We met Yico in the founder of Modern Sky, Shen Lihui’s Office we met Zeng Yike on the Southwest corner of the third floor in the building with huge windows and sunshine coming through.
We saw Yico sitting on a black sofa playing violin and only looked up from her violin when her manager called her name to introduce us. She was wearing a white shirt and always answering questions in a soft voice and a smile.
Yico said that she has a poor memory. When she looks back to last nine years and all the works she did, she couldn’t remember a lot of events and situations that she thinks she ought to remember. She answered “I couldn’t remember clearly” a lot to our questions with a kind smile.
In her early years, Yico always appeared on the stage with a guitar. She always looked sleepy and people like to talk about her shaky voice. She was called “Big Brother Zeng” on internet and made her into a meme because of her unique way of singing. People’s criticism and doubt and speculations of her background make her name widely known.
In fact, as a singer who debuted from the variety show, it is difficult for her to get rid of any labels people put on her during the show. We don’t know if the variety show did her good or laid burdens on her. In next 9 years, Yico Zeng put out 5 albums, Forever Road (10 songs, produced by Gao Xiaosong), Forever 21 (12 songs), A Thief Who Can Fly (10 songs, produced by Gao Xiaosong), The Sunny and Rainy days of a 25-year-old (10 songs), Anti! Yico (11 songs).
Yico’s music got better and better over the years.
When she was 20 years old, Yico asked a question in her song “Be Brave” (Yong Gan Yi Dian): “Do I really need a good voice for my music to reach the bottom of your heart?” At 25, she described her fear in “Coward” (Dan Xiao Gui) that “to keep the chocolate from melting, I’m scared to turn on the heat…to keep the leaves from falling, I’m scared of planting trees.” In the “Stars and Moon” (Xing Xing Yue Liang), Yico sang about her bravery, “I light up the night, I keep out the gossip. Just remember, you are the star and I am the moon.” In 2018, Yico described her road from fear to fearless in her song Elope (Si Ben). “I’m afraid of declaration, I’m afraid of greeting, I’m afraid of missing you… but if you want to go with me, if you won’t turn back, if you would like to hold my hand against all odds.”
But after 9 years of making great, unconventional music, most people still remember her for her out of tune live performances on the variety show.
In 2010, it is the first time that Yico showed up in Strawberry Music Festival. A group of anti-fans organized an act to ridicule her when she was singing and set a terrible example for cyberbullying.
8 years later, in the Strawberry Music Festival this year, a video of Yico singing off key during her performance. And the criticisms and ridicules have become more and more violent. However, the video wasn’t the actual performance but a casual performance after the show long ended. The truth is that Yico took off her headphone monitor and sing randomly to make the audience get more involved, but the video only showed her off key. This reinforced the impression of Yico from 9 years ago.
In June 2018, Yico signed a record deal with Modern Sky and released a new album called Anti! Yico. The title expressed her ambition to redefine herself in the public eye. There’s a description written inside the album says it’s an album that cannot be defined. This album intends only to break the first impression and show you the real Yico.
Happiness in Creating
“Elope” is the most popular song in this new album. In the short video app “Tik Tok”, “Elope” was used by 708 thousand users. On August 24th, it was ranked the third on NetEase’s chart. It was played is about 3 million times and commented 40 thousand times.
This is also the first time Yico collaborated with Glow Curve, a band in the same company. She said they are all very emotional people and when they were writing the song together, they just all started crying at some point. “It was touching, just touching.” She said.
When she produces music, she is emotional and complicated, but in her daily life, there isn’t that much pain involved. But if she wasn’t a songwriter, she wouldn’t be as happy as a person. She puts all the things that she is afraid of doing and things she’s scared to say in real life into her music. Most of the songs Yico wrote is about love and pain. Some people told her that this world is not only about love, but she answered in her music: “love is the word that carved on my heart.”
In her song “Color of Three” (San De Yan Se) arranged by Song Dongye, Yico said “You are so special, the pain you gave me makes me surprisingly happy.” In the song “Need a Friend”, she said, “I need a friend, I need a soulmate, I need someone like me.” In the song “Someone Like Me”, she claimed in despair, “Who’s going to be brave first? How are we going to fall in love? Can you feel me?” In the song “Love is Everything” (Ai Shi Yi Qie), Zeng Yike said “I’m yours, but you’re free.”
Shen Lihui told us, “Before, the lyrics was the lyrics, the melody was the melody, and arrangement was arrangement. This time the album feels holistic and everything matches each other. And I think she’s on the right track.”
After the contract with EE-Media expired, Yico signed with Modern Sky in August 2017. Her fans were happy about this news. In 2009, Yico debuted from the popular singing competition variety show Super Girl. The person who vouched for her into top 10 was Shen Lihui. To Yico, Shen Lihui is both a friend and a mentor. And now, “I think we are more like colleagues.” She laughed and said.
Shen Lihui likes anything imperfect, spirited, and special. Yico is the person who matches all these descriptions. Shen Lihui said “She is good as always. We don’t have to say much to each other, we have telephathy. When her contract with EE-Media expired, I said ‘sign with us?’ She said ok. For us it’s mutual approval.”
According to Yico, Shen Lihui asked her to sign with Modern Sky when they were eating in a restaurant. “I couldn’t remember if I said yes or not. Maybe I agreed with him, but the conversation just ended.”
People who have been listening to Yico’s music from the beginning might think she says too much. She wrote everything in her songs. In real life, Yico is very naive person. One time she was walking on the streets of New York with Shen Lihui, it suddenly got windy, and she asked, “Is this a tornado?” Shen Lihui laughed in surprise.
When we were taking a break from the interview, Yico said something about playing “Erhu”. And we were like “What, I thought you were playing the violin.” Yico laughed and said “I was just messing with you. Yes, that was a violin, but I’m rusty now so it sounds like Erhu.”
Shen Lihui told us, “I thought she was a good songwriter from the very beginning. The talent was a gift that she was born with. Singing can be trained. Now she’s a very good singer. She manages her breathing very carefully, and her voice is highly distinguishable.”
Shen Lihui sees Yico as a musician instead of a variety show celebrity. In Modern Sky, she can focus on making better music and performing better live.
In the past two years, Yico studied music in Los Angeles, travelled a lot, saw many music festivals in different countries. She went to New York and the United Kingdom for Bruno Mars’s concert. She likes the band Cigarettes After Sex a lot because she thinks they are really laid back. She became a freer, chiller person.
Yico is not an artist who cares about fame or money. She never sets the goals for herself. “I only think about real life and I try to make my next album. Sometimes people says I’m full of myself, but I think I don’t have that big of an ego.”
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