Singapore is a melting pot of migrants sharing different cultures and languages. Unlike other countries with huge populations, it may seem difficult to find talents on a tiny island of five over million people. Also, there are not enough people of the same culture to support Singapore talents locally - for instance, a singer who sings in Tamil, or even in Mandarin (the biggest ethnic group in Singapore), may not gather enough fans locally. But, they could break into other indigenous markets, such as India, Taiwan, or even Japan. In this post, we share some of the famous singers in Singapore you should know.
1. Dick Lee
Dick Lee is the first well-known Singapore singer-songwriter who gained recognition for his work locally, in Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. He auditioned for a talent show on television produced by cable radio station Rediffusion in 1972 and never looked back on a music career that saw its ups and downs.
His debut album “Life Story” was a bomb, but the discouragement did not prevent him from producing more works. He eventually found success “Life in the Lion City” in 1984. In the 1990s, Lee moved to Japan to develop a new Asian identity through his solo work and also collaborated and wrote songs for top Asian artists such as Tracy Huang, Sandy Lam, Leslie Cheung, and the Japanese group Zoo. His 1991 “Asia Major Happy New Year Tour” sold out in five Japanese cities and the following year, the Los Angeles Times described him as the first Asian pop artist to hit the charts all around the Pacific at the same time.
His album, “Transit Lounge”, released by Sony Music, won both praises from critics and fans. During that time, he was also the regional vice-president of Artiste and Repertoire for Sony Music Asia based in Hong Kong from 1998 to 2000. Lee has done it all - he’s a writer, composer, singer, director, producer, clothing designer, talent agency owner, and restaurateur.
2. Kit Chan
Kit Chan is one of the first singer-songwriters in Singapore who broke into the Taiwan market. She released her first Chinese album in 1994 titled “Heartache” into the Taiwanese market and it was a success, winning her fans both in Taiwan and Singapore. It was followed by other successful albums: Liking You, Dazzling and Worried.
She performed in parts of Asia, the United States, South Korea, and New Zealand. Besides singing, she is well-known for her acting and vocals in theatrical works, especially Hong Kong musical “Snow.Wolf.Lake” with Jacky Cheung. Chan played Teresa Teng in another Hong Kong musical, “The Legend”. She also portrayed Empress Ci Xi, in “The Forbidden City - Portrait of an Empress” in Singapore in the 1990s.
Chan celebrated her 25th anniversary as a single with an acoustic live sessions album in 2018. She also staged “25 Years On: A Time for Everything” concerts in Singapore and Taipei.
3. Stephanie Sun
Stephanie Sun is perhaps the first mega Mandarin pop star from Singapore. She rose to fame with her debut album “Yan Zi” in 2000. The album won her a Golden Melody Award (the Chinese equivalent of the Grammy Awards) for Best New Artist. She released her eighth studio album in 2004, which clinched her the Golden Melody Award for Best Mandarin Female Singer.
Sun sold more than 30 million records, achieving popularity in China, Taiwan, and the Chinese-speaking world. She gained fame through pop but also experimented with folk, rock, and more. She continues to challenge herself and take creative risks.
4. Tanya Chua
Tanya Chua began her singing career singing in 1997 with her debut English album “Bored”. She released her first self-titled Mandarin album in 1999 with her second English album “Luck”. She also produced and wrote for other Mandarin pop stars such as Gigi Leung, producing her 2004 album “Belongingness”. She won her first Best Mandarin Female Singer Melody Award in 2005 with “Amphibian”.
Chua won her fourth Best Mandarin Female Singer trophy at the Golden Melody Awards in 2022. She became the singer with the most wins in this category, wining her tie-break with three-time winner A-mei from Taiwan. She bagged four wins out of eight nominations at the Golden Melody Awards in 2022.’
During her acceptance speech, Chua said that when she entered the music scene, she only knew how to sing English songs. She had to flip through the dictionary when she embarked on singing Mandarin songs. She said her first win for Best Mandarin Female Singer at the Golden Melody Awards kept her going in her career.
5. JJ Lin
JJ Lin is one of the few male Mandopop stars from Singapore. He became famous for his award-winning 2003 debut album “Music Voyager”. The album won him the Best New Artist recognition at the 2003 Golden Melody Awards. His popularity continues to soar with songs like “No. 89757” and “Cao Cao”. He cemented his pop star status with albums like 2008’s “Sixology”, 2015’s “From M.E. to Myself, and 2017’s Message in a Bottle”.
Lin is well-liked at home and in the Mandarin-speaking world for his original compositions ranging from rock songs, and electronic bops to sweet ballads. He has also written for other singers like A-Mei, A-do, and Eason Chan. He has won the Best Mandarin Male Singer category twice at the Golden Melody Awards.
Inspired by our local singer-songwriters? You can also train yourself in your musical aspirations. Take a trial class singing class and learn to play a musical instrument at our Sing and Play program.