Get ready for the real Jane Zhang

By Han Bingbin & Qin Zhongwei

Pop star knows some fans might not approve of her new hard-edged album, but the former Supergirl star is determined to be true to herself, report Han Bingbin and Qin Zhongwei.

With her fame and reputation, Jane Zhang, the diva-to-be, finds herself struggling to decide between what she wants to sing and what the public wants to hear from her.

As soon as she became a professional singer after winning the Supergirl competition in 2005, one of the nation's most-watched singing contests and an attempt by Hunan Television to identify talent from the grassroots, Zhang's recording company gave her final say on what material she chose to sing. But as a 20-year-old back then, she was too kind to let anyone down by refusing a song.

So, many of her No 1s have been crowd-pleasing plaintive love songs. But Zhang said that was not her true self.

Although on many occasions she has behaved bashfully, Zhang said she was in fact an outgoing and passionate person. She always wanted her albums to be not only a flattering commercial success, but also an honest expression of her artistic disposition.

So here she is, announcing that she is ready to surprise and challenge audiences with a breakthrough fifth album, Reform (her second album with Universal International). Zhang said more than 60 per cent of the album, which was released on June 1, can be labeled as typical Jane Zhang style.

Seven of the 10 songs on the album were composed by US musicians and a US postproduction team was involved to guarantee top quality. The company has two notable names - Michael Jay, who worked with Eminem and Kylie Minogue, and Gene Grimaldi, who is said to be Lady Gaga's exclusive recording engineer.

The musical style has little to do with Chinese-style pop sentimentality. The songs cover a range of styles, from R&B to rock, hip pop and dance. Zhang said fans will immediately hear the changes as soon as they put on the earphones.

A loyal fan of Mariah Carey and Beyonce, Zhang is no stranger to these musical forms. But after years singing rueful, romantic melodies, it still took time for her to settle into more energetic beats and sexier tones.

Zhang had to get rid of the habit of restraining her voice and sing with a more open and forceful attitude.

That was not too hard, she said, compared to some physical changes, such as dancing and dressing in a more overtly sexy style.

While shooting the album cover in leg-less one-piece tights, Zhang felt too shy to stand before the camera although she was assured that she was dressed appropriately and attractively. She was still a little concerned when her sexily packaged album was handed out to the media and fans during the press conference that launched the record.

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