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.
Sun Nan 孙楠
Did You Ever Love Me? 是否爱过我
Sun Nan is wearing a handheld mirror. And, I think… a spoon? That’s a quirky way to accessorise. I imagine his make-up people accidentally dropped their utensils on his jacket as he was rushing out on stage, and by then it was already too late to do anything about it.
In 2013, Sun Nan joined, and came second in, Celebrity Battle 全能星戰, a similar, veteran-singers-compete-against-each-other show. Anson Hu came first. I Am A Singer sets the stage for a grubbily good rematch, but I doubt either of them will have a real shot at taking the title this time round, given the calibre of the girls this year. Sun Nan is one of the most popular singers of his generation. I think his high notes are too nasal. He doesn’t do anything to dispel that notion with this performance, either.
Give Me a Reason to Forget 给我一个理由忘记
A-Lin is the kind of singer you hire to perform at your daughter’s 16th birthday because money doesn’t grow on trees and you can’t afford to get A-mei. Besides, this kid is the middle child, anyway. But don’t worry, A-Lin will still sing all of A-mei’s songs.
Or at least that’s how the producers have chosen to portray her. A-Lin is this year’s best-singer-you’ve-never-heard-of, much like season one’s Huang Qishan and last year’s G.E.M. Of course, with four Golden Melody Award nominations and millions of YouTube views under he belt, you probably have heard of A-Lin. Still, she’s not tremendously popular on the mainland, and has barely more than half-a-million followers on Weibo.
For her I Am A Singer debut, A-Lin delivers a pretty solid vocal performance. It’s very—for lack of a better word—Taiwanese. She slips into falsetto where a more American-influenced singer would have belted out the notes, but she does enough to impress. Her make-up is on point, ladies and gentlemen. On point.
Anson Hu 胡彦斌
The YouTube video’s description gives his English name as Tiger. I’m going to insist very strongly against calling him that. Anson. Your name is Anson. This isn’t the first time Anson has appeared on I Am A Singer. He performed alongside Han Lei to help him win last year’s title.
Of the Mainland singers, Anson is the only one to not have featured in a 2008 Beijing Olympics theme song. (Okay, he was in Beijing Welcomes You 北京歡迎你, but everybody was in that, and he only had one line, so that doesn’t count).
Bucking the trend yet again, Anson is the only singer (sort of) not to sing his own song, choosing to cover Hills by Jonathan Lee. His top notes are heavily reverbed, but it’s still a good performance. His voice used to be raspier, with its own unique quality. It’s sounding more generic these days, but he’s still one of the best male singers in the country.
Kit Chan 陈洁仪
Tempting Heart 心动
Kit Chan is the first Singaporean singer on the show in three seasons of I Am A Singer. Singaporeans will remember her for her performance of Home, the theme song to Singapore’s 1998 National Day Parade.
Unlike the other female contestants, Kit doesn’t have an especially big voice. Nor does she have a popular legacy in China to fall back on (the song she’s performing was originally by Shino Lin, which Kit recorded in 2011). Her main strengths lie in her interpretation of the lyrics and her subtle vocal nuances, which she does well in this performance. Still, she will struggle to stand out. Her best chance of success will come if the audience votes are split between the powerhouses.
Jane Zhang 张靓颖
Only For Love 我用所有报答爱
Jane Zhang has done singing contests before, coming third in 2005’s massively popular Super Girl 超级女声 contest. On the other hand, 2006 Super Girl winner, Laure Shang, competed in the first season of I Am A Singer and was eliminated, so experience is no guarantee of success. Sometimes referred to as the “Mariah Carey of China”, Jane is famous for her vocal range and abilities in the whistle register. She is one of the strongest contenders in the competition.
Jane sings Only For Love from the 2006 movie, The Banquet, starring Zhang Ziyi. Man, that movie was unsatisfying. Jane had been in the industry for barely even a year when the song was first recorded, and this live performance shows how much she’s improved since then. She has impeccable control.
I could have sworn there were a bunch of high notes in this song… but I guess not. What song am I thinking of? Jane went through a movie theme song phase back then. They all had this same haunting quality to them, and they’ve all sort of blurred together for me now. Her dress is pretty.
Han Hong 韩红
If you’ve never heard of Han Hong before, to clarify, Han Hong is a woman. Han Hong is also everyone’s favourite Tibetan singer. “Wait, no,” you say, “Alan is my favourite Tibetan singer!” But shhh~
Han Hong is hugely respected in China, both as a vocalist and as a songwriter. Imagine if Celine Dion and Elton John had a baby together. That’s Han Hong! She serves as a judge on multiple singing shows, including Chinese Idol 中国梦之声 (the second season was kind of meh) and Duets 最美和声 (fellow contestant Sun Nan was there too). So, why is she on this show? I have no idea, but I’m guessing she’s being paid a lot of money. Everybody expects her to win.
Han Hong sings Dawn and brings some members of the audience to tears. It’s a sad (borderline depressing) song, but the studio audience are an overly emotional bunch. Touching, self-penned lyrics, effortless high notes, Han Hong does her Han Hongy thing. Everybody expects her to win.
Last year’s I Am A Singer contestant, Shila Amzah, performed the same song last week.
1. Han Hong
2. Jane Zhang
4. Sun Nan
5. Anson Hu
6. Leo Ku
7. Kit Chan
- Kit Chan will be the first singer eliminated (sorry).
- Leo Ku will not last very long in the competition.
- Either Jane Zhang or Han Hong will sing “I Will Always Love You.” (And although it’ll be a good performance, I’ll still wish that the other one had sung it instead.)
- Han Hong will win, Jane Zhang will come second.
- Jane Zhang is going to wear something by Tony Ward.
- Anson Hu and Sun Nan will rank next to each other a lot of the time.
Watch the full episode here.
What did you think of the show? Who do you think is going to win? Post your comments, complaints about the squeaky, fast-talking voice that plays before the videos, and predictions below~