January 16, 2015 – Death of Chinese singer Yao Beina

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Yao Beina

Yao Beina

Yao Beina (26 September 1981 – 16 January 2015), also known as Bella Yao, was a Chinese singer. She participated in Chinese Young Singer Championship in 2008 and won the champion of the pop singing group. She was known as the singer of the theme songs of Empresses in the PalacePainted Skin: The Resurrection and Back to 1942. She also sang the pop version of Let It Go in Mandarin Chinese in the Disney CGI film, Frozen for the Mandarin Chinese dub when the film was released in China. She competed in The Voice of China television reality show.

Yao was born to a family of musicians on 26 September 1981 in Wuhan. Her father, Yao Feng, was the former chairman of the Shenzhen Association of Musicians and now serves as the vice chairman of Guangdong Association of Musicians. But at the time of the birth of Yao Beina, he was an assistant professor at the Wuhan Conservatory of Music.

Under the supervision of her parents, she started to take piano lessons at the age of 4. At the age of 6, according to her father, she could precisely tell the note of each key on the piano and sing it out. Eventually she was qualified as a Grade 10 piano player, which is the highest qualification level in China. Her first recording for the local TV station took place at the age of 9, after her father discovered her unique voice when she was singing the national anthem. She continued to sing for galas on the local TV channels as a child star through her teenage years.

Yao worked for four years in the Naval Political Department of the Song and Dance Troupe of the People’s Liberation Army, after graduating from the acclaimed China Conservatory of Music in 2005. During her servicing in the Troupe, she won the champion in Chinese Young Singer Championship.

When singing “The Spring River” on New Year’s Eve Gala of 2011, she combined Tibetan folk style with rock to sing this Chinese folk song, finishing with a G5 note that lasted 7.7 seconds.

She rose to prominence after winning the Chinese Young Singer TV competition Championship in 2008 with the first full mark in history. She performed on the stage of Beijing Olympic Games Closing Ceremony.

In 2009, she left the Troupe and signed with a label called Yuècháo Yīnshàng. After giving her first concert in Shenzhen in 2010, she released her first album named after herself, Yao Beina. The songs, mainly composed by herself, received widespread praise. She impressed Liu Huan and got the opportunity to sing the theme song of the TV series Empresses in the Palace.

Yao became well known to the public after she made a series of songs for the hit drama Empresses in the Palace, in 2012. In the same year, Yao was invited by the director Feng Xiaogang to sing the theme song “The River of The Life” of the film Back to 1942. She sang “Love in the Painting” for Painted Skin: The Resurrection, the highest grossing domestic film in China. As of 2012, she has made songs for 60 TV dramas and films, and performed twice in CCTV New Year’s Galas in 2007 and 2010.

Yao returned to CCTV Young Singer TV Competition as the youngest judge of this music show in 2013. In the same year, she released her new album Half of Me. All of songs in this album topped Baidu Music Chart, making her the No.1 Mandopop Female Singer on Baidu Music. According to the sales and reputation of the album, Yao attained the title “the best female vocalist” on MusicRadio China TOP Charts Awards. She was the first pop solo vocalist performing the finale of CCTV New Year’s Gala.

Yao gradually accumulated her fame for singing theme songs of Empresses in the PalacePainted Skin: The Resurrection and Back to 1942. She was the designated singer of the Mandarin version of Let It Go (at the end of the movie) for the Disney film Frozen. She competed in The Voice of China television reality show. Yao’s performance caused an Internet sensation that led to her almost-overnight popularity with the No.1 Internet Searched pop star in the Baidu and Sina Weibo.

Yao was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2011.

In September 2013, Yao was invited to become the image ambassador for China Pink Ribbon Campaign, which aims to raise awareness of breast cancer. As a breast cancer survivor, she was considered the most suitable candidate for the post.

In December 2014, Yao had a recurrence of the cancer and her situation was reported to have worsened on 15 January 2015. She died a day later in Shenzhen, Guangdong, aged 33. According to her wishes, her corneas were donated to two recipients in Shenzhen and Chengdu.

Memorial services were held on 20 January. Her first posthumous album, “Eternal”, was produced by Liu Chia-chang.

Her ashes were interred on 4 September in the Shimenfeng Memorial Park of her place of birth, the city of Wuhan, China, prior to the release of her second posthumous album “Born Proud”, which was still under production at the time of her death. It was released on what would have been her 34th birthday (26 September 2015) and the celebration of her homecoming. The album was listed as one of the best selling albums in the year list of Jingdong Mall.

Her posthumous single, “Glory”, was released on 16 January 2016 (the one-year anniversary of her death), peaking at No.2 on the QQ Music New Single Chart.

On April 12, 2019, coach Liu Huan sung a medley of three songs dedicated to Yao, on the finals of the seventh season of Singer; his performance was received praise from the panel of audience, and eventually won the competition with over 60% of the votes cast.

Tony Simon

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