Saturday, February 28, 2009

Show Luo's "Trendy Man" tops Taiwan album chart

Taiwanese pop idol Show Luo's (罗志祥, Luo Zhixiang) latest album Trendy Man (潮男正传) reached No.1 on this week's G-Music Mandarin album charts. The chart is based on retail sales for the week February 20-26 (see the latest chart here but in Chinese).
Album cover for "Trendy Man" (courtesy of Gold Typhoon Music)

Trendy Man
is Show's sixth studio album and was released at the very end of 2008. This is its first week at number one, displacing American-Taiwanese singer Leehom Wang's CD Heart.Beat. Trendy Man is, at least in my opinion, a fairly routine and conventional effort with the usual mix of upbeat dance numbers and emotional ballads that are par for the course in Mandopop. However Show has a huge fan base in Taiwan; last year he was crowned Favourite Artist of Taiwan at the 2008 MTV Asia Awards, as well as Favourite Male Singer at the Chinese Pop Awards. He also co-hosts the Taiwanese variety show, 100% Entertainment.

Singles released from the album so far include: 个中强手 (Best of the Bunch or Hot Shot); and 搞笑 (Making Jokes).

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Edison Chen's Day in Court

Hip hop singer, actor, fashion model and aspiring entertainment executive Edison Chen (Chinese name - 陈冠希 or Chen Guanxi) appeared in a Vancouver court this week. Which gives me the opportunity to introduce "Sexy Photosgate", China's biggest entertainment scandal of 2008. Before Sexy Photosgate, the 28 year old Canadian-born Chen was a middling star in the Hong Kong firmament. However the scandal early last year transformed him into Hong Kong's most infamous celebrity.

Sexy Photosgate involved a series of explicit photos taken by Chen showing some bedroom behaviour between him and several female celebrities. The photos found their way on to the internet, creating a frenzy among internet users and the media alike. The images were reportedly receiving 20 million views a day at the time, and the story was front page news in the Hong Kong press for something like a record 21 consecutive days. Shanghai Daily listed it as its number one story of 2008, based on most clicks received; amazingly it beat the Sichuan earthquake and Beijing Olympics.

The scandal forced Chen into an early but indefinite retirement, and seriously embarrassed the women involved, with their careers in jeopardy, a marriage postponed and even threats from the triads. For a very comprehensive, blow-by-blow account of how the whole thing unfolded, you can't go past the article on the EastSouthWestNorth website.

Chen testified on Monday in the case against Ho-Chun Sze who worked as a technician in the computer store that repaired Chen's computer containing the incriminating photos. Sze has been charged with stealing the photos and publicly distributing them. The trial is being held in Hong Kong but Chen, reluctant to return to Hong Kong, gave evidence from Vancouver.

Monday, February 23, 2009

S.H.E singer goes solo

Hebe Tian (田馥甄 Tian Fuzhen), one of the singers from Taiwan girl band S.H.E, will release a solo CD, it was announced on the weekend. (Source: China News - but in Chinese only). Hebe is generally regarded as the best singer of the three members, and has previously recorded some solo songs for TV and film soundtracks in the past. No date has been given for the album release.

S.H.E are three female singers: Selina Ren, Hebe Tian, and Ella Chen. The group's name is actually an acronym from their first names. The group has had remarkable success since their formation in 2001. They've had countless hits and won numerous awards (more than 130 according to Wikipedia), and regularly sell out their concert tours. For several years they were indisputably greater China's most popular group, although their popularity has waned slightly over the last couple of years. They also don't fit the traditional Asian girl group mould: instead of relying on good looks and a demure image, their popularity stems from their energetic personalities, plus of course a succession of catchy hit tunes.
(S.H.E members, from left to right, Hebe, Ella and Selina)
Will Hebe's solo venture mean the end of the group? So far the group has survived previous solo forays from group members. Ella has already acted in several TV series, including the lead role in a Taiwan television drama in 2006, while both Selina and Hebe have had regular TV host gigs. There has been no indication in the media that the group might be considering disbanding.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Look, Up in the Sky. It's...Pandamen???

Pop superstar Jay Chou (周杰伦 Zhou Jielun) has announced his latest project, a home-grown superhero TV series, possibly titled Pandamen or Panda Heroes. Jay lamented that China lacked a modern-day superhero; all the heroes were from ancient times. (Perhaps he's too young to remember Super Inframan). Jay will direct the series, and will reportedly play the police commissioner. The superheroes will be played by Taiwan pop singers Devon Song and Zhan Yuhao.

At first I thought the idea sounded a little dubious: men in panda suits fighting crime? Will they join the crowded pantheon of lame superheroes alongside such crime-fighters as Hawkman, the Red Bee, and Vibe the breakdancing Spanish superhero? Only time will tell. However, no one could say that Jay doesn't have his finger on the pulse of public opinion. Last year's Kung Fu Dunk was a good example. If Stephen Chow can have a hit movie that combines kung fu and football (Shaolin Soccer), then why not make one with kung fu and the much more popular sport, in China at least, of basketball? A sure-fire winner, only derailed when it turned out that the film wasn't very good.

This time it looks like Jay Chou Inc is following the trail of success left by DreamWorks' Kung Fu Panda. The film was a big hit in China, though accompanied by some mutterings along the lines of "Why couldn't the Chinese come up with this, rather than the West appropriating our cultural icons?" Pandamen looks like redressing the issue.

The Pandamen project also means that Jay will now no longer have time to play his own hero, Bruce Lee. There were rumours that Jay would star in the upcoming biopic of Bruce Lee, The Grand Master. It was also rumoured that Jay was director Wilson Yip's choice to play Lee in the planned sequel to last year's Ip Man.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Seven Shining Stars, according to CRI

One of this blog's main aims is to introduce Chinese pop culture to curious readers. So it was handy that China Radio International's English website,, this week posted a useful article that listed seven "shining stars" - female actresses who are "gaining more and more fame these days".

The seven stars are Vicki Zhao (Zhao Wei), Ruby Lin (Lin Xinru), Fan Bingbing, Crystal Liu (Liu Yifei), Xu Jinglei, Zhang Ziyi, and Li Bingbing.

Vicki Zhao (Chinese name 赵薇 Zhao Wei) has been around for a while. She became a star more than 10 years ago when she starred in the TV series, Princess Returning Pearl (1997).

She hasn't always been among China's most beloved stars. During the early years of this decade in particular she was fodder for tabloid gossip, and she angered Chinese nationalists when she wore a dress with a Japanese Rising Sun design. And some less than successful films had her tagged as box-office poison.

However last year marked a revival in her career. She starred in two big movies - Red Cliff and Painted Skin - and 2009 looks like continuing the trend. She's in the just-released Red Cliff sequel, and will star in the title role of Mulan, about the Chinese folk heroine.

Ruby Lin (林心如 Lin Xinru) was another to get her start in Princess Returning Pearl. She's best known as a TV star, appearing in a succession of hit TV series over the last ten years. She's also had some success as a singer, though opinions are divided on her singing skills.

This year she'll appear in two new TV series, and has been cast in what is sure to be one of the blockbuster shows of 2010 - Romance of the Three Kingdoms, based on one of China's best-loved stories. Incidentally, she'll play the same character as Vicki Zhao did in Red Cliff.

Fan Bingbing (范冰冰) has divided her career between film and television. She's yet another to get her start in the enormously popular drama-comedy series Princess Returning Pearl. Her film career included the Chinese box office smash Cell Phone (2003) and the controversial Lost in Beijing (2007).

This year she's set to star alongside Jackie Chan in Shinjuku Incident, a mob drama set in Japan, as well as a TV sitcom The Last Night of Madam Chin, and the historical drama Wheat.

Crystal Liu or Liu Yifei (刘亦菲) is the youngest of the seven at 21 years old. When she was just 15 she got her big break in the wuxia TV drama, Demi-Gods and Semi-Gods in 2003. She was in another big wuxia TV series hit, The Return of the Condor Heroes (2006). Her film career was less successful, until last year when she played Golden Sparrow in the Sino-American production The Forbidden Kingdom. She's also branched out into singing, recording a CD in Japan in 2006.

Xu Jinglei (徐静蕾) had an emerging career as an actress in the early years of this decade. Then when she was just 29 years old she directed and starred in the film My Father and I. She has since directed two more films, including the award-winning Letter from an Unknown Woman (2004).

In 2006 she achieved further fame when she topped the Technorati billboard, making her arguably the world's most popular blogger.

Last year she appeared in the blockbuster epic, The Warlords, with Jet Li and Andy Lau. This year she too will appear in Shinjuku Incident, playing Jackie Chan's girlfriend.

Zhang Ziyi (章子怡) is probably the best known of the seven in CRI's list, from her roles in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, House of Flying Daggers and Memoirs of a Geisha, collecting a string of awards in the process. In 2008 she was in the biopic of Peking Opera star Mei Lanfang, Forever Enthralled, though her performance received only lukewarm reviews.

Coming up in what will be a busy year, she will star in an American thriller The Horsemen, a Chinese-language romantic comedy Sophie's Revenge, another romantic comedy, Lost for Words alongside Hugh Grant Tom Cruise (possibly), and the film adaptation of Ha Jin's acclaimed novel Waiting.

Li Bingbing (李冰冰, not to be confused with Fan Bingbing) made her film debut in 1999 in Seventeen Years, a role that brought her instant attention. In 2005 she had several hits to make her one of the country's most popular actors. She starred in the classic TV series Hui Niang Wan Xin (or Maid Wan Xin) and the hit romantic comedy film Waiting Alone. She won China's best actress award for her performance in The Knot (2006).

Last year she played the White-Haired Witch in the well-received blockbuster The Forbidden Kingdom, and the not so well-received Johnnie To drama Linger. She also launched a singing career, and last month, at the tender age of 32, released her autobiography.
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