Inside the Superstar Life of the ‘Taylor Swift of China’

A 24-year-old pop star is being hailed as the Taylor Swift of China. She writes her own music about boys and breakups and is currently on her first North American tour.

Chinese singer and songwriter G.E.M., whose name stands for “Get Everybody Moving,” is a pop icon in Hong Kong and mainland China with over 23 million followers on Chinese social media platform Weibo. She also has over 2 million followers on her Instagram account.

The Shanghai native, whose real name is Gloria Tang Tsz-kei, began her musical journey at the age of 13 when she wrote her first song about a schoolgirl crush.

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The talented young woman is not the only gifted musician in her family. G.E.M.’s uncle was a star at the violin, her mom an expert pianist, and her grandfather a saxophone player.

G.E.M. explained her love for music:

“I think music is a way of expressing yourself and is a language itself.”

G.E.M.’s style of music is unique in that she blends soulful Chinese music with Western sounds. She told Vice:

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“I listen to a lot of Western music so this is one of the biggest influences in my music, but at the same time I have a root in Chinese. I think to make my music unique is to actually combine the two.”

G.E.M.’s choice of musical style caught the eye of her record label, Hummingbird Music, nine years ago at a local school singing contest. Tan Chang, her manager, sat on the judge’s panel for the competition called Spice It Up and discovered G.E.M. when she was 16 years old.

Chang was impressed by the aspiring artist’s music, which she had written herself, he recalled:

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“She was the only one who brought her own song. Not only did she sing the song really well, but she brought a song that she wrote and it was in English. She was young and I saw that she had passion in music.”

After G.E.M. signed on with Hummingbird Music, her manager flew her to Los Angeles to record her songs. “Bubble” was her first big song in mainland China that landed a top spot in the Chinese market in 2014.

G.E.M. said: “It was actually my first time visiting New York. Yeah and I just all of a sudden bought a ticket and then came to New York myself. Yeah then I wrote the song. It was initially a way of expressing all my tears and hurt and stuff out [after a bad breakup]. I was pretty much saying love is like a bubble: If you see it through, it’s supposed to be broken.”

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Her 74-date world tour is expected to earn an estimated $160 million, Chang told CNBC.

According to Chang, the pop artist performed to a packed audience of 30,000 people in one night in Beijing recently. Her tour, which began in China, included performances in New Zealand, Australia, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore.

G.E.M. is looking to break into the Western market beginning with her North American tour debuting her new music video “Goodbye” that was filmed in a remodeled wood-paneled loft in Los Angeles.

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