It seems nary a week goes by without some super talented, small Asian child making me feel deficient as a person. And I was feeling pretty good about myself this month, so this was probably overdue. Enter Thong Junjin 汤晶锦 (I’m about 80% sure the ‘h’ is silent).
Thong, an 11-year-old from Selangor, Malaysia, is a recent ‘graduate’ of China’s top-rating children’s talent show, Let’s Sing Kids 中国新声代, where she belted out Mandarin and Taiwanese hits by some of the biggest voices in the Chinese music scene, including A-mei, Han Hong and Tan Weiwei. If those names don’t sound familiar, Han Hong was described by one leading music critic as the Chinese-Tibetan love child of Celine Dion and Elton.
(It was me. I am the self-described leading music critic.)
Praised for her mature vocals and lyrical interpretation, this pint-sized powerhouse is also a viral sensation. Thong’s rendition of Han Hong’s “Dawn 天亮了” has received over 230 million views in just two months.
And it wasn’t even her best performance.
Watch more performances from the show, including some adorable musical child prodigies, and take part in our readers’ perceptions of adequacy poll, below. (more…)
I’m going to start putting last week’s poll winners above the cut, so M.I.C.‘s CJ Chi Yuehan gets two MM features with his electric house solo Wonderful Life. Here’s a rehearsal room version here. Yuehan and Wang Hao are currently filming a dancing-focused movie opposite Liu Xin.
Malaysian singer Jess Lee gasps in surprise as television personality, Rolling Wang (not to be confused with annoying viral chicken video songstress Rollin Wang), rolls into her hotel room with a breakfast cart adorned with breads, milk and fruit. Her eyes remain fixed on the food as he greets her and wishes her a happy new year.
Li Jian and his manager, Shen Mengchen, are the first to arrive on the I Am A Singer set. He flicks on the TV to inspect the competition. “Jess Lee,” Shen muses, tapping the remote to reveal her song choice. “Suffering.”
“I’ve never heard that song before,” admits Li Jian. “Have you?”
“No, I haven’t. Let’s put it on now.”
This isn’t the first time a Chinese celebrity has claimed not to know Jess Lee.
Some of the contestants are taking naps on their sofas. Li Jian and The One, too tall for the furniture, dangle their limbs off the side. Han Hong fits snuggly within the arm rests.
Bonds 尘缘 by Roman Tam
Li Jian is looking rather snazzy. He’s wearing a charcoal suit with a purple crew-neck tee and pocket square. And a watch on his right hand, oddly enough. I am totally going to steal this look for my next business casual event (I think this qualifies as business casual).
Li Jian’s performances tend to be very hit or miss. This one’s a miss. It’s slow, with no real musical or vocal climax. And that’s typical Li Jian. But it doesn’t have that unique “oomph” that makes Li Jian’s good performances good. His better songs usually come when they’re less piano-driven. Unfortunately, this one is super pianoed-up. It’s altogether a bit dull.
Hey, there’s a Caucasian dude watching the show. I bet we’ll be seeing a lot of him tonight.
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)
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?
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. (more…)
I Am A Singer, this year, is sponsored by Honda and Oppo. So the singers drive up in their Honda cars which totally look like the Jeeps from Jurassic Park, and unbox their new Oppo smartphones. They watch the introductory video for the newest contestant, Korean singer The One, but none of them know who he is. Obviously they didn’t watch the first season. For shame.
The One’s “manager” on the show is Xiao Wu, the Korean member of Top Combine. He does most of the interpreting for him. Let’s hop straight into it.
This time, Jane is singing a song that G.E.M recorded back in 2013. The similarities stop there, however. While G.E.M’s version was a demure, piano-only track, Jane’s arrangement features the whole band. Her voice harks back to her time on Super Girl. It’s powerful and free. It’s everythi- oh… and now it’s been jazzed up with trumpets. So not only did she not watch the first season of I Am A Singer, but she didn’t read my comments from last week’s episode either.
Besides almost ruining the song by turning it into a breezy jazz number, Jane actually did sing it really well. Nobody else has performed yet, but we have a strong contender for best vocal performance of the night. (more…)
Li Ronghao 李荣浩, the guy who supposedly looks like Jay Chou but sings like Eason Chan, was brought in to replace Kit Chan. He came sixth and so didn’t get to continue in the competition. Bye bye, Li Ronghao~
Li Jian 李健 was brought in to replace Li Ronghao. He’s stuck around since then.
This faux-operatic number was written as an ode to former premier Zhou Enlai to commemorate the centenary of his birth. So, 1998. A lot of Chinese classics aren’t as old as you would think.
“Red songs,” as they’re known, haven’t been very popular on I Am A Singer. After all, this is Hunan TV, and rival CCTV is all the way in Beijing. In season two, “Madonna of China” Wei Wei was booted from the competition after singing Reddest Sun, Dearest Chairman Mao 太阳最红毛主席最亲.
Han Hong does better, slightly, in sixth place. She’s not classically trained in the Western tradition, and she sounds a bit poppy at parts, but you can’t deny that she is expressive. She should have been ranked higher.
Imagine you have a time machine. Now imagine, using your time machine, you went back to 2008, kidnapped the four best singers in China under the age of 40, brought them back to the future, and then pit them in a 14-week-long singing competition against each other. Tada! You have the third season of I Am A Singer. (You’d also have a time machine, which—not gonna lie—is also pretty impressive.)
If you’re just here for the videos, feel free to skip ahead. If you want insightful commentary so you can make informed bets on who’s going to win and profit from your friends with gambling problems, you’re probably a bad person, but continue reading anyway.
This is the first episode of the season. First episodes usually aren’t the best for various reasons. For most of the singers, it’s their first time on the I Am A Singer stage, so nerves and inexperience kick in. Most of all, the first episode is the only episode where the singers are allowed to perform their own songs. So they do. And it’s boring because we’ve heard them all before, except now they come with a slight pause before belting out the big note. The structure of the show, at least, often allows the singers to give the best performances of their careers.
The four-person Mainland contingent of this year’s I Am A Singer represents some of the best voices in the country. And I don’t mean that in a Dancing with the “Stars” kind of way. Han Hong, Jane Zhang, Sun Nan and Anson Hu really are among China’s top vocalists. That being said, I don’t necessarily find Sun Nan’s voice is very pleasant…
This is the first year that Hunan TV’s official YouTube channel is posting video titles and descriptions for the show in English. The English is not great, but at least they’re starting to appreciate their international fans [waves].
Okay, that wasn’t very insightful. On with the show!
Leo Ku 古巨基
Love and Honesty 爱与诚
Is he wearing a tie? Isn’t he wearing a tie? Leo Ku is emceeing this year’s I Am A Singer, as Yu Quan and Phil Chang did in previous seasons. I don’t know why they get contestants to also host, but I guess it saves us from someone Seacresting the show.
Leo Ku is famous for his falsetto, which still glimpses through, despite his voice sounding heavier in the decade since he first recorded this song. The arrangement diverges from the original, slowing and stripping it down to a ballad. It works, but it doesn’t sound as good. Of course, this is a singing competition, and ballads are the easiest way to show of one’s vocals, but there aren’t really any big notes here that justify the change. He sings it well, but it’s nothing spectacular. (more…)
I am a Singer 3 has revealed its initial cast of singers – Jane Zhang, Anson Hu, A-lin, Kit Chan, Sun Nan, Leo Ku, and Han Hong. I’m upset they still haven’t invited Tan Weiwei, but Anson was a pleasant surprise since he’s been on a number of other similar shows. The show begins airing next Sunday. Who are you rooting for?
On a completely unrelated note, here’s Jane Zhang and Zhang Jie’s cover of Yang Mi’s The Palace theme, as if the two of them haven’t taken over every theme song since then.
While we wait for all the ancient dramas to air in the upcoming month and year, here are some melodic Zhongguofeng songs from Jane Zhang, Huang Ling, Han Hong, and Ye Yiqan to alleviate the pain:
Jane Zhang sings the beautiful theme “Wordless Epitaph 无字碑” for The Empress of China, written by Aarif Lee and penned by Fang Wenshang. The lyrics kind of makes me more concerned that this is going to feature a selfless Wu Zetian doing everything for the sake of a narrowly-defined version of love (because of course she’s doing everything for the glory of the Tang, that’s why she overthrew it and started her own dynasty).
The New Year concert on Dragon TV 东方卫视, Shanghai based television channel, is another must watch concert. The show featured Chinese Idol contestants, Han Hong 韩红, actor/singer/judge Huang Xiaoming 黄晓明 PKing singer/actor/MC Show Luo 罗志祥. Also in attendance is Taiwanese girl idol women musical group S.H.E, going into their 13th year together and still going strong even as married women (Ella 陈嘉桦 and Selina 任家萱). It wouldn’t be a party without some pretty faces – representing the girls is Shanghai based theater girl group SNH48, and representing the dudes is SM boybands Super Junior-M and EXO-M. The concert also featured special performances from Richie Ren 任贤齐 and Jonathan Lee 李宗盛.
As if that’s not enough incentive to watch the show, just look at this 3D (4D?) light show during the new year countdown!! The full new year concert is available on the official Dragon TV affiliated youtube channel in three parts here, here, and here.