by cassiopeiastars & Cho Na, July 4, 2021
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WARNING: LIGHT SPOILERS on the drama characters the artist has portrayed.
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Before you start,

we invite you to listen to his powerful signature voice in his first single (click on the title):


Imagination (想像) 

I tried and tried 
I persisted
I tried to be in your shoes 
Like a fanatic 
Obsessed 
Reckless 
Persistent
How presumptuous and naive 

(Translator: Natalie)

INTRODUCTION

As fans of Liu Yu Ning as an OST singer, initially, we came together to highlight some of the artist's extensive list of OSTs. Upon additional research, we thought that Yu Ning has an interesting life story that needs to be shared with those that don't already know it. We took this article as a serious yet fun challenge to compile an informative Ultra Fan Guide to the artist. 

Since we don't know the Chinese language, we are limited with resources and knowledge. In addition, some of the information provided may be dated or may have been misinterpreted. Moreover, as we have only been aware of Yu Ning as an OST singer and recently as an actor through his acting roles, we hope that Yu Ning's Mo Fan/Peng Fei would help guide and inform us of correct or new information on the artist. Thank you and enjoy!

BIOGRAPHY

Name: Liu Yu Ning (刘宇宁)
宇宁 means peaceful universe

Nicknames: 
Xiao Ning, Ning Ge

Birthday: January 8, 1990
(Zodiacs: Capricorn, Earth Snake)

Birthplace: 
Dandong,  Liaoning, China

Height: 189 cm (6′ 2″)

Fandom Names: 
Mo Fan, Peng Fei

Social: Weibo

EARLY LIFE

Liu Yu Ning lost his father at the young age of four and was raised by his grandparents while his mother left to work. They were very poor. He shared sleeping quarters on the floor around the fireplace with his mother, uncle, and younger brother. As a child, Yu Ning had always been intrigued by music and wanted to learn; however, he couldn't afford to take lessons with the little income of the family. When he asked his uncle to learn music, he got an apologetic answer instead. He decided to support himself and not give up. 

After graduating from Dandong Culinary Technical School, Yu Ning worked odd jobs. He passed out flyers, waited tables, and even had a hand in cooking as a chef. Of his first month's paycheck of 200 RMB, he used 180 RMB to buy a guitar. He played the guitar in the restaurant's supply room during breaks. While working on getting food in his stomach, Yu Ning's passion for music was still burning inside him. He was willing to work as a singer for bars and hot pot restaurants even if he didn't get paid, or only through customer's tips.

At the age of 20, Liu Yu Ning auditioned for the show Super Boy but failed to make the cut to be a part of the official lineup to compete. Since he didn't have enough money to participate in various audition activities, he recorded videos and recommended himself on various platforms. He said, whenever there is any kind of variety shows, people say that they have given up a lot for music, and how family members sacrificed to fund them. Yu Ning couldn't relate to those sentiments. He said, "I don't have any resources. If I had, why would I have made my debut at the age of 30?"
Wo Shi Ni Men De: I am Yours

It wasn't until four years later that he established a group with Ah Zhuo (阿卓) and Big Fly/Da Fei (大飞), known as the band Modern Brothers (摩登兄弟) under an entertainment company. Through Modern Brothers, Yu Ning embarked on his new journey in music and in the entertainment world. 

 

The original Modern Brothers band formation was five people. Two of them left since they couldn't stand the little money that was evenly divided into five. Yu Ning was depressed, but Ah Zhuo and Da Fei stayed, and they have been together for several difficult years. As for now, Ah Zhuo and Da Fei have withdrawn from live performing with Yu Ning to focus on their family business. However, they are still a group and still contact each other for personal or business reasons, including discussing songwriting. To him, they are not only his bandmates but also best friends and soul brothers. Therefore, his self-introduction will always be Modern Brothers' Liu Yu Ning (摩登兄弟刘宇宁), the same goes for his Weibo page.


CHANGING THE GAME AS A STREET PERFORMER

In 2015, Modern Brothers started streaming live performances on YY, a live streaming platform in China. Their room is known as YY Live Room 4528. Filming covers inside a building, the group eventually moved to outdoor filming and street performing in 2017. Modern Brothers set up their stand in front of a restaurant on the street Liu Yu Ning's hometown called An Dong Old Street (安东老街). Little did they expect that this street would soon be packed and shaking with support from their fans. 

It wasn't until Modern Brothers became part of Douyin's platform in 2018 that the group found immense success (Douyin is a Chinese video-sharing-focused social networking service). Their 200,000 fan count skyrocketed to 1.5 million fans overnight through their cover of Tell the Truth (講真的). Through Douyin, they broke many records, surpassing many well-known celebrities with fan counts and videos with the most likes. They gained 10 million fans in 10 days through their posts on Douyin, and Yu Ning became known as the "Cover Harvester" (翻唱收割机) on countless articles. During their Douyin popularity surge in 2018, one of the popular celebrities they managed to surpass in the number of fans was Wu Yi Fan. Liu Yu Ning and the Modern Brothers will go down in history as the group that changed and created a new trend in the artists' streaming platform industry. 

With their new rise in popularity, YY invited Modern Brothers to participate in their pilot project to pivot their streaming platform to acquire young users. This successfully helped YY, as artists started utilizing the platform for their streaming purposes. 

Liu Yu Ning's popularity gave him the opportunity to collaborate with local and international artists. He has collaborated with non-Chinese musicians Olly Murs, Corsak, and Far East Movement (click each artist for song links). This was only the start of Yu Ning and the Modern Brothers, as he flew from an internet streamer and street performer into a talented rising star in the Chinese entertainment business. 


TOP FOUR MOST POPULAR COVER SONGS

You can't continue this article without checking out where Liu Yu Ning started in his YY Live Room 4528. While we don't have the Douyin covers that blew up to share, the band created full covers on their live streaming platform. Check out these most commendable covers that got everyone to acknowledge Yu Ning's talents!

Tell the Truth (讲真的) by Zeng Xi (曾惜) 

This song cover blew up on Douyin and made Liu Yu Ning and the Modern Brothers famous. The original song is sung by Zeng Xi, a sad love song with a soft retro-pop sound that gets turned into an emotional rock song with Yu Ning's raspy vocals that almost growls out despair to the listeners. 
Take Everything You Want (你要的全拿走) by Tiger Hu (胡彥斌)  

Liu Yu Ning was praised by Tiger Hu himself for his cover. Take Everything You Want is an emotional breakup song depicted by Tiger Hu that became a popular cover of Yu Ning.  He begins the song with his tender vocals but found himself struggling with the lyrics in the first chorus. Right after singing through the mouthful of lyrics, he made a face at the camera.  

Zou Ma (走马) by Chen Li (陈粒)   

Zou Ma is a song that was released in 2015. Its laid-back and toned-down style of music with just an electric guitar is reminiscent of older 90s music. Yu Ning's gritty voice really suits this song and is the reason why his cover blew up. He also sang this song live for the 2018 YY Carnival (YY嘉年华) here.

He Doesn't Understand (他不懂) by Jason Zhang (张杰)  

This is one of the covers on this list with the biggest contrast in sound as Jason Zhang's voice is soft and silky. Jason's voice is accompanied by soft piano and cello instruments. Meanwhile, Liu Yu Ning brings in his signature raspy vocals and different sounds to the song, making the public and Jason notice this cover.

ORIGINAL SOUNDTRACKS

Liu Yu Ning has a handful of songs from his albums, EPs, and singles. However, over 40+ songs from his discography are dedicated to movies, dramas, and games. We can't cover all of his official soundtracks and may have excluded some of your favorites. Or you may find some new favorites on this lengthy Singles and OSTs list.


FIRST OST

Tomb of the Sea (2018)

Ending song: Toast the Wine 讓酒 (Rang Jiu)

 "Let's say goodbye here and meet somewhere else. Strongly denies the sweetness of going back. Actually I still want to see you again" (Translator: ky_cloud)

The singer sang as the grave robber protagonist, Wu Xie, was telling the carefree and rebellious high school teenager Li Cu about his life journey as a grave robber. Wu Xie takes Li Cu to embark on a lifetime adventure, looking for a hidden city.

In this song, Yu Ning's raspy voice goes harmoniously with the slow rock melody and perfectly expresses the roughness of life as a grave robber.
His first OST played a major role in breaking out as an actor. After singing the OST, producer Bai Yi Cong asked if Yu Ning would like to act in a drama. Yu Ning replied he would love to and that was how he got his first role in Hot Blooded Youth, followed by Ultimate Noteboth under the same producer.


OSTs from Popular Dramas

Skate Into Love (2020)

Ending song: The Moment I Met You 当遇见你 (Dang Yujian Ni)

"The moment now my heart beats, as in my dream only you will understand me." (Translator: Babel Fansub in official MV)

In this cute, light-hearted love song with an upbeat tempo, the man confesses to his childhood sweetheart that he feels alive again meeting her since she understands his dream. In turn, he helps her to achieve her dream.

In the middle of the song, the singer rapped a portion of the lyrics. This style of music really fits as an ending song that leaves the audience with a happy feeling after watching a cute episode of the drama!

Love and Redemption (2020)

Opening song: Colored Glass 琉璃 (Liu Li)

"After ten thousand years of love tribulation in three realms, I pledged to be with you in life and death." (Translator: ClsQ FMV channel

Accompanied by a mix of slow piano, jamming rock guitar, and drums, the singer sings about the protagonist's love story encompassing ten lifetimes — a song about his heart-wrenching journey of self-sacrifice, altruistic compassion, and infinite love.

Here you can hear how Yu Ning is able to reach high (tenor) and low (bass) levels easily. The high-low pitch also reflects the roller coaster emotions experienced by the couple in their romance.

Word of Honor (2021) 

Opening Song: Ask Heaven 天问 (Tian wen) 

"The heroes are gone, the time was short. People have left, I’ve forgotten." 
(Translator: karenedramaddictions)

As an opening theme, the singer insinuates what the audience can expect in the life journey of the protagonists: reflecting increasing queries to heaven on a series of philosophical questions about life that burdens their hearts.

You can hear and feel the urgency when Yu Ning sang this song, starting by asking humans, then nature, and finally to the heavens about his unsettling questions.

You Are My Hero (2021)

Insert Song: Yearning 眷恋 (Juan Lian) 

"Quietly tell you that I'm still here. The secret of happiness turns out to be missing you. Even if I can't accompany you, I did not forget" 
 (Translator: Bamie7)

In this insert song, a man conveys his longing over the woman he loves as seasons go by. Many chores of life separate them, either in short or a longer time, but he will never forget her.

Yu Ning's voice is sweet and soothing, reflecting the comfort the man gives to his woman to assure her of his promise to keep her in his memory over time.

The Long Ballad (2021)

Insert song: A Love As Always 一爱如故 (Yi Jian Ru Gu)

"Not afraid that I will be exiled into isolation, or flying alone in the sky. As long as you live in happiness" (Translator: Productive Procrastination).

In this love song accompanying by an orchestra, the man serenades his quiet and selfless love towards his love interest. As they become fast friends, his love towards her does and will not change no matter what the situation occurs.

Yu Ning's voice sounds calm and assuring, yet tinged with sadness and bitterness, indicating that the man's love may remain unrequited.

REALITY SHOWS

Liu Yu Ning is an all-rounder entertainer. He's acted in movies, dramas and participated in many reality television shows. He has participated in singing competitions as a contestant in Singer 2019 and a host for Infinite Idol (2021). Here are three other shows that showcase his talents as an artist and a chef.  

 Youtube Playlist (no subs)
Youtube Playlist (ENG subs)
Fresh Chef (2020)
 Youtube Playlist (no subs)  

Yu Ning is also a celebrity guest in other shows. For example, in Chinese Restaurant 4, he competed in running a Chinese restaurant. He was praised by the famous guest Chef Jack Lin (林述巍) as a reliable sous chef in the kitchen. And in We Are on the Way 5 (我们在行动5), he even rolled up his sleeves and cooked using simple utensils and firewood (Full video here).

We Are on the Way 5

DRAMAS

Although Liu Yu Ning played in several low-budget movies before his first drama, nothing made him stand out as an actor. His first debut in the film industry was in the 2016 movie Class 952 as the male lead, He Tao. It's an inspirational youth film about He Tao, a high school boy trying to fulfill his musical dream and find love. However, recognition for Liu Yu Ning as an actor didn't come until he starred in dramas. It only then did he receive praise from both notable figures in the entertainment industry and the public.  

Wei Chen Feng
A young man named Wu Qian (Z. Tao) enters a lucrative but shady competition in a desperate bid to help his best friend, Wei Cheng Feng. Born at the bottom of society, Cheng Feng goes through the hardships of being a street teenager and climbs the ranks to become a patrol captain.
(Video credit: Sweeten without Sugar)
Since the director of the drama, Chu Yui Bun, was impressed with Yu Ning's performance as Wei Chen Feng, he then recommended Yu Ning to the producer of The Long Ballad to play Hao Du, as both characters have resemblance. Chu Yui Bun is also the director of The Long Ballad.
Hei Yan Jing/Black Shades
He Yan Jing (黑眼睛) means Black Shades, a skilled fighter and a resourceful mercenary hired by the tomb-raiding team led by Wu Xie (Joseph Zeng). Yan Jing is a quirky character: a jokester, a money-hungry miser, and a shrewd salesman of any product and service he can sell. 
(Video credit: Seira TLS)

Yu Ning said that He Yan Jing is similar to himself by being a jokester and resourceful. Indeed, Yu Ning is comical and it can be confirmed through his live streams. A lot of Yan Jing's scenes were in low-light sets such as inside tunnels, tombs, caves, or underground. This made people impressed with his acting skills since his character had to wear sunglasses the whole time when shooting. 

Hao Du
Hao Du is a foster son of Minister of War Du Hu Rui, who sees the protagonist Li Chang Ge (Dilraba Dilmurat) as a threat to the Emperor Taizong of Tang.  He is given an order by his father to hunt down and kill Chang Ge. Hao Du finds himself entangled with the timid Li Ye Yan.

Although Hao Du resembles his professional character as striving and determined, Yu Ning acknowledged that playing a costume drama is a big challenge. Unlike modern dramas, specific gestures and restrained speech are needed. Another challenge for Yu Ning was to show subtle changes in Hao Du despite not having many screen appearances for gradual character growth and relationship with Le Yan and Shu Yu. 

When producer Yan Bei asked if he wanted to dub his own character, Hao Du, Yu Ning took on the challenge even though two of his previous dramas were dubbed by voice actors. By enriching the character Hao Du through self dubbing, Yu Ning wanted to become a real actor. Indeed, the Hao Du we saw in the drama was created by Liu Yu Ning, not the manhua creator or the scriptwriter! 

In one of the scenes in the show, Hao Du chokes Le Yan's with great anger. The first time Yu Ning tried, he couldn't do it and burst into a sudden cry. People speculated that it might have been due to the traumatic experiences of being bullied while growing up without parents or being physically abused by his former girlfriend.

Heroes (TBA)
Bai Chou Fei
The upcoming wuxia drama is about a young man named Wang Xiao Shi (Joseph Zeng). In his adventures traveling down the mountain, he meets and befriends several like-minded peers. One of them is Bai Chou Fei (白愁飞), whose name means White Flying Threat. The novel indicates that he is mysterious and the most complicated character in the series.

(Video credit: MD IFans' Club)

When casting Yu Ning as Bai Chou Fei, the producers were a little worried at first. They only knew him as an OST singer. Yu Ning said he could understand their worries, but also his fan's hope in him. No experience is not a concern: can you play it?

Right: reunited with Joseph Zeng from Ultimate Note.

ACHIEVEMENTS

2018

  • Dandong Ambassador for increasing tourist attraction

2019

  • 26th Chinese Top Ten Music Awards (26届东方风云榜音乐盛典) 
    • Best New Artist 
    • Internet Influence Honor 
    • Media Recommended OST Toast the Wine (让酒)
  • 23rd Global Chinese Ranking List (23届全球华语榜中榜)
    • Best Newcomer
  • Chinese Song Music Festival (华人歌曲音乐盛典) 
    • Best Newcomer of the Year 
  • Asia New Songs Chart (亚洲新歌榜)
    • Best New Artist of the Year 
  • 2019 Forbes China 30 Under 30
  • The First Tencent Music Entertainment Festival (第一届腾讯音乐娱乐盛典)
    • Best New Male Singer of the Year
    • New Power of Film and Television Songs

2020

  • 27th Chinese Top Ten Music Awards (27届东方风云榜音乐盛典)  
    • Performing Artist of the Year 
    • National Recommended Singer 
    • Media Recommended Album for ("Ten" 十)
  • Tencent Video Star Awards (腾讯视频星光大赏)
    • Potential Singer of the Year 

2021

  • First Chinese singer to sing a theme song for Disney. He sang Magical Surprise for Shanghai Disney Resort's 5th anniversary.
Receiving Best New Male Singer of the Year award in The First Tencent Music Entertainment Festival.
Thanking audience in 27th Chinese Top Ten Music Awards, after singing Young and Beautiful OST. Video here.
Performing in the Magical Surprise official MV. In the video, he states not having any dancing talent.

TRIVIA BUT INTERESTING FACTS

About His Fans

  • Their success through YY and Douyin is through their communication with their fans. They ask for feedback and always try to improve themselves. This creates a welcoming community between the artist and fans.
  • He doesn't see his fans as just "fans" as he values them as "friends and family." He actively takes care of his fans and is proud of them because he believes that, unlike other celebrities with millions of fans, even if he has few, they are willing to support him. 
  • What endears Yu Ning to fans is he is very casual. A lot have followed him since busking days, so the boundary was never there. Yu Ning and fans are really sarcastic to each other on Weibo. They call him Boss (Lao Da 老大), he calls himself Bro Ning (Ning Ge 宁哥) to them. Some classic Yu Ning live streaming elements include banters, weird stickers appearing mid-song, and bandmates wandering off behind him.
  • During a live broadcast, he joked about wondering if fans will show up in wedding dresses for his concert. Thousands of his lovely fans came to the show in their own wedding dresses.
  • Nowadays, he is very busy, but he still takes time to live broadcast alone. This is really rare because there are many internet celebrities that, after transforming into stars, decrease or stop putting in the same number of quality live broadcasts and short videos. His fans respect and admire that. So, they would cancel their dates and outing with friends to watch and interact with him in his live broadcasts.

About His Work Ethics

  • When he used to sing in bars, he would sing live for about three hours non-stop with over 20 songs. The words used to describe Yu Ning during his bar-singing career were "self-disciplined" and "terrifying."
  • Although he sang songs in a bar for four years, he tries not to drink. To protect his voice, he also stopped smoking and doesn't eat spicy food.
  • He can hold live broadcasts for hours, normally three or four. On the May Day holiday (May 1), he even went live for 5 hours! He said if people persistent in watching at least three of his live broadcasts, they will become his fans, lol.
  • He has been described by his co-workers (like veteran singer Richie Jen 任賢齊 and variety show co-hosts) as "always grateful," "always saying thanks to the staff," and "very polite."
  • He humbly thinks he has no talent for acting, but he has the ability to imitate. Since he was young, he likes to imitate funny things, including cartoon characters, which may be helpful for acting.
  • From the first play to the present, the changes made him truly fall in love with acting. He set himself a goal to be an excellent actor.
  • Yu Ning is interested in and would fight to get the role as an undercover agent.

About His Personal Life

  • To not make him worried, his mom doesn't want to tell or brag to strangers that Yu Ning is her son. She doesn't come out often, not even for playing mahjong with friends.
  • The secret of his towering height? In high school, Yu Ning had to jump over the school wall for fifteen days straight to avoid a guy who wanted to beat him up since the guy's girlfriend liked Yu Ning!
  • Back in his hometown, Yu Ning used to sell corn snacks with his ex-girlfriend, whom he dated for three years. He said that his ex-girlfriend didn't like him singing but wanted him to get a stable job. She said that selling corn snacks made more money than singing.
  • During a live stream, he also said that this ex-girlfriend was physically and verbally abusive. She told him that with his looks and his age, he couldn't be a singer. When they fought or when she was drunk, she would physically abuse him. When they broke up, he was happy but also starving, lol. (Note: that's the reason we put pictures of Yu Ning laughing... he had the last laugh, didn't he?!)
  • Based on his bad experiences in his love life, Yu Ning does not want a girlfriend who is: mean, nags (according to him, his other ex-girlfriend liked him singing but complained a lot), and who drinks (alcohol). His other criteria for a girlfriend? Cute and average height. We wish him the best in his quest!

CONCLUSION

At the end of our article, we can now see how the multi-talented Liu Yu Ning has created such an impressive fanbase for himself through his career journey. 

In 2015, Yu Ning started his career when he was already in his mid-twenties. Nowadays, this is uncommon in the Chinese entertainment industry when talented young artists strive to start at an early age as possible.

Despite having received no formal training in music, singing, or even acting, his persistence and hard work paid off to show people his passion. Once he staked his presence in the OST world, he continues to stand strong in released dramas today. His popularity soared with his acting role in The Long Ballad, but Yu Ning stays grounded in who he is by continuing to live stream for his fans despite his busy schedule. With his story from a humble beginning, incredible strength in never giving up, and breaking the mold of an internet celebrity, Liu Yu Ning will continue to be an endearing and inspirational figure to many people!

Before You Leave,

Watch Yu Ning's cover of the happy song and karaoke version of "Change Me," Gaibian Ziji (改變自己). He filled in the melody with rapping, so cute!

The MV of the 2007 original song is also fun to listen to! The song is an R&B rock song by Leehom Wang (王力宏), found here: Youtube Leehom Wang channel


THANK YOU FOR READING!


Special thanks to Kairi of the Sky; from her article, two strangers got the same inspiration to create this article together! Thank you to the editors who edited this article. We do not own any of the images used. Credits go to the respective owners. Images are taken from the artist and fans' Weibo pages, Douban, Google search, fans' website, drama stills/posters/screenshots, and Youtube fans' accounts. GIFs are made by Cho Na from Youtube clips and drama scenes.


Edited by: devitto (1st editor)

ost the long ballad liu yu ning ultimate note modern brothers douyin hot blooded youth heroes 刘宇宁

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