Edith Piaf was the ‘Little Sparrow’, Aretha - Franklin is the ‘Queen of Soul’ and, in China, Jane Z has been dubbed the ‘Dolphin Princess’ - much to the chagrin of the 24-year-old.
"I really don’t like people calling me that, because, first of all, it’s very strange, you know. It’s weird, and everybody just thinks, ‘Oh, OK she’s a singer and she can sing like a dolphin,"’ Jane told The Daily Yomiuri on a recent visit to Tokyo.
The unusual nickname was given to her when she finished third in Super Girl, a female singing contest held on Chinese television in 2005, in which she reached some extraordinary vocal heights.
"In the competition I was singing the song Lovin’ You and they called the high voice the ‘Dolphin Voice’. But before that, I never knew of anyone describing a voice like at. But after that, everybody called me ‘Dolphin Princess", Jane explained.
Born in the Sichuan region of China as Zhang Liangying, Jane started singing in her youth.
"When I was young I didn’t sing very well, no pitch, no timing. I just liked to sing-nobody told me I sang well and nobody told me, ‘I don’t think so,’ but I sang every single day, whatever I was doing I was singing".
Having gained nationwide exposure on Super Girl, Jane released her debut album, The One, on Oct 11, 2006, her 22nd birthday. Less than 10 months later, Jane’s follow-up album, Update, was released, and, by last summer, she had become established as one of mainland China’s top pop stars.
Last year, Jane was appointed as the Youth Ambassador for China and visited Japan with Chinese President Hu Jintao. During the visit, she performed a song at the private residence of then prime minister Yasuo Fukuda. She is aware of the responsibility attached to her role as a cultural ambassador.
"I think they chose me as Chinese youth ambassador (after looking at) my lifestyle, customs and behaviour. What I can do, I think, is maintain my proper and good lifestyle and customs and behave well and properly in front of people," she said.
Jane is proud of her roots in Chengdu, a fact reflected in the name she chose for the international market.
"If you say my name in Sichuan pronunciation it’s like ‘Ja-in,’ it’s quite close to Jane," she said.
But the main reason for calling herself Jane comes from a very different and very surprising source. "Jane is from a book I loved - Tane Eyre. I really like the heroine in the book," she said.
Charlotte Bronte’s classic Gothic novel tells of the rise of Jane Eyre, a poor orphan girl in England in 19th century England. More than 150 years since its publication, another Jane from a humble background on the other side of the world will be hoping that like her literary role model, her story will have a happy ending.