Chinese-born, Canadian-educated pop diva Wanting Qu has had a tough year. She's been blasted online for causing the split between her current boyfriend, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson, and his wife of three decades. Her mother, a former Harbin city official, was arrested in April for corruption.
Last month saw the release of Qu's new song, Love Birds. Chatting with Young Post before a gig in Hong Kong last Friday, the 32-year-old You Exist in My Song-singer explains that she's just a normal human being.
Your new song Love Birds has an irresistibly chipper vibe. Where did that come from?
Qu: I was in Vancouver. I was thinking of my boyfriend. I was thinking about how sweet he was, and how I know him from a different perspective than just his profession. I don't think people understand that he is actually a real human being, and that he's capable of love and making mistakes and he's just like any of us. So I just wanted to write something to make people to just go easy on him. And also because I was, and still am, really in love.
Maybe people forget that you are a normal human, too.
Qu: Yeah, exactly. That's why in the song I talked about "I can be who I am in front of him". I don't have to wear make-up, I don't have to be perfect, you know, because I'm not. He understands me in that way. So it's a song for both of us to be stripped down, just as human beings, loving each other.
Tell us about the photo on the cover. Is that you and your boyfriend's shadow?
Qu: It was just a photo on my iPhone from a vacation last year in Hawaii. I love photography. I actually took a lot of photos before I became "Wanting the star". When I saw our shadow there, I just thought it's such a cool sight. Abstract, two people in love, in each other's presence. And you don't really see our faces but you can sense the love there.
Do you have a new album in the making? It's been two years since
Qu: Yes, there is a new album in the making. It will definitely be more upbeat. I feel like it's gonna have more electronic elements in it, more bass and beats. I do my homework. I don't like everything I hear on the radio, so when I do hear the ones that I like, I go, that's cool, that sound is cool. I wanna try that! [Trying new sounds] also depends on the producer you're working with. It can make a huge difference. They can inspire you, they can make you do things.
What's something random you did recently?
Qu: Does this count? I saw a guy in a wheelchair, with a little pet bunny. He was asking for change. I was like, "Are you hungry?" and he said yes. So I went and bought him a chicken [sandwich]. He's around the same age as me, he's just disabled and can't really work. I was in a happy mood, and I had just got a pay cheque, I was like, "I have money, I can help you!" I got him food whenever I walked by. So we became friends. His name's Theo.
That's kind of you! Do you see yourself as a role model?
Qu: I do think that celebrities have a lot of power. And great power comes with great responsibility … as Spiderman's uncle said. So, I try to be positive with all my social media. I try to promote things I think are valuable and important. I don't like to preach, though. No textbook or anybody else's experience has prepared me to go through my life. Everyone is different - even though I wrote a song called Not That Different. I just don't like when people jump to conclusions and start judging.
What's the toughest thing you experienced over the past year?
Qu: There's definitely a few really tough things that I've had to deal with, and I'm still dealing with them. Maybe I don't want to share that, though. It's not happy. Love Birds is happy, but I do have really sad songs. Sometimes I write a song and I'm bawling and crying.
Fair enough. Well, if you could have dinner with anybody at all, who would it be?
Qu: Amy Winehouse. I watched her documentary three times. I cried the first two times, but not when she died. It was right after that, when they replayed early footage of her. She was alive again, and you just realise, oh my God, she used to be [so happy]. So there's a person I'd like to have a chat with. Maybe we'd become friends. Imagine if we met, if that happened, maybe I would have saved her life. I don't know.
Favourite food: Watermelon
Favourite lyric: "If you never try, you'll never know" from Coldplay's Fix You
Favourite movie: The Notebook
Funny habit: Looking at paparazzi videos of other celebrities on YouTube to learn from them