Jane Zhang (Chinese: 张靓颖; pinyin: Zhāng Liàngyǐng; born October 11, 1984) is a Chinese singer-songwriter. She is known for her signature whistle register and has been dubbed the "Dolphin Princess" (海豚公主). Zhang began performing as a teenager by singing in pubs to help earn money for her family. After signing with Huayi Brothers Media Corporation in 2005, Zhang released her first studio album, The One (2006). Her second album, Update, was released in 2007. Zhang's third studio album, Jane@Music, was released in 2009. Her fourth studio album, Believe in Jane, was released in 2010. In 2011, Zhang released her fifth studio album, Reform, which was certified double platinum by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI).
Zhang released her first English-language studio album Past Progressive in 2019.
Life and career
Zhang entered Sichuan University Foreign Language College for undergraduate studies in 2003. She began her singing career by winning third place at the Chinese singing contest, Super Girl, in 2005, and signed with Huayi Music the following year. Her 2006 debut studio album, The One, sold more than a million albums in China. Zhang's second studio album, Update, was released in 2007. Promoted by the success of her pop single "We said", Update became one of the best-selling albums of 2007 in China. In 2008 she released a song with Andrea Bocelli—"One World, One Dream", which was used for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. After signing with Universal Music Group in 2009, Zhang released her fourth studio album, Believe in Jane (2010), which included the successful single "If This Is Love". Her fifth studio album, Reform (2011), sold 80,000 copies within a month in China and was certified double platinum by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI). Her live album, Listen To Jane Z Live, was released in 2012 and achieved No. 1 in the Chinese music charts. In 2014 she signed with Sony Music Entertainment and released her sixth studio album, The Seventh Sense (2014), which incorporated songs from R&B and pop genres. Zhang's English-language song "Dust My Shoulders Off" was released in 2016 and became the background music for Hulu in the US.
In 2014, Zhang was a jury member at the 38th Montreal World Film Festival. In November 2017, she was invited to perform at a Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. She was the first Asian singer to perform songs that placed her in the top ten on the iTunes Instant List. In 2018, the World Tour Concert of "Jane's Secret" was held; the show ranked 45th in the US in single-event mobilization. In 2019 she released her first full English-language album Past Progressive simultaneously around the world.
Zhang has received many awards, including nine Beijing Pop Music Awards for Best Female Singer, two China Gold Record Awards, and an MTV Europe Music Award. She has been included in the annual Forbes China celebrity lists from 2006 to 2013. In 2016, Chengdu government documents announced her annual output value of 1.1 billion yuan.
1984–2004: Early life
Zhāng Liàngyǐng, known popularly as Jane Zhang, was born in Chengdu, Sichuan, on October 11, 1984. She took the English name "Jane" when she was at school, stating in an interview that she had "always liked the novel Jane Eyre" and paid homage to the novel in an EP. Her father, Zhang Huaqing (张华清), was a long-distance truck driver whose work frequently took him away from home; her mother, Zhang Guiying (张桂英), was a department-store assistant during that time. Zhang noted in an interview that "her parents divorced early did not realize the secret until years later". At the age of 15, Zhang's father died and "her mother was laid off from her job", so Zhang sang at a public bar to help support the family, adding to the 100 yuan per month she received from her late father's family. She told an interviewer in 2007 that she "lived in a bar for 6 years".
2004–2009: Career beginnings, The One, Update and Jane@Music, and soundtracks
In July 2004, Zhang won the "Chinese College Student Singer Competition", organized by Warner Music. In 2005 she won third place in the Chinese singing contest Super Girl. Although she did not win the competition, her voice still won her a huge following. A number of recording companies began to contact Zhang. Zhang finally chose to sign with Huayi Brothers Company and Hurray Company. Among them, Huayi Brothers are responsible for Zhang's traditional recording productions and promotion, and Hurray Company is responsible for her digital music marketing and promotion. Zhang began preparations for her first EP, Jane, Love, and the production team invited American musicians Denise Rich and Toby Gad to create singles for her. This EP has three songs, which were released in China on January 12, 2006. The EP has sold more than 500,000 copies in China.
In October 2006 Zhang sang the theme song "Only for Love" for the Chinese film The Banquet, joining hands with composer Tan Dun and pianist Lang Lang. Her first studio album The One was released in October 2006. The album was produced by Americans Craig Williams and Reid Hyams.
Zhang's second studio album, Update, was released in 2007 and contained R&B and jazz elements. It was a notable change from the Chinese pop genre that many expected from her.
In May 2008, Zhang was invited to perform in Tokyo. As part of Chinese President Hu Jintao's "warm spring" tour of Japan, Zhang performed at the residence of Japanese prime minister Yasuo Fukuda. China Daily commented that Zhang actively helped promote cultural understanding and friendship between the youth of both countries through her music.
Her trademark style is considered to be soft and heartbreaking love songs in songs prior to her third studio album, Jane@Music. Zhang has always been fascinated by live music and prefers singing live as opposed to recording in a studio. Jane@Music was released in January 2009 and includes more jazzy and faster songs. Subsequently, Zhang held a small concert at the Duo Music Exchange in Shibuya, Japan to promote the album. Zhang was invited to participate in The Oprah Winfrey Show to sing her album's title song "Celebrate" and "Impression of the West Lake" in front of an American audience.
2009–2015: Believe in Jane, Listen to Jane Z Live, The Seventh Sense and soundtracks
On November 2, 2009, Universal Music announced the signing of Zhang, at a press conference in Hong Kong. She stated she had no plans to further her career abroad and has focused on the Chinese market.
In February 2010, her fourth studio album Believe in Jane was released. On May 8, 2010, Zhang and Hong Kong singer Jacky Cheung, along with Somali rapper K'naan, original performer for the 2010 FIFA World Cup theme song, they are singing "Wavin' Flag" together at the Coca-Cola Pavilion at World Expo 2010 Shanghai. In August, she embarked on her first Believe in Jane Tour and travelled to Shanghai, Beijing, Tianjin, and Chengdu. In October 2010 she performed on Asia Song Festival in Seoul, South Korea.
On June 1, 2011, Zhang announced the release of her fifth studio album, Reform, stating that "more than 60 percent of the album ... can be labeled as typical Jane Zhang style". In China Daily, Han Bingbin and Qin Zhongwei wrote that the songs "cover a range of styles, from R&B to rock, hip-hop, and dance," that seven of the album's ten songs "were composed by US musicians" and that "a US postproduction team was involved to guarantee top quality". In addition, "Zhang wrote the lyrics for three songs, including one she composed herself". In the same year, she produced a single, "Summer of Love", for Chinese actor Yang Mi.
Listen to Jane Z Live is a live album recorded by Zhang in 2012 and produced by Jim Lee. At that time Zhang flew to Las Vegas to see Cirque du Soleil's The Beatles Love, which inspired her to release a live album that she rehearsed for in 11 days. Zhang's love for English songs also led to the original production, I Didn't Know, which showcased her wide vocal range.
In July 2014, Zhang announced she signed with Sony Music. Simultaneously, her sixth studio album The Seventh Sense was released. It took her two years to complete the 12-song album. The disc contains two English-language songs: "Get out of My Life" and "Unwind". She wrote the lyrics of "The Seventh Sense", the theme song and namesake of the new album, based on her experiences during the past nine years. This album is the first in the Chinese music industry to be explicitly related to Chinese fashion. Zhang collaborated with the fashion magazine Harper's Bazaar to hold a custom show of cross-border music and fashion and released the song "Bazaar".
2015–2019: Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, Past Progressive and Soundtracks
In the first half of 2015, Zhang participated in the Chinese music show I am a singer. She sang two English songs "Bang Bang" and "All of Me" on the show, which led to the spread of these two songs in China. John Legend, the singer of "All of Me" was invited to perform as a guest performer at the Bang the World Tour Chengdu concert. In the middle of the year, Paramount Pictures announced that Zhang sang the theme song "Fighting Shadows" with Big Sean for the American film Terminator Genisys. It was the first time that Zhang has recorded a song for an English-language film. On June 30, 2015, the song was released by Sony Music Entertainment in Asia while Def Jam Recordings released it in other parts of the world. In October 2015, Zhang and DJ Tiesto released Change Your World, the theme song of the 2015 Budweiser Storm Music Festival. Her 2015 Bang the World Tour was held to commemorate her singing career for a decade. The record company originally planned to record videos of the Beijing concert for the release of the DVD, but an accident occurred at the show: Zhang fell off from a two-meter round hollow of the elevator platform on the stage, which led to the tour's cancellation. Zhang was voted the Best World Act of the Asia region in the 2015 MTV Europe Music Awards. When she went to the award ceremony, she was told to stay backstage and accept the award there. Zhang and her team considered this treatment unfair and discriminatory, so they decided to officially pull out of the award's red carpet ceremony and all other EMA activities.
Zhang released "Dust My Shoulders Off", featuring Timbaland on October 14, 2016, as the lead single from her debut English-language studio album, Past Progressive. The single reached the top 10 on the US iTunes' songs chart. In November, Zhang released an English song "Battlefield" and its promotional music video for the Chinese-American co-production film The Great Wall. The song was composed by King Logan and PJ Morton and written by Josiah "JoJo" Martin and Zhang.
Zhang attended the annual Billboard Music Awards in Las Vegas on May 21, 2017. In October, she was invited to perform at the 2017 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show. This show premiered her English album's second single "Work for It" and the passionate dynamic song "808", and a short verse from "Dust My Shoulders Off". As the show aired around the world, the single "808" made the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs TOP 50 Chart for several consecutive weeks, reaching 23rd place at its highest.
On October 1, 2018, the Hong Kong government held fireworks display at the Victoria Harbour to mark the 69th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China. The fireworks show was supported by Zhang's song "My Dream", which has the theme of the "Chinese dream". With a "smiling face" and "love", Hong Kong people are encouraged to pursue their own dreams.
Past Progressive was released on April 27 to positive reviews. The album has a production cycle of up to five years. Zhang won the Best Female Singer Award at the Beijing Pop Music Awards by her performance on this album—the ninth time she won this award.