China’s Traditional Spring Festival TV Gala Chases Younger Viewers with “Rap of China” Crossover

A viral TikTok hit from rapper Gem is set to be performed with Lay Zhang on one of Chinese TV's biggest nights of the year

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2:04 AM HKT, Fri January 17, 2020 1 mins read

It’s often referred to as “the most-watched TV program in the world,” yet state broadcaster CCTV’s Spring Festival Gala has been hit with widespread criticism for being staid and out of touch in recent years, even inviting racism accusations with one notorious skit in 2018. Now, in a quest for relevancy, 2020’s outing has announced that it will be bringing together three of China’s newest stars to perform a viral TikTok song.

The hashtag #WilliamChanLayZhangWildWolfDisco has been trending on microblogging platform Weibo as netizens expressed their excitement at the upcoming collab between pop stars Willian Chan and Lay Zhang with northeastern rapper Gem. The hashtag racked up 8.5 million views and over 2,000 posts.

“Wild Wolf Disco” (“野狼Disco”) first found fame after it was performed by Gem when he was a contestant on Rap of China. Gem, a rapper from China’s “Rust Belt,” didn’t end up winning, but the song quickly went viral on video-sharing app Douyin (the Chinese sister app to TikTok). People started recording videos of themselves throwing out moves to the old-school ‘90s beat, with the dance challenge became a mega-hit among users.

According to Sina Entertainment, the original rapper will be joined onstage by little fresh meat stars Lay Zhang and Chan Wai-ting (William Chan). Both of them were previously involved in boy bands in South Korea and Hong Kong respectively, but have enjoyed massive success in mainland China after going solo. Coincidentally, Lay also has his own vertical-format TikTok reality show called REKNOW.

Whether this will be enough to distract younger viewers from hunting for hongbao (red envelopes) on their phones for long enough to actually watch the Spring Festival Gala rather than just having it on passively on their homes’ TV screens remains to be seen. But it’s an interesting acceptance of hip hop into the mainstream, and from one of the China’s most traditional televisual events no less.

For more on the song and Gem’s fascinating rise, click below:

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