'Tomboy' emerges as an atypical singing star

Updated:2017-06-12 10:05:01


Zhou Bichang has transformed into one of China's best-selling pop stars. Provided to China Daily

  Zhou Bichang will cover six cities across the Chinese mainland, including Guangzhou, Chongqing, Beijing and Shanghai, from August to December, to promote her latest album.

  When Zhou Bichang became the first runner-up in the Super Girl Competition, a Chinese version of American Idol for female contestants, broadcast by Hunan Satellite Television in 2005, she impressed audiences with her tomboy image and her assured and expressive singing, especially her distinctive interpretation of R&B songs.

  Now, over a decade later, Zhou, who was then seen in a T-shirt, jeans and sporting black-framed glasses, has transformed into one of the country's best-selling pop stars.

  In a black dress, delicate makeup and high heels, Zhou announced her upcoming national tour in Beijing recently.

  To promote her latest album, Not Typical, the tour, which has the same title as the album, will cover six cities across the Chinese mainland, including Guangzhou, Chongqing, Beijing and Shanghai, from August to December.

  One of the songs from the album, titled Obsession, released in April, has sold over 500,000 copies via three major online digital streaming music websites, including QQ Music, the music service under China's internet giant, Tencent.

  The song, which is co-written by Australian composer Tushar Apte, who has written songs for Western stars such as Chris Brown and Maroon 5, was followed by another single, titled Er Ming, or Noise in the Ear, released on May 26.

  The new album comprises "retro and trendy pop songs" by Zhou, who writes about her life experiences in the songs.

  "The songs are about everyday situations. For example, we may be obsessed with something, or we may receive so much information that we feel sick of it," says Zhou, 31.

  LA sojourn

  She says the album and the tour is called Not Typical because when she looks back on her career, she does not consider herself a typical pop star.

  After her success in 2005 while she was still a student at the Xinghai Conservatory of Music in Guangzhou, she did not hurry to embrace stardom.

  After releasing her debut album, Who Touched My Violin String in 2006, Zhou took a break and went on to further her music studies at the Musicians Institute in Los Angeles, majoring in R&B vocal performance, one of her favorite music genres.

  She released a double-CD album in 2007, titled Now and Wow, each with 10 songs, some featuring her R&B singing style.

  The album achieved both critical and commercial success, and in 2010, the singer-songwriter launched her first national tour, Sing Along The Travel.

  "It seems that I rarely convey my thoughts directly to my fans. The only way I can do it is through music," says Zhou, who has nine studio albums.

  Early years

  Born in Changsha, in Hunan province, and raised in Shenzhen, in Guangdong province, Zhou was introduced to music by her mother, a Chinese folk music teacher, and started singing and writings songs in high school.

  She first gained international attention after winning the best worldwide act award at the 2014 MTV Europe Music Awards.

  A year later, she became the first pop singer-songwriter from the Chinese mainland to hold two concerts at the iconic Hong Kong Coliseum.

  Separately, Zhou initiated Begins to Love in 2015, an annual philanthropic concert, to help hearing-impaired children.

  Besides being a singer-songwriter, Zhou is also enthusiastic about photography.

  In November 2016, she held her first solo photo exhibition at Beijing's 798 Art Zone, a popular hub for contemporary art.

  Titled Wander, the exhibition features Zhou's photographs from her travels over the past three years, and cover the Tibet autonomous region, Finland, France, New York and Iceland.

  She says photography is a different way to see and experience the world.