Meet the Genuine G.E.M. — "I Feel the Same Way as Everyone Else."
Most people would have heard Gloria Tang, or G.E.M.'s (acronym for Get Everybody Moving), powerful vocals long before they met her, which would have been in 2014. Tang sang a career-defining song of "Like You," or "Hei Foon Nei" (in Cantonese), by now-defunct Hong Kong rock band Beyond at the second season finale of the Chinese singing competition-reality show "I Am a Singer." Despite finishing as the competition's first runner-up, her popularity greatly outstripped the show's winner, Han Lei. Tang's season finale video earned approximately 10 million views on YouTube, and her music video for the same song had 71 million.
That was the impetus that catapulted her to fame. The night she won the competition began her journey beyond Hong Kong into China, the rest of Asia, and even the rest of the world. For the 27-year-old, this was only the beginning of a life she had no idea she was longing for. Tang's career, like Rome, did not happen overnight.
She began creating songs when she was five years old. She made my first whole song when I was 13 years old. She's youthful and effervescent, and her presence is as glitzy as her Ralph Lauren gown. She clearly knows how to command the space.
Before singing the first few words of the song she created based on a TVB (Hong Kong-based television broadcasting company) show she had watched, she recalls the lyrics of the first song she penned.
Tang grew up in a musical family, with her grandmother teaching Bel Canto, a classical opera style, and her mother graduating from the opera faculty at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.
Tang grew up listening to her mother and grandma sing. Her grandma would instruct while she sat by her side, and her mother would play the piano. She believes she learned more from my grandma since she thinks she is a better singer than my mother.
Tang began taking piano lessons when she was four years old. Tang spent her after-school hours practicing or singing at karaoke clubs (more generally known as KTVs), where she spent most of her weekends. Her tracks, including "Bubbles" and her cover of Taiwanese band Mayday's "You Are Not Truly Happy," have become KTV staples. Tang's lyrics, like Adele's, are filled with emotion and vulnerability — a sense that Mandopop karaoke fans are familiar with.
Tang was recruited as a singer when he was 15 and entered and won first place in a singing competition called "Spice it Up." Tang stated that becoming a singer is not a pipe dream. She used to think the people she watched on television were false, as if they weren't real people, and then she became one of those individuals she felt were fake.
But once she became "one of them," she realized that life remained the same. "We're still enjoying life as it is," Tang explained. "There will always be things in life that frustrate you." For example, you still glance in the mirror and ask yourself, 'Wow, why are my black eye bags so large?' 'How did I get so heavy?' "I, like everyone else, am frustrated."
Tang's approach to dealing with heartbreaks, which she thinks is the same for any lady out there, originates from a strong and positive outlook. But, on the other hand, Tang has another outlet for her suffering, one that turns out to be her most significant source of inspiration and creation: her emotional struggle produces songs like "Bubbles."
Of course, sadness is not the sole "inspiration" for songwriting. "When inspiration strikes, anything can be a source of inspiration," Tang added. Songwriting, like cooking, allows her to immortalize special, vivid events and emotions for when she's old. "You don't have to follow that recipe," Tang explained. Instead, you can rely on your judgment. 'Why is it so salty?' you wonder as you eat. You will use less salt the following time. It's entirely up to your discretion."
Tang sees no boundary between work and play, and she appreciates the flexibility of her schedule. She is free to do anything she likes or rest when she is tired but to manage such freedom, she must develop discipline and self-control. After all, it's a chore she can quickly master, especially because music is as natural to her as breathing.
When you meet her, her enthusiasm for music is one of the most obvious, if not the most profound, takeaways. It's her method of "spreading love," she explains, drawing an interesting parallel. "Someone needs a tissue, so you offer him one, and he wipes his mucous away." He'd be grateful, and you'd suddenly feel happier because of your modest deed – you helped with something so minor that only you could do it at the time. "It's truly as simple as that," Tang explained.
In exchange, music has taken her places and given her many gifts. Tang recorded a Chinese theme song for the science-fiction thriller "Passengers," starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt, in 2016. The song video has received over 184 million views on YouTube and has been viewed over 1 billion times on the Chinese music streaming service KuGou. That same year, she was the only Asian musician to make the Forbes 30 Under 30 list. She also had the opportunity to voice a starring character in the animated feature "Charming" with Demi Lovato and Avril Lavigne. In 2017, she launched her debut documentary, "G-Force," which covers the tale of her life.
Tang made history when she sang at the NASA Breakthrough Prize Awards as the first Chinese vocalist to do so. She was also chosen as one of the BBC's 100 Women and the only Chinese woman on the list. Tang also inspired Stan Lee, the late creator of Marvel, with a new superhero, Jewel: a world-tour music sensation by day and a superhero in disguise by night. Similarly, Lee inspired Tang through his films, through characters such as Spiderman, who made her feel like a superhero since the "I was born to do this" moments in the movies spoke to her.
Tang is just 27 years old, yet she already boasts a record of accomplishments that few of her contemporaries can match. As a result, she's been branded "Asia's Taylor Swift." On the other hand, Tang admires Beyoncé's singing and dance style, but she grew up listening to renowned Taiwanese singer Jay Chou.
She does not rest on her laurels. "Everyone will notice me as I develop my own music brand," Tang added. She wants to do numerous things, but they all come back to the same goal — which is why she enjoys composing music in the first place. Its purpose is to "Get Everyone Moving." Tang uses her stage name, G.E.M., to inspire people to move and dance along to her music and also to move in life – she sees it as a sort of encouragement. Tang is currently concentrating on growing her investment firm, which she founded in 2015; its most recent initiative involves a DNA testing startup.
Tang shows no signs of slowing down, but she does examine what motivates her. To Tang, topping the music charts, holding concerts, and constantly promoting new ideas only sometimes imply success. And she remembers her mother's words of wisdom: "All that incoming attention shouldn't even be your driving force in life."
Tang's celebrity has grown exponentially in the last five years. "If you constantly pursue the world's definitions of success, you will rapidly grow tired of it." You'll quickly lose your motivation. It's as if you discovered your halo too soon. And that halo will never stick with you for long. You need to reframe your perspective on life: What constitutes success? At this point, success means understanding yourself and manifesting your best version.
So, who is she at her best? "You will feel motivated if you can use every minute and second of your life to provide happiness, love, or anything to others." And that will be the best type of existence," Tang said.