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.
If 是否 by Julie Su
Earlier in the competition, Jane performed Legend of a Hungry Wolf 饿狼传说 by Jacky Cheung. Everything about it was eerily similar to G.E.M’s performance of Lady Marmalade on last year’s show (especially the part where it actually segued into Lady Marmalade). Jane came second, but people were a bit iffy about 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.
Shower of Petals 花瓣雨 by Angus Tung
Sun Nan is wearing his shirt collar unbuttoned with a tie loosely draped around his neck. If you don’t know how to tie a tie, Sun Nan, there are diagrams on the Internet.
This was actually pretty good, and less nasal than past performances. Sun Nan’s natural voice sounds like it’s been autotuned. People pay T-Pain a lot of money for that.
Today is Your Birthday, Mom 今天是你的生日，妈妈 by Zhong Lifeng
Li Jian takes to the stage with his guitar-playing entourage. There’s no harmonica at the start like there is in the original, but he is singing it better than Zhong Lifeng. Not that that’s hard to do.
Li Jian’s performance morphs into a cello-led version of the Puccini aria, O mio babbino caro. (Puccini is super famous in China because his opera Turandot, which is based in China and borrows from Chinese melodies). Oddly enough, the aria is being sung to one’s father, so the theme is wrongly gendered, but it still sounds pretty.
Straight to the Point 开门见山 by A-mei
Jane thinks Tan Weiwei’s outfit looks like fun. I think it looks like she’s been trying to solve crimes on a windy day.
idarklight gets her wish and Tan Weiwei is singing a rock song. It’s a risky move because, other than a few changes, the arrangement isn’t tremendously different from the original, which is only going to invite comparisons to A-mei, one of the top voices in Chinese music. But Tan Weiwei sings it better. She does things with her voice that A-mei simply can’t.
But you know who could probably sing this even better? Chen Bing from The Voice of China.
Star 明星 by Mary Cheung
So, when I asked the question of whether or not Leo would still be hosting the show after his elimination, I guess I meant to ask if he’d still be hosting after his encore performance after his elimination.
Anson arranged the song for this performance, but it’s hard to hear elements of Anson in it. It’s a good performance, but the crying seems a little contrived.
Return to Lhasa 回到拉萨 by Zheng Jun
Han Hong likes her suits. Here, she’s wearing one festooned with colourful Tibetan motifs. It’s pretty, but she’ll be kicking herself when she has nothing to wear at next month’s CPPCC meeting.
Even though this song is about Lhasa, it’s not a very Tibetanny song. Musically, it’s straight up rock. Han Hong, who is Tibetan herself, changes things up a bit, incorporating Tibetan vocal styles and even two dungchen—large Tibetan horns—played by what appear to be Buddhist monks. The captions give their names as Master Treasure and Master Celestial Dragon, which sounds more like a couple of Dungeons & Dragons players cosplaying as their monk class characters.
Han Hong isn’t the best traditional Tibetan singer, but she’s still better than most, and hits the high notes with zero effort. Tan Weiwei, who studied under famed Tibetan music teacher Langa Dolma, looks on, as if questioning Han Hong’s vocal technique.
Afer the performance, Li Jian comments that Return to Lhasa is a difficult song to sing.
“Really difficult,” adds Tan Weiwei, even though she does it better.
She Says 她说 by JJ Lin
A-Lin has totally sung this song before, a few years back, at the Golden Melody Awards. But that was part of one of those award show medleys, so this is the first time we’re hearing her sing the full song.
Hey, it’s an accordion. Accordions are oddly popular instruments in China.
A-Lin starts off well, and it’s an enjoyable performance, but it’s not a great end. The last notes needed to be more powerful. If Taiwan is to stay relevant in the Asian music scene, it needs to adopt a more international vocal sound, rather than the typically unchallenging, softly-softly approach it’s stagnated on over the past two decades.
That Man 那个男人 by Aska Yang
그남자 by Hyun Bin
The One was in the second season of the original Korean version of I Am A Singer, where he sang this same song. All the Korean-drama fangirls in the audience squee as they recognise the melody. The One’s Chinese pronunciation is not great, and he switches to the Korean version after the first verse.
He sings it well, but it’s uncanny how Korean baritones all kind of sound the same. The One misplaces his voice on the big note and it sounds slightly garbled, but he recovers quickly.
After the performances, The One meets the Chinese singers backstage. Predictably, a few seumnidas 습니다 are heard in the conversation. He professes to be a fan of Han Hong’s and sings a few lines of her song, That Part of the Sea 那片海. The singers erupt in applause. Chinese people are always impressed when foreigners sing in Chinese.
Since this is the last episode before Chinese New Year, why not have a party?
They have a party.
They eat hotpot, they drink baijiu. A-Lin drinks from a tiny little glass. The One does not like baijiu. He wears an earpiece for simultaneous translation. That’s pretty nifty.
1. The One
2. Han Hong
3. Li Jian
5. Tan Weiwei
6. Sun Nan
7. Jane Zhang
- Except for the very first episode, Jane has come last in every non-elimination round. She’ll almost certainly be eliminated next week. Sad face.
- The One will do well, but only if he sticks to theme songs of Korean dramas. He doesn’t speak Chinese, so he’ll have a harder time endearing himself to the audience. Even Shila, last year, tried speaking Chinese instead of relying on an interpreter.
- A-Lin is overdue for a number one performance, and so is Li Jian. Sun Nan is too, but he has too many fifth-place rankings stacked against him, so he’ll probably never get there.
Watch the full episode here.