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Sat, Feb 21, 2009
The New Paper
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No success in next 3 years? Then I'm out
by Tan Kee Yun

SHE was the runner-up of Singapore's inaugural Mandarin singing talent competition Project SuperStar.

But Kelly Poon has no delusions about fame.

'I might never be a superstar,' she said, shrugging her shoulders in resignation, during a recent interview with The New Paper.

'Everyone has a different fate. Some people become famous overnight, but perhaps I was meant to take a tougher, longer road in my career.

'There are definitely ups and downs, I can't gripe about it. I'll just work hard, let nature take its own course and hopefully, good results will come my way.'

The spunky 25-year-old got her big break in showbiz in 2005 when she finished second to Kelvin Tan in Project SuperStar. She won a recording deal with Universal Music.

However, it has been a bumpy ride so far for the former Singapore Airlines (SIA) flight stewardess.

Her debut album, Love Me, Kelly, released shortly after Project SuperStar wrapped up, was a huge success, hitting platinum sales (above 15,000 copies) in Singapore.

But the tide turned with her second album, In The Heart Of The World, released in September 2007. It failed to generate the same buzz as her first, and sales fell short of expectations.

In contrast, Kelvin's star seems to shine brighter.

He held his debut concert in April 2006 at Max Pavilion, in front of a 5,000-strong audience.

More recently, he had the honour of singing at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Paralympic Games, held in Qingdao, China.

Failure is a sensitive topic, but Kelly isn't afraid to be candid about it.

'My second album did not do well partly because the hype from the competition (Project SuperStar) had died down,' she said.

But she has not given up.

Smiling Kelly, her third full-length album, was released late last year in Taiwan and Singapore.

She admitted it could be the turning point in her career - either for the better, or it could be her swansong.

'I'm giving myself another three years in the music industry. It's a reality that I'm not getting any younger and I need to start earning enough money to help support my family.'

Dad is the sole breadwinner, while mum's a housewife. Kelly has a younger sister, who is studying.

'If my present career still doesn't work out after three years of hard work, I have to face the cold, hard truth of finding another job.'

Stewardess again?

Her plans include joining shipbroking (she has a diploma in marine transportation management from Singapore Polytechnic), or becoming a flight stewardess again.

Did her waning popularity here force her to shift her focus to Taiwan, investing most of her promotional efforts for Smiling Kelly there?

She explained: 'Focusing on the Taiwanese market is a natural move for me, because it's the 'headquarters' of Chinese music, where all the popular variety shows, as well as music channels, are.

'I get maximum exposure there by appearing on a lot of live programmes and talkshows.'

A spokesman for Universal Music Singapore said that the company 'leaves decisions as such to Kelly herself'.

Mr Anthony Png, 41, founder and principal vocal instructor of music school Music Story, and one of the judges on Project SuperStar, feels it will definitely be 'sad' if she decides to quit singing.

He said: 'I remember after the competition (Project SuperStar), Kelly was the super idol of so many girls working in Singapore Airlines.

'I know some of them who had put up a poster of Kelly in their locker rooms, and how all of them dreamt of following in her footsteps one day.'

Mr Png feels Lady Luck has not been kind to Kelly and it could be due to the environment she is in.

'The Taiwan and Singapore markets are one of the toughest for a singer to crack, especially in Singapore...

'Look at Kelly's fellow contestant on Project SuperStar, Vincy Chan. She only made it to the Top 24, but shortly after being ousted, she returned to her hometown Hong Kong and was signed by Emperor Entertainment Group (one of the biggest music labels there).'

Another judge on Project SuperStar and Kelly's former singing instructor, Mr Roy Loy Fei Huei, 43, is not surprised by Kelly's 'practical decision'.

'She is a mature, responsible girl who always puts her family first, so... I kind of saw it coming that she will give herself a time frame in this industry,' he said.

Mr Loy, a producer-songwriter and creative director of his own music school Focus Music, said he hopes Kelly will wait it out a while.

'If she puts in effort and diligence into improving herself as an artiste, I believe she eventually will achieve the success that has been eluding her.'

He feels it is 'unfair' to compare Kelly and Kelvin as 'both are totally different in terms of musical style'.

'Kelvin may seem to be more popular, but that might be because he attracts a lot of older folks, the mum-and-dad generation who like his way of singing,' said Roy.

Music fans we spoke to said they were surprised at Kelly's revelation.

Said Miss Ng Kai Kai, 26, a planning analyst with an engineering firm: 'I will definitely be disappointed should that happen, because she has a really lovely voice.'

Miss Fam Wee Wei, 26, a human resources professional, feels that Kelly 'certainly has the talent' but compared to artistes such as Stefanie Sun, 'somehow, she does lack the X-factor'.

'There are many people who can sing, but it doesn't guarantee them fame,' she said.

'I guess Kelly has to find the special element that will make her appealing to more fans.'

Kelly is grateful to the local fans who have stuck by her.

'My Singapore fans have been supporting me all this while, they haven't 'disappeared', even though I've been away in Taiwan for sometime,' she said.

She did a campus gig at Ngee Ann Polytechnic on 5 Feb. She admitted that she was initially 'worried' about attendance.

'I was anxious and for a moment, the thought did cross my mind, what if nobody turns up? Or maybe, there would only be like, 10, 20 people?' she said, chuckling.

Her fears were unfounded. She played to a packed crowd. Some of her fans even sang along with her and would chip in to help when she fumbled with the lyrics.

She said: 'I really felt touched that day.

'People always comment on how passive Singaporeans are as audiences, how they're not as warm as the Taiwanese and Hong Kongers.

'But I've witnessed their enthusiasm and I know once they begin to enjoy the music, they can be fun too!'

This article was first published in The New Paper.

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