When it was announced that Sandy Lam would be appearing on the new season of Singer, her fans across Greater China were at once surprised, excited and slightly nervous. Here, after all, was one of Chinese pop’s most revered names, a figure who had remained universally loved for three decades amid the music industry’s ever-fickle whims and trends. And despite the proven ability of the show (at least under its former name I Am a Singer) to send established artists to stratospheric heights of popularity, the questions lingered: why would Sandy Lam need to go on the show? Could she get any more popular? Or could it potentially hurt the 51-year-old’s career?
‘I joined the show because I want to experience the outside world and get out of my comfort zone,’ says Lam. ‘To be honest, winning or losing wasn’t important at all.’
Well, spoiler alert: Lam’s appearance on Singer would turn out to be a genius move. Of the host of established stars that the show brought together from Hong Kong, the Chinese mainland, Taiwan and beyond, Lam would come out the winner, reasserting her reputation as a vocal powerhouse and a charismatic performer, and gaining a whole new generation of fans in the process. As it turns out, Lam could get a lot more popular.
But, as she tells it, personally she got something a lot more important from it. ‘The opportunity to learn something new motivates me and keeps me happy.
The time spent with other musicians was much more meaningful than winning, and every week their musical talents and professionalism inspired me,’ says Lam. ‘I cherish these moments more than anything.’
This attitude reflects how Lam has conducted her entire career, focusing on the moment rather than staying with trends, fixating on evolving her career or worrying about her legacy. ‘Time passes in a blink of an eye, and from the beginning I’ve never really dwelled on how to stay current – I just sing songs that make me happy,’ she says. ‘This has been my attitude all along.’
It helps when you have Lam’s mesmeric qualities – the kind that have maintained her 30-plus-year career and can turn Singer’s studio audience into a weeping mess. After bursting onto the scene in 1985, Lam was propelled to superstardom thanks to her soft yet sensual vocals that could also turn into an effortless belt. Even after a hiatus lasting years following the birth of her daughter, she re-emerged in 2000 with the hit album Sandy Lam’s, featuring the song At Least There Was You. Over the years she has managed to stay relevant, despite infrequent album releases. Her most recent original album, 2012’s Gaia (she’s had two cover albums since then), was a masterpiece in which she experiments with New Age sounds, adding spice to her repertoire.
Lam’s natural state, however, is to downplay her success. Being part of a cutthroat industry, she says, has shaped her into a conscientious person. ‘This industry has made me careful in all matters, because all that I do or say can have an effect on other people or have unexpected consequences. However I see this as a form of self-discipline. I constantly remind myself that I have to take responsibility for my words and actions.’
Lam spends her time travelling the world nowadays. Her favourite pastime? Food, of course. ‘I especially like going to Taiwan’s coffee shops. Their unique vibe brings a welcome balance to life. When I’m in Hong Kong, I have to have Cantonese soups – I can eat a few bowls like it’s nothing,’ she says. ‘I enjoy sampling local delicacies wherever I go. I’m a total foodie. If I weren’t a musician, I would most probably be a chef.’
She remains coy about her future musical direction, preferring to surprise fans with each new album. ‘Each album I’ve made has documented my growth and I’m grateful for every single moment,’ she says. It remains to be seen what her next career move is but one thing is for sure: this diva is here to stay.