Born in 1982 in Hsinchu in Taiwan, Wang Xinling did not have an easy childhood. Her parents divorced when she was 10 and Wang had to take care of her mother, who was going through depression, as well as raise her younger brother. In 1998 she was accepted to Taipei Hwa Kang Arts School, where she majored in drama. Her big break came when she was chosen by Avex Trax, the Japanese management company behind 1990s Japanese pop icon Amuro Namie, to become a pop singer.
What made her famous?
After spending several months training in Japan, Wang began her career as a singer in Taiwan. Her second album, Love You, was released in 2004 and the title song was so catchy that it dominated the charts for months. Wang built up a huge fanbase, becoming known as the “Sweetheart Goddess”.
Why is she in the news now?
Wang returned to the limelight when she appeared as a contestant on the third season of Hunan Satellite TV’s hit reality competition Sisters Riding Waves.
Her debut performance – which saw her perform Love You once more, dressed in an outfit reminiscent of a school uniform and with a ponytail – quickly topped the hot topic list on Sina Weibo after the show premiered in late May.
On social media most of the comments noted her seemingly ageless appearance. “Why is she still so sweet after so many years?” asked one Douyin user, with the comment receiving 700,000 likes.
“It looks like my youth is back,” another gushed.
Even the People’s Daily announced that it was a fan: “Time appears not to have touched her. Her sweetness seems to declare that she is a person, not afraid of other people’s views and who insists on being herself, braving wind and waves,” the newspaper fawned in a weibo post.
Many of Wang’s fans even bought stock in Mango Excellent Media (the listed owner of Hunan TV) after she appeared on the programme, and threatened to dump their shares if she was eliminated from the show.
Others also bought investment funds that own stock in the network, prompting money management platform Ant Fortune to publish a warning that the public should be cautious about buying Wang-related shares.
On short-video platform Douyin people also posted videos of their partners, mostly men now in their late thirties and forties, dancing and singing along with Wang.
“We didn’t have money to ‘fanboy’ when we were young, but now we have money and we can afford to help our idol top the charts,” one wrote, promising to deliver Wang to the finals.
Despite Wang’s popularity, the ratings for the latest season of the Sisters franchise have been a disappointment, however. Many complained that the live performances, usually a highlight of the show, were “lacklustre” and “boring” to watch.
“As a competition variety show, Sisters 3 so far has shown almost no worthy live acts,” one critic complained. “So many musically talented ‘sisters’ have not been able to produce any memorable work. It’s really a pity.”
The poor ratings have also been reflected in lower advertising revenues for the franchise. According to Blue Whale Media, the first season of Sisters hooked 13 advertisers, with sponsorship deals totalling around Rmb450 million ($68 million). By the time of the current season, however, the number of advertisers had dropped to just six, including domestic dairy brand Satine, as well as LUX and Dove.
Variety shows seem to have fallen out of favour as a genre so far this year. The number of views for the format in the first quarter of 2022 across all the streaming platforms was around 5.9 billion, compared with 8.8 billion during the same period last year.
Of the platforms broadcasting them, iQiyi was the hardest hit – in large part due to a milk-dumping scandal that forced the cancellation of its most popular idol competition – dropping from 3.4 billion views last year to 1.9 billion in the quarter.
Tencent Video, too, saw variety show viewership drop from 2.8 billion to 2.2 billion in the same period.
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