Two weeks ago, an unknown local back-up singer became the fourth most searched-for name in the local Google website.
But fame came to Nicole Lai a little too late.
The 36-year-old, who had sung back-up for the albums of top regional artists such as Aaron Kwok, Sammi Cheng and Jolin Tsai, had died on Sept 6 after a year-long battle with skin cancer.
Her friend, Singapore's top singing export Stefanie Sun, paid tribute to her by sponsoring the printing of 400 CD copies of a single titled Freedom, which Lai wrote and sang.
They were distributed at her recent wake and at the music schools where she taught at. At least 60 more people have asked for a copy.
'That's the only thing she had ever wanted, to have an album of her own,' Sun, 30, told Life!. 'It was the least I could do for her.'
A blog, filled with photos and videos of Lai, has been created by her close friend Sharlyn Lim.
Lai, who grew up in Penang and came to Singapore at the age of 18, came very close to hitting the big time.
In the late 1990s, she was a student at the Lee Wei Song School of Music where she and Sun were short-listed as potential stars.
Sun recalled: 'When Warner Music came to look for newbies to sign, it was a choice between her and me. When they chose me, I knew without a doubt that she was truly happy for me.'
Close friend Lim, 28, said Lai was also once offered a recording contract in Malaysia but she had turned it down because she was then pregnant with her daughter Carmen, now 15. She and her Singaporean husband have since divorced.
Over the years, Lai worked as a vocal instructor at music schools and gave lessons at her three-room Kim Tian Road flat. She was also an artist for events company A Lucas Events, and had sung at weddings and company functions.
Last September, she saw a specialist about an enlarged mole on her neck. She was diagnosed with skin cancer.
The mole was removed by surgery but this March, another mole reappeared in the same spot.
Doctors found that the cancer had spread to her brain, lungs and chest. She had Stage Four malignant melanoma.
Her daughter Carmen said: 'When Mum told me her cancer had returned, we both broke down and cried. But she still told me everything would be all right.'
The radiotherapy and chemotherapy treatment left her weak and feeling nauseous. She lost at least 15kg and her stomach was often bloated.
Three weeks ago, Lai was admitted to hospital for abdominal pain. 'Even on her last day, she was cheerful and told me that she would fight on,' said her mother Irene Ang, 55.
Now, Lai's close friends are looking to compile and launch an album of her songs before Christmas.
They plan to donate half the proceeds to charity and the other half to the four children she had adopted under World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organisation.
Carmen said she herself will continue singing. The Henderson Secondary School student had started karaoke sessions with her mother when she was four.
'I know she'll want me to keep performing,' she said. 'You're my champion, Mum. I know you'll be watching from heaven.'
This article was first published in The Straits Times on Sep 25, 2008.