Home-grown singer Nathan Hartono has emerged the front runner to win popular Chinese singing television contest Sing! China after coming up tops in the semi-finals.
In the semi-final broadcast on Friday (Sept 30), the 25-year-old received the highest score - 93.65 - among the six semi-finalists, which include singers from China and Malaysia.
Hartono also received overwhelming support, receiving 47 out of 51 of the votes from the show's judges and 333 votes from the 350-strong audience.
Despite being the clear favourite to win, Hartono tells The Straits Times that his chances of winning Sing! China are "not very high". The final will be aired on Oct 7.
"I honestly didn't think I was going to get this far and it blows my mind," he says. "That said, I'm still going to go up there and do all I can to kill it."
He adds: "If I win, I will rent a fleet of Milo vans and treat everybody to Milo peng (iced Milo)."
On his game plan for the final, Hartono is sticking to the strategy that has brought him there: the love of performing for a live audience.
He says: "I'm a serial people-pleaser, and I have this desire to help the audience get into this live experience, as opposed to watching me stand motionless and singing to the camera."
He will be amplifying this experience "100 times" at the show's final at Beijing National Stadium.
His strategy paid off handsomely at the semi-finals show.
He crooned an emotionally rousing version of the Eagles classic Desperado and mashed it with the Angus Tung song Can't Forget. The two songs are "old classics from both sides of the planets", he says.
His coach on the show, Mandopop star Jay Chou, said he had chosen a risky combination of two different songs, released more than 10 years apart but sharing the same chord progression, to give Hartono a chance to impress the judges.
Hartono is the only member from Chou's team to have made it to the Sing! China final.
Guangzhou's Wang Chenrui from coach Na Ying's team was second in the semi-final with 89.28, and Shenyang's Xu Geyang from coach Wang Feng's team third.
On being part of Sing! China, Hartono says: "I'm having a blast and it has been a real education. I can't wait to come back and share how much I've grown through my music."
• Additional reporting by Eddino Abdul Hadi