Kelvin Tan Wei Lian (陈伟联) is a blind Singaporean Mandopop singer who earned a living as a busker before he won the first edition of Project SuperStar in 2005. He has released three albums, All I Want Is... (2006), i-Weilian (2007) and Moving Notes...Kelvin Tan (2009). Other highlights of his career include a solo concert at the Singapore Expo, leading a choir at the 2008 Summer Paralympics and singing the NDP 2009 theme song.
Born blind due to Leber's congenital amaurosis (which causes the retina to disintegrate), Tan grew up listening to 1980s Mandopop ballads, which inspired him to learn to play the piano and guitar. He studied at the Singapore School for the Visually Handicapped and Dunearn Secondary School. After his O Levels, he worked as a massage therapist and a singer at a cafe. He also busked at Jurong East and Waterloo Street, playing his guitar and singing Mandopop ballads for two to eight hours per day. According to The New Paper reporter Mindy Tan, his performances drew large crowds (including Malays and Indians), some of whom were so "impressed [by] his music" that they would "sit on the pavement nearby for up to an hour listening to him".
Tan and four blind friends auditioned for the inaugural season of Project SuperStar, but only he was accepted as a contestant. Throughout the competition, there was extensive debate over whether viewers were voting for him out of sympathy and whether a blind man who could not dance deserved the title. Further controversy arose when his home address was posted online and fans offered him sex services. Nevertheless, he emerged as the male champion and entered the grand final against female champion Kelly Poon. The judges gave Poon more favourable reviews, but Tan garnered 64% of the 533,000 telephone votes. Both finalists also released limited edition singles; Tan's cover of 童话 (Fairytale) by Michael Wong sold 12,239 copies, while Poon's cover of 遗失的美好 (Lost Goodness) by Angela Chang sold 11,319 copies. Thus Tan became the grand champion and was awarded a recording contract with Play Music (later acquired by Warner Music).
His debut album 我只是想要 (All I Want Is...), which contains four original songs and ten covers, was certified platinum in Singapore within five days of its release. Its title track topped the Singapore music charts in February 2006, while another of its songs, 触摸 (Touch), won Best Theme Song at the 2006 Star Awards. In total, the album sold 45,000 copies in Singapore and 15,000 copies in Malaysia. In 2007, his second album i伟联 (i-Weilian) was released and the song 普通的人 (Ordinary Man) topped the Singapore charts that October. This album eventually sold 15,000 copies in Singapore and 20,000 copies in Taiwan. Several songs that Tan composed himself were included in his third album, 走唱陈伟联 (Moving Notes...Kelvin Tan), which he promoted through busking appearances. Although its sales figures are not known, the songs 永远的朋友 (Forever Friends) and 分手的请书 (Break Up Letter) topped the Singapore charts in October 2009, while the album peaked at 5th in the Taiwan charts in February 2010. In addition, 分手的请书 won two awards at the 2010 Singapore Entertainment Awards and 我们 (Together) won Best Theme Song at the 2010 Star Awards. However, his contract with Warner Music expired in September 2010 and was not renewed.
In 2006, Tan staged a solo concert at the Max Pavilion (Singapore Expo), which sold 5,000 seats. He acted in the getai movie 881 and several television serials (notably The Dream Chasers), winning Most Popular Newcomer at the 2006 Star Awards. However, he declined further roles, describing acting as "not [his] cup of tea because there's nothing else [he] could act as except a blind man". He also participated in variety television shows in Singapore (notably as a guest judge on Campus Superstar) and Taiwan (such as Happy Sunday), but some Taiwanese hosts rejected him over fears that their jokes would offend him. Another controversy arose when he was a contestant on the Singapore edition of Don't Forget The Lyrics, as netizens were concerned that being unable to see the monitor would disadvantage him. In 2009, he was selected to sing 就在这里 (Right Here), the Mandarin version of the National Day Parade theme song What Do You See?, and four years later, he sang a tribute to Singapore named "Treasure Every Moment".
Due to his disability and achievements, Tan has been an ambassador for several local disability awareness campaigns and performed in various charity shows, including a concert to raise funds for victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. He and Sun Yajun led a choir rendition of the song 同在蓝色星球上 (On The Same Blue Planet) at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Paralympics sailing regatta at Qingdao, China. In his spare time, he works as a guide for the Singapore edition of Dialogue in the Dark, an exhibition that helps sighted people understand the experiences of blind people.
Tan lives in a four-room HDB flat in western Singapore, together with his father (a mechanic), mother (a housewife) and younger sister (a research analyst); he does not have a girlfriend. Despite his success, he continues to take public transport, eat at hawker centres and go out with friends. He enjoys bowling and was one of only two totally-blind Singaporeans who played the sport competitively, even winning a competition organised by the blind associations of Singapore and Perth. In 2012, he picked up running, joined RunningHour (a running club for people with disabilities) and participated in the 10 km run of the Singapore Marathon. His other hobbies include travelling to Kuala Lumpur, playing Street Fighter, chatting online with friends and updating his Twitter account.
- Adeline Chia, "Singing his way home", The Straits Times, 14 September 2009.
- "Superstar no more", The New Paper, 12 February 2011.
- Mindy Tan, "Blind superstar who made us all see", The New Paper, 6 September 2005.
- "Were they sympathy votes?", The New Paper, 3 September 2005.
- Ong Su Bin, "All he wants is to sing", The Straits Times, 9 February 2006.
- "Seeing dream come true", The Straits Times, 4 June 2008.
- The Life! section of The Straits Times posts music chart information every Friday.
- "Hall of Fame - MediaCorp Channel 8 Star Awards", xinmsn. 17 February 2013.
- 綜合榜", G Music. (From the drop-down lists at the bottom-right of the page, select 2010 and week 5.)
- "新加坡e乐大掌", omy.sg.
- "He couldn't see the lyrics", The New Paper, 18 August 2009.
- Boon Chan, "An inspirational tribute to Singapore by local singer Kelvin Tan", The Straits Times, 8 August 2013.
- "Singapore stars perform in Sichuan concert", TODAY, 30 June 2008.
- "担任残奥表演嘉宾", Lianhe Zaobao, 11 September 2008.
- Wendy Teo, "A day in the life of a superstar", The New Paper, 4 October 2005.
|Winner of Project SuperStar