And Finally

Flowers to bloom?

Biggest girl band ever plays up its patriotism

Japan-ASEAN summit

Japan’s AKB48 was the model

While South Korea may have launched the trend of all-girl pop groups in Asia, it was Japan that took it to a whole new level. In 2005, promoters there launched the 48-member girl band AKB48, which quickly became so popular it was characterised as a social phenomenon.

That was a decade ago, but the Chinese now want to create an all-girl group that will rival AKB48.

And by that, we don’t just mean in terms of the new group’s popularity, but also in the sheer number of its members.

As the name is meant to indicate, the female ensemble 56 Flowers is made up of 56 women aged between 16 and 23. According to the group’s director, the name comes from a lyric in a patriotic song that “56 nations, 56 flowers, 56 brothers and sisters are one family,” referring to the 56 ethnic groups that make up China’s population.

56 Flowers made its debut last Sunday on CCTV, with its director claiming that the group is much higher-minded than its peers, and will not “blindly appeal” to audiences by acting cute or sexy. Instead, it aims to promote China’s “positive energy” and national culture.

“Our style and performance is uniquely Chinese. Our training is even higher quality, more comprehensive and well rounded [than Japanese or South Korean girl bands]… We have also incorporated a lot more elements that would appeal to a wide demographic,” the director told Chinese media after the performance.

In their debut, the 56 singers – clad in white blouses and short skirts – sang and danced to “The China Dream is the Most Beautiful” in front of a huge screen displaying the Chinese flag. Some of the women played the Morin Khuur, a Tibetan instrument, while others performed with traditional Chinese instruments like the pipa and guzheng.

“The beautiful harmony created by the blend of modern and traditional instruments is very addictive,” ventured Caijing, a business magazine.

Netizens were less impressed, complaining that the homegrown band would never rival Japanese and Korean music groups. “There is nothing about this girl band that will attract eyeballs. In fact, it gives me the impression that it is just a knock-off. Maybe they could rival the North Korean girl bands?” one online critic quipped.

“From afar, I thought they were the damas [middle-aged women who perform in public areas] doing square dancing,” another mocked.

Chen Guang, the promoter behind the troupe, claimed not to be concerned by the criticism.

“Even if there’s only one fan in the whole of China, we won’t give up. And besides, I believe that the number of fans of 56 Flowers will be more than 100 million,” he told Guancha, a news portal.

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