From the moment it was announced that Singaporean singer Kit Chan came in last in the debut of the third season of I Am a Singer, a popular celebrity singing reality contest by Hunan Satellite TV Station, a fierce debate stirred up online. The controversy raged further when Chan became the first contestant to be ousted on the show early this month.
Han Hong, a veteran Chinese singer-songwriter, who is a contestant on the show, said that she was shocked to know Chan was out and she described Chan's performance as "subtle and incomparable".
The show's director, Hong Tao, even shed tears when Chan left the show, saying that "she has won hearts of China's music fans".
According to Chinese media reports, music critic Deng Ke, who attended the second live performance of the show, said Chan was off-key while performing Hong Kong singer Jacky Cheung's Heart Cut by a Knife.
Chan's management said that wasn't so, but the 42-year-old songstress, who has been away from the spotlight of China's music scene for a long time, could take comfort in the fact that her Chinese fans are still giving her plenty of support.
Some netizens wrote earlier that Chan's singing touched their hearts, even though she didn't perform the high-pitched vocals that are usually favoured by TV competition judges. Some said the result could have been due in part to Chan's long hiatus from China and thus some unfamiliarity for the audience.
"I am well aware that I have no established fan base in China, so I really had nothing to prove. Starting at ground zero, every new person I make a connection with through my performance is one more music fan won. What have I got to lose?" Chan says.
"I believe that good singing is not only about belting high and loud notes, and while the 500 voters don't agree with me, there are evidently many who do. I am performing for the millions who are watching this show from far-off and diverse places－and it's always fun to present an alternative view, isn't it?" she adds.
Since the first season of I Am a Singer aired in April 2013, it has been a great success, attracting a number of veteran and new singers to compete on the Hunan TV show. Previous participants of the same show, including the seasoned diva Huang Qishan, young Hong Kong singer G.E.M. and Malaysian singer Shila Amzah, have enjoyed a big boost in their careers after performing on it.
The first Singaporean singer to participate, Chan says that she was biased against the reality-show genre in the past－not liking the idea of professional singers having to compete against each other.
However, an old friend who had handled public relations for Chan's first Mandarin album, Heartache, which took the Taiwanese market by storm in 1994, convinced her.
As one of the most established singers in her home country, Chan has achieved critical acclaim in singing and acting since 1993.
She also had launched a successful career in Hong Kong, Taiwan and on the Chinese mainland by releasing more than 20 Mandarin and Cantonese albums from 1993 to 2004.
Her career in China rose to a higher level after playing the leading role in the musical, titled Snow. Wolf. Lake. Directed by and starring Hong Kong singer Jacky Cheung, the musical won commercial and critical success in both the Cantonese version in 1997 and the Mandarin version in 2005.
As a kid, Chan loved anything that has to do with the performing arts. She started her dream of being a professional performer at Lasalle College of the Arts' faculty of drama in 1991. Then she dropped out after two years because she was offered a recording contract and moved to Taipei. Working alone overseas was tiring and sometimes lonely for Chan. However, the experience made her a stronger person, she says.
But then she took a break from her singing career, staying away from the industry for six years. In 2006, she went back to Lasalle College of the Arts to complete her studies as a mature student, fulfilling a longtime wish.
"I felt that I could translate my years of practicing the performing arts into something academic and it was a good time for me to take stock, reflect and try to put into words what I had been doing all this time," she says.
Ever since her comeback in 2011, Chan has done musical, sellout concerts in Hong Kong and Singapore, released albums and acted in two movies.
"I am not here to win," Chan says of the Hunan TV competition, "but to experience the dynamism and high production values of this music programme. So far, it has not failed me in this respect. I wanted to make sure that I use this platform to showcase who I am now and what I do best."