Motherhood has been a source of strength and inspiration for local singer and Mandopop superstar Stefanie Sun.
Standing on the vaunted Taipei Arena stage last Saturday with a mop of bright orange hair, she said the reason for doing the concert was because she wanted her son to think: "Mum, you're great."
She added: "He's taught me to listen to the sounds around me and I've heard your voices of care and concern."
This was her comeback tour since she walked down the aisle with her DutchIndonesian business executive beau, Mr Nadim van der Ros, 36, in May 2011, and gave birth in October 2012.
Speaking to Singaporean and Malaysian media at a postconcert celebration banquet at the same venue, Sun, 35, says: "After becoming a mother, you think, 'I want to be strong. I want my kid to look up to me.' That is a motivation for me."
Not only that, her son, whose name she has steadfastly refused to reveal to the media to protect his privacy, had a pivotal role to play in her forthcoming album as well. Kepler (above) will be released next Thursday, three years after her 11th studio album, It's Time.
While recording the track Kepler, she was pregnant. She recalls: "It felt like the starry sky was within my stomach and it was a magical and wondrous feeling."
She listened to "countless" demos for the album and the moment she heard Kepler, she knew that was going to be her lead single. "I kept going back to it and then I listened to the lyrics carefully and I just knew."
The music and lyrics of the ballad were penned by Hush, a Taiwanese musician who is the lead vocalist of indie band, Hush!. Kepler is named after a planet discovered in the 17th century that shone in bright daylight for three weeks, according to online reports.
While Sun might not have intended the title of the new album to be directly symbolic, it is not hard to read parental love and sacrifice into the lyrics - one can see why she was drawn to it.
With her distinctive and evocative timbre, she brings a maternal tenderness to the song. "Can't wait for you to be my brightest star/I'm still willing to lend you my light/ Projecting onto you, until your brilliant light/Gently hangs upon the distant sky."
There is no doubt her new identities as wife and mother are among the most significant parts of her life at this point. Is she concerned her fans would have trouble accepting the new Stefanie Sun?
"I don't quite know how to answer this question because I can't say that I'm not worried. On the other hand, I'm not particularly worried either.
"When you've known someone for many years, you get to know this person pretty well and that won't change too much. It's not the case that I'm a mother and hence I'd be such and such or I'm a wife and would do this or that. I think fans are clear about why they like me."
The reaction to her Taipei comeback tour would certainly have laid to rest any concerns. The 20,000 tickets to her two shows last Friday and Saturday were reportedly snapped up in 46 minutes. And at least one fan was wholeheartedly embracing the Sun of today with a placard that read "Hot mama".
The next stop on her tour is Shanghai on April 19. She is also heading to other Chinese cities such as Guangzhou, Chengdu and Beijing. Her Singapore gig is tentatively slated for the second half of the year.
Sun burst onto the scene as a fresh- faced girl-next-door in 2000 with a self- titled album. Along the way, she has reportedly sold more than 10 million albums and has also won the Best Female Vocalist accolade at the prestigious Golden Melody Awards in 2005 for Stefanie (2004).
She has also accumulated a rich body of work packed with karaoke-friendly numbers such as Cloudy Sky, Love Certificate, Start To Understand and I'm Not Sad.
But it is different now when she sings those hits of yore, she says. "The emotions are naturally quite different as they are like things that happened to me in the past."
As happy as she sounds being a mother, she is far from the kind of person who turns her back on the past. In fact, she embraces it. At her concert last Saturday, she gave her fans a surprise blast from the past. After singing the first stanza of Moonlight In The City, fellow Singaporean singer Mavis Hee stepped on stage to a roar of approval from the crowd.
Sun said after their duet: "I'm so happy. I've loved Mavis' songs for a long time and I'm finally sharing a stage with her."
All in all, it was a triumphant comeback and it was a radiant Sun who appeared at the celebratory banquet. Asked what she most wanted to do now and she said with a laugh: "Put my feet up. This is my first show after giving birth and it actually takes time and training to recover fully."
But there is no rest for the wicked, let alone the popular. Duty called, so Sun went from table to table of waiting media to conduct interviews while snacking from a plate of food that followed her around.
Even as the series of concerts continues, her focus will be on promoting her album, which she helped produce, mostly "by feel".
She did not contribute any music or lyrics this time, though. "I don't think I'm the best at writing and also, I've had less time."
Among those she roped in were regular collaborators producer Kenn C; songwriters Peter and Paul Lee, who had written her biggest hits such as Cloudy Sky and My Desired Happiness; and top Hong Kong lyricist Lin Xi, who had previously penned the words to Tears Become Poetry for her.
She says: "He's a very thoughtful lyricist and he understands that you have to be very accurate when singers at different stages of their lives express different things about love."
Angel's Fingerprints, a song from the upcoming album, "takes an unusual perspective in looking at a failed love", she explains. "And though it sounds sad, it is actually a very positive song."
She eagerly agrees that it reflects the magnanimity and optimism she feels towards life right now.
There is no doubt that motherhood has given her a new perspective, which is to sharpen the focus of what is important in her life.
"It's like your own needs become less important. In the past, I might think that I really needed to buy something or go shopping, but now I feel that was all so unnecessary. I don't have the time for all this now, so I hope to live every moment to the fullest."
Perhaps unexpectedly, motherhood has given her a great facility to appreciate her blessings and calling in life.
In the past, she had seemed more ambivalent about life as an entertainer. She had previously told Life! that after the release of Against The Light (2007): "I felt like being a singer was defining every moment of my life. It was all-encompassing and I was getting a bit tired of it and I just wanted to walk away for a bit."
And she acknowledges that. She says: "At one point, everything used to be about me, that I was tired and didn't want to sing. And I knew I was being wilful. But now, I just feel that I'm so lucky to have so many people around me and I just want to give the best of me to everyone."
She seems to be in a sunnier place now, this reporter tells her, what with a family of her own to balance the demands of a music career.
"I feel very happy to hear you say that," she says with a smile.
"I think it's important to cherish things. I'm very clear that I'm passionate about my work and making music is when I'm happiest. So I don't want to give it up. When you're given the chance, you should just make the best use of it."
Bright Night in TaiPei
Five years, one marriage and a childbirth later, Singaporean singer Stefanie Sun returned to Taipei last Friday and Saturday with her new concert, Kepler.
And it was a triumphant comeback as she held court for three hours at Taipei Arena and basked in the adulation of her fans.
She appeared with a head of bright orange hair atop a raised platform and sang her breakthrough hit, Cloudy Sky. The tempo was slowed down a little, all the better to showcase her powerful and distinctive pipes.
She was in the middle of a massive eye-shaped frame and it seemed as though the cosmos was shimmering on the screen behind her.
It was a dramatic start to an entertaining show.
She was in fine vocal form throughout the night, be it raising the energy level with First Day or tugging at hearts with Start To Understand.
A high-octane segment with fast-paced numbers such as Green Light followed. Her stamina seemed to have improved and late in the show, she even pulled off a half-somersault with the help of her dancers.
She seemed relaxed and happy on stage and she might well have her son to thank for that.
With some slinky moves to Magic and a fiery performance, she sure was one hot mama.
It was all the more impressive considering that she has never come across as a natural dancer.
Yet here she was moving and singing with the confidence and swagger of a pop queen.
And when she sang the wrong lyrics at one point, she simply announced it, to indulgent laughter from her fans.
The costumes were eye-catching and glittery and included a short teal dress and a figure-hugging shimmery jumpsuit.
Often, her legs would be sheathed in leggings with a metallic sheen to them.
The concert was titled Kepler, after the lead single from her forthcoming album, from which she performed two other new tracks - Infinite Possibilities and the ballad Angel's Fingerprints.
While fans applauded the new works, it was also clear that they wanted the familiar hits.
The final stretch of the concert was a giant karaoke session as hit followed hit.
Sun quipped: "My concert ends now. This is now your concert and I want to hear you sing." My Love, Love Certificate, Start To Understand and I'm Not Sad were turned into duets as Sun and her fans sang to each other.
The singer also had a surprise guest on the second night. She sang the first stanza of Moonlight In The City and then in walked her Singaporean compatriot Mavis Hee, the ballad's original singer.
The crowd roared with approval as Hee had not performed in Taipei in more than a decade, according to the Taiwan media.
In addition to dueting with Sun, she also performed Regret and her mellifluous voice was as soothing as ever.
What a night to have two of Singapore's singers enthralling Taipei Arena.
Showing up to support Sun were her family and friends, including pop star Jolin Tsai - who caused a stir when she was spotted in the stands before the show started.
And the camera kept zooming in on Sun's beaming husband during her encore of Cloudy Sky.
Of course, there were her loyal fans as well. Their fervour moved Sun to say: "l've been a singer for so long, I never imagined I would be so lucky."
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