Local jazz singer Joanna Dong continues to power her way through Sing! China, earning high praise and advancing to the next round on the televised reality competition alongside fellow Singaporean Olinda Cho.
In her latest performance, which aired on Friday (Sept 9), Dong sang a bilingual rendition of I Want You to Be My Baby accompanied with her trademark “vocal trumpeting”. This time, she “trumpeted” to the chorus of mentor-Mandopop superstar Jay Chou’s hit song Tornado, which was released in 2000 on his debut album titled Jay.
She won votes from 47 out of 51 panel members, including industry professionals, beating Chinese-American duo Frank & Annie (Chuan Hu) who performed Falling Slowly and are on Chinese singer/songwriter Liu Huan’s team.
Dong, 35, was initially apprehensive about covering a “well-covered Mandarin jazz standard” that Chou chose for her from a list of songs she suggested. However, the risky move paid off.
In an interview with TODAY, the singer, who is currently in China, said: “Rather than to play the novelty card (of rearranging a non-jazz song like in my blind audition), he wanted me to take a classic in the genre, and make it stand out on my own terms.”
In fact, Chou declared on the episode that he was “unable to listen to the opponent’s music” after hearing her sing.
Despite receiving an overwhelming majority of votes, Dong, however, wasn’t as wowed by her own performance, describing it as a “nervous” one with “shaky bits here and there”.
“I would say it was a seven out of 10… However, given the stress of the situation, I am mostly relieved I managed to get through the song without any major mishaps because it is a tricky song to nail live.
“I am honestly very contented having come this far in the contest. If there is anything I have learnt, it is that singing is so subjective… My goal isn’t to win, it’s to showcase my breadth and depth as a singer on this platform,” said Dong.
Fans of her “vocal trumpeting”, however, may miss seeing that aspect of her singing in upcoming performances.
“The trumpet brings a novelty factor to my performance, but both Jay and I agree it would be more tasteful to give it a break for awhile,” she explained.
Moving forward, Dong will have to vie for a spot against her fellow teammates, including Cho, to represent Chou in the finals.
Describing Cho as a “great singer with explosive power, emotional depth and a distinctive alto timbre”, Dong shared that both singers “often harmonise with each other when singing just for fun”.
“I think we make a great duo… What we do have in common, and which is both our strengths, is that we have accumulated a good amount of stage experience over the years.
“I’ve also been on an emotional roller coaster ride, developing strong bonds with my teammates, then having to watch some of them leave,” said Dong.
Last year, Singaporean singer Nathan Hartono took second place in the finals of Sing! China. Hartono also chose Chou as a mentor.
Hartono competed against five other finalists and performed the song Nunchucks with Jay Chou and a cover of the latter’s The Longest Movie at Beijing’s National Stadium.
Singapore’s Joanna Dong has made it to the third round of televised singing contest Sing! China after defeating Chinese-American duo Chuan Hu in the episode slated to air last night.
She wowed with her rendition of the jazz number I Want Your Love, earning the majority of the votes from the panel of 51 judges, who include music producers and critics.
The win was sweetened by her mentor Mandopop superstar Jay Chou’s encouraging words. Chuan Hu is on Chinese singer Liu Huan’s team.
Dong, 35, says: “Jay was really sweet. He said that he wasn’t able to comment on Chuan Hu’s performance because my music was still in his head while they were singing.
“I was really flattered.
“Though in some ways, that was also self-praise on his part because he and his team were responsible for making my song arrangement more exciting.”
The song was picked by Chou as he wanted to challenge his mentee to take a classic and “make it stand out” as her own.
After the results were out, he told her that the number of votes was proof that jazz is not just for a niche audience.
She says: “We performed to the best of our potential that night, so the voting really came down to a matter of what the panel preferred. That’s why this isn’t so much a victory for me, but a victory for jazz music.”
There are two more singers from Singapore who made it to the third round: Olinda Cho, 37, and Curley Gao, 19, who is a Chinese student based here.
Another Singapore contestant, Stella Seah, was eliminated in an episode which aired last month.
Moving forward in the competition, Dong will have to vie with her fellow teammates to represent their mentor in the grand finals. And there is a chance that she may have to compete against fellow Singaporean Cho, who is also on Chou’s team.
She says: “Olinda and I have become close friends over the past few weeks.
“We have talked about this, that there is a possibility that we might have to battle each other, but we agreed that we would show each other the highest form of respect and love.
“I am very fond of all my teammates and I would be pleased if any of us represents the team in the finals.”
•Sing! China airs on Jia Le Channel (Singtel TV Channel 502) on Fridays at 9pm, the same time as in China.
By Gwendolyn Ng