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Idol's solo debut confronts loneliness amid success
From:chinadaily  |  2020-06-10 07:18

Pop singer Chen Linong from Taiwan releases his 12-track debut album on May 29. Over 4 million copies of album songs were purchased in a day by his followers. CHINA DAILY

Chen Linong, a young pop singer from Taiwan, has racked up an army of fans and 1.5 million followers on micro-blogging platform Sina Weibo since becoming a member of Nine Percent, a nine-piece boy band created by the 2018 Chinese reality show, Idol Producer.

However, like many other youngsters, he was struck by a moment of self-awakening. Even among crowds or enjoying company, he felt a wave of loneliness crashing over him-a sense of not belonging to, or not fitting in with, any group; a remote island in a sea of people.

On May 29, the 19-year-old singer released the single Unbelonging, together with his 12-track debut album of the same name.

Within a day, Chen's fans had purchased over 4 million copies of songs from the album sending it rocketing to the top of the charts on Tencent Music Entertainment Group's three streaming platforms, QQ Music, Kugou and Kuwo.

In a news briefing before the release of the album, Chen shared the ideas that inspired the song.

"One day, I was sitting in a film studio, with many staff members bustling around me, doing their job. Suddenly, I felt a sense of detachment, like I didn't belong. I was alone and isolated," he recalls.

"Since I became a singer, I've had a hectic schedule, such as participating in reality shows and shooting commercials, which, to me, were brimming with excitement, wonder and curiosity.

"Sometimes I feel that it is awesome to have this life, but there are times when I feel that it is not. I want to review my past few years with this debut album."

Chen has been looking forward to the release for a long time. However, due to social distancing rules implemented because of the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of standing in front of huge crowds, Chen livestreamed his news conference in Taipei with a limited number of on-site attendees.

"It is different from what I expected, but the excitement is the same," he says with his trademark smile.

Born and raised in Kaohsiung, in southern Taiwan, Chen was just an ordinary schoolboy before a talent scout discovered him in 2015. The same year, he was signed to a Taiwan talent agency and became a trainee.

He was among a hundred trainees-chosen from all across China and recommended by entertainment companies and agencies-to take part in Idol Producer and compete for one of the nine places in the final lineup of the boy band, Nine Percent.

Chen was lucky enough to stand out among his peers. "It's been a hard lesson for me to learn and I was prepared," Chen recalls of his experience in the fierce competition to seal a position in the band.

Following Nine Percent's planned disbanding in October 2019, Chen signed with Universal Music a month later, becoming the youngest singer on the label.

With this record, Chen is ready to begin a new adventure. He will do live shows, although the exact dates haven't been set due to the pandemic. He says he'll keep learning to play musical instruments, write lyrics and compose.

The album, which was in preparation for a year, sees the singer perform a variety of music genres, including love ballads and dance music. The title song was written by David Ke and George Chen, who were inspired by Chen Linong's stories after gaining fame.

In the song, One Out of Ten Thousand, for which Chen Linong wrote the lyrics, he recollects the "wild experience" of competing in the reality show and his growth since launching a solo career.

Another song, Masterpiece, is a duet with American singer-actress Hailee Steinfeld. He sings in Mandarin while Steinfeld performs in English.

Tsai Chin, a veteran singer from Taiwan, is impressed by Chen Linong's dedication to the craft.

"I was impressed by his smile, which was full of brightness and happiness. Though he is young, he works hard and learns fast," she notes. "While a singer might release more than one album during their career, the debut album is always the most special."