By Tan Kee Yun
ON the surface, it seems that Hu Xia's hands-down victory in 2009 paved the way for the massive mainland Chinese onslaught on One Million Star.
The bespectacled 19-year-old Guangxi native (right) emerged the champion in the sixth season of the popular Taiwanese singing competition reality TV show, beating the rest of the pack with his pristine vocals.
Not only was he the only solo contender from China among that season's finalists, he also made history by becoming the show's first-ever overseas winner.
A year later, the dynamics of the show had totally changed - there was no question about the overwhelming Chinese domination.
Out of the 10 finalists on the seventh season, six were from China.
One from Beijing eventually took home the runner-up spot.
We asked Hu, who was in town to promote his debut Mandopop album, Hu Loves Summer, about China's remarkable talent pool. How did the Chinese contenders outshine their opponents?
"Wow, I really don't know," he told The New Paper last Friday, with a shrug.
"I can't speak for others, but I've never received any formal training in singing... I wasn't in the school choir either.
"During my childhood and teenage years, I was rather shy and my only 'training' was constantly humming to myself in my bedroom."
After a slight pause, Hu added: "Maybe it's because I sing from the heart. I think that's extremely important."
Despite being a full-fledged recording artiste today, he still finds "several flaws" in his delivery of songs.
"I would love to enrol in proper vocal classes to brush up my techniques, like learning how to project my voice better."
Memories of the "lonesome" months in Taipei during his One Million Star stint are still vivid.
"It was the first time in my life I'd been away from home for so long," he said.
"That year, I really missed spending Chinese New Year with my family members."
He added with a laugh: "Thankfully, I had the company of the Three Suave Boys (referring to the Chinese all-male trio in the competition).
"During the Chinese New Year period, Taipei was literally a ghost town, so the three of us 'celebrated' by cooking instant noodles in our apartment."
One Million Star, which started its run in 2007, has suffered from dwindling viewership of late.
At the peak of the show's success, it produced memorable stars such as Yoga Lin, Jam Hsiao and Lala Hsu.
However, the last three seasons have been slammed by netizens for being "predictable" and "boring".
"It doesn't bother me at all," said Hu.
"I will sing my best, even if it is to just one person sitting in front of the TV."
This article was first published in The New Paper.