The Situation Is Excellent: The Week That Was At Beijing Cream

April 14 – April 27

Hannah Lincoln wrote about one magical, mystifying Beijing summer, during which she dated a Chinese pop star. RFH reposted a relic from China expattery, a Sherpa’s recording of the douchiest expat ever. People’s Daily actually called out @relevantorgans.

Oliver Stone made controversial — though correct — statements about Chinese filmmaking. The FBI made a 30-minute film called “Game of Pawns” warning American students in China to not accept money to become a Chinese spy. The New York Times wrote about China’s role in the search for missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, drawing People’s Daily’s ire.

These are horrifying, terrifying pandas and panda-lovers. Xi Jinping made the Time 100 list and was profiled by Jon Huntsman. Here are pandas watching TV.

The 11th annual Shanghai Sexpo happened. Here’s a very important Tumblr called Politbros. WeChat has a series of ads featuring a fake Mark Zuckerberg.

Pacman and Pe$o filmed a rap video in Beijing. We’re posting videos from Poetry Night in Beijing, beginning with Stephen Nashef and Canaan Morse.

Comment of the Week:

Benji, on the “made in China” music label:

China’s foray into idol manufacturing in the Korean vein has come and gone. The Korean model is dead.

Five or six years ago, Chinese labels would partner with Korean entertainment companies to create boy and girl bands. Prospective members from China would be sent to Korea to train to sing and dance. The music production was Korean. The video production was Korean. Wardrobe. Choreography.
Management was Chinese.

Most of them flopped. The three most successful boy bands, H.I.T,Top Combine (which even had a Korean member) and M.I.C, achieved moderate success at best. Girl groups such as S.P.Y and Idol Girls never made much of an impact. The last, real attempt at this was in 2012 with the Japanese Johnny’s Entertainment creating its own Chinese boyband.

Currently, reality television talent contests dominate the pop music industry. They had been a staple of Mainland Chinese pop music since 2005, when HunanTV’s Super Girls first became massively popular. But monotony and censorship eroded the franchise’s relevance over the years.

That reality TV format was revived, explosively, in 2012 with The Voice of China. This was followed by copycat franchises. Some foreign, like X-Factor and Chinese Idol, some local, like Sing My Song and Let’s Sing Kids. Since then, these contests have virtually monopolised entry into the pop industry. It is now almost impossible to make it in the Chinese pop market without prior exposure. The last person to do so was probably Wanting Qu, in 2012. Chinese labels with budding singers often form agreements with reality television producers to have them compete on shows for exposure. There is almost no other way.

For its part, I Am A Singer (also a Korean franchise), is hardly an idol show. It brings together already established, veteran singers to compete against each other. Most of them are in their 30s and 40s. Simple commercialisation does not an idol make. And that’s perhaps where this gets it all wrong: not everything that’s not independent is an idol. Promotion is not idolatry. Artist development is not idolatry. Being mainstream does not mean you’re an idol.

The Korean influence on the Chinese music industry is still strong. And growing. Korean producers are more and more frequently producing Chinese songs. Video production is sometimes done in Korea. But the Korean idol format in China is dead. Since 2012.

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