By Hans Ebert
For those female artists in Asia who know that no matter how “mature” they might be that their pulling power at those huge and often way over the top ‘live’ concerts worth millions to them will always be there along with Star Appeal, especially at home and which might travel to markets nearby, international fame, no matter how small, eludes them.
Is this fame important to them? Not financially, but as part of their portfolio- part of enhancing their image, and that thing called face/pride, definitely. Maybe not much anymore as no one knows where music is heading and what’s in it for anyone other than coasting along and making that existing brand as relevant and expensive as it can be. Of course, one must first actually have a brand.
When at EMI, there was incredible pressure on some of us to make a duet with Taiwan superstar Jolin Tsai and Kylie Minogue happen. It was a way to keep her from moving music companies.
We somehow made this happen- it was a bizarre duet where instead of singing in Mandarin, Jolin insisted on singing in English on an existing Kylie track- got to meet Kylie when she was holidaying in London, and then delivered an album of covers- in English- to fulfil contractual obligations which, of course, stiffed. She then jumped ship with her crew. And then? Who knows?
There were also efforts to have Japan’s Seiko Matsuda and the hugely popular Hikaru Utada record in English.
The latter was the biggest selling Japanese artist for Universal Music and it came down to business: No new Japanese album until she recorded her first English record which had to be marketed and promoted heavily in America. This happened. The record didn’t. But that hasn’t stopped her recording in English.
Over the years, there have been a number of these vanity projects- pointless duets between Hong Kong’s Sally Yeh and James Ingram.
There was a recording early on in her career between Faye Wong and the Cocteau Twins- not Faye’s idea. She was going through her Bjork induced Cranberries phase.
Polygram tried to break Regine Velasquez from the Philippines in Greater China by hiding her nationality and having her record a turgid ballad with Jacky Cheung accompanied by a bleached out video, which kinda worked for about a week.
The marketing of Regine by then music executive Alex Chan was a mess. Even her debut album title- Listen Without Prejudice and released after the George Michael album of the same name- cried out, Why?
The male Asian singers looked to movies for International fame, no matter how fleeting, as possible new careers. But female singers in this line of business form a conga line of really really needing that international fame.
It won’t be nice to name names, but let’s just say that there have been many, especially in Hong Kong and Mainland China, at least one in Thailand and perhaps a few in Singapore who have craved a bite of this cherry. It’s still to happen. Twenty years fly.
There’ve been various image changes, plenty of other work done and, of course, quite a few “producers” from America coming out to this part of the world bearing false gifts and fake promises along with incessant name dropping. Has any of this worked? No.
There might have been the very odd music video, but that’s been about it. It never left YouTube. Of course, these collaborations with the almost famous have not been without their controversies. Think this s*** doesn’t still go on?
Just maybe nothing happened because of a lack of talent and too many of those big noting “international producers” living in the Nineties and thinking everyone one else is also on Planet Loser and can’t see that there’s nothing there?
The direction was always directionless. R&B or Jazz? Pop or Lounge? Where exactly is one heading? And hanging on to whose coat tails? Especially if no longer 18?
Truth be told, Faye Wong has had her day. She’s in her forties, a mother and doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone and certainly doesn’t need money and fame.
Her last concert and sponsored for millions by Alibaba made her more than enough for just standing there and singing her hits not too well. But her fans could say that they were there. For Faye, it was doing the least as possible for as much as possible and going home to her kids. Recording with Jack Ma? Why not for a few extra millions.
Teresa Teng and Anita Mui left Chinese music with a legacy that will live on. It’s timeless. Same with those classic recordings by Shanghai’s original divas. Might be high time that these classic recordings on Pathe- the company in China bought by EMI- found themselves onto an OST? But this type of thinking might be asking too much from Every Mistake Imaginable.
What’s in the here and now? While K-Pop and its Super Wonder Moochi Girls march through the world to the beat of their own drummer and marketed by incredibly well oiled management teams, there’s the wonderfully creative, intelligent and entrepreneurial singer-songwriter Yuna, originally from Malaysia and now based in New York.
There’s my friend Vanessa Fernandez in Singapore, a true multi media artist whose original music truly cries out for a bigger audience. She’s flawless. Just needs the wings to fly higher. But never too close to the sun.
And there’s Julia Wu from Taiwan- young, talented and extremely marketable because she’s the complete pop package. There’s new music product coming from her. But there must be more.
Sadly, music alone doesn’t work today. It’s about knowing how many seats it takes to fill the Albert Hall. One just hopes that my one-time artist when with Urban XChange and the very much underrated Parking Lot Pimp- Terry Lee- whose team in Taiwan now guides the career of Julia Wu don’t drop the ball…by taking their eyes off the ball.
She’s too good to drown in the tsunami of streaming and going nowhere like so many others pinning their hopes on social media fame. The girl has real talent. And so does Terry Lee.
But perhaps what’s really missing are strong independent female artists- those not waiting for others to make things happen for them, but who actually get out there and, if you have the talent, make it work for you.
Real talent shines. Average anything lacking an iota of originality is discarded. It’s what’s plaguing the world. Too much time spent trying to make something real outta has beens, never beens and cheap copies.
#Music #Asia #JuliaWu #FayeWong #Yuma #K-Pop #singers #femalesingers #TerryLee #VanessaFernandez #marketing #A&R #creativity #RegineVelasquez