A-Mei was born on 9 August 1972 in Beinan, Taitung County, Taiwan. She is a member of the Puyuma nation. Like most Taiwanese aborigines, she was exposed to tribal music during her childhood. Her mother used to record herself singing, then play back the tape for her daughters to hear. A-mei had always been fascinated by music; she once said that she stuck to the radio and would rush to watch the late night music program introducing English songs when she was a little girl. She also showed great eagerness to perform in public, even forcing her friends to listen to her sing.
A-Mei first connected to the entertainment
business by joining the televised "Five Lights Singing Contest" on
TTV in 1992 after encouragement by her father, who was ill at that time. A-Mei
made it all the way through to the finals but eventually lost in the final
round. She was disappointed and was almost ready to give up interest in music
competitions. A-Mei's father then told her, "You definitely can sing, and
you perform songs beautifully. Why don't you enter the competition again to
show that you have a talent for music?" So encouraged, A-Mei then decided
to make a second attempt late in 1993. Her performances impressed the judges,
and in 1994 A-Mei was awarded the championship. Her father succumbed to his
sickness before her victory, however, leaving her heartbroken. A-Mei struggled
to rediscover her passion for music until she began to sing in pubs with a rock
band formed by her musician cousin.
In July 1996, A-Mei and Chang Yu-Sheng sang the single "The One I Love the Most Hurts Me the Most"(最愛的人傷我最深) together, drawing much attention to A-Mei. In November, when A-Mei was invited to sing "I'm a Dreamer on Air" (空中的夢想家), the theme song for Taiwan's UFO radio station, she again drew attention from the public. Shortly afterward she was signed to Forward Music and released her debut "Sisters" (姊妹), in December. The album topped the Taiwan chart for a record of nine consecutive weeks and achieved great success in the Chinese-speaking world. The album sold 1.08 million copies, making it one of the very few albums to break one million copies in Taiwan.
A-mei's second album "Bad Boy" in
June 1997 also topped the Taiwan IFPI chart for 9 consecutive weeks, and it
sold 1.38 million copies, making it the second best-selling album in Taiwanese
history. Songs on the album, especially "Can't Cry" (哭不出來) and "Listen to the Sea" (聽海) are regarded as classics of 1990s Chinese-language
pop music. In October 1997, A-mei released the single "Listen to You,
Listen to Me" (聽你聽我)
on CD, as a memorial to her producer Chang Yu-Sheng, who had died in a traffic
accident. In December, she released the innovative album "A-mei Live in
Concert 1998 Prelude.
Soon afterward, A-mei began her 1998 Asia
concert tour, performing in Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia, on top of the
highly acclaimed initial show in Taipei. Along with her astonishing vocals, her
vigorous and infectious stage performances became her trademark, and further established
A-mei's status as a diva in Chinese pop music. Due to her rising fame, A-mei
was invited by Japanese TV NHK to perform as a representative of Taiwan in the
annual ceremony "Asia Live Dream" in February of that year. In
October 1998, she released the album "Holding Hands" (牽手), exploring different genres and demonstrating her
vocal versatility. "Holding Hands" (牽手) remained a hot seller and was one of the
best-selling albums of the year. In November 1998, she was named the most
popular singer in Asia by Billboard magazine.
In June 1999, she released "Can I Hug You, Lover?" (我可以抱你嗎愛人), the album with a 1980s style single and the Japanese song "Want to See You So Much" (好想見你), aimed at reaching the Japanese market. Like her previous albums, it sold incredibly well and captured numerous Chinese music awards. In the following months, A-mei held her second Asia Tour concert, "Mei Li 99" (妹力99), visiting various cities in Taiwan and other Asian cities, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Beijing and Shanghai. It is notable that there were nearly 80,000 attendees at the Shanghai show. In September, she sang "Love, Never Disappears" (愛, 永遠不會消失), a song composed by Leehom Wang, to commemorate the "921 earthquake" and donated her earnings from the night in Singapore to charity.
A-mei became the subject of considerable
political controversy after performing the National Anthem of the Republic of
China at the first presidential inauguration of Chen Shui-bian on May 20, 2000.
This angered the government of the People's Republic of China which
subsequently banned her from visiting mainland China. Under pressure from
Beijing, Radio stations in China ceased broadcasting her music. Meanwhile, her
fans were becoming aware that A-mei's voice had gradually become weaker and
duller. Concerned that her voice had been overused due to her nearly unbroken
recordings and concerts, fans banded together and wrote to Forward Music,
requesting that A-mei be given a break. The company eventually agreed, and
right after the promotion period of the "A-mei with Hong Kong Philharmonic
Orchestra" live album, A-mei seized the opportunity, by going to New York
and resting for several months. A-mei became active again in December, with her
album "Regardless" (不顧一切).
By 2001, A-mei had sold more than 8 million copies of her recordings. In 2002, A-mei won the "Best Female Vocalist of the Year" award with the album, "Truth" at Taiwan's most prestigious, "Golden Melody Awards." A deserving win after four years of consecutive nominations in the same category since her second album, "Bad Boy." A-mei was named as one of the 20 Asian Heroes featured in the special issue of Time magazine in 2002. This made her the first Taiwanese singer to grace this international publication. In October 2002, A-mei released a new album, "Fever" (發燒), and shortly after kicked off her "A-Class Entertainment World Tour," hitting Taiwan, Hong Kong, mainland China, Singapore, Malaysia, Sydney, Melbourne and the United States. In June 2003, A-mei released her new album titled "Brave" 勇敢.In November, in remembrance of her musical mentor, the late singer/producer Chang Yu-Sheng (張雨生), A-mei participated in the tribute album "City of Joy," singing the work of her mentor "Tears and Whispers" (哭泣與耳語) and performed in the tribute concert along with other Taiwanese singers. In February 2004, A-mei received the "Favorite Artist: Taiwan" award at the MTV Asia Awards held in Singapore.
On July 31 2004, after months of political
controversy surrounding her, A-mei set foot in Beijing once again and held a
successful concert, with an estimated 10,000-strong audience. As reported by
the media, A-mei confessed that she had never felt such great pressure at a
concert before, when fans begged her not to be disturbed by the raucous protesters.
Undeterred by negativity, A-mei proceeded to work on her new album, "Maybe
which was released on September 21, 2004. A-mei composed two songs, namely,
"Love is the Only Thing" (愛是唯一) and "Critical Moment" (關鍵時刻) on the album. Although the album was chosen as one
of the "Top 10 Local Album Releases for 2004" by the Taipei Times,
the change in music style and direction drifted away from the common acceptance
level of mass Mandarin pop music listeners and therefore, the album failed to perform
in the charts.
In 2005, A-mei decided to take a short break
from her frantic lifestyle. She headed to Boston, U.S. for a three-month
language course at Boston University's CELOP program in January. Not a mere
getaway, it was intended as a journey of self-discovery. In February2006, A-mei
released her new chart-topping album, "I Want Happiness" (我要快樂), one many see as her come-back piece. On August 3
2007, A-mei's latest album "Star" was released to critical acclaim
and occupied the No.1 position on the G-Music Best Selling Chart for 4
consecutive weeks, selling more than a million copies.
On 26 June 2009, A-Mei released her self-entitled album "AMIT" with different album cover for different region. There was a controversy over one of the songs, which has negative elements in the music video and lyrics causing it not to be aired on MTV. According to Taiwan's G-Music chart the album is the tenth best selling album in Taiwan in 2009. "AMIT" impressed the judges of the 21st Golden Melody Awards, where she clinched 6 awards, including "Best Female Vocalist", an award she long awaited for eight years. On 30 October, she served as Rainbow Ambassador a second time for Taiwan's Gay Pride Parade. Taiwan set the record for largest gay pride parade in Asia, with 30,000 participants. A-Mei released her 15th studio album, "R U Watching?" on April 23, 2011 worldwide. After being signed by EMI Taiwan, a MEI rush-released her new album, "Faces of Paranoia (Only the Paranoid Survive)" on July 2, 2014 The album is a departure from other "a MEI" albums, as the music and lyrics contain darker elements.