We Found An Australian Who Was On China’s ‘If You Are The One’, And Asked Him A Bunch Of Questions
An Australian guy made it on China's most popular dating show, and got the girl he wanted. He also happens to be Shanghai’s freshest hip-hop MC.
Tom Gorrie is more famous than our last three Prime Ministers, Acropolis Now and Powderfinger combined, statistically speaking.
Last month, the 26-year-old ex-Melburnian became one of thousands of suitable bachelors who have appeared on China’s favourite squeaky-clean dating show, Fei Cheng Wu Rao (literally “If not sincere then do not disturb”, or Anglicised as If You Are the One on SBS 2). The show gets an estimated 50 million viewers per episode, who all watched in judgement as the bean poley Tom subtly twisted Cupid’s arm. You’d need to live in an Australia with threefold the population and seven times the tabloid current affairs programs to experience that level of scrutiny.
If You Are The One has captured its home nation’s heart, and won not a small cult fandom here in Australia. Adapted from Australia’s original Taken Out, China scrubbed it clean of any sex, politics or religion, but the over-riding concept remains the same: 24 single women judge whether a single man is worthy to take them out. Each girl chooses whether to keep a light on for the man, which indicates her interest in him. After a series of rounds introducing their prospective beau, the pool whittles down to one or two. If the man agrees, the pair are whisked off to a romantic Greek island getaway.
Sometimes, all 24 reject the guy. How embarrassment. But fortune shined her golden happiness rays upon Melbourne’s Tom, who successfully wooed one of 24 equally gorgeous and fussy females away to a Potemkin village of G-rated love.
But being remembered for televised handholding isn’t Tom’s endgame. Now living in Shanghai as an English language teacher, Tom — aka MC Gaoxing (lit. “MC Happy”) — wants to conquer the Chinese rap game. And considering China’s rap game is just pocket chess compared to the western hemisphere, it might not prove that hard.
Tom Valcanis: How did you land a spot on If You Are The One?
Tom Gorrie: A good friend of mine, Dan Ednie, started doing volunteer work for Jiangsu Satellite Television. He got featured in a documentary that they were making and, through his networking, he got himself onto If You Are The One. I sat in the front row for the taping. To my surprise, Meng Fei — the host — started talking to me. He asked, “Oh, do you know this guy?” and I go, “Yeah, we’ve been friends since primary school,” and so on. At the end of the show, they handed me a microphone and asked how I thought Dan went.
How did Dan fare?
He got a girl in the end, which was good. I said I was very happy for him. The host asked me if I was single. I said I was, and he invited me to come on the show.
You and Dan breezed past thousands to get on, I expect.
Yes, it’s very difficult to get on. They have so many people all over China who register just to get an interview for the show. Then there’s a series of auditions — it’s just hard to get on the show. [pauses] I have a theory that people have to pay to even be considered. I know dating companies run websites that offer pre-auditions for the show. It’s very complicated.
So about a month went by. One day a phone call comes in and they’re like, “Hey, we want you to be on the show. A film crew will be coming over within 48 hours.” They filmed my short little introduction clip. It took about fourteen hours.
What was it like finally getting into the studio proper?
I don’t know if I can explain this. As far as television in China goes, If You Are The One is probably the most famous show ever. The viewership of it is massive. And I’m not going on [TV] as an expert or anything; it’s basically all about me and my life. It’s intensely personal. You’re totally being judged by everyone.
The pressure of going on that show… It’s indescribable. It was exciting, but for the next 20 minutes, whatever I did would be around for the rest of my life.
You became more famous in 20 minutes than you would in a lifetime of Australian television.
Basically. More people saw me on that TV show than the amount of people who would listen to our Prime Minster say anything.
Did a girl leave a light on for you? (That sounds very Belinda Carlisle, doesn’t it?)
Yes, I left with a girl that still had her light on. [pauses] There’s a few interesting things to note about how it all works.
If you leave the show with someone, you get a free all-expenses trip to an island in Greece. That gives people a lot of incentive to leave with someone. Sometimes male contestants don’t, because they want to save their reputation. For some people, their reputation is more important than the holiday. If an unattractive female contestant chose a male contestant, they won’t leave the show with her because it would mean a big loss of “face.”
Is the outcome pre-determined?
No. It’s important to clarify this; people say that these dating shows are all scripted and fake. If You Are The One is very real. When I was out there, there wasn’t any script. The show was completely spontaneous. It was very natural in that way. The only thing that’s not [real] is the idea of actually staying with anyone. All the girls live so far away; only one of the contestants could have realistically been my ‘girlfriend,’ because she lived in Shanghai. We just pretend it’s practical to stay together. That romantic aspect is key to the show’s popularity.
So, hip hop. Tell us how you rolled into the Chinese rap game.
I’d listened to Chinese rap before, and I had this dream to do it myself. It’s a new thing in China, so it’s quite a valuable thing to get into. I started listening to MC Hotdog, the most famous rapper in China.
My start in rap happened when I lived in Harbin and I went to this club. I said, “Fuck it, I want to be a rapper.” I went up to the manager of the club and just pretended to be a rapper.
What did you say to convince him?
[deadpans] “I am a rapper, can you give me a gig.”
He gave me an audition, and I just rapped a Cypress Hill song from memory. He had no idea what I was doing. It gave me stage time at this club. I went up and sung, in English, for about a minute. The crowd went wild… and that was it.
When did you start experimenting with rapping in Mandarin?
A few weeks before [the If You Are The One] taping, I decided to write a rap song about going on the show.
I asked a DJ who lived at the bottom of my apartment building to produce a song with me before I went on. He was interested straight away. He arranged a meeting with a music producer, who was like, ‘Yep, this is a project I want to get in on.’ A week after meeting this guy, I’m in a recording studio to record [introduction track] ‘I Am Happy’.
The lyrics include, “I come from Australia, I’m here to find a girlfriend…” — that kind of thing.
How did the audience take it?
The crowd and the host reacted like they were shell-shocked. They didn’t really know what to make of it. They liked it, but it was just so surprising for them. Many of these people had probably never even heard rap music before.
Has If You Are The One helped launch your hip-hop career?
Yeah, it was the best thing that happened to me in that regard.
Mandarin hip-hop is a new phenomenon; are you building the bandwagon from scratch?
Chinese hip-hop is very new; it’s like the American scene in the ’70s. The lyrical content is far simpler. The lyrics of my song are more sophisticated than 90% of the Mandarin hip-hop that’s out there.
Given the chance to dive into Oz hip-hop, would you?
It would be impossible. I’d have to become, hands down, the best Aussie rapper ever to get this far. Even then, how secure is my career? I’m up against all the American artists too.
Where do you go from here?
I just want to build my repertoire, because I’ve been doing this literally for only a month. I just want more opportunities to sing songs, and build my rap career.
If You Are The One screens Tuesday-Thursday at 7:45pm, on SBS2. Watch it On Demand here.
Tom Valcanis works in Melbourne as a freelance journalist and writer. He’s 98% metal by volume. Tweet dem sweet Belinda Carlisle lyrics to him @crushtor