Sat, May 12, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Johnny Neihu's NewsWatch: S.H.E looks like The Man to me

That's the thing about a girl band that moonlights as an advertising firm: When you hold it artistically accountable, the record company bans you from promotional events. After that, there's no one left to turn to but the sullen convenience store clerk who ignores company policy on indigestible music.

By Johnny Neihu

There I was in a 7-Eleven a week or two ago, buying some shrimp chips and minding my own business. I try to make convenience store ventures brief, as a few minutes of exposure to the pop music they play gradually saps my will to live. But the woman in front of me had a year's worth of unpaid utilities. So I waited.

And thus came about my first full-length encounter with the girl band S.H.E. The song I was subjected to, Chinese Language, has stirred up a bit of controversy of late. It's been accused of brown-nosing Chinese consumers with lyrics like:

How smart are the Chinese people

How beautiful is the Chinese language


As kids we practiced English pronunciation and grammar

Now it's their turn to curl their tongues and learn Chinese language.

("Curl their tongues"? To emit that enchanting Beijing rrrrhhh noise, presumably.)

As the "melody" hammered my skull, I managed to drag myself out the door with my last ounce of strength. I awoke some hours later being licked by a stray dog. My chips were gone.

Reporting by the Liberty Times on S.H.E's little ditty was scathing enough to get it barred from S.H.E promotional events, a drastic step for a music industry whose survival depends on whoring artists out for every last scrap of media coverage and endorsing anything from plasma TVs to hemorrhoid cream.

Indeed, at the peak of their marketability, S.H.E had their good girl schtick plastered across everything except ordnance catalogs. According to Wikipedia, S.H.E has endorsed or been spokespeople for 74 products and events. Seventy-four. They have acted in seven TV dramas and hosted two TV shows. Even model Lin Chi-ling (林志玲), whose job is to be a sellout, would be hard-pressed to compromise her integrity at such a speed.

I'm not so concerned about the political implications. The Chicoms will think S.H.E is just more double agent propaganda. I think everyone is losing sight of the bigger issue.

And that is that, despite the gloss and marketing prowess, S.H.E sucks. I mean, really, really, really sucks. Really. And that means something when you're in the same pot as the likes of Rainie Yang (楊丞琳) and F4.

In an industry that bases value almost entirely on looks, S.H.E is sub-par. Two of them, Selina and Hebe, are moderately attractive in that "I'm a pasty white, ditzy, anorexic xiaojie who has never worked a day in my life" kind of way, while the purpose of the third, Ella, is to be a goofy backdrop endearing the other two to confused straight boys while giving a dykey frisson to girls who haven't quite surrendered to their heterosexual doom.

Then there's the music. Oh dear. Although many artists cover songs these days, S.H.E concentrates on covering washed-up bands from a couple of years ago, notably the Backstreet Boys, Destiny's Child and Britney Spears. I'm still waiting breathlessly for them to do the Spice Girls' Wannabe.

But there is another misconception. Some criticize S.H.E for selling their souls for red yuan. Ah, how naive to believe that they ever had souls to sell.

When the latest controversy broke, S.H.E seemed genuinely surprised that they had been personally attacked. The music was a corporate decision by the record company, they said, and not their responsibility. While most entertainers, no matter how vapid, would have at least been ashamed to admit that they had no artistic integrity and were merely mindless tools of their employer, S.H.E seems not to understand that the concept of artistic integrity exists at all.

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