Futures were on the line. A star-making TV show, “My Hero” on Dragon TV, was whittling down the field in the open air. The judges were not as cruel as on “American Idol.” A Japanese singer gave a female judge a lotus flower and suggested a date. Nice touch. He made it, writes Andy Morton.
With his spiked hair and patterned shirt, Xiaosong Tuoye looks like another wannabe Chinese pop star. Don’t be fooled – his real name is Komatsu Takuya, he’s a part-time mobile-phone salesman from Tokyo and last weekend in Shanghai he took his first tentative steps down the path to nationwide fame.
Takuya, the first overseas contestant to take part in China’s hugely popular Dragon TV show “My Hero,” negotiated the preliminary round of the talent contest on Saturday afternoon in front of a small crowd of shoppers and teenage girls outside the Shanghai TV studios on Nanjing Road.
Accompanying himself on guitar, the handsome, willowy 26-year-old sang the David Tao ballad “Love is Simple,” and although he sang it well, the three female judges sitting in front of the stage seemed more impressed by his appearance.
“You’re very good-looking,” one of the female judges said. Takuya, egged on by the other two judges, handed the woman a long-stemmed lotus flower on the table, there probably for this purpose. “Maybe you can go out with me sometime,” he said, settling easily into the role of pop-star Casanova.
It did the trick. Confetti exploded from the stage, music played, the crowd cheered – Takuya was through.
“I’m very happy,” Takuya said later after signing a few forms with producers, and then a few autographs for a throng of shouting girls that materialized as soon as he stepped off stage. His first groupies.
“I’ve never performed in front of that many people before. It was very exciting. I’ve never had a chance like this before,” he added.
Takuya, who flew from Japan just for the contest, was one of three people to get the confetti treatment that afternoon.
Three others had gone through in the morning to join the winners from last weekend and the weekend before that. On Sunday, those 36 were whittled down to 18, including Takuya, and during the May Day holidays will be further reduced to the six who will go on to the competition’s national stage.
Following all of the roughly 200 singers, dancers and rappers and amateur magicians that had appeared on Saturday, and standing nervously at the back entrance to the stage, was Zhang Shihai, a 23-year-old graphic designer who had the misfortune of being not just the last performer of the day but also of the entire Shanghai preliminaries.
The odds were stacked against him. The judges, quotas full and bored from a long day of listening to ballads sung by earnest young men in monochrome blazers, were reeling through the final contestants as quickly as formalities would allow.
Zhang didn’t have a blazer, and his microphone wasn’t switched on as he walked on stage, causing a few moments of confusion. He also hadn’t prepared any music for his dance routine and the judges sat impassively as he writhed and waved his arms around in silence, as if he were behind glass.
The judges were kind, though. This was not “American Idol,” and the panel was more Paula Abdul than Simon Cowell.
“They told me my performance wasn’t very good,” Zhang said after he got off stage. “I wasn’t very happy with it either. I did feel pretty relaxed up there, though.”
He walked off with a friend, out the door through which just a few minutes earlier Takayu had purposefully strode, chased by a trail of babbling young autograph hunters, his guitar slung over his shoulder.