Singaporean Nathan Hartono, 25, finished in second place in the immensely popular Sing! China competition last night in Beijing after a closely fought battle.
Hartono, who is the first Singaporean to enter the final, had competed against five other contestants in the finale held at the National Stadium which was won by China's Jiang Dunhao.
Hartono told The Straits Times that he was not at all disappointed that he did not win the contest and also urged his fans to "be happy that your fellow countryman made it this far".
"I'm not sure how it showed up on TV. But did you see how I was smiling the whole way through when they were counting the votes? I'm just very happy that I got to sing the third song," he added.
The talent show - a rebranded version of The Voice of China after a legal dispute over copyright - had opened with each finalist performing a song with their respective mentors, followed by a solo performance. The panel of four mentor-judges were Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou and singer-songwriter Harlem Yu, along with Chinese songbird Na Ying and rocker Wang Feng.
The other finalists were Guangzhou's Wang Chenrui and Malaysian singer Jeryl Lee from Na's team, Xinjiang's Jiang Dunhao and Shenyang's Xu Geyang from Wang's team and Jilin's Yang Meina from Yu's team.
Hartono is the sole contestant from Chou's team. He picked two of his mentor's classics - singing the Nunchucks rap hit with Chou and the Longest Movie ballad by himself.
After the two rounds, spectators at the stadium voted and the top two scorers - Hartono with 35,577 votes and Jiang , who had the highest score of 39,962 votes - got to vie for the crown with another solo performance. The Singaporean crooner then picked a medley of Moonlight In The City and Woman Flower - songs by Singaporean singer Mavis Hee and Hong Kong legend Anita Mui respectively.
A panel of professionals saw 47 supporting Jiang and 45 picking Hartono. The Singaporean received 43.3 per cent of audience votes while Jiang garnered 56.7 per cent.
Hartono, who goes by his Chinese name Xiang Yang in the show, was the hot favourite going into the final, based on his performance in the semi-finals on Sept 30.
His score of 93.65 was the highest among the 12 semi-finalists. He also received 47 out of 51 votes from industry professionals and 333 votes from a pool of 350 live audience.
In a Straits Times online poll on Monday, 83 per cent of 3,681 readers picked Hartono to win the competition. But many music professionals and even Hartono thought the odds were against him, given that no foreigner has won the show.
Past winners were all from China: Liang Bo (2012), Zhang Bichen (2014) and Zhang Lei (2015) were coached by Na Ying, while Li Qi, the winner in 2013, was from Taiwanese singer A-Mei's camp.
The talent show is one of China's most-watched variety programmes and is widely seen as a platform for budding singers in the music industry. Its July 15 premiere on Zhejiang Television scored a nationwide viewership of 2.24 per cent, topping other programmes in the same time slot on a Friday night. The show's market share of more than 30 per cent across China is reportedly nearly five times the second-placed show. The show has also set a new record with more than 37 billion online viewership for this season.
He said he has received offers from music companies and that he is discussing with Chou about developing his singing career.
• Additional reporting by Chong Koh Ping