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A talent for scouting

Updated: 2012-08-08 09:32
By Han Bingbin (China Daily)

A talent for scouting

Liu Yue performs in the popular TV talent show, Voice of China, on Zhejiang Satellite TV. Provided to China Daily

A talent for scouting

The show's four celebrity judges (from left): Taiwan pop singer Harlem Yu, mainland singer Liu Huan, pop diva Na Ying and singer Yang Kun. Provided to China Daily

A talent for scouting

With so many talent shows on television, how does Voice of China differentiate itself? Han Bingbin finds out.

Having failed in several widely-watched national TV talent shows, Liu Yue thought she would be able to stay cool no matter the outcome of her next contest.

The rock fan participated in Voice of China, an authorized reproduction of the Netherlands-originated TV singing contest. And when all four celebrity judges gave her the thumbs up while she was performing, cool is the last word to describe the 30-year-old chubby rocker. Liu cried and had to end her powerful performance prematurely.

Her adoring fans posted and reposted her tearful image and sobs on micro blogs, more than 10,000 times. Many of them described Liu's voice as so captivating that it brought back memories of their dream-pursuing years.

The show, now into its fourth episode, has become Zhejiang Satellite TV's most watched entertainment program so far. With a rating of 3.3 percent (the latest episode) and some 30 million clicks on China's leading video website Youku, it has dwarfed all the other - at least five - talent shows currently available on China's satellite TV channels.

The last time Liu attained such attention was in 2006 during Hunan Satellite TV's Super Girls. But back then, her chubbiness and rock style met with mostly negative responses online. The harshest of them, she still remembers, was from a netizen who asked her to shut up by posting the picture of a pig frothing at the mouth. With too few audience votes, she was soon eliminated from the competition.

She persevered because of her passion for singing. In 2011, she participated in a Taiwan talent show where she made it to the top 10. But critical netizens gave her the nickname "twice-cooked pork", referring to her chubbiness and her repeated failures. Those hard-hitting comments made Liu, a graduate from Nanjing University, decide to end her "rebellious life as a singer".

But when a director of Voice of China called this year, she couldn't resist accepting the invitation to participate because she is a die-hard fan of the American and British versions of the show.

She now feels lucky to be part of it because of its unprecedented quality: a cast of four celebrity judges, including mainland pop diva Na Ying and Taiwan pop king Harlem Yu; as well as a top-notch sound system, supported by Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony sound director Jin Shaogang to ensure a higher quality display of their voices.

More importantly, she says, the so-called blind choice, where judges sit with their backs to the performers, ensures that the contestants are judged based on their voices alone.

Winners will have a chance to hold their own concerts or be invited as guest performers at the judges' concerts. But the contestants have to fight a tough battle to reach the top. Unlike other talent shows that open doors to the grassroots, Voice of China contestants are hand-picked or in Liu's words, "semi-professionals".

As many as 40 directors travel to all the provincial capitals where local market insiders are ready to offer their lists of recommended talents. They also visit music schools and pubs to scout for qualified singers. Their voices are recorded and these potential contestants are then put through auditions and finally, short-listed to appear on television.

The arduous selection process results in a high level of professionalism on the show, says Lu Wei, publicity director of Voice of China.

Voice alone, however, doesn't qualify. For a score of five, Lu says, two goes to a singer's personal story. He adds that to maintain high ratings, singers with sensational backgrounds are given priority and encouraged to share their stories onstage.

A total of 26 cameras, a high number for a live TV program, are on standby to capture the singers' facial and emotional expressions as well as those of their families and the judges, as they share their life stories.

Millions are probably attracted to the show by heart-wrenching profiles such as a blind street artist who touches them with her rendition of Teresa Teng's songs or, a cute little girl who sings in remembrance of her deceased father.

China's most popular micro-blogger Yao Chen's compliments of the show on micro blogs were echoed by thousands. She says it demonstrates the most valuable elements in life: enthusiasm, optimism, sincerity and bravery.

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