2007-05-16

Does S.H.E look like The Man?

Angels Over Taipei

Taipei Main Station
Taipei, Taiwan 台灣 台北
©2006 Alton Thompson 唐博敦


Accidents do happen. How else to account for fact that S.H.E, Taiwan's ubiquitous bubblegum band, has actually generated controversy?

No way it could happen on purpose. S.H.E, the creation of record company HIM (a division of Warner Brothers) is an ear and eye candy confection created packaged and owned solely by the suits at Warners. Its purpose is to adorable, harmless, and hugely profitable. These girls are no more in the business of controversy than The Monkees.

The business of S.H.E is business, be it music or product endorsements. In fact, with this group the two go hand-in-glove--so much so that one is hard put to know which end of the business is the hand and which the glove. What are we to make of a song that recounts the legend of Daphne and Apollo just as the group's marketing campaign for Daphne shoes cranks up? Or a song that begs to be used as a ring tone when the group simultaneously pitches cell phones by Okwap?

Local rumour has it that, when not hawking cars, contact lenses, necklaces, cell phones, ice cream and watches, S.H.E occasionally does sell concert tickets. Still, it's safe to say that not since the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man invaded Manhattan has a society found itself so trampled under such dimpled feet.

So what's the controversy? A sugar-coated bonbon of mainland-style Chinese triumphalism aimed at that vast market across the Strait that, as it turns out, didn't go down so well in the girls' native Taiwan. When asked about why they recorded the song the singers expressed incomprehension. They recorded the song for the same reason they record all their others, they said. They are doing what their record company tells them to do.

But is rampant obedience a healthy thing? Taipei Times satirical columnist Johnny Neihu doesn't think so. His recent commentary sounds the alarm:
I worry, friends, I worry. . . . I'm worried about a generation of youth raised on entertainers who tell them to listen to their parents. I'm concerned about a generation that doesn't know how to rock out and break the law. I fear for youths who don't know how to do something as fundamental as stick it to The Man . . . .

Isn't there a critical mass of ke'ai at which all the artists and music are so drenched with manufactured cutsieness that the whole system implodes?

If there is, Johnny, we appear destined to find it.


Taiwan's Triple Morrigan

Keelung Night Market
Keelung, Taiwan 台灣 基隆
©2006 Alton Thompson 唐博敦

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