Jay Chou eclipses The Voice Of China

It is tricky to add a superstar to the cast of a singing contest and not overshadow the competitors

Pop star Jay Chou (above) turns out to be quite a variety star, judging The Voice Of China.
Pop star Jay Chou (above) turns out to be quite a variety star, judging The Voice Of China.PHOTO: MEDIACORP
Kim Seul Gi (above) plays the ghost of a virgin who ravenously lusts after men in Oh My Ghost.
Kim Seul Gi (above) plays the ghost of a virgin who ravenously lusts after men in Oh My Ghost. PHOTO: STARHUB

I judge a singing competition show by two criteria.

Does it have contestants so compelling that I have to find them on YouTube immediately after an episode and hear them again? Are the songs such earworms that days, weeks or months later, I find myself humming the tunes or trying to sing them on a karaoke night?

By my standards, which really aren't that high, the fourth season of The Voice Of China has been a disappointment so far, despite - or perhaps because of - the addition of Jay Chou, the reigning king of Chinese pop, to the row of judges in the show's trademark spinning thrones.

The problem isn't Chou himself, who turns out to be quite a variety star, forging a jokey alliance with Na Ying, the judge who sits next to him on the set, and maintaining an entertaining rivalry with Harlem Yu, the judge  who is his closest competitor in genre-splicing pop.

The problem is you can't have a star of Chou's magnitude on The Voice Of China without shifting the show's centre of gravity.



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In the first place, The Voice Of China belongs to the current generation of big-name, big-bucks shows. It doesn't keep contestants as front and centre as past shows such as Taiwan's One Million Star and China's Super Girl.

Furthermore, three episodes in, the present season of The Voice Of China frankly hasn't had many musical highlights. (One standout contestant, a bellowing rocker, is presented as a freak show, unfortunately. A song is sung fiercely behind curtains, before they are pulled down to reveal... drum roll, please... a woman who  sounds like a man.)

Instead, there are more dramatic high points built around contestants who are, well, Jay-bait.

Here's a young woman and rocking Chou's martial arts song Nunchucks.

Will he fall for it? (Yep.)  

There's a young man showing off, rapping Nunchucks badly in six languages. Will Chou see through it? (Nope.)

Aww, see how shy Chou seems when a teen girl on stage rhapsodises about his appearance.

The singing competition now feels incidental to the show, which goes by in a stream of comedy and drama.

Saya, singer A-mei's sister, turns up at an audition, about a decade after quitting show business to be a wife and mother.

Chou tells a story from his pre-fame days, when he played in a restaurant and spotted Yu at a table. To catch the attention of Yu, who was already a star, Chou sang one of his songs.

Yu didn't take the bait, though it might have been for the best.

See how well Chou is doing now.

The hook of Oh My Ghost, a South Korean horror romance, is that it is actually - under layers of clothing and decorum - a sex comedy.

The accursed biological clock of a woman (Kim Seul Gi) doesn't stop ticking even when she dies, and now she is the ghost of a virgin, ravenously lusting after men.

She lucks out when she takes over the body of a drowsy female kitchen assistant (Park Bo Young) and finds  herself in the company of male cooks.

Jokes fly like sparks here. Suddenly, the assistant has her paws all over her boss (Cho Jung Seok), who runs away feeling as flustered as an old maid.

He can't fathom why she appears more awake than usual and sends her to a specialist, who diagnoses bipolar disorder.

Still, the ghost is unrepentant. Why can't a woman, dead or alive, be upfront about sex? Her desire is as valid as a man's, she reasons. And it is, to my ears, rather sound judgment.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2015, with the headline 'Jay Chou eclipses The Voice Of China'. Print Edition | Subscribe