Reality Check: Are Chinese TV Singing Competitions Good for Mandopop?

By Jocelle Koh and Matt Taylor

In the last part of this series, we dig deeper into a subject that is close to our hearts: the Mandopop industry. This topic has caused quite a bit of division among professionals in the Asian music industry, all of whom have different opinions on how to cross new territory and what to do with it.

While these lucrative TV singing competitions represent a better guarantee of commercial success and provide the music industry with a much needed boost, these shows can negatively impact the integrity of musical works produced in the mandopop market. long-term.

A_Mei_live _-_ SETN

Photo credit: SETN

Taiwanese superstar A Mei performs live.

Number 3: Chinese TV Singing Competition and Their Effect on the Mandopop

PRO: revives interest in Chinese music and reinforces the importance of Taiwanese artists in mandopop

We now know all about the cultural powerhouses of Chinese TV singing competitions. But what does the exposure of music and musicians through this channel really mean? And, in the end, does it have a positive impact on the rich tapestry of Mandopop’s past?

Perhaps the most important service these shows provide is to cement the rich heritage of Chinese-language pop music – most of which hails from Taiwan – not only to a whole new generation, but to those who may have little (or no) prior knowledge of the genre. .

In the 2016 first season of “Sing! China”, 53% of all songs performed were originally by a Taiwanese artist. In Season 1 of “Hidden Singer”, every song performed was of Taiwanese origin. And it goes beyond the classics. Many contemporary songs have also been performed, such as “Mountains & Rivers (山海) “by No Party for Cao Dong (草 東 沒有 派對).

Teresa_Teng_ (not_just_the_old_stars_who_

Photo credit: QQ

Taiwanese singer and mandopop legend Teresa Teng (鄧麗君), whose songs are a staple in many modern TV singing competitions.

But it is also important to note that the Taiwanese brand is not only carried by the native talents of the island. Artists from all over the region attracted to this cultural center in search of skills and opportunities. These Asian talents, like Stefanie Sun (孫燕姿) from Singapore and Fish Leong (梁靜茹) from Malaysia, merge in Taiwan and make it the spiritual heart of Mandopop.

The tendency towards appreciation of Taiwanese, which can be found in almost every singing competition, reinforces Taiwan’s long-standing reputation as a pop music superpower in the minds of the younger generations of China. In turn, this allows the audiences of these shows to appreciate the beauty and diversity of Mandopop’s rich history.

However, as pleasant as it may be to hear Taiwanese music in Chinese singing performances, it may not always be healthy for Mandopop.

CONS: Singing performances, by regurgitating old ideas, diminish the cultural power of the Mandopop

The majority of Chinese reality singing shows focus on performing covers. Contestants choose popular tunes and try to honor them with their own character. Many of these covers are innovative, fostering an exciting “remix” culture in the Mandarin popular music industry. But what if this remix culture took over Mandopop? What will happen to the original music?


Photo credit: Baike

Chinese TV Singing Competition “Come Sing With Me” (我 想 å’Œ ä½  å”±), in which contestants often sing covers of songs by other artists.

Artists, who increasingly see these shows as paths to success, may stop focusing on creating their own original works. Instead, they will continue to focus their efforts on the cover performances demanded by the shows.

This in no way represents a significant decrease in the value of the new original music. However, this means two things:

  1. Originality in Mandopop is less of a priority than ever.
  2. The lines between the value of the original music and the cover are blurred.

Instead of being treated to the diversity and authenticity of Mandopop, fans of the shows succumb to the familiarity of revamped covers – which dominate the Spotify charts and the playlists at your local karaoke bar (KTV).

Chinese TV singing contests have a nifty marketing plan: broadcast big budget shows, break them up into three to four minute digestible song segments for social media, and upload the songs in their recorded form to major streaming platforms. and KTV systems. For the production companies behind these shows, these platforms are a way to generate, reuse and profit from the content. However, this equation does not take into account the broader cultural impact on Mandopop itself.

Listeners are increasingly being trained to slide into cycles of familiarity, rather than diversifying their playlists.

Social networks are disposable. Music, however, isn’t – and that’s where the problems start to crop up. Music streaming platforms and the selection available in your KTV neighborhood have become the proverbial guardians of what is considered “official” music and what is not. Historically, for those who want to break into these platforms, original content is a plus. Artists who make a name for themselves by covering the works of other artists are excluded from their own commercial success – unless, of course, they pay expensive license fees.

This costly hurdle prevented rework from entering the system. However, TV singing shows have found a way around this. They can easily afford to pay user fees for over-the-air repeats, which then air on iTunes, Spotify, and other major streaming platforms.

The artists who leave singing shows thus fill their discographies with covers that do not differentiate them from their peers. Plus, record labels and other emerging artists are watching these shows and, for better or worse, are starting to see covers, rather than original music, as an easy path to recognition and wealth.

The public thus begins to consider these pieces and pieces of content as legitimate cultural texts, allowing these covers to take up more space in the charts and on the playlists of the users. Listeners are increasingly being trained to slide into cycles of familiarity, rather than diversifying their playlists. Recognition takes priority over discovery. Diversity and innovation are being lost.

Jessie_J_wins _-_ QQ

Photo credit: QQ

TV host He Jiong, left, holds a microphone for English singer-songwriter Jessie J as Chinese rock musician and songwriter Wang Feng looks on.

As long as this theme persists, Mandopop will not be able to move forward towards more progressive, dynamic and interesting ideas, ultimately leaving it less competitive on the world stage. If that day comes – when music as a medium becomes completely devoid of new ideas and mental nourishment for young and old alike – it will truly be a sad day for all of us and for Mandopop.


As we come to the end of this series, we hope that in some ways you have gained some new insight into these Chinese reality music shows. We don’t want to dethrone them or make people think they are useless or ineffective. Instead, we want to present a refreshing and insightful outlook on the situation which we believe has not been particularly well articulated in recent years.

In order for us to move forward as a society, we hope that we can all learn to be more critical of the content we consume, especially in these times of rich content. The content of Chinese TV singing shows that feed us is no exception. While we enjoy their presence on the air, we hope their viewers consider the wider effect they have on Mandopop. So, by all means, keep watching. But please – watch with a critical eye.

Read more : How Beautiful It Will Be: How the Folk Campus Changed Taiwan

Publisher: Nick Aspinwall

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