Hartono came in 2nd but won plenty of precious air-time

In the final moments of onstage voting in the Sing! China final in Beijing's National Stadium, things weren't adding up.

As Singapore's Nathan Hartono, alias Xiang Yang, and China's Jiang Dunhao stood on stage, judges - 81 of them, according to master of ceremonies Hua Shao - were casting votes into two boxes below the finalists.

"42 to 37," Hua announced, as a live orchestra heightened the tension, cymbals and all.

"Now we see Xiang Yang leading, but we see a considerable number of judges in front of Jiang Dunhao's voting machine."

Nine of them appeared in a line - but 79 votes had been counted, so shouldn't there be just two judges left?

But, oh, the drama!

A man had a change of heart and crossed the stage to vote for Hartono - 43.

A woman in a pink coat defected to Hartono too - 44.

The score was 44-43 to Hartono, with three voters remaining at Jiang's box. Two voted for Jiang, as the count somehow became 45, 46, and 47.

Read also: Nathan Hartono finishes second in nail-biting Sing! China final

Then a man wearing glasses and a cardigan suddenly changed sides and cast the 45th and last vote for Hartono.

So this was how Jiang won the competition - with six on-stage voters magically casting 10 votes for him, and purported 56.7 per cent of the stadium audience supporting him - but had Hartono lost? No.

Being in the finale of a show as successful as Sing! China was a win-win situation for both Jiang and Hartono.

In a knockout round earlier in the evening, coach Harlem Yu expressed his sadness to see his student Yang Meina go.

She wouldn't be getting a chance to perform the final song she had prepared, he said.

Indeed, the only thing worth winning on the show is precious, golden airtime.

On this count, Hartono won. He performed all three songs he had prepared and stayed on the show till the end.

Sing! China wants to be a show for the Chinese-speaking world and a global brand.

So the final round of the contest, between dashing Singaporean urbanite Hartono and reserved Chinese country boy Jiang, was a textbook finish.

Hartono was polished, crooning Mavis Hee's Moonlight In The City and Anita Mui's Woman Flower, backed by a Chinese orchestra conjuring an exotic oriental soundscape his instructor Jay Chou is famous for.

Jiang's eyes were mostly closed as he sang Windowsill, the picture of plaintive authenticity, plucking an acoustic guitar that couldn't be heard over an electric rock band.

It's a show. And yet it's a show many Singaporeans have needed too - to discover Hartono, and be proud of him.


Read also: Tung Lok offers restaurant patrons free servings of Nathan Hartono's favourite dishes

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