The inquisition: singer G.E.M. aka Gloria Tang Zhi-kei
The bestselling singer aka Gloria Tang Zhi-kei on music and her supposedly cocky persona
48 HOURS: It’s no exaggeration to say you’ve hit megastardom with your recent participation in [the mainland TV singing contest] I Am a Singer. How was the audience reception at your Foshan concert in mid-February?
G.E.M.: It was a lot more passionate than before. The audience seemed to know many of my songs and they started singing back to me.
This world tour, which began in Hong Kong in April 2013 and hits the Venetian Macao on May 2 and 3, is titled X.X.X. Live. What does that mean?
This concert has taken the theme of my last album, Xposed. It’s about the unknowable possibilities that can surface in everybody’s life. In my past, there were a series of incidents that hurt me and left me struggling. You can see from the promotional posters that I’m adopting the image of a car accident survivor. I really hope to inspire my fans, who may be facing obstacles in their lives. I lived through mine, so can they.
I was slightly taken aback by the title at first. Are you aware that the term is, er, closely associated with porn?
Hmm. [Pauses] Well, my name G.E.M. has three letters. I don’t care what others think it may stand for. I only pay attention to the meaning I intended. My album title is Xposed and my focus is on the letter “X”.
Your YouTube channel, GEMblog, has more than 88,000,000 views and 230,000 subscribers. Do you pay attention to those numbers?
I haven’t recently — I’ve been too busy. I didn’t know that it had reached 88,000,000. [Laughs] I’m always in the mainland these days and you can’t really go on YouTube there.
You released an online video statement in late 2012 to point out the biased nature of the Hong Kong pop music awards. Do you find the YouTube statistics a better reflection of your popularity?
I released that clip not because I was given no awards at a particular ceremony, but because honesty is my bottom line. If you claim that the results were generated by public votes but they were not, you’re lying to the audience. This is something I can’t accept.
In that video you also mentioned the Grammys as an aspiration for our music scene. Are there any foreign musicians that have had a big impact on you?
When I was young, I liked Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera. My all-time favourite is Beyoncé. Apart from her music, I learned from her about how a woman can be independent, accomplished, and an inspiration to others.
It’s remarkable that at 22, you’ve already become one of the top local singers.
But what we have here is no longer a music scene that allows people to make it big. I personally hope that all the singers who are putting the effort in can find the space to develop their careers. It’s not an easy life — if I hadn’t accidentally had the chance to express myself in I Am a Singer, it would be hard for me to do anything more in Hong Kong. There isn’t enough media support for local music.
It’s common here for pop singers to get into acting. Does that appeal to you?
I’m interested in acting — if it’s only for small, cameo roles. But I have no intention of dedicating two or three months to a film project. I think my mission in life is in music.
I don’t want to spoil anyone’s movie because acting is not my strength — in the way music is.
There’s this media perception that you’re a bit cocky, though I can hardly sense that in our chat. Am I being lucky today? Or have you always been misunderstood?
It’s my feeling that a lot of people have inexplicable opinions about me even if they really know nothing. All I care about are the people I’ve actually met. I don’t need to explain it to anyone else. When I was younger, I used to be really bothered if people misunderstood me. But now that I’m older — I have been in this business for five or six years — I’ve learned one thing: as a singer, it’s your music that speaks for you.