Foong Woei Wan
The Straits Times
October 9, 2016
Late in the onstage voting in the Sing! China final in Beijing's National Stadium, in plain sight of millions of viewers in China and beyond, things just weren't adding up.
As Singapore's Nathan Hartono, alias Xiang Yang, and China's Jiang Dunhao stood on huge flashing podiums on the stage, flanking an enormous scoreboard, judges - 81 of them, according to emcee Hua Shao - were casting star-shaped votes into two boxes below the finalists.
"42 to 37," Hua announced, as a live orchestra heightened the tension, cymbals and all. "Now we see Xiang Yang leading, but we see a considerable number of judges in front of Jiang Dunhao's voting machine."
Nine of them appeared in a line - but wait a minute, 79 votes had been counted, so shouldn't there be just two judges left?
But, oh, the drama! One of them, a man wearing a cap, had an apparent change of heart and crossed the stage to vote for Hartono - 43.
Another one, a woman in a pink coat behind him, defected to Hartono too - 44.
The score was 44-43 to Hartono, with three voters remaining at Jiang's box. Two voted for Jiang, as the count somehow became 45, 46, and 47.
The last one, a man wearing glasses and a cardigan, suddenly changed sides and cast the 45th and last vote for Hartono.
So this was how Jiang won the competition - with six onstage voters magically casting 10 votes for him, as well as a purported 56.7 per cent of the stadium audience supporting him - but had Hartono lost? No.
Because Sing! China is first and foremost a show - and a successful one that, in its finale, was a win-win for itself, Jiang and Hartono.
Think about it. For a contest at its level, Sing! China was always strangely silent on what exactly its contestants would win.
At the end of the final last Friday, Jiang received a plastic-looking trophy and a car-shaped token that, hopefully, will be redeemable at an actual car company. Honestly, it didn't look like much of a win.