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British singer Jessie J basks in China success

By Angus McNeice | | Updated: 2018-03-22 02:14
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Jessie J arrives at WE Day California at the Forum last year in Inglewood, Calif.
john salangsang / ap

Star tipped for reality show success

After experiencing highs and lows in the United Kingdom and then North America, the tumultuous career of British pop star Jessie J has entered a surprising and successful third act in China.

The Grammy-nominated Londoner is currently riding a wave of popularity in China where she has reached the semi-finals on reality television music competition Singer 2018.

“It’s been life changing for me in so many ways,” Jessie J wrote on social media after winning the competition's quarter-final round last week. “Thank you, China, for embracing me with all your heart.”

The 29-year-old has won four of the 10 rounds in the competition so far and competes in the semi-final this weekend. She has progressed singing Western ballads that are well-known in China, such as Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You and Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On.

Chinese social media users have heaped praise on Jessie J. Following her performance of My Heart Will Go On last week, Weibo user UnhappyWhenItRains said she “sings perfectly” and user FilmAndTVCircles said: “I had goosebumps all over. It was awesome! She’s definitely number one for this episode.”

In China, Jessie J has rediscovered the widespread adoration that has deserted her in Britain following success early in her career.

Born Jessica Ellen Cornish, the singer stormed into the British music scene in 2010 with debut single Do It Like a Dude, which peaked at number two in the charts.

Her next single Price Tag went to number one in 19 countries, and her debut album Who You Are went platinum in 2011, when Jessie J became the first British female artist to have six top 10 singles from a studio album.

She benefited from a strong and recognizable style, often sporting a jet-black bob, heavy eyeliner and skin-tight catsuits. Music critics praised her versatility, noting she was capable of delivering sugary pop tunes, hip-hop tracks and rock anthems with equal mastery.

However, her sophomore effort, 2013’s Alive, was a comparative flop, with no single from the album topping the charts in any major market. Backed into a corner, the singer became increasingly defensive of her talent, and blamed British fans for not acknowledging her vocal ability.

In the press, where she was once lauded as an empowering force for young female fans, she was now labelled arrogant and combative.

Jessie J made the move to the United States in 2014, where she said music fans were more likely to appreciate her talent. She was briefly vindicated that year when her track Bang Bang, a collaboration with US artists Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, went to number three in the US and earned the singers Grammy nominations.

While Grande and Minaj went on to produce a flurry of chart-topping singles, Jessie J’s third album Sweet Talker received mixed reviews and failed to break the top five in the US billboard.

With critical acclaim eluding her once more, the singer parlayed her fame into promotional campaigns for big brands as well as stints judging on panels for variety shows.

She soon receded from the spotlight altogether, saying she needed time to address health issues stemming from a congenital heart condition.

But now the singer is back, and true to form her reinvention is taking place in a new country. Jessie J is the only contestant on Singer 2018 from outside Asia, and the only one that sings in English.

The season began in January with 14 contestants, all with previous experience in the music industry. Some competitors - including Chinese artist Wang Feng and singer and actress Angela Chang - are established household names in Asia.

The judges took to Jessie J immediately, voting her winner of the first three rounds.

When the show’s host asked why she had joined the competition, Jessie J replied: "There's nothing I can't do. That's how I feel in my heart. I'm turning 30 this year and I just think, why not? It's an experience I'll never forget and may never get again and I'm gonna sing like I've never sung before."

Having won more rounds than any other contestant, Jessie J is strongly favored to progress to the final in April.

“I’m having the time of my life doing the show,” she said. “Life is about experience, doing things that break away from the norm and the expected in this industry. I’m bridging a gap between two very different cultures and opening the door for other international artists to be on this show. That’s what I’m proud of.”

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