The music video show, hosted by Jamaica dela Cruz, celebrates its second birthday this weekend on SBS 2. What began as as the Asian Pop Show as part of SBS Youth Radio programme Alchemy has extended to a 24 / 7 digital radio channel and then a TV show, giving pop music from Asia an Australian perspective.
The show plays Korean Pop, Japanese Pop, Chinese Pop and the occasional South-East Asian pop.
“PopAsia style is popular music. So we wouldn’t play any Death Metal or Hip Hop. It’s the biggest hits in the Asian pop world. It’s more upbeat than not,” says dela Cruz.
“Right now the most popular ones are (South) Korean Pop, Japanese Pop, Chinese Pop but that’s not to say if there was a sudden surge in Thai Pop or Vietnamese Pop that we wouldn’t play them.
“K-Pop is king right now and Psy is a testament to that. It used to be Japanese Pop but K-Pop has been (most popular) for a few years now.”
Dela Cruz (second from right) cites some of the big acts at the moment as South Korean girl group 2ne1, male duo TVXQ, boyband Big Bang and its solo lead singer Dragon.
There are Mandarin-speaking acts emerging from Taiwan, pop princess G.E.M. from Hong Kong, and even the odd rock band from Japan.
“There are groups with instruments but they’re not as popular. (Girl group) Girl’s Generation will easily have more fans (than a band with instruments). But there is CN Blue who were here in June. They’re all popular but it tips into the millions for dancing boy bands,” she says.
Boybands and girlbands, comprising all-singing, all-dancing vocalists are big in Asian pop with an emphasis on choreography and fashion.
“They’re having their 90s moment I guess!” she laughs.
“I guess it’s younger (genre) and so it’s going through the motions like Western Pop did. Maybe they’re having their Backstreet Boys and NSync era and then they will go more towards soloists. We are seeing more members from girl and boy bands doing more solo stuff, lately.”
Even the male performers are immaculately groomed with funky hairstyles and boyish appearances. But while Westerners may incorrectly presume there is a gay sub-culture, it isn’t necessarily the case for these very pretty boys.
“It’s a cultural thing. When I was younger I really liked it when a boy was pretty. The Japanese have a term for it called ‘Bishōnen’ which means ‘beautiful boy.’ I don’t know what it is but I think it’s biological,” dela Cruz explains.
“Everytime they release an album there’s always a concept. Maybe for one album they’ll have schoolgirls. Next album will be punk rockers, and the next will have every colour of the rainbow in a candy shop.
“Korean Pop has very high music production values. So it’s sometimes glaring if we put a Korean pop video beside something else. They just have that standard of making it with a big budget, special effects, CGI and costumes.
“In a way K-Pop is bringing attention to the other kinds of Pop.”
Since PopAsia has been on air it has attracted over 62,000 likes on its Facebook page. In the last three months, the SBS PopAsia YouTube channel received an average of 278,069 monthly views, making it the number one SBS entertainment offering on YouTube.
Rising interest in the genre has also led to more Asian acts visiting Australia.
This month there are 4 Asian pop acts playing in Sydney and Melbourne, a boost from the previous numbers of just 1 or 2 a year.
Dela Cruz was born in Philippines and came to Australia as a student 5 years ago. Coyly admitting she is “in my 20s,” she hosts PopAsia mostly by voice-over narration, but is seen on camera when there are interviews with touring acts. The show also features its own ‘Pop Agent’ JK (pictured, centre) in segments on music or, on radio, even anime.
“He introduces bands to first-timers and he does a segment called PopAsia 101,” she says.
“We like to think of him as an all-rounder. He does some packages that he sends to us and they go into the show.”
Dela Cruz also co-hosted the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union TV Song Festival in South Korea. This year Australia will be represented by Justice Crew. But the event, to be held in Hanoi in late October, is no Eurovision.
“It’s not a competition, it’s more a goodwill showcase,” she says.
So could there come a time when Australia has its own K-Pop or J-Pop acts?
“The last one we heard of was Thanh Bui who was a finalist on Australian Idol. He was trying to crack the Vietnamese pop market, so we’ve tried to play some of his videos. But we haven’t heard of anything for a while.”
PopAsia airs 6pm Saturdays and 4pm Sundays on SBS 2.
Photo: Jamaica and PopAsia VJ Jay K with members of KPop act 4Minute.