Returning contestant Marcus Lee to fly Singapore's flag in Sing! China

Mr Marcus Lee, who did not make it past last year's auditions of the popular Chinese reality television programme, will represent the country this year

Winner Marcus Lee (front row, fourth from left), first runner-up Daniel Ong (front row, second from left) and second runner-up Hee Hong Leong (front row, third from left) with other contestants at last Saturday’s audition. PHOTO: EEVA PRODUCTIONS

Second time's the charm for National University of Singapore student Marcus Lee, 25, who won a competition last Saturday to represent Singapore at the popular Sing! China television programme, which Nathan Hartono nearly won last year.

Last year, he did not make it past the auditions in Singapore for Sing! China.

In his first performance on Saturday, his rendition of Actually (I) Still Love You by Taiwanese musician Real Huang earned him 90 out of 100 points from one of the judges, singer Hu Haiquan from Chinese rock duo Yu Quan.

Hu also praised Mr Lee for his performance of Last Train, written by Singaporean composer Lee Wei Song, who was also among the judges.

Hu said in Mandarin: "You had a good understanding of the song and we weren't wrong to choose you for the final five."

Twelve finalists competed on Saturday over five hours at Capitol Theatre, before they were whittled down to the final five, who were then assigned a song each by the panel of four judges.

The panel of judges for the Singapore competition also comprises local producer Billy Koh and radio deejay Eeva Chang, whose company Eeva Productions is the organiser of the event.

Mr Marcus Lee will be going to China to compete in the second season of Sing! China, which is scheduled to air in July.

The returning mentors for the TV show include Mandopop superstar Jay Chou and Chinese singer Na Ying.

Hong Kong's Eason Chan is new to the programme and the fourth mentor has yet to be announced.

So, does Mr Lee feel the pressure to be the next Nathan Hartono or do even better?

"I try not to compare," he says. "Nathan is a unique individual and who knows what they are looking for this time? It's also about being the total package.

"I will prepare myself by listening to more Mandarin songs, especially those that are popular in China, because they are now my audience."

Mr Lee, who made it to the semi-finals of Campus Superstar 10 years ago, has performed at events such as indie music festival Baybeats and charity concert ChildAid, with his band Exdee.

Two years ago, when he went to Stockholm, Sweden, for an exchange programme, he went busking and ended up playing in pubs. Now, he does various gigs, including weddings and corporate events.

Coming in second place on Saturday is Mr Daniel Ong, 32, who quit his job as a software engineer to pursue a music career. He sings at weddings and pubs and is also a physics tutor.

Mr Hee Hong Leong, 38, from Malaysia, came in third. Like Mr Ong, he also sings at weddings, but has a full-time job as an event organiser.

Mr Ong and Mr Hee may also go to China to compete, but Eeva Productions has no details yet of how or when this might happen.

Last year, Singapore Idol finalist Olinda Cho, Campus Superstar champion Ng Chee Yang and freelance graphic designer Elizabeth Low were the top three in the same contest to compete in Sing! China.

All of them ended up going to China and they were joined by two other singers Eeva Productions picked.

But none of them made it to the televised stages of Sing! China.

The only singer from Singapore to appear on TV in Sing! China was eventual first runner-up Hartono, who entered the competition by invitation from the show's producers.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 03, 2017, with the headline Returning contestant Marcus Lee to fly Singapore's flag in Sing! China. Subscribe