Multiple Chinese singers aim to challenge foreign competitors
No need to exaggerate perceived disparity: expert
Published: May 13, 2024 09:28 PM
US singer Chante Moore performs at the stage. Photo: Screenshot from Mango TV

US singer Chante Moore performs at the stage. Photo: Screenshot from Mango TV

Iconic Chinese singer Han Hong on Sunday issued a challenge to other artists to compete against her on Singer 2024, a competitive music variety show from Mango TV and Hunan TV.   

Han's announcement was quickly followed by declarations from multiple singers such as Ji Minjia, Jiang Yingrong, Zeng Yiming, Wang Xi, Luo Qi and Li Jiawei, expressing their desire to join the fray.

After a four-year absence, the show returned on Friday night with a "live-broadcast" format, which has sparked heated debate online, triggered reflections on the performances of Chinese singers and exposed the clear disparity between China's music industry and its international counterparts.

Responding to the wave of enthusiasm from both the artists and the audience, the official account for the show on China's X-like platform Sina Weibo released a statement on Sunday. 

"We appreciate the support and encouragement from our audience, as well as the trust and affection from the singers. We have received them all! 'Singer 2024' features a rigorous schedule and fair competition rules. We will extend invitations based on the availability of the singers," said the statement.

Friday night marked the commencement of Singer 2024 on Hunan TV's streaming platform Mango TV. The inaugural competition featured US vocalist Chanté Moore, and Moroccan-Canadian singer Faouzia, alongside Chinese artists Na Ying, Wang Sulong, Second Hand Rose band, Taiwan-born singer Rainie Yang, and Hailai Amu, reflecting the endeavor by the production team to cater to the varied musical preferences of different demographics.

While seasoned singer Moore claimed the top spot with her rendition of "If I Ain't Got You," and Gen-Z Faouzia mesmerized the audience with "Crazy" to earn No.2, the performances of Chinese singers on the show, including the experienced Na Ying, fell short of expectations.

Despite being an icon in the Chinese music industry, Na only managed to secure the third position, with the top two places claimed by the only two foreign singers.

Sun Jiashan, an associate researcher at the Central Academy of Culture and Tourism Administration who watched the competition live, told the Global Times on Monday, "The ranking is objective. Chanté Moore's vocal prowess and technical proficiency, including her tone quality, are undeniable facts."

Compared with previous seasons, Singer 2024 has adopted a "live broadcast" format, emphasizing authentic vocal performances without any post-production edits.

During a press conference for the show, producer Hong Xiao confirmed that many singers turned down the opportunity due to concerns over the "live format."

"Choosing a live broadcast format has indeed narrowed our selection of artists. Many declined our invitations due to the live aspect, making it difficult for us to meet criteria such as talent, courage, and availability," he said.

Since its premiere, the show has dominated the trending list on Sina Weibo, triggering heated discussions online, especially due to the unexpected ranking. Some netizens are speculating about which talented singers will fill the vacancies on the show and challenge the established competitors. Some even began speculating about the future of the Chinese music industry, questioning who could potentially rescue its current state.

Sun said there's no need to exaggerate any perceived disparity between China's music industry and its international counterparts. "Live, unedited performances are more common in the Europe and US music industry, meaning the two foreign contestants are more accustomed to such rhythms, enabling them to deliver stable performances," said Sun.  

However, he acknowledged a gap in China's broadcasting standards in the music industry compared to the West. 

"It is necessary for the Chinese music industry to adapt to the pace of development of live broadcasts, leveraging its advantages and setting higher standards for itself," he noted.

"I'm not pessimistic about the results. Chinese singers will improve and adapt to the live broadcast format in the future, gradually enhancing their performance capabilities," he added.

According to Sun, Mango TV's pioneering live broadcast format sets a "benchmark" for China's broadcasting industry. "Live music variety shows or live entertainment galas are becoming a trend."

Previously, Chinese variety show Ride the Wind won widespread popularity in overseas countries such as Vietnam. Now, Singer 2024 has invited global artists to perform on stage.

"For Chinese variety shows to go global, they must adapt to international trends. For music shows, it's crucial to keep up with the trend of fully open mic competitions and live broadcasts, just like those foreign counterparts," Sun told the Global Times.