K-pop fans with lightsticks like a cult

From ‘Crazy about K pop’, 10 Dec 2011, various letters in Life! Mailbag, ST

(Stella Hartono): Clearly, Adeline Chia has not studied her topic well enough if she generalises fans showing their support as being part of a ‘cult gathering’. What about fans at World Cup or SuperBowl?

In the case of TVXQ, it was their first fan meet here after a year of hiatus and problems. Is it wrong for fans to show their support by waving lightsticks to create an atmosphere of warmth and encouragement? I pity her for never experiencing such a passion in her life and criticising other people’s passions instead.

(Sharina J):…TVXQ has inspired and encouraged me in times of difficulties. When I felt like giving up on my studies, I found out that TVXQ member Changmin actually came in third for an examination he took, despite his busy schedule. That inspired me to work hard. Listening to their soft, melodic voices calms my heart.

(Noe Muhonen):…K-pop has nothing to do with cults. Where Ms Chia refers to us as cults, we talk about families. We support one another when we are going through difficult times. We cry together and we laugh together. Talking about our fandom as a ‘cult’ is highly offensive. You would not call your own family a cult, would you?

ST staff writer Adeline Chia’s rant on K-pop remains one of the more delightfully honest and scathing reads in the ST in a long time, and with such expected vehemence from the Hallyu wave ‘family’, she has not just proven that K pop fans are wildly deluded and rely on boybands to pass their exams, but have a dismal lack of any sense of humour or self-parody whatsoever, nevermind how much they ‘laugh’ together. Adeline’s ‘cult’ reference is a common figure of speech and was never intended to accuse K-pop fans of engaging in satanic, animal sacrificing rites, so these kids should just ‘lighten’ up already (hurr-hurr). This is a journalist who reviews arthouse performances, so she is bound to have a biased opinion. And, for my reading pleasure, thankfully so. In contrast here’s what she has to say about ‘Kaspar’, from her Facebook page.

Saw Lasalle’s anarchic production of Kaspar and was struck by how fantastic Peter Handke’s language play was. It twists sentences into odd shapes and bombards you with repetition and permutations, demonstrating how language is an organ of control. All this matched by anarchic, high-energy ensemble acting, which was uneven. Special mention goes to the sexy dominatrix “prompter” played by Jean Toh

Which probably gives you some idea already about what to expect from a commentary on K-pop, which is to ‘art’ as what crabsticks are to seafood. Here’s a couple of ripping, dismissive lines off ‘Sick of the K pop cult’ (Dec 8 2011, Life!):

…I am heartily sick of it. Every bit of it. The manufactured sounds, the ersatz emotions, the clone-like stars, the cult- like, weepy fandom.

…Recently, watching a sea of red lightsticks keeping beat to a song made me and my companion grab on to each other. Eyes wide in terror, we communicated wordlessly for fear of persecution. Our faces said this: ‘Are we at a cult gathering?’

Adeline’s mockery of K pop may come across as sour-grapes to the fanbase, the kind of snide cynicism that critics love to deliver at the expense of an adolescent fetish. Anyone who uses the word ‘ersatz’ to describe bubblegum pop probably belongs to the ‘serious, indie musician’ fan camp, and K pop with its addictive but hollow aesthetic of blending Western influences with demigod/goddess appeal and slick dance moves is a phenomenon just waiting to be bashed by music-fans who’d think they have better taste in music. There is no doubt a gratifying sense of achievement in telling a K pop fan that their idols’ ‘original’ song sounds like an estrogen-enhanced, hip hop rip-off of an 80′s New Wave classic. That smugness is only temporary though, up to the point you realise that to your average K Pop worshipper, the timeline of Western pop music begins only at Lady Gaga’s Pokerface, and she would even have trouble recognising household, though now prehistoric, names like Spice Girls or Boyzone (B.G, or Before Gaga)

But haven’t we grown tired bashing the same old wave after wave of synthetic boy/girl band pop? Just as K pop fans bond over a common, irrational love for manufactured sounds, likewise those who relish mocking them bond over a mutual disdain for the ‘K-cult’, to the extent of homophobic insults like rapper Sheikh Haikel’s  U-Kiss my Ass. Such polarisation could account for K pop’s ridiculous excess and success; the presence of a common enemy i.e people who profess better taste in music, that the ‘family’ needs to defend themselves against the intelligentsia with their weapon of choice: synchronised lightsticks. People either go giggly and delirious over K-bands, hugging autographed CD covers to sleep, or adopt a ‘cooler-than-thou’ attitude ready to unleash a stream of comparisons against ‘REAL bands’. Either way, you’re still part of a groupie mob, and that’s only, and sadly, human.

I’m actually impartial to the K-pop mainstream, with its catchy, predictable tunes, cutie-pie porcelain girls with dreamy eyes, perfectly synchronised dance moves, forgettable band names that sound like permutations of a bar code serial number, well-produced music videos you can’t take your eyes off etc. It’s like musical Farmville, rich chocolate cake, Mills and Boons erotica or the Hey Macarena! song, guilty pleasures that we all can’t do without, arty-farty literary critics included. In fact, I’m more likely to wince and groan at Train’s ‘Soul Sister’ (a ‘pop-rock’ abomination) than anything off the discography of the Backstreet Boys or TVXQ, for the latter only because I wouldn’t realise it even it they had terrible lyrics like Train has (or non-lyrics, it’s just one ‘hey-ay’ after another). It only becomes a problem when people take K-pop seriously rather than treat it like the disposable fluff that it was always intended to be. In most circles, that would be called ‘entertainment’.

What bugs me is whether K-pop idols are really worth emulating as role models or pursued as a ‘healthy’ obsession as what supporters would tell you. In 2007, hip hop performer MC Mong extracted his own TEETH to dodge conscription into the Korean army. Chae Dong Ha, formerly of ‘SG wannabe’,  committed suicide in May this year after the failure of a high-flying career, following in the footsteps of Yuni in 2007, incidents which spark off copycat suicidal tendencies among their fans.  G-dragon of BIG BANG, was busted for smoking marijuana. You could say drugs, sex and killing yourself are fair staple of the K-pop universe just like they would be for any international superstar, but followers making important decisions like when to study hard, how to dodge NS or whether to take their own lives, out of blind dedication and imitation of what a celebrity does or says, is, as Adeline rightly observed, borderline cult-like. If Shinee tells their fans a UFO will descend on New Years Eve and take fans on a ride across the galaxy trailing a stray comet to the ecstatic beats of ‘Ring Ding Dong’, after consuming a magical joy-juice which is actually cyanide, I’m sure a faithful handful would oblige. With lightsticks in hand.

Here’s a series of wonky activities which sound exactly like the castigations of a religious cult, though it’s actually what aspiring K pop stars go through in their ‘training’.

..Strictly no boyfriends, no mobile phones and no unsupervised trips – even to the toilet. When in public, the girls can’t ever take off their sunglasses lest their tired peepers are caught on camera. They must speak only Korean and respond to their Korean stage names. They will address their Korean management as their family – the men they will call “appa” (father in Korean) and women “umma” (mother in Korean). For most of their 14-hour days, the use of make-up is prohibited as the Koreans require a bare-faced, natural look. After 7pm, there will be no eating or drinking – even a single drop of water won’t be allowed….Five hours of gym, dance, vocal and Korean language lessons are compulsory daily.There will be no fraternising with other K-pop stars or anyone outside their “family”.

Which makes K-pop and its sinister star-making machine the guiltiest guilty pleasure of all.

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Another Home spoils image of Singapore

From ‘Video spoof of S’pore causes stir online’, 2 Aug 2011, article in Asiaone.com

A VIDEO clip taking a fresh spin on Dick Lee’s classic National Day song, Home, has caused a stir online. The seven-minute clip entitled Another Home, produced by Singapore Independent Films Only (SINdie), gives an irreverent twist to Singapore’s key talking points in the past year. SINdie is a website dedicated to independent films here.

The pro-bono video project has garnered about 45,000 hits since it was posted online last Saturday. It was put together by a production team and cast of about 60 people.

…The video also features the Singapore Democratic Party’s bear mascot in a pair of swimming trunks, similar to those worn infamously by members of the national water-polo team last November.

SINdie founder Jeremy Sing, 34, told my paper he feels that Singaporeans are “mature enough to laugh at ourselves”, especially after the recent watershed General Election. He declined to reveal the video’s production costs, saying that the video was intended to “stir conversation”, while stressing that it was not politically driven.

Chua, who plays the NSF in the clip, said: “It’s like a review…of what Singapore got up to as a 45-year-old. It’s like those videos that one has to watch at a wedding banquet.”

There were mixed reactions from netizens, though. Netizen Jacksonlcq said that the video “spoils the image of Singapore”, while a few others said that it was embarrassing.

This image creeps me out

Considering the high production values invested in this clip, it would be waste if it were not featured on national television. Not exactly a montage of the last 45 years of our history, but rather a compilation of sly references to the most talked about cultural memes over the past year: NSF and his backpack-carrying maid, Tin Pei Ling, Nicole Seah, national water-polo team swimming trunks, election mushrooms, YOG Oh yeah Oh yeah cheer, Fun Pack Song (at the end credits). You could say it’s almost like a Noose musical version, but judging from the crop of musical tributes from past NDPs and its generally low tolerance of satire and obsession with bland patriotic fluff, it’s unlikely that you’ll see this featured in this year’s celebrations, though it may score higher in terms of Youtube hits than any other NDP song in history.

This is where I MUST be

In fact one could detect a sense of restraint from going totally off the cuff with the inside jokes here, though that would mean it would be banned outright for being, well, simply too Singaporean for the NDP organisers’ liking.  The SDP bear in obscene waterpolo trunks is probably the funniest thing here, while using a bizarre doppleganger in the form of Tin Pei Ling was  a bit too obvious and predictable. Still, at least there’s no pesky rapping going on, unlike the ‘We Are the World’ version of the exact same song featuring Sheik Haikel. There’s so much potential in this to be something wildly magical, and you get the feeling that it was created half-heartedly for mass appeal without offending anyone too much in order to get a rare shot at the NDP. Nothing wrong with playing it safe, but there’s this gnawing feeling that Chua En Lai and gang are capable of so much more than just 7 minutes of cheesy dancing, Tin Pei Ling pouting and bad synchronised swimming.

Still, spoofing is always preferable to what our past NDP songs have been doing all this while: Recycling. I present to you now the most over-used word that is not ‘We’  in the history of NDP songs:

‘We are told no dream‘s too bold that we can’t try for’ – Count on Me Singapore, 1986

‘Where my dreams wait for me, where the river always flows’ – Home, 1998

‘Where dreams come true for us’ – Where I Belong, 2001

‘Our dreams we’ll all achieve’ – Reach out for the Skies, 2005

‘Your dreams and hopes will all come true’ – Shine for Singapore, 2008

‘With our hopes and dreams, imagine what tomorrow will bring’ – What do you See, 2009

‘Live our wildest dreams’ – Sing a Song for Singapore, 2010

‘I have a dream of starting a life’ – In a Heartbeat, 2011

Every company should be like Lady Gaga

From ‘Swee Say to firms: Emulate Gaga’, 12 July 2011, article by Gwendolyn Ng, MyPaper.

COMPANIES in the service industry here should emulate Lady Gaga. That was the advice Mr Lim Swee Say, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office, had for business owners and industry representatives at an event marking the fifth anniversary of the national service-excellence movement, Go the Extra Mile for Service (Gems).

Though Mr Lim admitted that he knows next to nothing about the 25-year-old popstar, he is impressed by the emotional attachment she inspires in her “little monsters”, or fans. He said: “Somehow, Lady Gaga is able to engage her fans all over the world, not just with her songs… but also with experiences. Every (company) ought to find a way such that more of you will become like the Lady Gaga of your respective sectors.”

…Mr Lim said: “The gap between the very-good and not-so-good is quite wide… Not because those at the bottom are not good, but rather those at the top are running faster and faster. We hope to help those who are running fast to run even faster. We (also) hope to reach out to the majority.”

This awkward analogy came fresh after the NDP Funpack song fiasco, which our dear Minister here would have taken as an original composition given that he knows ‘next to nothing’ about Lady Gaga, or her ‘Bad Romance’ song for that matter. Perhaps Lim Swee Say should spend more time surfing tabloid news before randomly selecting a music and fashion icon as a business model. You could apply the same analogy to any hip, successful celebrity with adoring fans (Kylie Minogue for example), and it appears that the only reason why Lim Swee Say went Gaga is because her stage name sounds like that of a superhero, in addition to being ridiculously catchy.  Lady Gaga can afford to stir controversy, whether it’s splashing herself with blood, cooping herself in an egg, wearing a dress made of steak or spouting blasphemous slander. Such antics define the product that is her, and suggesting that companies gaga-fy themselves by becoming tacky media whores and aggravating animal rights groups as a means of getting recognised is simplistic at best, a regrettable mistake at worst. If Lim Swee Say’s inspirations were a national dish, it’d probably be a big bowl of  ‘rojak’.

Most successful companies hardly live on the razor’s edge, being more like safe, steady David Beckhams than offbeat, volatile Lady Gagas. Think Coke, Apple, Pfizer. Do any of these sound the least bit Gaga to you?  Such analogies are redundant and unhelpful, serving only to create the illusion that Lim Swee Say listens to what you listen to on the radio, though it’s likely that he had only heard of the performer via the Funpack song and it’s the only Western female solo artist he can probably name other than Madonna or Dolly Parton. He probably rates Poker Face as his all time favourite song. now. Here’s some possible Gaga-inspired motivational posters to adorn our cubicles, featuring our patron saint of business herself living on the Edge of Glory. Eh Eh Eh There’s Nothing More I Can Say.

SACRIFICE 

TRANSPARENCY

DON'T LET THE BUBBLE BURST

MAKE MEAT OF YOUR RIVALS

EVERY IDEA IS AN EMBRYO

Expats sure know how to have fun

From ‘In a sea of foreigners’, 10 July 2011, article by Sumiko Tan, Sunday Times

…I was at the Kylie Minogue concert and one thought struck me: ‘These expats sure know how to hang loose and have fun’. It’s a common sight at concerts. Save for pockets of more demonstrative Singaporeans, it’ll be foreigners who look as if they’re really having a good time.

…At the Kylie gig, I was seated in a row of about eight people. They must have been Singaporeans because we all remained seated throughout. The most energetic thing they did was to wave the light stick, and even then feebly and self-consciously. Surrounding us, though, were hundred of foreigners – I am guessing Australians, Britons and Americans – who were partying away.  For a moment, I felt like a stranger in my own country.

…This feeling of dislocation surfaced again when I was shopping in Orchard Road… It’s the same at all my weekend haunts, whether it’s Ngee Ann City, Great World City or Little India or a suburban mall. I just feel outnumbered by foreigners. Singapore has changed.

Maybe the foreign fans attending the Kylie concert REALLY LOVE Kylie so much that they had to make a party out of it. Perhaps they were drunk, or they could just be tourists who paid good money to follow their idol on tour. And why ‘Americans, Australians or Britons’? What about Canadians, Spaniards or even the French? Do Americans even listen to Kylie? In her more than 20 years of showbiz, she has had only TWO top ten US Billboard hits (Locomotion, Can’t Get You Out of my Head). Sumiko’s selective observation doesn’t say much about EXPATS being fun loving in general, especially since there are supposedly more than a million foreigners lurking among us. I’m sure they’re those who’d prefer to stay at home and watch TV or walk the dog, instead of hanging around Clarke Quay watching EPL,  fooling around with local women or joining conga lines outside Ion Orchard. So in her midst of appearing victimised by this deluge of foreigners into our beloved homeland, Sumiko has inadvertently committed the sin of double-stereotyping here. One, foreigners are party animals who know how to enjoy life and get lots of sex. And two, Singaporeans are boring as hell.

But the general impression that I get from her piece is how ‘Tell me something I don’t already know’ it all is. There’s nothing surprising about bumping into foreigners in major shopping malls, which are ‘tourist attractions’ after all, or at enclaves like Holland Village where expats reside, doing something most locals wouldn’t dream of doing: Sitting out in the hot sun people-watching. Suburban malls still maintain a distinctive local, though not entirely palatable, flavour. Personally, the only time when I would feel out of place in this country, when the infiltration is omnipresent, would be something as mundane as taking the MRT, which Sumiko fails to mention here. If nothing is done to curb the influx, it’ll reach a point where MRT commuters would evolve their own separate pidgin language just to survive in train carriages, in addition to developing adaptive skills of slinking past giant backpacks, filtering out harsh body odours or dodging pickaxes and other construction tools which workers bring on board. Feeling out of place is fine as long as our alien population behaves. The problem which Sumiko hints at but doesn’t expand further, is foreigners who screw things up; beating up taxi drivers, cheating at casinos, spray painting MRT trains, leaving their mess about or letting their kids piss into dustbins mistaking them for pissing wells back in their godforsaken village.

Channel 8 keeps playing the same Ai theme song

From ‘Taiwan dramas spoilt by dubbing, translation’ 16 Apr 2011,Voices,Today

(Ho Qin Yuan): My friends and I watch the Taiwanese drama Love on weekdays at 7pm and we are fed up with how Channel 8 broadcasts it.

It repeatedly plays the same theme song, I Ask Sky. The opening images, as well as those seguing to and from the commercials, have not changed over more than 600 episodes – unlike Formosa TV and China’s CCTV network, which changes them frequently. Is there some rights issue involved?

Channel 8 should also remove the English subtitles from all the Taiwanese dramas it airs because when the translation of the dialogue is inaccurate it ruins the show.

We are tired of the fact the dramas are broadcast in Mandarin, rather than the original Hokkien or dual sound. Our greatest disgust is that the songs for the drama Life have been dubbed in Mandarin – the lyrics in Mandarin are all wrong. Can Channel 8 play the songs in their original Hokkien?

Considering that TV licence fees have been indefinitely waived, fans of Ai should count themselves lucky that this  immensely popular series hasn’t been discontinued since. Ms Ho should also realise that Ai is watched not just by the Hokkien-speaking alone, and if Mediacorp had catered exclusively to this group without considering viewers of other dialect groups or even non-Chinese, the limited scope of viewership wouldn’t justify the cost of televising it.  And before you can sing the empathic first two lines of ‘I Ask Sky’, Cantonese speakers would follow suit to demand that their serials be undubbed as well. Someone will have to drum the Speak Mandarin campaign into these people’s heads again to remind them that Mediacorp is far likelier to allow a sloppily censored Lust, Caution on national TV than a squeak of Hokkien in a drama serial that has a total running time longer than the average human gestation period. Note the complete lack of irony in the writer’s endorsement of a ridiculous title like ‘I Ask Sky’, which would be a more apt English translation for a pygmy rain dance than a contemporary Taiwan drama theme song.

To complain about English subtitles is not only selfishly depriving others of enjoying the series,  muted punchlines aside, but utterly absurd, since anyone who is able to detect inaccuracy in translation has no need to rely on them in the first place, and has no right demanding that they be removed. Most people have grown to settle for dubbed serials for decades, and as long as everyone is on the same page with regards to the basic plot, which is the essential social function of Ai at nursing homes and senior citizen corners, why ‘ask of the sky’ to un-dub them now? Most of Ai is dramatic face-slapping anyway, which means the same thing in whatever language you dub it in. Here’s a tip to the complainant, get someone to teach you how to log in to the internet, type Youtube.com, search for I Ask Sky, download it into your handphone, and listen to your heart’s content. Or better still, switch to cable or DVD, or belt it out at void deck KTV, instead of complaining about how Mandarin-dubbed theme songs are all wrong in a national paper.

Rapping when singers are singing

From ‘Original version is better’, 26 Feb 2011, Speakup, New Paper

(Tan Shao Ken): IN RECENT weeks, the music video for the song titled, Home, has been aired on national television. I appreciate the effort in having a new music video to commemorate Total Defence Day. But is it good enough to send a message? I doubt it.

It appears that Singapore wants a song similar to We Are The World. But there is no proper synchronisation of the elements in the video: lyrics, sound and visuals.

What is home to most Singaporeans? Is it not family? But there are no obvious scenes in the video which relate to a family.

Instead the scenes of skylines seem more touristy than heartland, which most Singaporeans can relate to.

Also, why is there rapping when singers are singing? How are listeners to concentrate on the lyrics and the message?

Compared with Kit Chan’s original version, this new version of Home does not send any message to listeners.

 

Baby you're on fire. Word!

For the noble cause of argument, I took great pains to decipher Sheikh Haikel’s ‘rap’ off the Home video since everyone in the video has accompanying subtitles except for him, and he actually has more lines than the composer Dick Lee himself (38 seconds of airtime, the most among all involved, apparently).  Here is his segment in its awful entirety.

‘It’s where we’re not alone/For this is our home/This is my home truly/No matter where I’d be/I love you dearly/I keep you close to me/I’m there for you sincerely/Like you’re always there for me/You’re always there for me/Together you and me’…’I know it’s home cos I’m never alone/Together we’re strong/I call home cos you’re always there/I can’t compare/This is where/This is home baby, yay-aah’

The lyrics alone seem more at ‘Home’ in a Wheels on a Bus DVD for toddlers than a call to arms theme like Total Defence Day. To call such wimpy drivel rapping is an insult to the genre, which was traditionally about ‘sticking it to da Man’ , narcissistic ranting and rising out the ghettos into a decadent lifestyle of guns, girls, money and plenty of bikini pool parties,  not proclaiming your love for the homeland through bland Mother goosing. In any case, rap has in recent years morphed into the commercial behemoth that is ‘hip hop’ and anyone can vocalise in a flat monotonous tone these days and make tons of money without having to don oversized jerseys, bling or even be black, i.e. Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber.

So the writers of the new ‘Home’ could argue that ‘rapping’, or as they would say ‘Hip Hop’ elements, are perfectly natural inclusions to give the new theme a more contemporary, funky vibe. The complainant, however, seems to think that Sheikh Haikel just bumbled into the studio to shoot his hip hop mouth off interrupting other people while they’re singing lines with proper melodies, which suggests a fuddy duddy mindest without the slightest clue about how rapping works.  Haikel, good intentions with unfortunate lyrics nonetheless, is probably the only potential cyber-warrior among the supergroup who can play an actual part in national defence other than pummeling enemies with sick rhymes, having a Twitter fanbase and the power to intimidate by dropping Tweet bombs like U Kiss My Ass! on anyone trying to be funny with our homeland, or his rapping for that matter. Take that, enemy!

Singapore has little to offer by way of ‘We are the World’ supergroup videos other than skylines, as evident in our Shanghai Expo promo last year, where someone thought getting 4 Mandopop giants to come together and sing a song of Singapore would be a great idea. To be specific, skylines filmed from a slow bumboat under bridges, instead of doing  more impressive vista sweeping with a helicopter, which is probably also cheaper and easier than getting 39 superstars together to sing a composition redone to death at NDPs because nothing truly original has emerged since. My sympathies to celebrity Kelvin Tan Wei Lian, who had only 5 words  (as my senses tell me) in his contribution, though I must say those few seconds were at least sung more emphatically and joyously than Sheikh’s Big Daddy, Positivity sweetened posturing and some of the old worn-out tobacco chewing Joe Cocker wannabe croakers in there. Well of course Kit’s original version was better, as it’s been the case for all the versions of We are the World trying to emulate the 80′s original. Sure, we could do without the rapping, but the recycled skyline motifs, which we’re supposed to defend with our very lives, are sadly here to stay.  What message the video is trying to deliver though, is rather questionable, since it appeals merely to the softer side of our sense of belonging, as it was intended to be in the first place. For a more effective, and cheaper campaign to make Singaporeans bear arms to protect their soil, playing snippets of army training videos to the theme for Top Gun (no rapping there) would probably do the trick.

Where the river flows. Left:Home video. Right:Last year's Expo video

U-Kiss My Ass

From ‘Haikel slams Korean boyband on Twitter’, article in 24 Nov 2010, Life!

…He (Sheikh Haikel) let his fingers do the talking on this Twitter account, insulting Korean boyband U-Kiss which had performed at an event he co-hosted…At 10.30 pm, after the concert, he tweeted: ‘U-Kiss my Ass!!Bunch of shit stabbers’.

This angered Straits Times reader, Ms Daphne Tan, who wrote in to say: ‘He did not respect the artists, the event, the organisers from Aljunied GRC, and the guest of honour (Minister of Foreign Affairs George Yeo)

It was a pun waiting to be made, and would have been cleverer if not for the scathing ‘shit-stabbers’, a bewildering term which calls to mind people poking faeces with pointed sticks (it actually means having anal intercourse). Even more puzzling is why people even follow Haikel on Twitter at all, knowing that the only insight one gets from his tweet history is ghetto posturing and exclamations such as Booyah! and Peace! which even Vanilla Ice in his ‘Wassup wassup’ prime would refrain from using. Funny pun, no doubt, but bad mistake to incur the wrath of legions of boyband fans, even worse when you’re being paid to humour their idols on stage. Frantic apologies are useless, Haikel, no one is going to believe a ‘homeboy from the hood who keeps it real, yawww’ broadcasting remorseful tweets about how U-kiss, clean cut pretty boys who have as much stubble as their armpits have hair, actually produce good music. It’s a shame really, because people are just starting to forget you once asked a radio listener to ask a girl if she wears white panties.

They stab shit

I’m not loving the ride

From ‘地铁宣导曲“幼稚”? 受访搭客大多不排斥’, 14 Sept 2010, article in omy.sg (Lianhe Zaobao)

…陆路交通管理局及公共交通理事会,在本月6日推出新一轮公共交通优雅行为宣传,这次请到歌舞剧团体“点心宝贝”来唱宣导短曲,提醒公众要排队。

宣导短曲在地铁站播放后,在网上掀起讨论热潮。有网民批评,宣导短曲“幼稚无知、把大人当小孩看待、听起来很烦人”。

也有网民说:“这显示新加坡人还长不大,需要一再地提醒要排队,简直如家丑外扬,很丢脸。”

Translation: The Dim Sum Dollies jingle ‘Love your ride’ blaring in MRT stations, in a bid to remind Singaporeans to be gracious commuters, has been deemed by some to be childish, annoying and an embarrassment to outsiders.

Funny no one complained about the Malay accent mocking in the ‘Makcik’  sequence of the video. Really, anything played for prolonged periods at MRT stations will be grating on the ears, and getting the less recognisable, but thankfully less irritating, Dim Sum Dollies to follow up on the PCK rap just goes to show that our commuters haven’t learned anything all this time. Jingle or no jingle, one has to admit that some Singaporeans need to be treated like kids because they actually behave like kids, though I wonder who would take a boa-flipping Dim Sum Dolly seriously, and  whether the ad would have the contrary effect of more people rushing into the trains out of desperation to escape it. The only way for anyone to have a pleasant experience on a train or bus is if they are seated and the aisles are clear of passengers so that they don’t have to agonise over which is path of least resistance to take on the way out. With the alarming population boom and overcrowded trains, ‘dolling’ up the commuting experience and putting a carnival, burlesque spin on it is like making funny faces at a torture victim waiting to have his toenails pulled out in an attempt to alleviate the pain. Not clever and not funny.

YOG TV hosts act cute

From ‘He was disrespectful’, 21 Aug 2010, Speakup, The New Paper

(Sebastian Tan): …His (Sean Kingston) no-show last Saturday night left the other four artistes – Steve Appleton, Jody Williams, Jessica Mauboy and Tabitha Nauser – to sing the first YOG theme song, Everyone.

If this is true (skipping YOG to join Justin Bieber on tour), I think he was being very disrespectful to both the International Olympic Committee and Singapore, the host country of the inaugural YOG. Kingston should be taken to task for this.

Perhaps, he could be banned from singing any future Olympic theme songs or any theme songs of major sports meets in the future. Better yet, could his part in the YOG theme song be ‘deleted’ and replaced by another worthy male singer? It would be insulting to have that video clip include him for posterity.

His face dropped

According to Sean Kingston’s twitter,

Due to circumstances beyond my control I was unable to attend the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Youth Olympics is Singapore….

This music industry is all business but I refuse to let my singapore fans suffer I LOVE U ALL And trust me Being Apart Of The YOG Ment A lot

So he admits that his absence was a business decision (but of course it is, he’s a megasuperstar for god’s sake, and who could resist tagging along with Justin Bieber on his tour). In the first place, his willingness to be a background singer to Singapore Idol Tabitha Nauser was dubious, this coming from someone with international hits like ‘Beautiful Girl’ and the awful porn-sounding ‘Face Drop’. Let’s be realistic here, as much as Sean loves his fans as he claims, his real job as dictated by his agents and producers, is to make records, go on tours and make tons of money, not attend an event where he’s merely a footnote and not the headlining presence that he deserves.

From ‘TV presenters should be more professional’, 21 Aug 2010, Speakup, The New Paper

(Ye Moxing):…They (YOG TV presenters Divian Nair and Candice Miller)will do well to cut back on the overly informal camaraderie.

First, cut out the incessant banter, the ribbing and nudging. Bear in mind, folks, you are on national TV, not on a programme like Teens Central or over the radio. All the gesturing is distracting to viewers.

Divian, in particular, is annoyingly casual: He even sat cross-legged on the sofa in the opening ceremony segment. Did he think he was at a campfire or a club meeting?

Second, there’s the overly positive spin given to the Games, particularly for the members of Team Singapore. Perhaps, the presenters were briefed to do so to spur our youth to aspire and excel.

However, their always positive spiel is surreal and too saccharine. Take the taekwondo final in which Christopher Lee lost 1-12 to his Korean opponent.

Divian’s comment was that it was ‘unfortunate’. If you ask me, the 1-12 loss was more than merely unfortunate – it was a drubbing.

…Candice’s nightly ‘rah-rah’ to viewers – to cheer on our YOG athletes – can be irritating, schoolgirlish, even.

Warming up for the Oh yeah oh yeah cheer

I don’t take too kindly to people who start their sentences with ‘Bear in mind, folks’. But despite not following the antics of these presenters myself, and seeing how the YOG was intended from the beginning (manga mascots, YOG cheer) to be an elaborate exercise in juvenile behaviour, is such act-cute posturing any surprise at all? As for the ‘unfortunate’ comment, Divian is free to use whatever euphemism he likes in place of the more accurate ‘thrashing’.  Bear in mind, Moxing, that the athlete’s parents and grandparents are watching,  that these are kids under dual pressure of sports and studies, and that this is just the first YOG ever, so just cut the presenters and kids some slack already.  You can’t expect Singaporean hosts to be coldly neutral when they announce gaping scoreline margins, and credit must be given for their enthusiasm, mock or not, to rev up an event with an already flagging viewership.

NDP songs pointless

From ‘Pointless to have new ones every year’ 29 July 2010, ST Forum

(Victor Khoo) Is it necessary to compose new National Day songs every year?

My sense is that these new compositions seem to be written to promote the artists singing them rather than as a song that Singaporeans can truly connect with.

There is nothing wrong with the two classics, Count On Me Singapore and Stand Up For Singapore, which are inspirational and tug at the heartstrings.

It would be wrong if the organisers’ intention is to cater to the young generation because this would suggest that older Singaporeans are left out.

It would be better if the creative sparks organising this year’s National Day Parade re-record a fresh, uptempo version of the two classic songs. Then they will be recognisable and easy for all to sing or hum along to.

With the kind of criticism thrown and enormous pressure faced by National Day song performers, e.g Electrico, what on earth makes Victor Khoo think that our local artistes would use this as a platform for stardom? Bland lyrics, boring videos, limited overseas appeal, people watching it for free on TV and not buying CDs, not being able to perform the song at concerts because it’s lame. It’s practically career suicide! And not all uptempo remixes of Stand up for Singapore are easy to hum to, as you can see from this clip of a rap entourage taking a classic, pulverising it with phony hip hop grooves, disemboweling it of all meaning and nostalgia, and scrapping its bloody innards on the ground off the sole of their Timberland boots.  As for its exclusive appeal to youth, don’t you know it’s totally not cool to listen to National Day songs? If anything, NDP anthems like the irrepressible Stand up for Singapore belong on the mixtape of any Line Dancing tournament.

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