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Pop idol grows up

Updated: 2013-10-11 07:48
By Zhang Kun ( China Daily)

He initially found fame on TV singing competitions, but Aska Yang is now turning a new page in his musical career. Zhang Kun reports in Shanghai.

Aska Yang has started a new chapter of his music career, as the halo surrounding him from his successful stint in TV singing competitions fades away.

The singer from Taiwan led the first MTV Sessions show in Shanghai recently, performing a mini concert to more than 600 people at the Mixing Room & Muse at the Mercedes-Benz Arena Complex. The concert will be broadcast on MTV.

Yang, 35, also participated in the first edition of the Sonic Shanghai music festival at Shanghai Stadium in August. He sang the theme song, Shining.

Pop idol grows up

"I think I can enjoy a career in music as long as there is a not-so-big group of supporters," says the singer in an exclusive interview with China Daily before the MTV Sessions concert.

"Nobody can give final judgment on your work. I stick to my principles and standards, and no longer care too much about commercial success or popular aesthetics of the time."

At the Mercedes-Benz Arena concert Yang performed a few songs from his previous albums, which he selected because they were either "difficult and challenging, or with lots of storytelling". He also performed Rehab by the deceased British artist Amy Winehouse.

The stage was designed like a reading room. A lyrical singer, Yang responded to fans' enthusiasm with awkward attempts to dance. His simple hip swings were enough to prompt screams from the audience, but he insists he is not a pop idol.

Yang visited indie folk musician Zhong Lifeng in Beijing a few weeks ago. "He played the guitar and I sang along. It was a great experience."

He and Zhong ate crayfish with their hands and wore shorts and sandals. Yang said he felt happy and satisfied. "I've experienced a lot since I joined the industry six years ago. I've learned to relax and enjoy music."

Yang came to prominence when he participated in the first Million Star talent show in Taiwan in 2007. His voice, powerful, expressive, and highly recognizable, brought him immediate fame, but he had to drop out before the final round because he was found out to have lied about his age - his actual age was beyond the competition limit.

But his great popularity still brought him to stardom. His debut album Dove was a bestseller, and in 2008, he gave a concert at the Taipei Arena, a large outdoor space with 15,000 seats.

His music career then ground to a halt for two years when he became embroiled in a legal battle with his agent. Yang enrolled in a post-graduate program at National Taiwan Sport University, studying sports psychology. "I've always enjoyed sports, and decided maybe I could turn to a different career path," he says.

When the lawsuit concluded in 2010, Yang found himself back in the music scene, and his talent won him recognition from songwriter and music producer Lee Tsung Sheng (Jonathan Lee), one of the most respected people in the Chinese pop music scene.

Lee produced his second and third albums Original Colors and First Love in 2011 and 2013 respectively. "He's the big brother I always look up to," Yang says of Lee, his mentor and producer. "He's by far the most important influence in my music career."

Yang lived and worked closely with Lee in Beijing for more than a year, where, unbeknownst to him, he picked up traces of Lee's style, attitude and even stage manner.

The ups and downs of his bumpy career, as well as the influence of his mentor Lee, has left Yang with a wary attitude toward fame and success. "You don't have to win everyone's love. Everyone has his place. Don't quit just because the halo above your head fades," he says.

"The popularity of TV talent shows has produced bubbles that will eventually pop."

Earlier this year, Yang participated in the singing competition show I Am a Singer on Hunan TV, and became known to a wider public in the Chinese mainland. Although he didn't win any prizes, his richly emotional voice and graceful stage manners won him a large number of supporters. On the micro blog weibo.com, where he communicates with mainland fans, Yang has more than 485 million followers.

Contact the writer at zhangkun@chinadaily.com.cn.

(China Daily 10/11/2013 page20)

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