Who Is Jane Zhang, and Why Is She in the Top 10 on iTunes?
Take a quick look at the Top 10 on iTunes at the moment, and you'll see the usual suspects: The Chainsmokers, The Weeknd, Bruno Mars. But there's another name floating in the bunch — and it's a bit of a shocker: Jane Zhang, whose "Dust My Shoulders Off" featuring Timbaland, is currently sitting at the No. 8 spot.
Before the onslaught of "Who?" comments from trolls comes rolling in, this is a preemptive explainer.
Jane Zhang is a Chengdu-born 32-year-old Chinese pop singer, who initially rose to fame after competing in 2005's Super Girl, a massively popular all-girl TV singing competition. Seriously, it was gigantic: by the finale, 400 million people were tuning in.
She placed third overall among the staggering 120,000 people who auditioned, singing songs like Mariah Carey's "Hero" and Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful." Although she didn't ultimately claim victory, her impressive voice still won her a huge following once the show ended.
Jane is an incredibly gifted singer: for perhaps the most impressive evidence of her vocal prowess, look no further than her jaw-dropping, scale-hopping rendition of the "Diva Dance" from The Fifth Element. (She's earned the nickname "The Dolphin Princess" for her amazing whistle register. Just watch.)
Jane's popularity only escalated after the show, resulting in a debut album called The One in 2006, featuring tracks recorded in both Mandarin and English, co-crafted by US producers Craig Williams and Reid Hyams. A year later, she released a follow-up, Update, and helped to record songs for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
By 2009, Oprah Winfrey was introducing Jane to the stage of The Oprah Winfrey Show for an incredibly rare performance from a Chinese artist on American television — in front of a seemingly impressed Simon Cowell, no less.
She's released several more studio albums, notched double-digit hit singles and won several prestigious awards ever since, including Best Female Artist at 2013's Top Chinese Music Awards (generally considered the Chinese Grammys) and Worldwide Act at last year's MTV EMAs.
And now, it seems, she's poised for a global takeover...with the help of someone who knows something about producing a smash.
Two years ago, Timbaland posted a photo with Jane in the studio on Facebook.
"Ohhhh im about to fk the world up with this one! My New artist from China! Her name is Jane, and she is INCREDIBLE!!!!!! Dont believe me just watch!" he wrote. (This wouldn't be the first time Timba worked with a crossover act from Asia, either: Japanese superstar Utada Hikaru also linked up with him back in 2004 for her US debut Exodus, and Indonesia's Agnez Mo recruited Timbaland for her "Coke Bottle" in 2014.)
And now, as of this month, there's this: "Dust My Shoulders Off," the first taste of Jane's forthcoming English-language debut.
The fresh and breezy, feel-good ode to sh-sh-shaking off the blues, gliding across folk-y harmonies recalling Oh Land and Timba and Jim Beanz's knocking hip-hop beats, really doesn't sound like anything on radio right now.
"The world keeps spinning, life goes on and on / I won't cry for long," she confidently croons across the quirky and carefree production, shrugging off all of life's little inconveniences.
It's no secret that breaking into the American market in a big way is still an all-but-impossible feat for any Asian act — from any country. (Sad, but true.)
We're inching there at a snail's pace with acts like Utada and CL, and BTS just notched the highest Korean-language debut on the Billboard 200 yet this week, but to to see Jane riding high on the Top 10 out of nowhere is an absolute unexpected delight: it's not only a massive victory for C-Pop, but for the Asian music market as a whole.
Here's hoping this is only the start of Jane's US success story.
For more of Jane for the newly initiated, check out some of her most well-known songs and performances below.