Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rock Pioneer Zang Tianshuo in Prison Until 2014

Zang Tianshuo (臧天朔), part of the first wave of Chinese rock musicians who emerged in the early 80s as the country began to loosen its social shackles, will spend the next five years in jail. Zang had been arrested in September 2008 for being behind a gang fight that left one man dead back in 2003. In November last year the Beijing People’s Court found that Zang had organised the attack after a business dispute with the co-owner of one of his bars on the outskirts of Beijing.

Zang appealed the decision but Chinese courts rarely make mistakes, and the appeal was dismissed last week. Zang, who drifted out of the music industry and into China’s shadowy “black hand” (ie organised crime) world, will remain behind bars until 2014.

Zang began his music career in a band called Tumbler, along with one of the legends of Chinese rock, Ding Wu – lead singer of arguably China’s greatest rock band, Tang Dynasty. He then played keyboard for the Godfather of Chinese rock, Cui Jian. Zang formed his own band, 1989, named after the year it was formed. That year, the year of the Tiananmen Square protests, was a tumultuous one for rock music’s biggest fan base, university students. Zang himself gained a reputation as a rebellious singer, and became known as one of the bad boys of the music scene.

1989 the band was short-lived, not surviving much longer than the year itself. Zang had a successful solo career which peaked in the early years of this century. His 2001 single Friends, is one of the most popular songs of the past decade, and in 2002 he released his fifth and possibly best-received album, Folk Songs of Zang Tianshuo. In 2003 he was awarded Most Popular Mainland Singer-Songwriter at the Chinese Music Awards, the same year in which it all started to unravel for him.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hong Kong's SINA Music Awards the Usual Suspects

The Hong Kong version of China's most popular infotainment web portal,, announced its SINA Music Awards 2009 on 26 January. The Awards honoured the top 20 Most Listened To Songs of the year, as well as individual awards voted by the public, and the SINA Music Most Supreme Awards. Over 30 artists took home awards, but the biggest winners were (yet again) Eason Chan (Eason Chan (陈奕迅, pinyin: Chén Yìxùn - pictured left) and (yet again) Joey Lung (容祖儿, pinyin: Róng Zǔér - pictured below) who each won four awards.

Chan and Yung triumphed in the popular awards, winning the My Favourite Hong Kong Male and Female Singer awards respectively. They then followed it up with the two My Favourite National Singer awards. Eason Chan was also awarded the My Favourite Album award for H3M, while Joey Yung was given the My Favourite Golden Hit award for the song My Own Book of Legends. Both stars had songs in the Top 20 list - My Own Book of Legends and Eason Chan's 700 Years Later.

Two awards were given for Favourite Hong Kong Group: the Male Group award was given to five-piece guitar band Rubberband, and the Female Group prize went to At17 (雁石分天), a folk-pop duo who have been together since 2002. At17, despite not fitting neatly into any easily marketable Cantopop package, have built up a sizeable following for an independent act. At17 also picked up a second award for Outstanding Live Performance. A further group award, Favourite National Group, was awarded to Taiwan's superstar girl trio, S.H.E.

SINA Music also gave out Supreme awards, with the major one, Outstanding Musician Award presented to Khalil Fong (方大同, pinyin: Fāng Dàtóng), the Mandarin language's premier soul singer. Fong also won My Favourite Mandarin Hit award with the song Red Bean, and a second song The Moon Represents My Heart was one of the Top 20 Most Listened To tracks. Two other artists won three awards. Charlene Choi (蔡卓妍, pinyin: Cài Zhuóyán), one half of the girl duo Twins, now successfully forging a solo career while the group remains in indefinite hiatus. She won awards for Outstanding Performance, Singer with the Most Clicks, and a song in the Top 20, Two Missing One. The multi-talented singer-songwriter Ivana Wong (王菀之, pinyin: Wáng Wǎnzhī) won the Most Creative Album with On Wings of Time, Most Favourite Singer-Songwriter, and a Top 20 Song, The Moon Said.

The list of Top 20 Most Listened To Songs is:
Miss You Day and Night - Linda Chung
Ding Ding Car - Fiona Sit
A Letter to Myself - Sherman Chung
If the World Has No Fairytales - Janice Vidal
Yes & No - Hins Cheung
Report Commander - Pakho Chau
One Charge - Vincy Chan
You Hide We Hide - Jason Chan
Here We Are - Kary Ng
Today, Finally Know Wrong - William Chan
B.O.K - Justin Lo
Earth is Very Dangerous - Leo Ku
Two Missing One - Charlene Choi
Borrow - Stephanie Cheng
The Moon Said - Ivana Wong
Apollo - Rubberband
700 Years Later - Eason Chan
The Moon Represents My Heart - Khalil Fong
Song of the Year - Kay Tse
My Own Book of Legends - Joey Yung

A full list of award-winners, in English, can be found at this Asian Fanatics post.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Bodyguards and Assassins Leads Asian Film Awards Nomination Tally

Action film Bodyguards and Assassins (十月围城, pinyin: Shí Yuè Wéi Chéng), a Hong Kong-Chinese co-production, earned most nominations for the upcoming Asian Film Awards (AFA), announced this week. Along with a South Korean movie, Mother, it was nominated in six categories including Best Film. Bodyguards and Assassins has already proved a hit at the box office - it was the second highest grossing domestic film in China last year behind The Founding of a Republic - and is hoping to repeat that success with critics. Ironically, The Founding of a Republic was snubbed by the AFA, with not a single nomination in the fourteen categories up for grabs.

In the Best Film Category there were six nominations, three of them Chinese productions. Besides Bodyguards and Assassins, the Taiwanese arthouse favourite and Golden Horse winner No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti (不能沒有你), and the wartime drama from mainland China, City of Life and Death (南京! 南京!) are vying for the top prize. Oddly, neither Bodyguards and Assassins' director Teddy Chen (陈德森, pinyin: Chén Désēn) nor Leon Dai (戴立忍), the director of No Puedo Vivir Sin Ti, were nominated for the Best Director award. (Do awards judges think these films direct themselves?) Instead, up for an award is the director of the historical drama Prince of Tears (淚王子), Yonfan (杨凡, pinyin: Yáng Fán), probably best-known for his mainstream hit Lost Romance, and the not-so-mainstream drama about a homosexual playboy, Bishonen. City of Life and Death's director, Lu Chuan (陆川) is also nominated in the Best Director category.

Two Chinese actors were among the five nominees for Best Actor - veteran actor Wang Xueqi, enjoying a career revival of sorts in his sixties, for Bodyguards and Assassins, and Huang Bo (黄渤), already a winner at the Golden Horse Awards, for his comic role in Cow (斗牛). In the Best Actress category, another Golden Horse winner, Li Bingbing (李冰冰), will look to repeat her success with her role as a suspected undercover agent in the wartime spy thriller The Message.

Also nominated, for the second year in a row, is the 23 year old French-Taiwanese actress Sandrine Pinna (张榕容, pinyin: Zhāng Róngróng), regarded by many as a future star in the making. After her critical success last year in a little-seen film called Miao Miao, she was nominated again for Yang Yang (阳阳) in a role written specifically for her. She plays a talented Eurasian girl trying to navigate treacherous roads in both the entertainment industry and her personal life.

Three Chinese actors are competing for Best Supporting Actor: Bodyguards and Assassins' Nicholas Tse (谢霆锋, pinyin: Xiè Tíngfēng); Huang Xiaoming (黄晓明) for his eye-catching performance in The Message; and the Taiwanese actor-singer Tou Chung-Hua (庹宗华), best-known for his TV roles, for his performance as an Era of the Warring States general in The Warrior and the Wolf (狼灾记).

In the Best Supporting Actress category is versatile Chinese mainland actress Yan Ni (闫妮) in Cow, and Hong Kong's Kara Hui (惠英红, Wai Ying-hung), arguably one of the screen's greatest female kung fu exponents. Now approaching 50, Hui is revitalising her career as a dramatic actress, and earns a nomination for her performance as a doting mother who becomes blackmail victim while protecting her teenage son in the Malaysian-set drama At the End of Daybreak (心魔).

The AFAs also have a Best Newcomer category, and Super Girl winner from a few years back, Li Yuchun (李宇春) was nominated for her film debut role in Bodyguards and Assassins, a role in which she got to show off her martial arts skills. Other nominees in the Best Newcomer category include Malaysian actress Jane Ng Meng Hui (黄明慧) for At the End of Daybreak, and the Beijing-born beauty pageant graduate Oceane Zhu (朱璇, pinyin: Zhū Xuán) who starred in Prince of Tears.

The Asian Film Awards are organised by the Hong Kong International Film Festival Society, and winners will be announced on 22 March as part of the International Film Festival. The awards, held for just the fourth time, aim to recognise the best in Asian cinema. The full nomination list can be found at the AFA website - the link is a media release in PDF format.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Show Luo Dominates Album Sales with Rashomon's Release

Taiwan's King of Dance Music, Show Luo (罗志祥, pinyin: Luó Zhīxián), went straight to number one with his new album, Rashomon (罗生门, pinyin: Luóshēngmén), released on 15 January. According to the G Music charts, Rashomon - Show Luo's seventh studio album, accounted for a massive 39 percent of all album sales in Taiwan in the week 15 to 21 January. Luo dethroned another member of Taiwan's pop royalty, the Princess of Cuteness, Rainie Yang, whose two week reign at the top came to an end, dropping to the number 3 position.

Both Show Luo and Rainie Yang are co-starring in Hi My Sweetheart (海派甜心, also known as Shanghai Sweetheart), a romantic comedy TV series currently airing on Taiwanese TV on Sunday evenings. Like Rainie Yang's recent album, Rashomon contains a handful of songs that were also heard in the TV series, such as the opening theme song Love Madness (爱疯头), Love is Not a Solitary Walk (爱不单行) and Biological Clock (生理时钟). The TV series has struggled a bit ratings-wise - the first few episodes in particular suffered dismal ratings figures - but at least the original soundtrack has produced some decent music.

In another connection between Show and Rainie, the former has chosen an album title based on one of Japan's best-known and most celebrated movies. I'm not sure if this flags an attempt by Luo, who is fluent in Japanese, to capture the Japanese market (the title might just be play on Luo's own name, the two sharing the same initial character). Last year he already made preliminary efforts to launch his fashion brand, Stage, in Japan. If Rashomon is released in Japan Luo will be following in the footsteps of Yang, who has just released a Japanese version of one of her biggest hits, My Intuition.

Friday, January 22, 2010

China's 21st Starlight Awards

The Starlight Awards (星光奖), a biennial television awards ceremony, was held in the central Chinese city of Zhenzhou on January 19. China Radio International has labeled the Starlight Awards "China's Emmys", presumably because like the Emmys they hand out awards to TV shows. However, that's where the similarities end; unlike the Emmys there are no prizes for individual performers. The Starlight winners are also selected on what appears to be a compulsory criterion for Chinese awards, "ideological depth".

As a result the winners list is a highbrow selection of politically correct shows with titles like Welcome to the Motherland (向祖国报告), Six Centuries of Kunqi Opera (昆曲六百年), 2008 Chinese Migrant Workers Evening (2008中国农民工之夜), Xinjiang - Embrace of the Motherland (在祖国的怀抱里), Hundreds of Millions of Peasant Farmers' Laughter (亿万农民的笑声), and The Tibetan People Celebrate the Olympic Games (西藏人民喜迎奥运会). If nothing else, the awards do provide an accurate snapshot of mainland Chinese television. Surely no other nation inflicts its audiences with so many documentaries and variety shows designed to uplift and educate.

The Grand Prize, which China Radio International describes as "the highest honour in television programming given by the Chinese government", was given to The Devotion of Love (爱的奉献). This was an all-star fundraising gala held for the victims of the devastating Sichuan Earthquake in 2008. The CRI article, in English, is here but to get a list of winners you'll need to visit this site.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Boycott Results in Mediocre Solid Gold Music Awards

A boycott by the major record companies of the Jade Solid Gold Top 10 Music Awards left the event deprived of many big name performers. An important date on the Hong Kong music calendar, the awards honour the best in Cantopop and are based on TVB's long running Jade Solid Gold show and its Billboard charts. The 2009 Awards, however, were reduced to a second-rate version when artists from EMI, Sony-BMG, Universal and Warner failed to take part because of a dispute between the four labels and TVB. This left the majority of awards handed out to performers from the EEG label, diminishing the status of this year's event in many fans' eyes. (The dispute over copyright issues is explained in this post on the Asian Entertainment News blog.)

The biggest winner of the night was EEG's major star, Joey Lung (容祖儿, pinyin: Róng Zǔér), seen pictured above with two of the seven trophies she won in total. Two of her songs were honoured in the Top Ten Song Awards, with one of them, My Own Book of Legends (搜神記), taking out the Gold Song Gold award (ie best song of the year). The complete list of the ten songs of the year is:
  • A Letter to Myself (給自己的信) - Sherman Chung
  • My Own Book of Legends (搜神記) - Joey Yung
  • If the Time Comes (如果時間來到) - Raymond Lam
  • The Diamond Sutra (金剛經) - Denise Ho
  • Earth is Dangerous (地球很危險) - Leo Ku
  • Here We Are - Kary Ng
  • Two Without One (二缺一) - Charlene Choi
  • Borrow (借) - Stephanie Cheng
  • Actually I Am Very Happy (原來過得很快樂) - Miriam Yeung
  • With Songs and Tears (可歌可泣) - Joey Yung
Joey Yung also took home one of the major female awards, the Most Popular Asia Pacific Hong Kong Female Star, but missed out on the Best Female Singer which went instead to Miriam Yeung (杨千嬅, pinyin: Yáng Qiānhuà).

In the male categories there was controversary when the Most Popular Asia Pacific Hong Kong Star was awarded to Raymond Lam (林峯, pinyin: Lín Fēng) - a very popular actor but relative newcomer to the music industry. In the absence of better credentialed singers like Eason Chan and Hins Cheung it was more or less a two-horse race between Lam and Leo Ku (古巨基, pinyin: Gǔ Jùjī). Nevertheless Lam's announcement as winner was reportedly met by boos from some of the more passionate audience members in the Hong Kong Coliseum. Lam's name now joins an exclusive but illustruous honours board of previous winners, alongside 10-times winner Andy Lau, fellow Heavenly Kings Jacky Cheung and Aaron Kwok, and winner of the previous two years, Eason Chan. Leo Ku didn't go home empty-handed, winning the Best Male Singer award.

A full list of the awards winners, in both Chinese and English, is at this Asian Video Network post.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Beyond the Realm TVB's Most Watched Series in 2009

Two lavish historical costume dramas were Hong Kong TVB's most watched series in 2009. Beyond the Realm of Conscience (宫心计), set during 9th century Tang Dynasty, was the most popular TV series of the year with an average index rating of 34, and a total audience of 2.26 million viewers. In second place was Rosy Business (巾幗梟雄), a drama about a family business during the Qing Dynasty in the 19th century. It averaged 33 in the ratings, drawing in a total of 2.11 million watchers.

Beyond the Realm of Conscience (covered in more detail in this earlier post) ran for 33 episodes in October and November and peaked at a record-equalling 50 rating in its final episode. Set inside the emperor's imperial household, the show's viewing figures rivaled that of TVB's biggest ever hit series, the 2005 Korean drama Jewel in the Palace (on which Beyond the Realm is loosely based) and another series set in the business world, Moonlight Resonance (2008). The series starred Charmaine Sheh (佘诗曼, pinyin: Shé Shīmàn) and Tavia Yeung (杨怡, pinyin: Yáng Yí) as two rival palace maids who "graduate" to concubines, and Kevin Cheng (郑嘉颖, pinyin: Zhéng Jiāyǐng) and Moses Chan (陈豪, pinyin: Chén Háo) played the love interests. The series was directed by Fong Chun Chiu, who also was one of four directors at the helm of the Rosy Business series.

Rosy Business (see my earlier post) may have been pipped by Beyond the Realm in the popularity stakes, but was the bigger winner at the TVB Anniversary Awards held in December. It won six awards including Best Series, Best Actor (Wayne Lai 黎耀祥: Lí Yàoxiáng) and Best Actress (Sheren Tang 邓萃雯, pinyin: Dèng Cuìwén). It also dominated the Ming Pao Awards, although without competition from Beyond the Realm which was released too late to be eligible.

Just behind Rosy Business in the ratings rankings was the contemporary action drama Burning Flame 3 (烈火雄心3), a sequel of sorts to two very successful earlier series about the lives and loves of a team of firefighters. Total audience figures for the series were 2.10 million, and it averaged 33 in the ratings. Two comedy series rounded out the top five in the rankings: You're Hired (絕代商骄) was number four in the rankings, averaging 32 points, and the action comedy D.I.E Again (古靈精探B) averaged 31.

Source for the rankings is the excellent 幸而城 Fortunate City blog which has the top ten highest ranking series. The Asian Fanantics forum also has a post with all the 2009 series' ratings figures.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Rainie Yang Begins New Year on a High

2010 got off to a perfect start for Taiwanese pop star Rainie Yang (杨丞琳, pinyin: Yáng Chénglín) with the success of her new album, Rainie & Love...? 雨愛 (And that's not me being unsure of the full title; the three dots and question mark are part of the album's English title). The album became the first number one of 2010 on the G Music album charts. Released on New Year's Day, it went straight to the top of the chart, making up 26 percent of all album sales for the week 1 to 7 January.

Rainie & Love...? is the fifth studio album for the singer/actress and sometime TV host. It contains some of the songs that were also part of the soundtrack of Hi Mi Sweetheart, the romantic comedy TV series she's currently starring in alongside Show Luo. The first four tracks on the album are all from the TV show, although as far as I'm aware Show Luo doesn't duet with her on the album.

Yang began her singing career at the tender age of 16 as part of a four-member girl band called 4 in Love. However after two poorly received albums and limited success the band was disbanded. Luckily for Rainie, she had gained a higher profile with her supporting role in the phenomenally successful TV series, Meteor Garden and Meteor Rain. This was followed by a co-hosting gig on the long-running Guess Guess Guess variety show. In 2005 she released her debut solo album, My Intuition, which went platinum. A starring role in another hit TV series that year, Devil Beside You, and she had by this stage reached superstar status.

Although sales of Rainie & Love...? have been impressive in Taiwan, it's a safe bet that the strong sales figures won't be replicated on the mainland. Yang gained notoriety back in 2003 when she lightheartedly displayed her ignorance over facts concerning the War of Resistance Against Japan, plus some disparaging remarks about mainlanders. The incident happened on the Guess Guess Guess game show and provoked howls of outrage from the Chinese along with calls to boycott anything connected with her. The EastSouthWestNorth website has more details on the scandal. Despite the incident now being more than six years old, and not withstanding some public apologies from Yang, her reputation as an insensitive bimbo remains intact among a large number of mainlanders.

Out of favour with mainland China, Yang has set her sights on another major market, Japan. She has never hidden her love of Japan (another reason for some Chinese to view her with suspicion) and is planning to release her first Japanese single this month. The single will be a Japanese version of her first ever hit song, My Intuition (曖昧 , Ai Mei).

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Founding of a Republic 2009's Biggest Grossing Chinese Film

The Founding of a Republic (建国大业, pinyin: Jiàn Guό Dàyè), the historical drama about the Communist Party's ascendancy to party on the Chinese mainland, was the biggest grossing domestic film in 2009. Attracted by the all-star cast audiences turned up in huge numbers to see the film, produced as part of the country's celebrations to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China. Its box office earnings of 400 million yuan (just under US$60 million) in fact gave it the highest box office takings of any Chinese film ever.

The second most profitable Chinese film last year was Bodyguards and Assassins (十月围城, pinyin: Shí Yuè Wéi Chéng), an action film set in 1905 in colonial Hong Kong. The story is about a plot by the Empress Dowager to kill the revolutionary leader Sun Yat-sen, and focuses on the motley group hired as Sun Yat-sen's bodyguards for his impending visit to Hong Kong. It too boasts an impressive cast of big names including Donnie Yen, Tony Leung Ka Fai, Nicholas Tse, Fan Bingbing, Leon Lai and even ex-NBA basketballer Mengke Bateer. Despite being released near the end of the year the film has already earned over 280 million yuan (US$41 million) at the box office.

Number three on the highest box office revenue list in 2009 was The Message (风声, pinyin: Fēngshēng), a spy thriller set during the Japanese Occupation. The film stars Zhou Xun and Li Bingbing, and the latter has already picked up one major Best Actress award (at Taiwan's Golden Horse Awards). It has earned over 200 million yuan (US$29 million) in ticket sales since its release in October.

Overall it was a record-breaking year for the domestic film industry, with a total of 12 domestic films grossing over 100 million yuan each, according to the State Adminstration of Radio, Film and Television. Chinese-produced films accounted for 57 percent of all box office takings on the mainland in 2009. It seems that everything is booming in China, including the film industry. Total box office revenue was a record 6.2 billion yuan, up 43 percent on 2008 figures, and the annual growth rate has averaged 30 percent over the last six years.

Despite the impressive showing of the domestic films, two Hollywood blockbusters - the disaster movie 2012 and Transformers 2 - were the number one and two movies at the Chinese box office. 2012 grossed 460 million yuan (another box office record broken) and the Transformers sequel 430 million yuan.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Jolin’s Butterfly Taiwan’s Biggest Selling Album in 2009

In 2009 in Taiwan dance music ruled, according to the album charts compiled by G-Music. Jolin Tsai (蔡依林, pinyin: Cài Yīlín) and Show Luo (罗志祥, pinyin: Luó Zhīxián), the queen and king of dance music respectively, had the biggest and second biggest selling albums in 2009.

Jolin’s album, Butterfly (花蝴蝶)), was released in March and spent 6 weeks at the number one position on the charts. Altogether it stayed in the top 10 album list for more than 6 months, as well as setting a record for most pre-order sales. Butterfly, Jolin’s tenth studio album, also introduced two hit singles– the title track and Real Men. Total album sales were an estimated 130,000 copies, at least according to this (Chinese language) news article. The sales figures were a vivid illustration of how consumers were deserting CD albums, presumably in favour of cheap/free downloads. By comparison, Magic, an album released by Jolin in 2003, sold an estimated 350,000 copies.

Show Luo’s Trendy Man (潮男正传) was released in the last week of 2008 and held the number one position for four weeks in total. He sold an estimated 50,000 copies of the album, and in the current dismal climate for record sales was one of the few artists to experience an increase in sales compared to earlier releases.

The number 3 highest selling album in 2009 was Faith Map (信心地圖), a compilation record featuring a collection of singers, some well-known and some not so much, under the banner New Artist Family 新藝人家族). Proceeds from the album’s sales went to aid those most adversely affected by the Global Financial Crisis and Typhoon Morakot. It was at number one for three weeks.

Number 4 was a bit of a surprise; pop rockers Mayday (五月天, pinyin: Wǔ Yuè Tiān) already had one of the biggest selling albums of 2008 with Poetry of the Day After (後青春期的詩), and those strong sales continued into 2009. This despite it not actually reaching the number one spot in the last twelve months. Rounding off the top five was Malaysian-born Fish Leong (梁静茹, pinyin: Liáng Jìngrú) with her album Fall in Love and Songs (静茹&情歌 ), a collection of, well, love songs. Released at the beginning of the year it held the number one spot for a total of three weeks before being swept aside by the Jolin phenomenon.

The Top 10 Albums of 2009 were as follows:
1. Butterfly – Jolin
2. Trendy Man – Show Luo
3. Faith Map – New Artist Family
4. Poetry of the Day After – Mayday
5. Fall in Love and Songs – Fish Leong
6. Heart.Beat – Lee Hom Wang
7. Diamond Candy – Elva Hsiao
8. Princess – Jam Hsiao
9. Freedom – Jerry Yan
10. AMIT – A-Mei

The always dependable Asian Fanatics forums have a more detailed Top 20 list which can be found here.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Autumn's Concerto Sets New Ratings Record

(The three stars of Autumn's Concerto: Xiao Xiao Bin, Ady An and Vanness Wu)

Autumn's Concerto (下一站,幸福, pinyin: Xià Yī Zhān, Xìng Fú), a drama series that has been showing on Taiwan’s TTV and SETTV channels for the past few months, last week set a new Taiwanese ratings record for the year. It reached a score of 7.76 on January 3, well ahead of the previous record (7.35) held by My Queen, a romantic comedy which aired in the first half of 2009. Autumn's Concerto which, like My Queen, runs in the key Sunday evening timeslot, stars Vanness Wu (吴建豪, pinyin: Wú Jiànháo), the American-born singer from the boy band F4, and Ady An (安以轩, pinyin: Ān Yí Xuàn), who first came to prominence in the 2003 TV series The Outsiders and has been a regular in Taiwanese dramas ever since.

The story is about a rich but ultimately unfulfilled law student (Wu) who meets a poor street vendor (An) and an unlikely romance develops. Tragedy strikes however when the rich boy suffers a brain tumour and that old soap opera staple - memory loss - and the two are separated. The story picks up six years later when Wu's character, haunted by memories of his lost love, goes in search of the street vendor. However some serious obstacles are placed in the path of their love - Wu is now engaged to a very nice young woman, while An is a mother to, you guessed it, Wu's child.

The series, which belongs to a genre known as “idol drama” (because its lead actors are usually heartthrob pop/TV idols) took a while to find viewers, struggling to break 4 in the ratings. However from mid-November its popularity began to soar, coinciding with the arrival of 4 year old Xiao Xiao Bin’s (小小彬) character. The precocious young actor has become an instant celebrity, winning audiences over with a mixture of cuteness and surprisingly good acting skills. Already, according to his manager, companies are lining up with advertising and endorsement deals for the young prodigy. In the upcoming months he will appear in another two series, albeit in short supporting roles. However, going on the massive impact he has had with Autumn's Concerto, a starring role cannot be too far away.

Xiao Xiao Bin is of course not the only one to benefit from the show’s success. Vanness Wu, already the most popular of the four F4 band members, has seen his popularity jump to an even higher level. Ady An too has received a boost to her career from the series. Previously regarded as an attractive but relatively anonymous Zhao Wei lookalike, she has now become a star in her own right. Both Wu and An are likely to figure prominently when the TV acting awards are handed out later this year.

Autumn's Concerto, which runs for 20 episodes in total, will finish, fittingly enough, on Valentine's Day.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Jam Hsiao King of the Singles in 2009

Taiwan radio station Hit FM released its Top 100 Singles of 2009 at the end of the year, and Jam Hsiao (萧敬腾 pinyin: Xiāo Jìngténg) was to the fore. He had five songs in the top twenty-five, including three in the top ten. The 22 year-old also had the highest single among Taiwanese artists, coming in at number 2 with the title track from his album released mid-year, Princess (王妃 - see my earlier post about the album). He was just edged out from the number one position by the superstars of Asian pop, Korean boy band Super Junior and their song Sorry, Sorry.

Two other songs from the Princess album made the top ten - I Don't Know How to Love (我不会愛) was number 4, while A-Fei's Little Butterfly (阿飞的小蝴蝶) came in at number 9. Jam Hsiao had two album releases in 2009. The second - an album of covers - provided two singles in the list. The Jay Chou-composed Rewind (倒带) was placed at number 19 while Endless Love (新不了情), a Wan Fang cover, came in at number 21.

Competing against celebrated international acts from the US, Japan, Korea and the UK, two other Taiwan artists managed to make the top 10. One Million Stars winner Yoga Lin (林宥嘉, pinyin: Lín Yòujīa) was number 5 with Telling Lies (说谎), while Jolin Tsai (蔡依林, pinyin: Cài Yīlín) made it in at number 10 with the title track from Taiwan's biggest selling album in 2009, Butterfly (花蝴蝶). Jolin had two songs in the top 25 - Real Men (大丈夫) also squeezed in at number 25. Another artist to have a good year in 2009 was Taiwan's king of dance music, Show Luo (罗志祥, pinyin: Luó Zhīxián). His duet with Elva Hsiao, Wow, came in at number 23 - its popularity no doubt aided by one of Taiwan's most expensive music videos. Show Luo also had two solo singles in the top 100 - Back Up (撑腰) at number 30, and Joking (搞笑) at number 61. Besides Jam Hsiao he was the only Chinese artist to have more than two singles in the top 100.

The Top 10 singles of the year according to Hit FM were:
1. Sorry, Sorry - Super Junior (Korea)
2. Princess - Jam Hsiao (Taiwan)
3. Poker Face - Lady Gaga (US)
4. I Don't Know How to Love - Jam Hsiao (Taiwan)
5. Telling Lies - Yoga Lin (Taiwan)
6. Love Story - Taylor Swift (US)
7. Love Like This - SS501 (Korea)
8. Come Back to Me - Utada Kikaru (Japan)
9. A-Fei's Little Brother - Jam Hsiao (Taiwan)
10. Butterfly - Jolin Tsai (Taiwan)

The full list of all 100 songs translated into English can be found at this Asian Fanatics post, and the original list is at the Hit FM website here.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Charmaine Sheh Has TVB's Biggest Pay Packet

It's an annual event in the Hong Kong TV world, the release of figures revealing who are the biggest earners at TVB, Hong Kong's premier TV channel. 2009's highest earner - according to this Singapore news report - was Charmaine Sheh (佘诗曼, pinyin: Shé Shīmàn) who appeared in two hit series during the year - Beyond the Realm of Conscience and You're Hired. The former Miss Hong Kong runner-up earned a reported HK$15.9 million, which may provide some consolation after she missed out on most of the major acting awards last year.

In second place was Raymond Lam (林峯, pinyin: Lín Fēng), earning an estimated HK$12 million in 2009. Despite taking a break from TVB appearances last year, the money continued to roll in however, thanks to a blossoming singing career, not to mention the income from his numerous endorsements. In third place was Michael Tse (谢天华, pinyin: Xiè Tiánhuá) whose career took off last year with his performance as gangster Laughing Gor in the TVB series E.U. He also appeared in You're Hired as well as the E.U spin-off movie Turning Point.

The Hong Kong media used to provide a top ten list of highest earners but so far I haven't been able to find it. The best I can do is a link to a Chinese-language news item on which the Singapore report seems to be based.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Eason Chan Rings in the New Year With Five Awards

Hong Kong singing superstar Eason Chan (陈奕迅, pinyin: Chén Yìxùn) got 2010 off to a perfect start by taking home a sack-load of awards at the Ultimate Song Chart Awards on New Year's Day. He won Best Male Singer, Favourite Male Singer, Supreme Album (for H3M), the 4 Stations Album Award, and one of the Supreme Top Ten Songs (700 Years Later). The occasionally outrageous Chan also caused something of a stir amongst the more conservative attendees at the ceremony with his New Romantic look (pictured left).

Another serial awards winner in the Hong Kong music scene is Joey Lung (容祖儿, pinyin: Róng Zǔér), and she won the Best Female Singer award for the umpteenth time. However she missed out on the Favourite Female Singer which instead went to veteran singer/actress Miriam Yeung (杨千嬅, pinyin: Yáng Qiānhuà). In the Best Group category, five-piece pop/rock group Rubberband edged out rockers Mr., but Mr. was compensated with the Favourite Group award. Mr. also won the Favourite Song award for If I Was Eason Chan, but strangely that single failed to make the list of top ten songs of the year.

The Top Ten Gold Songs of 2009 were:
1. Eason Chan: 700 Years Later (七百年後)
2. RubberBand: Apollo (阿波罗)
3. Jason Chan: You Hide I Hide (你瞒我瞒)
4. Hins Cheung: Yes & No
5. Leo Ku: Earth Is Very Dangerous (地球很危险)
6. Miriam Yeung: Turns Out I'm Really Happy (原來过得很快乐)
7. Sherman Chung: A Letter To Myself (给自己的信)
8. Kay Tse: Song Of The Year (年度之歌)
9. Juno Mak: Weak 3000 (弱水三千)
10. Denise Ho: Nicole (妮歌)
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