Fri, May 04, 2001 - Page 7 News List

Music industry prepares to pat itself on the back

The 12th Golden Melody Awards will celebrate Taiwan's music industry tomorrow night, but many young musicians feel there's not much to celebrate

By David Frazier  /  STAFF WRITER

Taiwan's superstar, Harlem Yu 庾澄慶


Over the past few weeks, Taiwan's paparazzi has been turning its focus to teen idols and other singing megastars to begin the hype around the annual music industry extravaganza, the Golden Melody Awards, set to take place tomorrow at 8pm.

Foremost among topics has been the stars' anticipated dress on the big day. Taiwanese singer Showlen Maya (秀蘭瑪雅) will have on a low-cut gown of metallic gold and black chiffon, while the grand entrance hostess, Ji Chin (季芹), will greet the stars in a special designer version Coco Chanel dress -- one of two ever made.

Taiwan's Golden Melody recognizes music industry success and bathes the stars in a glamorous light that's frosted with money. The pool of talent it draws from includes singers, songwriters and producers from Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore and even in the case of China Dolls (中國娃娃), Thailand. Though there is no hard and fast criteria for selection, nominated artists are generally either Taiwanese or sing in mandarin or other Chinese dialects. Potential award winners in this, the 12th Golden Melody Awards, include some of the biggest names in Asia's entertainment industry, including Faye Wong (王菲), A-mei (張惠妹), Karen Mok (莫文蔚) and Jay Chou (周杰倫).

But for many in Taiwan's music industry, especially those who pride themselves as musicians and creative types, the whole institution of the awards ceremony exists as an irking, aggravating, creeping-under-your-skin sort of affirmation of a status quo they don't like. The gripe is that awards often go to music that is unoriginal and to artists who are molded to popular tastes.

Up-and-coming bands, like MC Hotdog, Chthonic (閃靈) and even this year's nominee for best band, Sticky Rice (糯米糰), have all expressed criticism of Taiwan's assembly line style music industry.

"The music [recognized at the Golden Melodies] is a product," said Freddy (佛來敵), lead singer of the death metal band Chthonic and head of the Taiwan Rock Alliance, a former university rock club that now puts on major concerts and produces EPs. "There's little recognition of talent or creativity. The singers and the songs are only tools."

MC Hotdog recently released an album with one track that heavily disparages female pop singers and former Golden Melody participants like Coco Lee (李玟), Yuki (徐懷鈺) and Jolin Tsai (蔡依林), saying that they can do certain unprintable things to certain parts of his anatomy. In a recent interview, Hotdog was also quoted as saying that David Tao (陶吉吉), a producer up for an award this year and the generally recognized inventor of R&B in Taiwan, "has ripped off some songs very obviously."

Members of Sticky Rice, a wacky punk-funk ensemble that climbed onto local pop charts after years of playing basement clubs, have also criticized the pop music industry for "copying" music rather than writing it.

The sentiments of Taiwan indie rock, however, are perhaps summed up best by Ko Ren-jian (柯仁堅), lead singer of the local punk rock band L.T.K., who said, "Those Golden Melody people, they're all a bunch of wankers."

Both Ko and Freddy are worried that their criticisms will not be received, however, because people will write them off as bitter, unsuccessful outsiders.

Their lack of success, however, is only relative. While these bands can't claim gargantuan sales totals like Faye Wong, who sold 170,000 CDs in Taiwan last year, they have made waves. MC Hotdog shot up to number one on Tower Record's sales charts earlier this month. Chthonic recently released its third CD based on respectable sales of 10,000 copies of its second album, and more impressively, last year became the first Taiwan band to ever attend Japan's Fuji Rock festival, where they played alongside the likes of the Beastie Boys and Sonic Youth. This year, L.T.K. has released its third CD and may follow Chthonic's footsteps, becoming Taiwan's second representative to Fuji Rock.

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