The mummy returns
PHYSICALITY and flamboyance aren't words you'd normally associate with Singaporean Mandopop queen Stefanie Sun.
Much like fellow individualistic songbirds Faye Wong and Deserts Chang, the 35-year-old's unique, distinctive vocals have always been her biggest selling point. At her peak in the early 2000s, she could command full-capacity crowds, all the while decked out in casual get-ups and just holding a microphone.
Yet, the amount of prep work the mum - who took a three-year hiatus to get married and have a son - has got herself into ahead of her ongoing concert tour and new album, Kepler, reads more like the labour-intensive schedule of dancing divas Jolin Tsai and Elva Hsiao.
Kepler will be available in stores and via iTunes on Feb 27.
Is this the pixie-faced singer's bid to reclaim her throne?
The last memorable occasion in which Sun danced dates back nearly a decade - after the release of her upbeat, groovy anthem, Green Light, when she picked up Irish tap dancing to perform the song at her concerts. Still, it was more a novelty item than anything.
This time round, in preparation for her concert tour, Sun is treating the dance component as a necessity.
China Daily reported last month that she has been "consistently putting in 10 hours a day, seven days a week, on dance practice", under the tutelage of famed Hong Kong choreographer Sunny Wong, who previously worked with the likes of Hong Kong superstars Aaron Kwok and Andy Lau.
Over the weekend, she danced to four fast numbers at the debut leg of her tour at Taipei Arena. She was even lifted by two male dancers to execute a somersault at one point.
While her efforts are to be lauded, fans are having mixed reactions to Sun's desire to turn into a dancing machine.
"I like her for her songs and innate charm, the dancing doesn't matter at all," said Ms Kelly Ng, 31, a planning analyst.
One of the most famous moments in sci-fi flick The Matrix was protagonist Neo executing his epic mid-air back flips.
According to Sun's record label, Universal Music, that was the visual effect they hoped to achieve when filming the music video for title track Kepler.
She was suspended by wires from her waist one storey above the ground.
The scene alone took over 20 takes and the label said that, by the end of the shoot, Sun's rib cage and groin area were "aching very badly" and she "managed to ease the pain only by doing some yoga moves".
Her fans certainly welcome her attempts to challenge her physical limits.
"Maybe she's trying to do a little more to shed the 'mumsy image'," said Ms Sally Poh, 31, a game producer.
SPARKLE & SHIMMER
Most of Sun's past music videos, like Unforgettable and Begin To Understand, are grounded in reality - nothing fanciful, no outrageous make-up, no over-the-top costumes.
For Kepler's music video, brace yourself for scenes in which Sun has her entire body covered in glitter.
According to website Sina Entertainment, the director wanted a "futuristic theme", but the response from netizens has been mixed, with some loving Sun's shimmery new look and others dissing it as "too scary".
As for Sun, well, she had a tough time washing away all that glitter.
"I had to shower so many times, one layer of my skin almost came off," she said in a Universal Music press release.
Also, for the first time in her showbiz career, Sun donned a cool, black clip-on ear accessory. Fans would know that she has never once worn earrings, be it for album promotional pictures or at her concerts.
Her bright orange wig at her Taipei concert raised eyebrows too. However, Ms Ng defended Sun's choice of a different image, saying: "I like it that she's trying new things with her appearance."