Mandopop might not be enjoying the best of times, what with the Korean Wave still sweeping across Asia.
Nevertheless, four big names on the local Mandopop scene are stepping up their game. If their new projects are any indication, 2016 looks set to be a most exciting year for the genre.
MICAPPELLA, Asia's Pentatonix
The a cappella outfit has been hovering on the edges of mainstream pop since 2010, but their latest track could finally propel them to the big league.
Earlier this month, the sextet released new music video A Little Happiness of Those Bygone Years on their Facebook page, to amazing results.
The song is a mash-up cover of two popular Mandarin movie theme songs, Hebe Tien's A Little Happiness from Our Times and Hu Xia's Those Bygone Years from You Are The Apple of My Eye. It went viral, garnering more than 1.6 million views in just two weeks.
It stands as the group's biggest hit to date.
"It definitely performed way above our expectations," beatboxer Peter Huang, 33, told M.
"We did the mash-up cover because we loved both movies and we discovered that their theme songs were in the same key and had a similar tempo. It's so encouraging that people liked it."
Two weeks ago, their talent caught the eye of Mandopop It Girl, Hong Kong singer G.E.M Tang, who re-posted MICappella's rendition of her songs, Bubble and Existence, on her Facebook page.
Soprano Tay Kexin, 26, said they are not resting on their laurels.
"In 2016, we want to break into the China market," she said.
"China doesn't have Facebook though, so we are gunning for our Weibo (China's version of Twitter) and (Chinese phone app) WeChat to catch on there."
Huang said that fans can look forward to a slew of new singles, including original material, which they will drop "progressively in the first half of next year".
The singles will culminate in a new studio album in the second half of 2016.
Their debut album Here We Go was released in 2013.
There is also a tentative Tasmanian and European tour on the horizon, as well as performances in Canada for individual members.
Do MICappella hope to be Asia's version of Pentatonix, the Billboard chart-topping and Grammy-winning US a cappella quintet? "Of course," said tenor Goh Junyi, 29.
"We hope to be as popular and original as Pentatonix, yet stay true to our Asian roots. That is why our focus is on Mandarin music, as not many a cappella groups are actively performing Mandarin numbers."
JOI CHUA, balladeer turned rocker
Fresh from her debut acting gig as a parking attendant in local director Royston Tan's movie 3688, which opened here in September, Joi Chua is aiming for a huge transformation with new album Chun+.
The four-track EP, now out in China and soon to be available on iTunes for Singapore fans, sees the singer moving away from her trademark ballads to "upbeat and energetic" tunes that combine elements of rock and electronica.
On Dec 21, the 37-year-old held a live gig in Beijing - her first in China.
"It was my debut solo Chinese showcase and it was great fun, I had a lot of support from my fans here," she told M via an audio recording from Beijing.
"On Chun+, save for one track which was penned by renowned Chinese songwriter Li Ronghao, I composed the rest of the songs." She is also not ruling out an acting follow-up to 3688, "as long as the film or TV roles are suitable".
Any baby-making plans in the pipeline? Chua, who got hitched in 2010, said with a laugh: "My biological clock has been ticking for a long time. Well, if a baby comes along, I'm more than happy to welcome it!"
JJ LIN, backed by an orchestra
From M.E. To Myself, singer-songwriter JJ Lin's 13th studio album released on Dec 25, is hands down his most technically challenging effort to date.
On what has been billed as his "first experimental album", all the tracks utilised the art of binaural recording (also known as dummy head recording), a method of recording that uses two microphones to create a 3D stereo sound sensation. Lead single Twilight, which Lin completed at the Esplanade Concert Hall with the backing of a 40-strong strings orchestra, is grand and epic.
Lin, 34, said in a press release sent by his record label Warner Music: "When stepping into the Esplanade Concert Hall to record our song, I wanted all the emotions inside of us to be magnified. That was my desire."
While he continues to scale new heights in music, he has made time to venture into acting. Next month, he will make his movie debut in Chinese romantic flick The Secret as Leon Lai's geeky cousin. The film will hit big screens in China on Jan 15. No release date has been set for Singapore.
KIT CHAN, second wind
Earlier this year, veteran singer Kit Chan experienced an unexpected surge in popularity in China after her highly-publicised appearance on the third season of reality TV singing competition I Am A Singer.
Well, expect more fantastic things to come from the 43-year-old, widely acknowledged as a local Mandopop pioneer who paved the way for younger acts like Tanya Chua and Stefanie Sun.
Earlier this month, Chan became the first artist to be signed to newly-formed Chinese record company Taihe Music Group. Under the two-year contract, she is slated to release a new album of original material in June next year. This should please Chan's longtime fans, as it marks her first album of original songs in 12 years. She will also embark on a concert tour in 2016.
"This is like my second wave in my career," Chan told local media last week.
Describing her vocal condition as "being better than before", she expressed newfound excitement at where her musical path will take her next.
"I have been singing for 20 years now and it's so easy to be jaded, but now I think I feel more excited than I did in my 20s."
This article was first published on December 30, 2015.
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