Imagine joining a singing competition and being told bluntly by its head honcho, "You look like William Hung".
For local bespectacled getai rookie Fei Li Yang, however, the comparison to the American Idol reject hardly fazed him.
"I'm not offended at all. Actually, it's not the first time I've been likened to William Hung," the 29-year-old said with a laugh.
"A decade ago, when I was doing my BMT (basic military training), my commanding officer also said the same thing. American Idol was the rage on TV then and coincidentally, I had just won Tekong Idol, the army's internal singing competition."
Hong Kong-born American Hung, now 31, is best known for his cringe-worthy, off-key performance of Ricky Martin's hit number She Bangs during the 2004 audition rounds of American Idol Season 3.
Pudgy, pasty-faced and a hoot to watch with his hilarious hand actions, Hung was mercilessly booted off the show. Nevertheless, he won over audiences with his earnest attitude and emerged an overnight sensation.
Fei is the only finalist from Singapore in Getai New Star 2014, an inaugural regional getai competition that will culminate in a ticketed grand final next month at Hong Lim Park.
Of the 10 finalists in Getai New Star, eight are Malaysian, while Singapore and Indonesia have one representative each. The eventual champion will win $10,000.
The chubby father of a three-month-old baby admits that his nerdy, "un-Ah Beng" demeanour is rather similar to Hung.
"Also, both of us are not tall, I'm only 1.7m," he added.
"Anyway, the most important thing is that my wife doesn't feel I look like him."
But looks is where the similarity with Hung ends, Fei said, stressing that he "sings much better" than his American look-a-like.
"It has always been my dream to be a singer, cut an album and popularise Hokkien pop," he said.
"I've been watching getai since I was young and it definitely has its distinctive charm. There is no other platform to enjoy dialect songs.
"Rain or shine, people will turn up at getai venues and stand for hours to catch their favourite stars in action."
Although still considered a newbie, Fei is already taking a leaf from veteran acts such as Hao Hao and the Baobei Sisters by creating an air of mystery about himself.
Admitting that Fei Li Yang is his stage name, he declined to give his real name or occupation, simply saying that his surname is "Liang".
"I have a degree in Arts and Social Sciences from Nanyang Technological University and my full-time job is in the education sector," he said.
Mr Dennis Ng, co-organiser of Getai New Star, told The New Paper that although Fei "bears a physical resemblance to William Hung", vocally, he is "very good".
YouTube clips of Fei's past performances show him performing in a strong baritone voice with a vibrato.
Said Mr Ng: "We started this competition to ignite interest among youth and the public about getai, which is a street performing culture unique to Singapore.
ALL WALKS OF LIFE
"I'm happy to say we have attracted contestants from all walks of life; our youngest contestant was nine and the oldest was 79," said Mr Ng.
When asked if he is disappointed that Singaporeans fared poorly in the contest as compared to our neighbours across the Causeway, Mr Ng said no.
"Most Singaporeans are never that fantastic in (singing and performing). Singaporeans are generally better with studies," he said.
While the name William Hung is now a distant memory - Hung left showbiz in 2011 to become a technical crime analyst - Fei hopes to be in the getai business for the long haul.
He has signed on with the competition organiser as an artiste and will start working the getai circuit soon.
"My idols are established Hokkien singers Cai Xiaohu, Weng Li You, and Luo Shi Feng," he said.
"Not only can they sing well, they have talents in composing too. I aspire to be like them."
Getai New Star 2014:
WHEN: June 21, 5.30pm
WHERE: Hong Lim Park
TICKETS: $10 to $40 (To purchase, please call Getai New Star's hotline at 8232-8985)
This article was published on May 19 in The New Paper.
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