Super Idol 4 contestants channel Jay Chou, Jolin Tsai, S.H.E, and more!

No doubt Super Idol 4 is great television viewing.  Like its previous three seasons, this season of Taiwan’s top talent show competition has its share of entertaining performers hoping to have breakout success in the competitive Mandopop music industry.  The past couple of months though, strange things have been amidst with the song selections of the competitors.  With the exception of the bubbly dancer/singer Mollie Chang, most of the competitors of Super Idol 4 have strayed away from Taiwanese idol songs and chosen songs that have either been:
  • technically challenging songs from more mature Taiwanese artists,
  • chart-topping hits from artists outside of Taiwan (e.g., America, Japan, Korea),
  • competitor’s obscure personal favorites that no one else has heard of.
It’s really hard to fault the competitors for opting to not do Taiwanese idol songs for several reasons though. Besides being more favorable towards challenging song choices, judges are sometimes (but not always) impressed by singers’ music acumen and language ability if they sing foreign hits. Furthermore, competitors can “cheat” by singing personal obscure favorites that they’re much more familiar with than the judges. The thing is, we kind of like the “idol” part of the program’s name, so when the past two broadcasts had a handful of the competitors belt out hit tunes from Taiwanese idols, our inner Mandopop idol fan in all of us smiled.

It really is a risky move for these competitors to try their hand on Taiwanese idol hits, since the songs are really well-known and highly ingrained in the judges’ minds. Only a really entertaining display or a non-trivial improvement of the original will sway the judges in their favor, but it’s good to hear alternative takes of songs we love. Furthermore, when a Taiwanese idol screws up a song, they always have a next time, but when a Super Idol contestant does so, they could easily get cut from the show. Unlike idols though, contestants actually sing more of the song, which is one thing that we wish idols did more often. In the mean time, check out the recap sampling of these entertaining Taiwanese idol renditions from the past two episodes of Super Idol 4 to see what we mean.

Ying-jun Guo 郭映均’s “Superstar” (S.H.E):

We're all pretty sure that Ying-jun's still on the program because of her existing fashion endorsement deal, but we briefly forgot about that being a factor when she did a great rendition of mega-popular female trio S.H.E's hit song "Superstar".  Ying-jun's made it known before that she's a huge Hebe fan, so it was weird that it took her this long to finally sing an S.H.E song.  But with the performance she put on, Hebe probably would have been very proud.
  • Highlight: Singing all three members' parts!

Mollie Chang 張依安’s “乖貓” (Jolin Tsai):

If Super Idol were judged on the "idol" factor, Mollie would have already won the competition by a long shot.  This is another smart song choice for Mollie, and at this rate, she can probably reach the final 10 or even 5 just by entertainment factor alone.  She's not going to win it all though because of her vocals, but until she gets cut, we'll enjoy her time on the show.
  • Highlight: Her trademark dancing.

Jacky Lee 李鑑軒’s “Huo Yuan Jia 霍元甲” (Jay Chou):

We never thought Jacky had it in him.  More of a ballad singer, Jacky impressed with his entertaining rendition of one of Jay Chou's more popular hip-hop songs.  The song's been done before on Super Idol, but the fact that Jacky had a better dance performance and sung all the parts to the song (something that not even Jay does live in its entirety) is highlight-worthy.
  • Highlight: Actually singing the high notes AND the rap chorus!

Kenichi Chen 陳健一’s “Julia” (Wang Leehom):

If you ever wanted to hear Wang Leehom's classic "Julia" song without an American accent, then you came to the right place.  Kenichi's rendition lacked those intangible qualities that fans love about Leehom, but his performance was technically-sound and reminded us that a Leehom song can sound great without Leehom, strangely enough.  On a side note, I wonder how many people laughed at the female back-up dancer for losing her hat during the routine.
  • Highlight: The hopping dance

Mollie Chang 張依安’s “Sunny Otaku 陽光宅男” (Jay Chou):

Another Mollie performance worth mentioning, her performance of one of Jay Chou's lighter songs pretty much emulated takes the song literally, as she literally transformed from an otaku to a sexy look.  What was interesting was when she went to Jay's JVR Music headquarters to meet the song's lyricists for tips on her routine.  It probably wasn't needed, since she probably could have something off without their help, but it was an interesting diversion to an even more interesting performance.
  • Highlight: The costume change.

Sunny Luo 羅晴’s “The First Dawn 第一個清晨” (Wang Leehom):

One of the more serious singers on Super Idol, Sunny stuck close to her style by choosing a serious ballad singers from Leehom's collection of tunes that was also one of her personal favorites.  Her selection of the song was actually a cause of debate between the judges, as one judge felt that doing her personal favorite was usually not the most suitable song for Sunny, while another judge countered that it was since it had its advantages since the Sunny's familiarity allowed her mold it as her own.  Whatever the case, Sunny's soothing rendition was a nice one.
  • Highlight: Carrying around a cute plush toy while singing a serious song.

Seul-ki Kim 金實基’s “To Leave the Earth's Surface 離開地球表面” (Mayday):

Let's be honest: no matter how much we love the anomaly that is Seul-ki being on Super Idol, our lone favorite Korean contestant is seriously competing on borrowed time.  His hardcore fans will have to face the fact that Seul-ki has only a couple episodes at most before getting the judges' ax, but he's been a fun distraction.  Mayday's popular rock song was a horrible choice for Seul-ki, since he simply lacks the gritty voice to pull it off.  At least his performance at least sort of made up for it.  It was also definitely funny to see Seul-ki after his performance try to console one of the female contestants by saying that there were still contestants left to take over her last place spot, much to the amusement of those very contestants.
  • Highlight: One of the judges teaching Seul-ki how to jump.

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