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Music News

Billboard China Cover Story – Billboard

today14/12/2023

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The number 21 holds a special significance for Nicholas Teo, who has been in the industry for more than two decades. It’s akin to a “coming-of-age ceremony” for his career. Nicholas named his tour “The 21st Story,” a simple yet direct idea. Having spent over two decades in the limelight, Nicholas has gained a profound understanding of life and no longer fixates on the gains and losses.

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While Nicholas still appreciates his early works, he feels that some songs from his first and second albums no longer resonate with him. In this concert, he aims to express himself more sincerely and chooses every song that resonates with him at this moment.

Even for national hits like “Love Is the Answer” and “Tears From Polaris,” Nicholas wants to present them in a different and interesting way. He collaborates with the music director and band teachers to discuss their feelings and understanding of each song. They may adjust the arrangement direction, such as incorporating a jazz flavor, to give these classic songs a new musical appearance and make them more interesting.

“The 21st Story” is Nicholas’s first official concert tour in mainland China. With his life story full of flesh and blood 21 years since his debut, Nicholas hopes to bring this concert to more cities he has never been to, meet fans whom he hasn’t seen for a long time, and create a new chapter of deep empathy through music. Tickets for the first stop in Shenzhen (Nov. 25) sold out shortly after they were released, and tickets for the second stop in Chengdu (Dec. 9) also sold quickly. More new shows will be unlocked in the future.

“White Night”: A Warm and Reserved Self-Dialogue

After a hiatus of five years from the Chinese music scene, Nicholas finally unveiled his latest EP, White Night, earlier this year. Although he may have slowed down his pace of music releases in recent years, it does not imply a deviation from his musical path. On the contrary, Nicholas has dedicated his heart and soul to each song and album, rendering his music distinct and exceptional. From “To Be…Nicholas” in 2015 to “The Best Is Yet to Come” in 2018, and now White Night in 2023, Nicholas’ musical odyssey has propelled him further and further.

The innovative design of the album’s packaging, featuring a fragmented mirror effect, invites listeners to introspect upon their own emotions and thoughts while engaging with the songs in White Night. The popular track “Innocuous” best embodies Nicholas’s present state of life: “I create music that I adore and present my authentic self through these songs. ‘No Harm Done’ closely aligns with my current state of existence. I increasingly recognize that no one is flawless, and no creation is flawless.”

The love songs in White Night depart from Nicholas’s previous repertoire. They emanate a mature perspective on love. For instance, “Unrequited Love” conveys profound anguish without resorting to heart-wrenching cries, while “Symptomless” showcases an insightful comprehension of life after years of experience. Evolving over time, Nicholas has acquired the ability to introspectively articulate his emotions through his music.

In his forthcoming concert tour, “The 21st Story,” Nicholas aspires to perform an array of works from the past decade, enabling the audience to perceive his personal growth through his music. He has realigned his musical direction to remain true to himself. He desires those who have recently discovered him through a variety of shows to witness his authenticity on stage.

After “Call Me by Fire”: A More Open-minded Nicholas

In “Call Me by Fire,” Nicholas expands the audience’s boundless imagination of him: He possesses capabilities beyond standing silently at the center of the stage and crooning love songs. Nicholas relishes every transformation that each stage brings: “The most remarkable aspect is when it occurs at the opportune moment. I aspire to maintain sincerity in sharing my music. I will give my utmost, not necessarily achieving perfection, but exerting my utmost effort.”

On the debut stage of “Call Me by Fire,” Nicholas’ simple Weibo post stating “I’m fine, I’m back” instantaneously moved fans who had followed him for countless years. Over the past 21 years, Nicholas may not have been as active as he is this year, but these dormant periods have ultimately fostered the unwavering confidence he possesses now that he has “returned.” From Nicholas’s perspective, an artist’s duty is to continually produce output. “If you fail to learn to rest and expose yourself to more input, you will easily become depleted. I hope to grant myself a moment of tranquility so that I may generate fresh creations.”

One method by which Nicholas reinvigorates himself is by aimlessly exploring cities during his travels. “I am not the type of individual who meticulously plans their itinerary in advance. It feels excessively laborious. Just like when I spontaneously decided to take classes in New York, it was an impromptu decision. After registering online and booking my flight and hotel, I promptly embarked on my journey. During one year in Tokyo, I had already boarded the bus to Disney, but then I pondered: why should I visit Disney alone? So, I disembarked from the bus. I do not necessarily visit tourist attractions and capture photographs. Instead, I might relish a cup of coffee, engage in shopping, and abstain from setting lofty expectations for myself.”

Participating in diverse music variety shows has taught Nicholas to be more carefree and at ease with his true self: “When recording variety shows, certain aspects can be challenging. I also wish to express gratitude to myself for persevering until the end and gradually revealing a more endearing and authentic side of Nicholas to everyone. This is likely the most favorable arrangement along the journey. I desire to pat myself on the back and say, ‘Nicholas, you have exerted tremendous effort.’”

Nicholas Teo

Nicholas Teo

Tianyao Wang/Billboard China



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