Jane Zhang also known as Zhang Liangying (simplified Chinese: 张靓颖; traditional Chinese: 張靚穎; pinyin: Zhāng Liàngyǐng, (born October 11, 1984) is a Chinese pop singer where she came to prominence after her third-place performance in the 2005 season of the Super Girl contest, a national all-female singing competition in the People's Republic of China. Throughout the competition, she sang in English, Spanish and Cantonese in addition to Mandarin Chinese.
She was given the nickname "The Dolphin Princess" during the competition for her ability to sing in the whistle register. She was given this nickname because Chinese musicians refer to the whistle register as the dolphin vocal sound due to the similarities between the pitch of the dolphin and the whistle register.
Zhang's debut album was titled The One and was produced by Craig Williams. Her next album, Update, broke away from the Chinese pop scene by combining elements of R&B and jazz. After the release of Update, Zhang participated in a World Peace One concert that was designed to increase awareness and activism for world peace, and to raise funds for humanitarian relief. Other participating artists included U2, Madonna, Pink Floyd and Green Day.
Zhang was born in Chengdu, Sichuan. Her father was an engine attendant for a transportation company in Chengdu, and her mother was a shop assistant. During her childhood, she performed at her parents' workplace on several occasions. However, her parents divorced when she was 13; two years later, Zhang's father died. This forced her to work outside of school; she started to sing at a local public house, where her uncle played the accompaniments.
While performing at the pub, Zhang was exposed to a wide variety of music genres, and developed a taste for American country singers in addition to Western pop singers, such as Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera. Because she was unable to afford her own music players, Zhang frequently borrowed walkmans and headphones from her classmates, and skipped lunches to save enough money for cassettes. After graduating from college, she studied at Sichuan University's Foreign Language Department where she was majoring in English; she dropped out soon after to compete in the 2005 Super Girl competition.
2005: Super Girl competition
Zhang auditioned for the Super Girl contest in 2005. Super Girl is the Chinese equivalent to the popular Idol franchise where only female contestants were allowed to participate. She auditioned in Chengdu, and after progressing through the preliminary rounds, she entered the national competition with Li Yuchun and He Jie.
Throughout the series, she had established a fan base whose members called themselves "Liang Fen", a phrase that combined the Chinese pronunciation of her name and the English word "fan." The term "Liang Fen" originated from Hong Kong years ago, but is now used to define a particular type of bean jelly snack in central China.
Zhang demonstrated her ability to sing in foreign languages, with performances of "I Still Believe," "What's Up," "Beautiful," and "Don't Cry for Me Argentina." As such, she was recognized by judges, critics and musicians to be the most talented singer in this competition. Some critics even regarded her as one of China's best artists. Nevertheless, she was not the most popular contestant among young supporters. Her final number of votes by text messaging was 1.3 million. Consequently, she placed third behind Li Yuchun and Zhou Bichang. Her loss did not come as a shock because Li and Zhou had garnered more popularity during the competition. Their creative eccentricity and tomboyish appearances triumphed over Zhang's "old, introverted, [and] pretty-girl" image.
Zhang, a spinto soprano, has been compared with other whistle register masters such as Mariah Carey, Christina Aguilera and Sarah Brightman. Her vocal ability ranges from the D below middle C to the G above soprano C that was demonstrated in her rendition of Minnie Riperton's "Lovin' You" when she was performing on Super Girl. As such, she has been given the nickname "The Dolphin Princess" as Chinese musicians refer to the whistle register as the dolphin vocal sound.