the gym more often after all that food, though…

  3. This episode was super boring. Tan Weiwei should go back to rock and stop trying to sing slow songs that everyone else is singing. I want to see Cui Jian and Zheng Jun (and even Wang Feng) covers, not inspirational sappy songs that every other female this season could’ve probably sung better.

    I don’t know what Jane was thinking when she picked that song. Although, I think Li Yuchun looks pretty good singing it.

    • I think she was probably trying to “make the song her own” which really boils down to leaving the audience with a different impression of the song than the official version. This requires creativity but the audience still has to be able to follow you so it’s a difficulty balance. There’s a couple different strategies for this that are commonly used other than simply being able to keep the song in the same spirit and blow the original artist out of everybody’s memories.

      1. Sing a song by the opposite gender. One of the first things we try to find out when we hear singing is the gender of the singer. A different gender singing it may throw the audiences brain off a bit and give you a chance at leaving a good impression of your version.

      2. Choosing a song that you feel you can inject more emotion into than the original version and doing so. A couple of A-Lin’s songs are examples of this like Zhang Xueyou’s and Wilber Pan’s here… probably partly because sometimes the original artist is less familiar with Mandarin and that sometimes translates into a more limited ability to express yourself…

      3. Improvisation. Changing up the beat or the tempo significantly or key… or mood…. or other alterations… but this can get more time consuming and there’s the dangers of being too creative like we have just seen…You have to remember to be creative but within the acceptable range of the audience and with time constraints, not easy.

      … and that’s all I can think of at the moment… XP

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