Singaporean Stars

While I was doing my radio broadcast today, I was tasked to do a promo for MediaCorp’s The Final One singing competition. It is the brain child of Ken Lim, who is basically some guy with a grumpy face who was the judge for Singapore Idol and basically enjoys being the Singaporean version of Simon Cowell. And anyway he created the “interactive” singing competition The Final One, which is currently accepting applications. And he shares his rationale for doing so.

I don’t know, though. Somehow it seems to me that the Final One (or 1, if he likes numbers so much) sounds like any normal singing competition, and it’s unlikely that it will produce a star different from what other singing competitions before it has done. And of course, there are some local artistes and groups who disagree with his assertion that local music is dying and that it is up to him to revive it. It sounds a little lofty, and I do wonder what he can do that others haven’t tried before.

But I can’t say Singapore has been entirely a flop in the global music industry. Admittedly you don’t see many English performers coming from Singapore, or Asia for that matter, but we do have people like Corrinne May who wins awards overseas. But yeah, maybe not quite a commercial celebrity. But it’s hard for Asians to break into an English music market. They just bring with them an exotic flavour that’s difficult to shrug off and accept as mainstream. There are so many Caucasian Anglophone countries (and even French or Belgians look more suited to singing English songs than we do, even if their first language isn’t English) that anyone looking Asian will have a stereotype attached to them, inevitably. On the other hand, the Chinese music industry has been seeing great success. We have lots of super-famous Singaporeans who have made it big in Taiwan and China, even moreso than in Singapore itself. Maybe appearance really does play a part, and if it does, what can Ken Lim do about it?

But no, that can’t be right, you argue. What about those Korean and Japanese superstars? They play in England, France, etcetera and reap great profits too. K-pop is a thing in Europe and America, so whaddya mean Asians can’t make it big? But of course you must remember that those Koreans and Japanese are singing Korean and Japanese songs. If a Korean sang only in English he would have a harder time making it to the top of the charts.

But of course it is not very nice to judge people’s prospects by race, and although I say Asians will have a comparatively harder time getting famous I haven’t done extensive research on that so I may be wrong. Singing competitions are always fun to watch on TV, though I wonder if it’s impartial to solely let the audience vote which contestants are in and which are out. After all, this implies that anyone with enough cash and connections will win, without singing merit. Then again, singing ability can be trained later, I guess. And the judges will surely try hard to sift out only worthwhile contestants during the early stages.

But well, let’s all pay more attention to our local singers (and I don’t just mean to Singaporeans alone), for if they aren’t appreciated by their own countrymen, who would?


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