33rd RTHK Gold Song Awards

Ella Koon displays her award at the 33rd RTHK Gold Song Awards in Hong Kong

The 33rd RTHK Gold awards took place outdoors in Science Park, Hong Kong on January 7th 2011. It looked like it was a cold night. I didn’t realize it got that cold in Hong Kong. There are four major awards ceremonies for music in Hong Kong. RTHK is the oldest (beginning in 1978) and it normally takes place last of the four. (I’ve written a bit about all four ceremonies HERE).

They really rush through the proceedings at the show. And I suppose they have to so that they don’t run on and on all night like the Academy Awards.

Among the award categories (which tend to change every year), they give awards to the singers of the ten biggest songs of the year. This year the awards went to…

 

Top 10 Gold Songs

陀飞轮 Eason Chan
爱的习惯 Justin Lo
破相 Joey Yung
罪人 Hacken Lee
天梯 C AllStar
时代 Leo Ku
雨过天阴 Kay Tse
不要惊动爱情 Sammi Cheng
以身试爱 Jade Kwan
Get Over You, G.E.M. 

Justin Lo received the Best Singer-Songwriter award. In more recent years, especially after Hong Kong’s return to China, RTHK began to offer awards to the best Mandarin-language songs. It is important to note that Mandarin songs that do well in Hong Kong do not always do well in Taiwan and Mainland China and vice versa. This year the awards went to…

Excellent Mandopop Song Award

Gold: 说谎 Yoga Lin
Silver: 玩乐 Khalil Fong
Bronze: 脆弱 Kay Tse

说谎 was not just a big hit in Hong Kong but all over China, so it definitely deserved the gold award. Yoga performed the song at the show.

The 33rd RTHK Song Awards also recognized both promising newcomers as well as singers that showed great improvement over the past year.

Newcomer with the Best Future

Gold: Sugar Club
Silver: JW
Bronze: C AllStar
Excellence: Jinny Ng, Shiga Lin, Benji & Lesley, Cindy Yen

Best Improvement This Year

Gold: RubberBand
Silver: Ella Koon
Bronze: Pakho Chau

Many people have talked about Ella Koon as being one of the best singers in Hong Kong and having all the right attributes for superstardom but mysteriously not yet making a big breakthrough. So her award was bittersweet.

The awards show also recognized singers with the highest album sales, and so it is not surprising that the media recommended awards were similar…

Singer with the Highest Album Sales this Year

Male Singer: Eason Chan
Female Singer: Sammi Cheng
Group: Mr.

Media Recommended Award

Male Singer: Eason Chan
Female Singer: Sammi Cheng
Song: 陀飞轮 Eason Chan

Eason Chan gave a concert in Vancouver in December that was apparently just fabulous. Sorry I missed it. 😦  His growing popularity throughout the Chinese-speaking world over the years was perhaps responsible for his winning the Global Chinese Supreme God Song Award for 陀飞轮. Hins Cheung took the Global Best Chinese Song for “Deadline”.

The show recognized excellence in singing with the following nods…

Global Best Singer Award

Male Singer: Khalil Fong
Female Singer: Li Yu Chun
Group: Soda Green

Excellent Pop Singer Award

G.E.M. / Joey Yung / Miriam Yeung / Janice Vidal / Kay Tse / Mr. / Khalil Fong / Leo Ku / Hacken Lee / Hins Cheung / Jason Chan / Eason Chan

The Most Excellent Pop Singer Award

Male Singer: Eason Chan
Female Singer: Joey Yung

Finally, a lifetime achievement award (called the golden needle) was given to Canadian singer Sally Yeh who performed all of her big hits from the past.

The 33rd RTHK awards paid tribute to the late Teresa Deng. Teresa Deng is considered the greatest Chinese pop singer of all-time.

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Best Chinese Songs of 2010

In the opinion of most, 2010 was below average in terms of good music and there was no real stellar C-Pop song. Here is a list of our picks for the 15 choicest songs of the year. As usual, to keep things tidy, we’ll list only one song per artist.

15. “Frailty” 脆弱 Cui Ruo
Kay Tse 谢安琪

14. “Coral Island” 珊瑚岛 Shan Hu Dao (Cantonese)
Ella Koon 官恩娜

13. “This Life” 今生今世 Jin Sheng Jin Shi
Jason Zhang 张杰

12. “Things You Don’t Know” 你不知道的事 Ni Bu Zhi Dao De Shi
Alexander Wang 王力宏

11. “Once in a Lifetime” 十年一刻 Shi Nian Yi Ke
Sodagreen 苏打绿

10. “How I Wish” (Cantonese)
Gigi Leung 梁咏琪

9. “Darlings” 心肝宝贝 Xin Gan Bao Bei
Richie Ren & Barbie Xu 任贤齐 & 徐熙媛

8. “Left Wing” 左半边翅膀 Zuo Ban Bian Chi Bang
Xu, Fei 许飞

7. “Incomplete” 残缺 Can Que
Li, Wei 李炜

6. “So You Love Me” 等你爱我 Deng Ni Ai Wo
Eason Chan 陈奕迅

5. “Nothing Left to Say” 无言以对 Wu Yan Yi Dui
Jolin Cai 蔡依林

4. “Said Goodbye” 说了再见 Shuo Le Zai Jian
Jay Zhou 周杰伦

3. “The Wrong People” 错的人 Cuo De Ren
Elva Xiao 萧亚轩

2. “I Remember I Loved” 我记得我爱过 Wo Ji De Wo Ai Guo
Peter He 何润东

1. “Warm Room” 温暖的房间 Wen Nuan De Fang Jian
Jessica Jiang 姜昕

Awards for Music in Hong Kong

As in English-speaking countries, the Chinese world holds awards ceremonies for excellence in music. Every country or region with significant Chinese populations holds such ceremonies: Singapore, Malaysia, Mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, etc. As most of the popular singers reside in Hong Kong or Taiwan, the awards ceremonies of these two locales are perhaps the most highly regarded. Taiwan’s main ceremondy is The Golden Melody Awards.
 
Things are not as straight-forward in Hong Kong, which, perhaps adds to the excitement. While Taiwan has the one main awards show, the award ceremonies that recognize achievements in the Hong Kong pop music industry are held by their four main media outlets: Metro Radio, CRHK (“Ultimate Song Chart Awards Presentation”), TVB (“Jade Solid Gold Awards”), and RTHK. So, every year there are four major awards ceremonies.
 
1. Metro Radio Music Awards
 
Metro Radio’s Music Awards show is normally the first of the four major music award ceremonies, taking place on Boxing Day (December 26th) every year. As the Golden Globes present a foretaste of the Oscars, the Metro Awards are considered “music’s first report card”. This awards show is the most generous; they give out the most awards. Last year (2008) they gave out 137 awards.
 
2. Ultimate Song Chart Awards Presentation
 
CRHK’s music awards is usually the second major music awards ceremony of the year. Most of the awards are determined by charts and airplay on CRHK (FM 90.3). Once a song enters the Top 20, the station keeps track of the number of times it is played on the radio. These awards are normally held on New Years Day. There are a few awards not based on airplay but on votes from the public. Currently they can do this online. They are presented with a long list of nominees in the first round of voting. When the polls close, the Top 5 are determined. The for round 2, the public votes for one of the five nominees in each category to determine the winner. There are currently four categories of these “My favourite…” online votes: male artist, female artist, group, and song.
 
3. Jade Solid Gold Top Ten Songs Music Awards
 
TVB’s music awards is usually the third of the four major annual music awards, being held sometime in early January. Some of TVB’s awards are regarded as the most prestigious in Hong Kong.
 
4. RTHK’s Top Ten Chinese Songs Music Awards
 
RTHK’s music awards is usually the last of the four major Hong Kong music awards. The awards ceremony has the longest history out of four major awards, giving out its first awards in 1978. Among the awards given are the Top 10 songs of the year and the “Golden Needle” award which is like a lifetime achievement award.

Cover Songs Debate

From the very beginning, Chinese artists have had a proclivity toward covering songs. Naturally, such a phenomenon occurs everywhere: Celine Dion, Westlife, and hosts of other artists covered many songs in addition to singing originals. The most covered English song was Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday”. He composed it and was the original singer but scores of other singers have recorded their own versions.

Some regard this as stealing someone else’s thunder, but often in the Chinese music industry singers, like Celine Dion and Josh Groban, do not compose their own material. A composer composes the music and a lyricist the lyrics, so the song is not bound to the original singer and is, with permission, up for grabs by other singers later on to cover it. Many do not see any shame in doing this.

But Chinese music has been criticized for doing this too often. A sizable percentage of the songs on the airwaves are covers of older songs or Chinese-language versions of songs originally performed in other languages, like Japanese and English. Part of the problem is that, there are far more singers than composers in China, so there aren’t enough new songs to go around to all of the singers. The reasons for the discrepancy should be obvious. The life of a singer is far more glamorous than that of a songwriter which perhaps discourages those who have the gift of composition away from a career in music, opting instead for a more prestigious and exciting career in big business or something.

In order to curb heavy reliance on covering songs, all music industries (including Chinese and English) would be wise to consider tackling the root of the problem by taking steps to make the career of a songwriter more glamorous and attractive and giving them more public exposure. When a surplus of new songs becomes reality, singers won’t have to stoop down to covering older songs.

But this solution, alone, would give rise to another problem. Record companies tend to pressure singers into releasing albums more frequently than is comfortable in order to maximize profits. The mentality of many of them is that fans of an artist will buy his albums no matter how mediocre the music is, so, if there’s a surplus of new songs, then it just means the singer will have to release four albums in a year instead of two.

Measures, then, need to be adopted to discourage this from happening. Rules need to be established about covering songs. The following are suggested as the only circumstances under which a song can be covered.

1. It’s an old song (more than 15 years) and you want to modernize it.
2. You want to “convert” a song into another genre. For example, do a rock version of dance song or a folk version of a rap song.
3. You cover the song in another language. For example, do a Mandarin version of a Cantonese song or a Vietnamese version of a Korean song. This gives people access to the song in their own language.
4. The song was not famous and you rework the song so it’s much better, making it famous.

Rules such as these need to be enforced by the public, so that if a singer or record company breaks one of them, they will lose all credibility in the public eye and the album on which such a cover song appears will not be bought. It is really public acceptance of heavy song-covering that allows it to continue. Once they decide to become tired of all the rehashing of older songs and stop purchasing the music, this consumer backlash will compel artists and record companies to change their bad habits.

What do you think?

Chinese-Canadian Singers

It’s difficult to identify famous Chinese-Canadian singers because many of them don’t declare whether or not they are, in fact, Canadian citizens. There are Chinese who live in Canada, some of whom are citizens, some permanent residents, and some just in the country on student or some other form of visas. Others are in the opposite situation. They are Canadian citizens but they don’t live in Canada. This is especially true for singers because they are more accepted in the Chinese entertainment industry and therefore relocate to Asia. Some of these are born in Canada but live abroad their whole lives and whether or not they are Canadian citizens is a mystery. Of those who are citizens, some are naturalized Canadians (move here after birth and become citizens) and some are citizens from birth (because one or both parents are). There are also a number of “mixed-blood beauties” (as they are known in China). One parent is Chinese and one is not. Yes, it’s complicated. What we’ll do is list all singers who have both Canadian and Chinese connections and specify what we know about their “status” as Canadians and as Chinese.

Angus Tong 童安格

Angus, born in Taiwan, emigrated to Canada at some point later in his career. It is not known whether or not he has become a citizen.

Leslie Cheung 张国荣

Leslie, born in Hong Kong, took a five-year break from his high-profile entertainment career by emigrating to Vancouver. In 1992, he became a Canadian citizen. He returned to Asia in 1995 to resume his singing and acting. He committed suicide in Hong Kong in 2003.

Angela Zhang (a.k.a. Chang) 张韶涵

Angela, born in Taiwan, went to high school in Vancouver. Afterwards she returned to Taiwan to launch her singing (and acting) career. There is no indication that she became a Canadian citizen while studying in Canada.

Jason Chan 陈柏宇

Jason was born in Hong Kong but grew up in the Toronto area. It appears that he is a Canadian citizen.

 

Calvin Chen 陈奕儒

Calvin was born in Taiwan. After high school there, he attended Simon Fraser University in the Vancouver area. He completed his Master’s degree at the University of Victoria. In 2004 he returned to Taiwan and in 2005 became a member of the boy band Fahrenheit there.

 

Elva Xiao 萧亚轩

Elva, born in Taibei, went to college in Vancouver. It is unknown whether or not she became a Canadian citizen. Naturally, after becoming famous, she returned to Taiwan.

Peter He (a.k.a. Ho) 何润东

Peter is often mistaken for a Canadian because he attended college in Ontario. But he is an American-born Chinese.

Catalina Yue

Catalina is one of the few Chinese-Canadians who has released a recognized English-language album—Eternally in 2008. She was born in Toronto and is a Canadian citizen.

Henry Lau 刘宪华

Henry was born in Toronto. His mother’s Taiwanese and his father’s a Hong Konger. As far as we know he’s a Canadian citizen. Henry is part of the Korean boy band Super Junior-M.

Vivian Chow 周慧敏

Vivian emigrated to Vancouver from Hong Kong after she retired from her singing career. It is unknown whether or not she has become a Canadian citizen.

Sally Yeh 叶蒨文

Sally was born in Taibei, Taiwan but grew up in Vancouver. She’s a Canadian citizen.

Kelvin Kwan 关楚耀

Kelvin was born in Canada, growing up in Toronto. All indications are that he is a Canadian citizen. He relocated to Hong Kong after fame graced his life.

Charlene Choi 蔡卓妍

Charlene was born in Vancouver but moved to Hong Kong with her family only a few years later. She grew up in Hong Kong and became famous, joining the group Twins. It is a mystery as to whether or not she has Canadian citizenship.

Edison Chen 陈冠希

Edison was born in Vancouver and is a Canadian citizen. After fame came his way, he relocated to Hong Kong.

Jade Kwan 关心妍

Jade was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Vancouver. As far as we know, she’s a Canadian citizen. After she became famous, she moved back to Hong Kong.

Nicholas Tse 谢霆锋

Nicholas was born in Hong Kong and grew up in Vancouver. He has dual Canadian and Hong Kong citizenship. He currently lives in Hong Kong.

Jacky Zhu (a.k.a. Chu) 祝钒刚

As far as we know, Jacky was born in Canada, grew up in Vancouver, and is a Canadian citizen. He moved to Taiwan when he became famous and joined the band 183 Club.

Denise Ho 何韵诗

Denise was born in Hong Kong and moved to Montreal with her family when she was 11. She received the rest of her education there and became a Canadian citizen. She moved back to Hong Kong when she became famous.

Melissa O’Neil 奧詩敏

Melissa is half Chinese (from her mother). She was the winner of the third season of Canadian Idol in 2005 and released an album that year which went gold. Her song “Alive” was a chart-topper (#1) and the single was certified 4x Platinum in Canada. Other hits included “Let It Go” (#7) and “Speechless” (#31). She is now in a Toronto band called God Made Me Funky.

Best Chinese Songs of the 2000s

Perhaps the best decade ever in Chinese popular music, the period from 2000 to 2009 saw a vast array of superstars emerge, mostly from the island of Taiwan. It would be difficult to list the biggest songs of the decade as these differed considerably among the various geographical regions of the Chinese world. These are our picks of the 20 best songs. To keep things tidy, we’ll list only one song per artist.

20. “Lie” by Yoga Lin (Taiwan)

Chinese: 说谎, 林宥嘉
Pinyin Romanization: Shuo Huang, Lin Youjia
Year of Release: 2009
Link 

One of the biggest songs of the year all over China and so irresistible that it nabbed top awards in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong, “Lie” was sung by a young man who swept Season 1 of the One Million Star singing competition in Taiwan emerging as champion.

19. “The First Snows of 2002″ by Dao Lang (PRC)

Chinese: 2002年的第一场雪, 刀郎
Pinyin Romanization: 2002 Nian De Di Yi Chang Xue, Dao Lang
Year of Release: 2002
Link

Known for his characteristically gruff voice and taking up residence in Xinjiang, this bar-hopping hat-wearing Sichuan-born musician was in top form when he released this classic in 2002.

18. “Dad” by Wang Zheng (PRC)

Chinese: 爸爸, 王筝
Pinyin Romanization: Ba Ba, Wang Zheng
Year of Release: 2008
Link

Though debuting in 2004, this Xi’an native hit the big time in the Summer Olympic year with her album I Love No One More Than You which won awards in China. Best cut from the album, in our opinion, is this piano ballad.

17. “Growing Up More Lonely” by Milk@Coffee (PRC)

Chinese: 越长大越孤单, 牛奶&咖啡
Pinyin Romanization: Zhang Da Yue Yue Gu Dan, Niu Nai & Ka Fei
Year of Release: 2008
Link

This was the Mainland’s answer to Taiwan’s F.I.R.—the first male/female band in the PRC. They sing about urbanization and the pressures of life growing up in the big city.

16. “Beautiful Myth” by Sun Nan and Han Hong (PRC)

Chinese: 美丽的神话, 孙楠 and 韩红
Pinyin Romanization: Mei Li De Shen Hua, Sun Nan and Han Hong
Year of Release: 2005
Link

This was the theme song of Jackie Chan’s movie The Myth. There were at least two versions of the duet. One was sung by the two stars of the film, and this was sung by professional singers from the PRC.

15. “Tender” by Mayday (Taiwan)

Chinese: 溫柔, 五月天
Pinyin Romanization: Wen Rou, Wu Yue Tian
Year of Release: 2000
Link

This was the song that made Mayday the biggest Chinese rock band of the decade.

14. “Can’t Shut the Window” by Steve Zhou (Taiwan)

Chinese: 关不上的窗, 周传雄
Pinyin Romanization: Guan Bu Shang de Chuang, Zhou Chuanxiong
Year of Release: 2009
Link

Stevie’s been so generous writing songs for other singers over the years that it’s easy to overlook the fact that he can sing these songs better than most of those to whom he gives them. An exquisite voice (much better than the other Zhou) makes us wish we could hear more from him. This song is one of his best.

13. “Our Love” by F.I.R. (Taiwan)

Chinese: 我们的爱, 飞儿乐团
Pinyin Romanization: Wo Men De Ai, Fei’er Yuetuan
Year of Release: 2004
Link

It seemed to take forever before China had a male/female rock band. These guys arrived heroically to fill the void. Their “Lydia” was more popular but we prefer this sonorous anthem. It was kind of them to come and perform in Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games.

12. “He Still Doesn’t Understand” by S.H.E (Taiwan)

Chinese: 他还是不懂, S.H.E
Pinyin Romanization: Ta Hai Shi Bu Dong, S.H.E
Year of Release: 2004
Link

Easily the most popular singing group of the decade, this trio of Taiwanese women rocketed to superstardom with their rocking “Super Star” in 2003. Of their scores of chart toppers through the years, this was arguably their best.

11. “Afterwards” by Rene Liu (Taiwan)

Chinese: 后来, 刘若英
Pinyin Romanization: Hou Lai, Liu Ruoying
Year of Release: 2000
Link

One of the biggest hits of all time, Rene covered the Japanese original and made it into a much better Chinese version.

10. “At Least I Still Have You” by Sandy Lam (Hong Kong)

Chinese: 至少还有你, 林忆莲
Pinyin Romanization: Zhi Shao Hai You Ni, Lin Yilian
Year of Release: 2000
Link

This is Chinese piano pop at its love ballad best. Sandy, big in the late-80s / early 90s, made a huge comeback with this winner.

9. “Breathing Pain” by Fish Leong (Malaysia)

Chinese: 会呼吸的痛, 梁静茹
Pinyin Romanization: Hui Hu Xi de Tong, Liang Jingru
Year of Release: 2007
Link

One of the most popular singers of the decade, it’s difficult to pick the best offering from the queen of love songs. We’ll settle on this sweet, catchy, playful song.

8. “Invisible Wings” by Angela Zhang (Taiwan)

Chinese: 隐形的翅膀, 张韶涵
Pinyin Romanization: Yin Xing De Chi Bang, Zhang Shaohan
Year of Release: 2006
Link

With a somewhat country flavour, sung by the irresistible voice of Vancouver-educated Angela Zhang, this song made her a household name overnight in 2006.

7. “Can’t Guess” by Della Ding (Taiwan)

Chinese: 猜不透, 丁当
Pinyin Romanization: Cai Bu Tou, Ding Dang
Year of Release: 2008
Link

By the end of the decade Della Ding, with a strong, mature voice, was poised to become the next Taiwanese female superstar. This resounding masterpiece, with an extremely addictive chorus, somehow escaped the attention of most, perhaps too swept up in Olympic Fever in 2008.

6. “I Will” by Zhang Liyin (PRC)

Chinese: 星愿, 張力尹
Pinyin Romanization: Xing Yuan, Zhang Liyin
Year of Release: 2008
Link

This gets our vote for the most overlooked song of the decade. Zhang Liyin from Chengdu in the PRC spent part of her life growing up in Korea and her record company SM Entertainment did little to promote her in China. She is undoubtedly the best singer since Coco Lee. This song is absolutely beautiful.

5. “Common Jasmin Orange” by Jay Zhou (Taiwan)

Chinese: 七里香, 周杰伦
Pinyin Romanization: Qi Li Xiang, Zhou Jielun
Year of Release: 2004
Link

This was the best song from the best-selling Chinese singer of the decade, recognized not only for the extremely catchy music but for the deep poetry of its lyrics.

4. “Thanks to Heartache” by Twins (Hong Kong)

Chinese: 多谢失恋, Twins
Pinyin Romanization: Duo Xie Shi Lian, Twins
Year of Release: 2003
Link

This is the way Cantonese songs should be done—staccato rhythms. And, I suppose, two voices are better than one.

3. “Fear” by Stefanie Sun (Singapore)

Chinese: 害怕, 孙燕姿
Pinyin Romanization: Hai Pa, Sun Yanzi
Year of Release: 2000
Link

Although we chose this lesser hit, just about anything Stefanie did could be placed here, whether it was her gorgeous “Dark Skies”, cute “Encounter”, riveting “Green Light”, or exquisite “Magic”. But somehow, this delicate, haunting piano ballad seems to get better with every repeated listen.

2. “Fairy Tale” by Michael Wong (Malaysia)

Chinese: 童话, 光良
Pinyin Romanization: Tong Hua, Guangliang
Year of Release: 2005
Link

This was the most successful song of the new millennium. It topped the charts for months in early 2005 and scores of people translated the lyrics into their own languages, learned to play it on the piano and uploaded their amateur performances onto Youtube. This song blows any English song of the past ten years out the water—easily. Perfectly composed, expertly arranged, and beautifully sung, this is a masterpiece.

It sounds nice when played on the piano too – Link

1. “Fireworks” by Gigi Leung (Hong Kong)

Chinese: 花火, 梁咏琪
Pinyin Romanization: Hua Huo, Liang Yongqi
Year of Release: 2001
Link

Just as the Inuit have a hundred words for snow and the Arabs for sand, the Chinese have a hundred words for the different kinds of fireworks. Hua Huo is the kind that rains down a shower of sparks. And listening to the song “Hua Huo” makes you rain down tears. A lighter, sweeter masterpiece than Michael Wong’s rich and heavy tune and slightly more captivating, this is the kind of song that makes you fall in love with Chinese music. The lyrics and music were both composed by the singer herself. A Cantonese version exists but the Mandarin version is superior on all counts. MTV Asia awarded this as song of the year in 2001. And we award it the best song of the decade.

You can find our Best Chinese Songs of the 1980s HERE.

And our Best Chinese Songs of the 1990s HERE.

The Chinese Mainland in the 2000s

Mainland China, encouraged by the success of such stars as Dao Lang, Sun Nan, Natasha Na, and Han Hong began to hold major singing competitions in the hopes of contributing more singers to Mandopop. One of these contests was called My Show. The winner of the contest in 2004 was Jason Zhang from Chengdu. He released an album in 2005 and then took part in a bigger competition called Super Boy in 2007 in which he finished in 4th spot. Jason enjoyed his first number one hit in 2010. Another finalist in the My Show competition was Shanghai native Jacky Xue. He enjoyed two number one hits. Another Shanghainese, Kym, became famous from her duets with Singapore’s JJ Lin.

The most prominent singing competition for the women, which became the most popular televised singing contest, was Super Girl. The winner of the first competition in 2004 was Angela An. She was immediately signed after her win and released an album straight away. In 2006, her “Sing Loudly” topped the charts.

The following year, Super Girl was so popular that the final show attracted 400 million viewers, more than the Chinese New Year Gala earlier that year. The top four finalists were all offered recording contracts: Chris Li, Bibi Zhou, Jane Zhang, and Angelica He. Oddly, Xu Fei, though finishing 6th in the 2006 competition, became the most famous of the bunch. The guitar-playing Siping native has enjoyed two chart-toppers.

Top Super Girl Finalists

2004 Season:

1. Angela An Youqi 安又琪
2. Katy Wang Ti 王媞
3. Baby Zhang Hanyun 张含韵

2005 Season:

1. Chris Li Yuchun 李宇春
2. Bibi Zhou Bichang 周笔畅
3. Jane Zhang Liangying 张靓颖
4. Angelica He Jie 何洁

2006 Season:

1. Laure Shang Wenjie 尚雯婕
2. Sitar Tan Weiwei 谭维维
3. Jade Liu Liyang 刘力扬
4. Amoa Ai Mengmeng 艾梦萌
5. Li Na 厉娜
6. Xu Fei 许飞

(The contest took a three-year hiatus.)

2009 Season:

1. Jiang Yingrong 江映蓉
2. Michelle Li Xiaoyun 李霄云
3. Huang Ying 黄英
4. Yisa Yu Kewei 郁可唯
5. Sara Liu Xijun 刘惜君

But not all singers arose through singing competitions; some did it the old fashioned way through being discovered by record company agents. Milk @ Coffee; Wang Feng from Beijing; Wang Zheng from Xi’an; Jacky Zheng and Fandy, both from Yangjiang, Guangdong; Vae (Xu Song) from Hefei, Anhui; all released debut albums in the middle of the decade. Chengdu-native Zhang Li Yin, arguably the best Chinese vocalist since Coco Lee, grew up in Korea and became a bigger name there than in China. Xian Zi was discovered by a Taiwanese producer, performed a duet with Will Pan. She received a Golden Melody Awards nomination, a rarity for singers from the PRC. Of all the acts from the PRC, besides the Super Girls, however, the one that scaled the heights of superstars was the duo called Phoenix Legend.

 

Chris Li

Chinese Name: 李宇春
Mandarin Name: Lǐ Yǔchūn
(b. 1984 in Chengdu, Sichuan, China)

Biggest Hits:

Give Me Five
冬天快乐 “Happy Winter”
蜀绣
下个,路口,见
和你一样
序幕
爱的太傻
Why Me
粉末
梨花香

Chris was born into a poor family in Chengdu. Her father served as a railway policeman and her mother as a housewife. They encouraged her to become a doctor. But just prior to her university entrance exams, she announced she wanted to attend a music conservatory. Initially shocked by her request, her parents acquiesced and got her a music tutor thinking that the chances of her getting into a music school were remote anyway. After only one month of training, though, Chris passed her music audition and was offered an admission to Sichuan Music Conservatory. At Li’s high school graduation, she performed a concert in front of her peers.

In 2005, while still attending the conservatory, Li auditioned for the Super Girl singing competition and won the qualifying round in Chengdu. Then she went on to win the nationwide contest to which 120,000 young women had applied. The final episode of the show drew the largest audience in Chinese TV history. Her win came as a surprise to many as her unorthodox stage presence shattered many stereotypes people held about Chinese female singers. A deep, aggressive voice, an androgynous look, no makeup beneath a David Bowie haircut, a natural performer, dressed in loose jeans and a black button-down shirt, with all the right moves, she dazzled the nation with her originality.

She was immediately offered a recording contract and released her first single, “Sweetheart, I Love You”. Her debut album in 2006, The Queen and the Dreams presold 100,000 copies and more than 430,000 in the first month.

Chris Li is active in charity work, especially with the Chinese Red Cross Foundation helping children with leukemia. She auctioned off her costumes worn in the Super Girl finale to help raise money and has donated some of the money raised in her concerts.

 

Bibi Zhou

Chinese Name: 周笔畅
Mandarin Name: Zhōu Bǐchàng
(b. 1985 in Changsha, Hunan, China)

Biggest Hits:

只剩我一个
号码
天鹅
大家一起喜羊羊
鱼罐头
单面镜
恋爱料理
笔记
谁动了我的琴弦
一周年
浏阳河2008

Bibi’s father was a government worker and her mother was a music teacher. When she was young, her grandmother taught her to play the piano. At age 6, her family relocated to Shenzhen, a city near Hong Kong. While in high school, Zhou got into Chinese pop music and began singing. With high scores on her university entrance exams, she was accepted in 2002 into the four-year undergraduate program in non-classical music at the prestigious Xinghai Conservatory of Music in Guangzhou. She released a single on the web called “How I Miss You” which achieved limited popularity. She also entered a number of singing competitions and won a few awards. But feeling she was going nowhere with her tomboyish hip hop style that was out of whack with a bubble-gum pop dominated industry, she retreated into her studies. This was soon to change, however, quite by accident.

One of Bibi’s classmates secretly entered her into the 2005 Super Girl auditions in Guangzhou. Bibi, not very confident about the outcome, dragged herself out of bed without putting on any makeup, and threw on her father’s old oversized jacket. Her masculine attire almost made the security guard stop her at the entrance because the contest was for girls only.

Despite her unkempt appearance, Bibi sailed through the audition, her sultry, powerful voice greatly impressing the judges. She coasted through the subsequent elimination rounds and soon found herself among the top 10 finalists in Guangzhou. On one occasion, she brought one of the judges to tears. When she finished the song, the judges gave her a standing ovation. She topped the competition in Guangzhou. Now it was on to the national finals.

Luck was on her side as the finals were held in her hometown of Changsha. Here, the top three contestants from each of the five regions competed. On 26 August 2005, 400 million people across the country tuned in to watch the final. Bibi Zhou came in second place right behind Chris Li.

She was humble in the spotlight however and retired back to school to finish off her degree. The following year, she signed a recording contract with a Beijing-based record label and began taking violin lessons. Her first single, “Swan” (天鹅) came as a surprise because, as a rock song, it was a departure from her signature R&B style. Nevertheless, it topped the charts.

In August 2006, Zhou released her first album, Who Touched My Violin Strings. Many contemporary Chinese musicians and singers composed songs for the album including David Tao and Gigi Leung. One of the songs became another number one hit for her: “Number”. A third number one hit was a song Bibi composed herself called “I’m Left with Only One”.

The following year, Bibi went to continue her vocal training in The United States. At the end of the year she simultaneously released two new albums, Now and Wow, the former containing songs sung in her signature R&B and pop style and the latter, songs of various wide-ranging genres: rock, blues, Brit rock, and big band. Bibi has collaborated a lot with singer-songwriter Wang Zheng.

 

Jane Zhang

Chinese Name: 张靓颖
Mandarin Name: Zhang Liang Ying
(b. 1984 in Chengdu, Sichuan, China)

Biggest Hits:

G大调的悲伤
画心
花开的声音
这么近那么远
如果这就是爱情
我相信
如果爱下去
我们说好的
新不了情
想你,零点零一分

Jane had a tough family life. Her parents divorced when she was 13 and, two years later, her father died. She was compelled to work while attending school to support herself and her mother. She began singing in a local pub, accompanied by her uncle. She fell in love with western music and skipped out on lunch to save up enough to buy cassettes of such singers as Mariah Carey.

In 2005, Jane entered the Chengdu preliminaries of the Super Girl Contest. She did well enough to enter the national competition. The contestants were judged not only by their singing, but their dancing, and overall performance delivery skills. Jane received the highest reviews from critics and professional musicians. She finished in the top 3 and got a recording contract.

After releasing a successful six-track EP, she traveled to the United States to begin work on her debut album. She worked with music producers Craig Williams and the prestigious Peter Hyams who produced for Celine Dion and R. Kelly. Jane’s debut album, The One, was released in 2006 and contains three English songs. She sang the theme song (“Only For Love”) for the big Chinese movie, The Banquet, starring Zhang Ziyi. Jane Zhang was awarded Best Singer at the 2007 Music Chart Awards Ceremony held in Beijing. That year she released her second album, Update. For the Oprah Winfrey special “The World’s Got Talent”, in the United States, Jane Zhang was the only singer from East Asia invited to perform. Jane has up to now scored four number one hits.

 

Jacky Xue

Chinese Name: 薛之谦
Mandarin Name: Xuē Zhī Qiān
(b. 1983 in Shanghai, China)

Biggest Hits:

认真的雪 “Attentive Snow”
未完成的歌
深深爱过你 “Deeply in Love with You”
黄色枫叶
传说
Memory
王子归来
钗头凤

Little information exists on the web about Jacky. But one thing is for sure: prior to his appearance, China’s biggest city had failed to contribute a single major pop star to the world of Chinese music besides Anson Hu. Other singers from Shanghai who appeared were Isabelle Huang and Kym. Shanghai native Jacky Xue appeared on the Mainland’s first televised singing competition My Show before the hugely popular Super Girl took off. His unique voice, ability to compose music, and his skilled dance moves helped him win champion standing. He abandoned his pursuit of a career in hotel management which he’d studied in Switzerland and signed a record deal with the prestigious Sony BMG. His debut, self-titled album was released in 2006. The single “Attentive Snow” became a number one hit in China and remained at the top of the charts for five straight weeks. Japanese music legend Shinji Tanimura, was so impressed with Jacky’s music, that he invited him to the Osaka Music Festival

Two years later, Jacky released his second album Deeply In Love With You. Its title-track became his second number one hit. Xue recorded two versions of the song: a classical style and a modern arrangement. He held a concert in Shanghai and a DVD was released shortly thereafter.

 

Phoenix Legend


Band Type: Singing Duo
Chinese Name: 凤凰传奇
Mandarin Name: Fenghuang Chuanqi

Members:
Female vocalist Ling Hua (玲花) from Inner Mongolia
Male rapper Zeng Yi (曾毅) from Hunan

Biggest Hits:

荷塘月色
天籁传奇
自由飞翔
我从草原来
最炫民族风
全是爱
郎的诱惑
月亮之上 “On the Moon”

Ling Hua who sings in both Mandarin Chinese and Mongolian teamed up with male rapper Zeng Yi. The result is a unique combination of traditional Mongolian chants and modern rap beats. The duo released their first album in 2005 but it wasn’t until they appeared on a TV show called Star Boulevard and performed “On the Moon” that they became extremely popular. Their songs are now frequently played in China and the duo has churned out several more hits. Phoenix Legend has become the most downloaded act on Baidu, beating out superstars Jay Zhou and S.H.E.