Chapter 11: Overtaken
Translator: Min Lee Editor: Tennesh
"Hehe, My Dear," the dark horse that had, near the end of the season, burst through the gates from nowhere, continued its impressive run like a hot knife slashing through butter.
On June 25, "Hehe, My Dear" hit 1.7 million downloads and broke into the top 20.
On June 26, it reached 1.9 million downloads. Ranked 18th.
The song’s ability to maintain its ascent this late into the season sent shockwaves through the industry. It even forced other record companies to dip into their contingency plans, tapping promotional platforms previously off-limits for newcomers.
For example, seeing the tides had turned, the company behind No. 17 diverted marketing resources from other singers, pushing the song to No. 14 overnight.
Singers who were crowded out were freaking out too. They scrambled to lobby their own labels for more exposure.
Some labels were willing to divert their resources, but others did the math and decided it wasn’t worth it. They concentrated their marketing efforts on newcomers they considered promising.
The huge stone Fang Zhao had cast caused major ripples.
On June 27, "Hehe, My Dear" hit 2.2 million downloads and climbed to No. 12 in the rankings. It was less than 1,000 downloads away from the No. 11 spot. At that point, No. 10 had 2.4 million downloads.
A gap of 200,000 downloads.
With three days left in the season.
Following the chart movements, Zeng Huang was even more excited than Fang Zhao. He called Fang Zhao and said, "Big Zhao, you’re about to overtake Fang Sheng!"
"Uh-huh." Fang Zhao was combing his dog in his black street apartment. After his last shave, the dog had grown about two centimeters of fur again. The fur was also slightly curly. He had asked the owner of the drug store about it, but he too was dumbfounded, only saying that some dogs were different. After the apocalypse, some animals developed certain quirks. That maybe explained the fast fur growth.
Fang Zhao’s lack of emotion didn’t dampen Zeng Huang’s excitement. He was still ecstatic. "Big Zhao, at this rate, you’ll overtake him by tomorrow or the day after that. Many people say that ‘Flight’ is actually quite flawed."
Zeng Huang wanted to criticize Fang Sheng’s song some more, but then he remembered that Fang Zhao was the real composer. Criticizing the song would be slapping Fang Zhao in the face. That would be f*cking awkward.
Sensing the awkward silence, Fang Zhao responded, "He can’t win because of the arrangement. He only stole the score and a fraction of the demo, but he got stuck arranging the song."
"Ah, so that’s what happened. I see. Fang Sheng isn’t much of an arranger. I’m sure Neon Culture assigned him one, but I bet they weren’t able to communicate with each other, ha ha." Even though Zeng Huang was neither a composer nor an arranger, he knew the business.
Arrangers usually communicated with the composer to better understand the creative process and matters of craft, style, and so on, but Fang Sheng had stolen just the score and part of the demo. He knew nothing about the emotions behind or origins of the song. Even if he forced the original Fang Zhao to tell, he couldn’t match the actual composer’s passion for the song.
And clearly, the arranger Neon Culture assigned to newcomer Fang Sheng wasn’t the best, which prevented the song from reaching its full potential. Otherwise, "Flight" wouldn’t have stalled at No. 10. It would have gained at least a few spots.
What a shame.
Zeng Huang also felt that it was a pity. He also had mixed feelings about watching as Fang Zhao was about to overtake Fang Sheng. The few of them grew up together but still ended up enemies.
June 28, 1 a.m.
Fang Sheng’s frozen face and wooden eyes stared at the numbers shuffling on his screen. The New Pioneers Chart was in a state of constant flux. Fang Zhao had long claimed the No. 11 spot and was about to overtake him.
Ever since Fang Zhao joined the contest, Fang Sheng hadn’t had a good night’s sleep, plagued by nightmares every night. He often dreamed he was standing on the surface of the sea. Beneath his feet lay a deep, blue ocean. A huge sea monster broke the surface, flashing its sharp fangs, and charged straight at him.
Wasn’t his situation similar in real life?
No. 10: "Flight," 2,430,561 downloads.
No. 11: "Hehe, My Dear," 2,402,796 downloads.
No. 10: "Flight," 2,434,129 downloads.
No. 11: "Hehe, My Dear," 2,419,582 downloads.
No. 10: "Flight," 2,437,643 downloads.
No. 11: "Hehe, My Dear," 2,437,596 downloads.
No. 10, "Hehe, My Dear," 2,437,710 downloads.
No. 11: "Flight," 2,437,709 downloads.
Fang Sheng turned pale. His lips started twitching and the hand on which he wore his bracelet trembled violently.
"I lost. Hehe, I still lost…"
He hurled the shiny bracelet he bought after signing with Neon Culture to the ground, shattering it into pieces.
Neon Culture wouldn’t allocate more marketing platforms to Fang Sheng because he had already asked once when he sensed Fang Zhao becoming a threat. If he asked again, the label wouldn’t agree.
A big company like Neon Culture was loaded with talent and established stars. It could only concentrate so much in the way of resources on a single newcomer. If you were overtaken, you couldn't blame the record label.
Speaking of priorities, Neon Culture did invest in Fang Sheng. After all, he had climbed to the top ranks of the chart. But special attention was impossible. The company’s muscle was still lined up behind the virtual idol it had launched this year. Everyone else had to take a number.
No. 10 and No. 11 might have been separated by just one spot, but for Fang Sheng, it was the difference between heaven and hell.
As the sun rose, people started another busy day.
Insider Silver Wing Tower.
Fang Zhao was summoned by Du Ang first thing in the morning to discuss his full-time contract. Fang Zhao was already in the top 10 and gaining on No. 9. No matter what, a top 10 finish was guaranteed. A promotion was guaranteed.
Du Ang was in a particularly good mood. He wasn’t yelling at anyone for a change, and he wore a beaming smile when he was discussing the terms of the contract with Fang Zhao. He even lobbied for additional benefits, so the discussion went smoothly.
"Oh, have you checked the company’s message board yet?" Du Ang asked.
"No, I haven’t." Fang Zhao found some information about the message board in his new memory, but not much. The original owner of his body didn’t browse the message board much.
"Go take a look. There are quite a few messages for you."
Guided by Du Ang, Fang Zhao logged into the company’s official website and visited the message board.
The top threads revolved around the label’s biggest stars. Fang Zhao searched for his name. There were indeed quite a few messages. Nothing compared to the major stars, but some 1,000 messages was a lot for a newcomer.
Fang Zhao left Silver Wing Tower and boarded a train back to the suburbs. He clicked on the messages after he boarded.
Because Fang Zhao was only an intern and not a full-time employee, fans could only leave a message but not gifts. Some left written messages, while others recorded them. He could, however, listen to all of them using the broadcast mode on his bracelet.
Fifth comment: "Why does there have to be ‘hehe’ at the beginning of the song? Without the ‘hehe,’ the song would rise to another level. Why didn’t Silver Wing release an altered version of the song?"
Sixth comment: "What a joke. Why release an altered version? Someone at our school muted the human laughter at the beginning of the song when they played it in public and was booed until he played the original version. And you’re nitpicking about the laughter. You are testimony to the saying that those who missed out on treasures are always restless and those in possession of them treat them like a pair of shabby shoes.
Twelfth comment: "I don’t care. I like the original. Ever since I discovered it, I’ve stopped falling asleep in class. I just daydream."
Fang Zhao had read some of the online discussion before, but he could see how strategic intervention by the marketing team at Silver Media promoted the song.
The laughter track wasn’t in the diary entry the original owner of his body left behind, but he did chuckle before he wrote the entry. Speaking of which, Fang Zhao had to admit that Silver Wing vetted its singers properly. Even though he had gone off the rails, Bei Zhi was very talented and his experience with heartbreak could help him perform the song better than someone else.
After reviewing the comments, Fang Zhao felt assured that his arrangement still struck a chord with the public. Did that mean he could release his old pieces too?
He kept listening.
Fifty-first comment: "I almost missed out on this song. Now downloaded and added to my library."
Fifty-second comment: "Ha, I almost missed it too. On my first listen I was thrown off by the laughter too, thinking what kind of gimmick was that? But after 10 seconds, the intro sounded OK. I replayed the song. After I was done, I couldn’t stop singing ‘hehe, my dear,’‘hehe, my dear.’"
Who knew who had leaked the information that Fang Zhao’s song was inspired by being dumped. In any case, it helped many people understand the song.
One hundred and twenty-ninth comment: "Word has it that Fang Zhao wrote the song after he was dumped by his girlfriend. If I could write a song like this, I’d be willing to be dumped by my girlfriend."
One hundred and thirtieth comment: "Dude upstairs, first…"
One hundred and thirty-first comment: "You need…"
One hundred and thirty-second comment: "…a…"
One hundred and thirty-third comment: "girlfriend…"
Two hundred and seventy-second comment: "The worst thing for a man is meeting a girl you want take care of for the rest of her life when you’re least capable. I don’t know Fang Zhao, but I can empathize with his feelings."
Three hundred and sixteenth comment: "You go, bro! I spent all my pocket money on you on the 15th, betting that you’d crack the top 10. My last impulse buy before graduation. I’m counting my cash now."
Four hundred and twenty-ninth comment: "Don’t be afraid. Even if the world has given up on you, you still have your music, Fang Zhao."
Five hundredth comment: "Go get ‘em, alum Fang Zhao—from Year Five arrangement majors at the Qi’an Academy of Music."
Admiring the bustling cityscape beneath the sunlight, Fang Zhao smiled. "Rest assured, this is just the beginning."