The Appeal of Chinese Singing Competitions & Survival Shows

A bit of information about me: In 2018, I was invested in Singer 2018, which is a singing competition for professional and well-established singers. It took place in China.

Earlier this year, I was super invested in Chuang 2020, a girls trainee survival show that took place in China. The 7-member group, BonBon Girls 303, was formed. I voted every day when it aired.

I’ve also watched a boys trainee survival show called Chuang 2019. The 11-member band, R1SE, was formed. I’m currently watching Super Vocal Season One, which is a singing competition for opera and musical singers.

Each episode is around two hours and the finales are around four hours. Two hours for one episode is not enough, by the way. There’s so much content that gets left out. You can probably tell that I like these types of shows.

Why, though? Note: A lot of these reasons are applicable to non-Chinese singing competitions.

1) TO WATCH THE CONTESTANTS WE LOVE

A lot of the contestants already have established fanbases. I watched Singer 2018 for Hua Chenyu and I watched Chuang 2020 for Chen Zhuoxuan, Nene, and Joyce Chu. I’m watching Super Vocal for Zheng Yunlong and Ayanga.

2) TO DISCOVER TALENTED ARTISTS

I became a fan of Zhao Lei, Zhou Zhennan, and Liu Ye after I watched Chuang 2019.

3) FOR THE FRIENDSHIPS

Although these are competitions, there are moments of beautiful friendship between the contestants. In Chuang 2020, Nene cried because she was afraid that Wu Yalu was going to be eliminated. Nene had a secure ranking but the one she was worried about was her best friend. Liu Xiening and Xu Yiyang’s friendship was touching, too.

In Super Vocal, Zheng Yunlong and Ayanga’s friendship started from when they were roommates during their university years.

4) TO FEEL INSPIRED

The contestants are hard-working and determined to achieve their goals. I know I felt inspired when I watched this scene in Super Vocal:

The contestants have to face a lot of challenges during the show, too. Although it’s challenging for them and entertaining for us, it pushes them to learn and grow as artists.

5) FOR THE MUSIC

All the contestants are talented! Since these are singing shows, there’s obviously beautiful singing involved! Sometimes there’s rap, dance, and musical instruments too, depending on the show. Not only do they sing, they sometimes rearrange the music (Singer 2018, Super Vocal), write the music, and create the choreography (Chuang 2019). The art of performing in front of an audience is important as well as selecting the right song.

It’s entertaining!

6) TO APPRECIATE NEW MUSIC GENRES AND SONGS

Prior to watching Singer 2018, I didn’t really appreciate Chinese folk music. I changed my mind after I learned more about it and saw the hard work behind the scenes.

7) TO LEARN NEW THINGS

I’ve liked songs from musicals and opera for many years, but I didn’t know the meaning behind some of the songs. In Super Vocal, they explain the story behind the song.

8) YOU GET TO PARTICIPATE

This one is for survival competitions that involve voting. It’s exciting to support your favourites. There’s a reason to vote for them: So that they can debut (This depends on the show).

When Chuang 2020 aired, I had something to look forward every week.


Do you see why I like Chinese singing competitions now?

My Favourite Songs & Performances by R1SE

R1SE is an 11-member boy band that was formed at the end of the Chinese trainee survival show, Chuang 2019. The 11 members secured the most votes and thus, R1SE was created. They are popular in China but they aren’t as well-known internationally. I suspect this has to do with the lack of translated content. The Chuang episodes on YouTube don’t even have English subtitles. They deserve more recognition!

Since R1SE is a temporary group, they have less than a year left. I still think this is worth writing about because they have some amazing performances.

You’ve probably listened to their songs if you have watched Mo Dao Zu Shi, The King’s Avatar live-action, or Scumbag System.

R1SE Photos (3 of 5) | Last.fm

1. R1SE – 少年如故《魔道祖师 Mo Dao Zu Shi》

This is the third ending of Mo Dao Zu Shi. Five of the members sing it. They are Zhao Lei, Ren Hao, Liu Ye, He Luoluo, and Zhai Xiaowen.

2. R1SE – 荣耀的战场 《全职高手 The King’s Avatar》

Most of their videos on YouTube are in Chinese.

3. R1SE 赵磊 Zhao Lei – 忘言歌 Song of Words Unsaid《Scumbag System》 

Zhao Lei is one of my favourite members. Scumbag System is actually airing right now. You can watch the episodes legally on YouTube. They have English subtitles! The CGI rubbed me the wrong way at first but I quickly got used to it. The story is by the creator of Mo Dao Zu Shi. I recommend it.

4. R1SE – 曜

This is their live performance of . They’re amazing in this one! The chorus is catchy.

5. R1SE – 中国话

The original song is sung by the Taiwanese girl group, S.H.E. In this live performance, they added Chinese opera and rap. It’s cool that they combined these different genres. This is one of my favourite performances of theirs. At the end of the performance, they pulled out nunchucks like?? Wah.

I love Zhao Lei’s opera in the beginning and Zhang Yanqi’s rap @2:57.

6. R1SE – YOU

This is the practice video version of YOU. This song is more focused on vocals. I love Liu Ye’s vocals the most in this one. He’s also my favourite member.

7. R1SE 翟潇闻、赵磊 – Forever Young

This is Zhai Xiaowen and Zhao Lei’s live performance of Forever Young. The original song is sung by another singer but I actually prefer their cover. They are the main vocals of the group.

8. 创造营2019(宝藏男友、蜕变、滨河东路、EMP、Fireman、敢、青春纪念册、创造101)- 蜕变

This is a performance from Chuang 2019. Only two members of R1SE are in this one (Zhou Zhennan and Zhao Lei). This is my favourite performance from the show. Zhou Zhennan, the one who secured first place in all the episodes, is amazing in this one. Not only is his rap great, but his vocals are perfect @2:50. This song isn’t really his style either, which makes it even more impressive.

9. R1SE+SNH48 – Y’all Don’t Touch It

I like this performance but I think R1SE does a better job than the girls… I think Ren Hao, Liu Ye, and Zhou Zhennan’s visuals pop out in this one. Ren Hao is the one in the beginning and Liu Ye appears at @1:40.

Runner-up songs and performances: 梦在黎明破晓时 and Blue Bird (Yes, the Naruto opening).


I hope that you’ll check out R1SE’s songs. It’s a shame that they aren’t promoted to international audiences. That’s why us fans are pulling our weight in hopes that someone out there will be interested!

Songs I’m Listening to This Week

In addition to flumpool songs, here are more songs I’m listening to this week.

I’ve been described as “living under a rock” but I don’t think this is true. I think that “living under a rock” implies that you don’t know any of the popular stuff. It’s true that I don’t know any of the popular stuff in Western pop culture, but I know what’s popular in China and Japan. Maybe I’m just above a different rock. I would say that I listen to Chinese songs the most and then Japanese music.

只是太在意 Just Cared Too Much – 宁桓宇

This is my favourite song right now. It’s from the Guardian OST. Guardian is a Chinese drama I’m watching right now. The song is sad, but so are all of my favourite songs.

初心 Chu Xin – 张赫宣

This is also from the Guardian OST. A comment said that this song is like a response to “Just Cared Too Much” and I like to view it as such. (Shen Wei’s POV in “Just Cared Too Much” and Zhao Yunlan’s reply in “Chu Xin.”)

There’s an English version of this song but the lyrics are different. It’s sang by a different singer and it’s a more powerful version.

追 Chasing – CORSAK

Chasing was released a day ago! CORSAK wrote the song while thinking about his “little foxes” (fans). I really like the lyrics. Basically, the song says that life is mundane but life is worth living because of his “little foxes.” He sings that everybody is concerned with numbers (likes, comments, follows) and popularity, but it doesn’t matter to him as long as his “little foxes” like the song. We like it!!!

If you like this song, I recommend listening to Reverse (LIVE) and Timelapse.

就只看了你一眼,就已确定了永远 – 李袁杰 & 李俊佑

I love Chinese songs from this era that incorporate traditional Chinese instruments. At 2:40, we hear Chinese opera. It’s cool that the song mixed the two styles together.

時間飛行 Time of Flight – 白宇 & 朱一龍

The two main leads from Guardian sang this song together. I think you can tell that I’m in love with drama right now. 😛

答案 – 倫桑

This is a cover of 答案 but I like this version more than the original.

Songs That Inspire Hope During This Challenging Time

I’ve been feeling quite jaded with society lately re: panic buying due to the coronavirus. I.e. fights at the stores, stocking up baby wipes because hand sanitizers are sold out and leaving nothing behind for families with babies. I’ve lost some faith in humanity because of those people who resell toilet paper, face masks, and hand sanitizers. When I read the news, it feels like an animal world. Every man for himself.

I’ve always been interested in human nature. I have a Psychology degree but I thought it wasn’t enough. I’ve examined portrayals of human nature depicted in novels, plays, textbooks, manga, dramas, films, music and video games. I think that I was secretly hoping to find something that said, humans are not selfish. You can believe in people.

Unfortunately, the recent news has not helped hahaha. Instead, I felt more pessimistic than I already was!


Then I came across two songs by Chinese artists I love. The first is my favourite singer, Hua Chenyu. I’ve written about him multiple times. The second is Wang Yibo, who starred in my favourite Chinese drama, The Untamed. Their songs inspire hope and give comfort for everybody around the world regarding the recent events. Their songs are on Spotify.

Hua Chenyu 华晨宇 – You Have To Believe This Is Not The Last Day 你要相信,这不是最后一天

This is a powerful song. Hua Hua writes about believing that this is not the last day and that better days will come. [English translation lyric YouTube video link here]

Wang Yibo 王一搏 – We Stay Together 因为我们在一起

Yibo has a calming singing voice and he makes you feel less anxious about everything. [English translation lyric YouTube video here]

Thanks Hua Hua and Yibo for using your talents and influence to instil hope in people (like me).

My Spotify Wrapped 2019

Spotify keeps record of the songs and artists you’ve listened to the most each year. Here is my Spotify Wrapped for 2019.

In September of this year, I went to a Man With A Mission concert. I listened to their music A LOT for over a week afterwards.

My #1 artist on Spotify was Joker Xue. I interpreted the song meaning of 動物世界 ‘Animal World’ in a blog post.

Al from Slice of Alfredo! runs a podcast and it’s on Spotify. You should check it out. 🙂 He listened to a song by BiSH in one of them (I requested the artist!).

I got into BiSH thanks to my good friend, Tim, from Thoughts That Move.

Mm, I would say that Spotify only has about 60% of the songs I like. It also doesn’t have many songs by my favourite singers, Hua Chenyu and Kwang-ho Hong (they aren’t available in my region, at least).

Song Meaning: 薛之謙 Joker Xue – 演員 Actor

Singer: 薛之謙 Joker Xue
Song: 演員 Yan Yuan ‘Actor’

Song meaning: The lyrics are about a failing relationship. The singer notices that his partner is putting on an act by telling lies and acting sad (in a superficial manner) because she wants to end the relationship. He pretends not to notice her bad acting and acts oblivious to it. He wonders how he should act to go with her “play.” He also notices that his partner is reluctant to break up. He thinks it’s better to break up than to drag on the relationship. This song is about acting and the title 演員 means ‘Actor’ so in the Final Act, the singer acts heartless to finally end the relationship.

Thoughts: I think the lyrics are really poetic. I think that the singer feels a lot of pain by being in the position of realizing everything going on, while acting oblivious to it all. In the end when he acts heartless, he does it because he is aware that his partner wants to break up. He does it because he loves her, no matter how painful it feels.

Top 4 华晨宇 Hua Chenyu Song Arrangements

Some of these are from the Chinese TV show, 天籁之战 The Next. Hua Chenyu was a contestant in Season 2 (2016). Each contestant has to arrange a song in only 24 hours and their opponent chooses the song for them. These are my favourite arrangements.

 

1. 我的滑板鞋2016 (My Skateboard Shoes 2016)

This is from The Next. This is Hua Hua’s most watched video on YouTube. The reason is probably because the original is… uh-

Hua Hua

Original

That’s a big difference, right? Hua Hua kept the lyrics the same but changed everything else. He doesn’t sleep when he arranges songs because he is committed to his work. This arrangement is the song that introduced me to Hua Hua!

 

2. 齐天大圣 (Journey to the West 1986 opening)

This is from The Next. Hua Hua’s opponent chose the Journey to the West opening and it’s an old song from 1986. There are actually no lyrics so Hua Hua changed the song completely with rap.

Journey to the West (also known as Monkey King or Monkey) dates back to 1592! It inspired Dragonball and a lot of other early anime titles. I think Hua Hua’s version is a great way to get younger audiences interested in these older stories.

 Hua Hua

Original

 

3. 爸,我回來了 (Dad, I’m Home)

This is from the Next and I chose this video with English subtitles (instead of the original channel) because Hua Hua takes the song and tells a story with it. Jay Chou raps and sings in the original, but Hua Hua does something different here. It’s extremely emotional. Hua Hua’s relationship with his father is good, but this is the song that his opponent chose for him.

Hua Hua

Original

 

4. 双节棍 (Nunchucks)

This is from Singer 2018 and I blogged about this song before. The original singer is Jay Chou but I like Hua Hua’s version better. He adds Chinese opera and makes a lot of changes to the song.

Hua Hua

Original


I chose these arrangements because they are very different from the original songs. I love all of Hua Hua’s arrangements and if you compare his versions with the originals, I’m sure you will agree that he is talented at everything he does. 24 hours is a very short time to arrange a song! Don’t you agree?

Singer 2018 – 华晨宇 Hua Chenyu Reactions

Singer 2018 is an incredibly popular show in China. It is always ranked in first or second place on TV in China and it’s watched worldwide. It is a singing competition and the competitors are well-established, famous singers. Obviously I am rooting for Hua Hua (as you can tell by the title and nature of this post). A competitor you may be familiar with is Jessie J from the UK.

I blogged about Hua Chenyu (everyone calls him Hua Hua). You can read it here. I wrote that post in 2017. He gained a lot of fans because of Singer 2018. ^^ He is my number one favourite singer for multiple reasons. I talked about that in that blog post. Hua Hua is truly so talented. These are his performances in each episode, starting from episode 4 (he did not sing in the first three episodes). The show is not done airing and Hua Hua has reached the finals. ^^

Episode 4 – 齐天 Qi Tian

  • This is Hua Hua’s song, not a cover. It’s the theme song for the film, 悟空传 Wu Kong (Remember I wanted to read a novel called Monkey? Wu Kong is the name of that monkey)
  • He won first place
  • He’s amazing at holding long notes
  • He raps in the middle
  • After I watched this video a few weeks ago, I wore all black clothes and pink eyeshadow that day LOL

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Episode 5 – 孩子 Child

  • The original singer of the song is 西樓
  • He’s wearing white clothes and sings at a slower pace. It contrasts from the previous episode
  • This is not one of my favourite performances of his

Episode 6 – 双节棍 Nunchucks

  • The original singer is one of my favourite singers, 周杰伦 Jay Chou
  • Hua Hua made huge changes to the song. I actually prefer this a lot more than the original (I didn’t like Jay Chou’s Nunchucks)
  • It’s rap heavy
  • Hua Hua incorporated Chinese opera – This made the performance one of my favourites from this season 
  • Hua Hua’s stage presence is phenomenal. When he is not performing, he is a little shy and introverted (but so adorable). When he is performing, he is full of confidence. It’s a big change. I love how dynamic he is
  • He came in first place

Episode 7 – 我管你 I Don’t Care

 

  • This is one of Hua Hua’s songs. Everyone in the audience knows this, which is why he invites them to join him in some parts
  • It’s one of my favourite songs of his because of the lyrics. It’s about being true to yourself, embracing your uniqueness, and not giving a f*k about others’ opinions. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you probably know that I value being true to myself, even if it means being a little different. If I cared so much about fitting in, then I would not be wearing fruit hair ties or cosplaying as male characters. ^^

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  • Back to Hua Hua – It’s clear that he stands by his own lyrics
  • He placed in first place

Episode 8 – 易燃易爆炸 Super Explosive

  • He is dressed in black because the lyric composer suddenly passed away. He was going to sing a different song but changed it to this at the last minute. It’s his way of mourning her death

Episode 9 – 山海 Mountain and Sea

  • The original is by 草東沒有派對 No Party For Cao Dong
  • The lyrics are quite deep and sad
  • He ranked in fifth place, but I think the performance was wonderful. Up to now, he has always placed in the top three

Episode 10 – 假行僧 Fake Monk

  • This performance is absolutely HAUNTING! It’s one of my favourites 
  • He does a crazy/creepy laugh and I love it!
  • We get to see how versatile he is as a singer. For example, he can sing really high-pitched and we see that here
  • It is a little different, but that makes him unique, special, and it makes him stand out. I understand that some people are not able to get used to this sort of performance

Episode 11 – 平凡之路 Ordinary Path

  • The original is sung by Lion
  • He re-arranged the song. When he arranges music, he does not eat or sleep for two days. It is concerning, but Hua Hua says that he feels joy in doing this. This shows how dedicated he is to his work, and how important music is to him. It’s no wonder that he never fails to deliver amazing performances

Episode 12 – 我 I Am What I Am

  • The original is by 张国荣 Leslie Cheung
  • This is one of my favourite performances of his
  • He came in first place
  • I love the lyrics. “I am what I am… I like who I am…” – This is a theme in so many of Hua Hua’s songs. Common themes he sings about are enjoying loneliness, being true to yourself, and liking yourself. My values line up with his values very well
  • The first thing I noticed was his clothing choice. It looks like he is wearing a bathrobe but I think this choice of fashion goes well with the song’s meaning about being yourself and liking who you are
  • After watching the performance, it is clear that he has experienced a lot of pain. Hua Hua opens up to us through his music. In his childhood, he spent a lot of time alone because his father was always working. Music was what he turned to, similar to what anime did for me
  • It’s a very emotional song. He is almost in tears and the audience is in tears. I almost cried too LOL
  • I almost cried because I was lonely when I was a kid too. I didn’t fit in with the other children at school but I never tried to change myself. At a young age I valued being true to myself. It’s not that I didn’t want friends – I wanted friends who would accept me for who I was. To add onto this – just knowing that he felt pain and loneliness is very sad for me because he is my favourite singer

Final thoughts: The song choices were very deliberately chosen. I know that a lot of non-Chinese listeners like his vocals, but I think it would be great if you could also read English translations of the song lyrics. Then the gaps in understanding will be filled and we can fully appreciate everything he does.

I hope he wins the competition! ^^

Superstar Spotlight: Hua Chenyu

Hua Chenyu 华晨宇 is a famous Chinese singer. Most of the information online about him are in Chinese, so I decided to write a post in English for non-Chinese speakers (and for everybody to know about him). He is currently my favourite singer.

Nickname: Hua Hua 花花 (means ‘flower’)

Fans’ name: Huo Xing Ren 火星人 (Martian)

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After he posted photos with the monkey on his Weibo, the toy ran out of stock.

I first learned about him through a Facebook video that was shared on my homepage. It was him performing the song, My Skateboard Shoes 我的滑板鞋. I thought his rapping was impressive. Afterwards I decided to find more music by him and found the song, Ashes from Firework 烟火里的尘埃. He has a very powerful voice, especially when he performs live.

I like that his music is comprised of different genres, such as pop, alternative rock, folk and classical music. The fact that he is capable of singing to this wide range of music shows that he is talented.

My favourite song by him is Quasimodo’s Gift 卡西莫多的礼物. Quasimodo is a fictional character from the novel, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. Everyone calls Quasimodo “hideous” because of his deformities, and as a result he experiences deep loneliness. In the song, Hua Chenyu sings  “Quasimodo’s gift is to enjoy the loneliness” 卡西莫多的礼物 享受孤独. This is my favourite part because he helped me realize that loneliness is not necessarily a bad thing. Often times, we associate ‘lonely’ with negative feelings but to be able to enjoy it is actually quite nice. I can relate to aloneness very well from my personal life, and the moment you begin to enjoy is really an eye-opening experience. Practicing self-love, and finding your own interests and passions are just a couple of reasons why this is important.

Hua Chenyu is someone I consider authentic. Authenticity is something I look for because a lot of artists create content for the sake of being more popular. Hua Chenyu does not care about that (he even has a song called, I Don’t Care 我管你).

Despite being famous, he is an introvert and that’s why his first album was dedicated to the topic of loneliness. He also has some quirks which differentiates him from other celebrities. He does not try to hide who he really is. Hua Chenyu promotes the idea of being true to yourself, even if others do not like it.

He loves to watch anime!