Jessie J's bid to win a Chinese talent show is the best career move

The platinum selling pop singer recently signed up to compete in China’s Singer - a bizarre yet safe space in which she can be smothered in praise

Jessie J’s career launched with the bright embers of a blunt, fizzing away at the start of her debut video Do It Like a Dude. That song went platinum, as did her debut album, four times over. J quickly transformed into a household name, appearing as a judge on The Voice. But then things started to go tits up. Her second album was a relative flop and the press turned on her for being too full of herself. She complained that people didn’t “appreciate” her voice in the UK, and said she was going to move to the US where, she promised the Daily Mail in a 2014 interview, she was taken seriously as a singer.

That briefly worked, with Bang Bang, her collaboration with Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, becoming a huge hit. But while her fellow collaborators went on to better things, J’s career stalled again. To make up the difference, she signed up to a string of promotional deals, doing ads for McDonald’s, Cadbury Dairy Milk and Tuc cheese crackers.

But now, like Monica Gellar going to a beginners’ cookery class to feel better about a bad restaurant review, Jessie J has found a pop playing field where she can’t come last: appearing on Chinese singing competition Singer, not as a judge but as a contestant. The show sees singers who have already had music industry experience compete to stay for another week, but all the other contestants have only had success in the Chinese-speaking world.

On the show – which she signed up to because “there’s nothing I can’t do” – Jessie J has finally received the critical adulation she desires. Her performances, particularly a foghorn version of Whitney Houston’s I Have Nothing, have received superlative comments from the judges.

She is not the only star who, after struggling with negative press attention, has gone niche to find a more welcoming community who will celebrate them when others won’t. After heaping praise on Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the autocratic president of Turkey, Lindsay Lohan has apparently become adored among Turkish Islamists. Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan, who drew ire from the liberal music press after a series of odd political positions, including support for Donald Trump, found a warm welcome on Alex Jones’s conspiracy news network Infowars.

The truth is no one ever doubted Jessie’s vocal ability; it was unbearable earnestness and an astonishing lack of humility that made her hard to love (just a few weeks ago she tweeted; “Someone took a picture with me and asked ‘What side of yourself do you like the most’ I replied ‘The inside’.”). By going on a show that is all about the singing and not about actually being a charismatic pop star, she has finally found a place where she can be smothered in praise.


Sam Wolfson

The GuardianTramp

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