Xinyao, Then The Age of No Substance

The age of Xinyao, with the emergence of boys and girls next door composing and singing songs that Singaporeans could identify with, is gone but fondly remembered. We had our own 三大天王, Eric Moo 巫启贤 , Peter Ang 洪劭轩 and Thomas Teo 姜鄠. Below is 巫启贤 (Xinyao’s most “accomplished” singer) Eric Moo’s signature song 你是我的唯一. I prefer this version to the noisier original which was first released 1988.

Peter Ang 洪劭轩 is another Xinyao singer with brilliant vocals. The video below is my favourite song by Ang – 从你回眸那天开始 1989. As far as I know, Ang does not have any album to his name. His recorded works are mostly found in Xinyao compilations. In that sense, he didn’t really enter the industry as a professional singer. Ang still appears on stage every now and then on mini Xinyao concerts. I’ve watched him perform on stage some years ago and he was still good.

A song that topped the Chinese charts for months in the 1980s – Thomas Teo or 姜鄠 and his signature song, 恋之憩 1986. Teo’s voice was gentle yet powerful and was a highly versatile singer. He also recorded many theme songs for our very popular TV series of the 1980s. Towards the 1990s, Teo gradually faded away from the music scene and went into the pet shop business. He said that it’s because of the changing “requirements” in the local music scene.

What are these changing requirements? Eric Moo went to Taiwan and the Xinyao as we know it was petering out. The new brand of local compositions and our local singers began to tailor their works and styled themselves to suit a wider audience, starting with Taiwan.

Our music scene was thus hit by another wave of homegrown “talent” in the 1990s. They were “performers” and dream makers more than they were singers. Sexy and flamboyant, they had girls screaming after them unlike Xinyao whose fans were more sedate or even nerdy. Like the Instagrammers and other influencers today, these folks had no substance, weak vocals and depended almost entirely on a sensuous image to attract young people who lacked that touch of heady euphoria in real life. I remember seeing girls fighting over one of them – Tian Jing.

Quite naturally, I was put off by these “singers” with no substance and even though I kept hearing their songs on the airwaves, I tried to ignore them. But it has been almost 30 years now. When I stumble on their songs, memories flood my mind. My repugnance then has died down and to be honest, Tian Jing (a local singer I didn’t like at all) did have a song I like. This song was written by our very own Li Weisong and the late Xing Zenghua, even though most of Tian Jing’s songs were “borrowed” from Thai composers. This is a nice song, but I would have liked it more if it’s sung by a better singer.

Tian Jing faded from public eye almost as suddenly as he had appeared. He was still very popular then and must have broken many hearts or left some yearning for years.

Then, there was 岳雷, winner of Chinese singing competition 斗歌竞艺 1981. His vocals were much better than Tian Jing, but as a nerdy Xinyao fan who admired originality and creativity, I was put off by all that flamboyance, commercialisation and his copycat moves and style. Needless to say, I did not buy any of his albums. His career or popularity also did not last for very long.

Then, I read in the Chinese news reports that he died of cancer in 2011. Towards the end of his life, he had to sell his property in Singapore to treat his illness. Looking back in forgiveness, I admit that there is one 岳雷 song that I like. Here it is.

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