Will it be a jazzy finals for Joanna Dong?

Joanna Dong's strategy for the finals of Sing! China will be to enjoy her performance and not focus on winning or losing.
Joanna Dong's strategy for the finals of Sing! China will be to enjoy her performance and not focus on winning or losing.PHOTO: SINGTEL TV JIA LE CHANNEL

Music experts say the Singaporean Sing! China finalist should play to her strength, which is performing jazz numbers

Music industry experts say Singaporean singer Joanna Dong should play to her strength and perform in a jazz style at the grand finals of Sing! China, which will be broadcast live tomorrow from Beijing's Bird's Nest Stadium.

While she cannot reveal the solo songs she will be performing in the popular Chinese singing competition, she does not rule out jazz.

Dong, 35, tells The Straits Times in a phone interview from China: "My solo songs are well-known numbers, but will be given fresh interpretations."

In fact, she has performed jazzy numbers throughout the competition, including I Want Your Love and Love Song 1990, and became only the second Singaporean to make it to the finals of the contest.

Nathan Hartono was the first when he reached the finals last year, ending up as the runner-up to China's Jiang Dunhao.

Perhaps Dong's and Hartono's excellent showing at the singing contest, one of China's biggest, will give confidence to other Singaporeans.

At least, this is what Dong hopes for, she tells Lianhe Zaobao in a recent video interview.

I hope my Sing! China journey can let more Singaporeans see that we should believe in that voice within us.

JOANNA DONG on entering the finals of Sing! China

"Everyone knows I'm representing Singapore on a big regional show. It makes me think, 'What does that mean? What is Singapore? What are Singaporeans? How can I best represent Singapore?' That makes me very reflective.

"I feel moved the more I talk about this because I really love Singapore. Singaporeans, including myself, often lack confidence in ourselves as we are from such a small country. We always think that we can believe in ourselves only if we get recognition from other people first.

"I hope my Sing! China journey can let more Singaporeans see that we should believe in that voice within us."

She will be up against four other contestants in the finals: Chinese student Guo Qin, 17; Tibetan teacher Zha Xi Ping Cuo, 30; Chinese singer Xiao Kaiye, 26; and Chinese rapper Ye Xiaoyue, also 26.

The finals comprise two rounds of performances. In the first round, the five finalists will sing duets with their mentors, who are Taiwanese superstar Jay Chou, China's Liu Huan and Na Ying and Hong Kong's Eason Chan.

After the duets, each of the five finalists will sing a solo song. The two contestants with the highest number of votes from the audience will move on to the next round.

Then the final two singers will vie for the top spot by each performing another solo song.

The winner will be decided by audience votes and a panel of industry professionals.

For Dong's duet with her mentor, Chou in the finals, she will do something different.

She says: "The duet song will be a song from his earlier albums - Simple Love - something from the time I first became a Jay Chou fan. It's a departure from my usual jazz style, but we're keeping it quite lighthearted."

Music industry veterans here are impressed with her jazz performances and think she should stick with her strong suit.

Mr Colin Goh, co-founder and managing director of music company Ocean Butterflies, says: "Her jazz roots are her great advantage. I would like to see her interweave her jazz performance with some hip-hop piece.

"If it is meticulously planned and properly delivered, I think it would be amazing."

Singer-songwriter Roy Loi agrees.

He says: "If jazz is her forte, why not be adventurous? She could sing and perform a modern jazz dance. I imagine it will be stunning.

"To make it to such a big stage, the finalists are all considered winners. Many think that a Singaporean will not win, but I feel that isn't important.

"What's important is whether your performance and your singing are recognised by the masses."

Dong's game plan in the finals will be what it has been for her till now - to "forget about winning or losing and simply enjoy each performance".

That said, she is still feeling the heat.

"My teammates and many of Jay's fans have told me that I need to win the championship for Jay, so the pressure is definitely there.

"Jay, on the other hand, has been pretty chill and reminded me that this is a game."

Another major difference for her is the venue - she will be standing onstage in the massive Beijing National Stadium filled with thousands of spectators. Previously, the contest was recorded in Hangzhou.

Her family will be among the audience in the stadium to give Dong a morale boost.

"My mother, husband, aunt, mother-in-law and five very close friends will be flying here. They booked tickets soon after I told them I made it to the finals. I think they were more excited than I was."

Her mentor Chou wanted her to get a sense of performing at a colossal arena and invited her to soak up the atmosphere at his Taipei concert last month.

She was seated among the audience, but was asked to go on stage to sing with Chou a mash-up of his songs - Sailor Afraid Of Water and Cowboy On The Run.

She says: "It was a last-minute decision and normally I would have freaked out, but I think the competition has trained me well and I was game for it."

" I also got to meet JJ Lin who was his guest performer for the evening. Both JJ and Jay were very sweet and assured me that I would be fine in spite of my anxiety about singing at such a large venue."

She has also received tips from Hartono.

Hartono, 26, says: "Very roughly, Joanna and I spoke about the technical aspects of performing in that space, plus the rough production schedule for the day and what to expect.

"I just want to wish her a great show - go up there and give it all you've got, just like at any other gig."

• The finale of Sing! China airs on Jia Le Channel (Singtel TV Channel 502) tomorrow at 8.30pm. Singtel TV subscribers can watch Jia Le Channel for free tomorrow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2017, with the headline 'Will it be a jazzy finals for Joanna Dong?'. Print Edition | Subscribe