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Mirror vows to bring 'Hong Kong pop' to the world

The boy band’s 12 members, who are wildly popular in the Chinese territory they call home, are trying to expand globally with their first English-language song.
The Cantopop boy band Mirror in the music video for their English-language debut, “Rumours.” 
The Cantopop boy band Mirror in the music video for their English-language debut, “Rumours.” MakerVille

HONG KONG — Mirror, the most popular boy band in Hong Kong, is hoping to expand its global reach and promote Cantopop in the process with the release on Friday of its first English-language song.

The song, “Rumours,” an electronic dance music track about a potential relationship and the gossip surrounding it, is meant to reflect the maturation of the band’s 12 members, who formed through a local broadcaster’s reality talent show in 2018 and range in age from their 20s to early 30s.

“It’s very different from all of our previous singles, because it’s a kind of dark and also a sexy type of song,” member Anson Lo told NBC News in an interview this month.

The release of the song and an accompanying music video has also fired up some of the band’s local fans in Hong Kong, a Chinese territory that is home to more than 7 million people.

“We hope people in other places can know more about or be more interested in Hong Kong through Mirror,” said Annie Yuen, spokesperson for the AnsonLohonting International Fan Club.

Cantopop once dominated music in Asia but has lost ground in recent decades to other regional genres like Mandopop and, above all, K-pop. But Mirror members say they are not trying to compete.

“We never think in that way, like to beat other cultures,” said member Stanley Yau. 

“Launching ‘Rumours’ is just like introducing ourselves, introducing Cantopop to the world,” he added. 

But the band, which is planning a worldwide tour as early as next year, does anticipate some challenges in globalizing music in Cantonese, a Chinese dialect that is the most commonly spoken language in Hong Kong.

“In K-pop songs or English songs, those lyrics are very easy to understand, or quite simple or direct,” said member Edan Lui. “But for Cantopop, lyrics can be very deep and hard to understand. It’s difficult for people who don’t know Cantonese to understand those lyrics.” 

The band, whose 12 members range in age from their 20s to early 30s, formed through a local broadcaster’s reality talent show in 2018.
The band, whose 12 members range in age from their 20s to early 30s, formed through a local broadcaster’s reality talent show in 2018.MakerVille

Wong Chi Chung, a veteran radio DJ and head of General Education at the University of Hong Kong, agreed.

“There are nine sounds (or tones) in Cantonese, making it difficult even to pronounce, not to mention sing,” said Wong, who wrote his doctoral thesis on Cantopop.

But he said he still thinks the song can find success in English-speaking communities, and that it’s an ideal time for Mirror to expand its fanbase now that Hong Kong is finally emerging from three years of pandemic isolation.

Wong argues that music like Mirror’s should really be called “Hong Kong pop.”

“Language-wise, Hong Kong has always been a hybrid city,” he said.

“If you take a look back at the ’60s, Hong Kong’s pop music mainly consisted of English songs,” he added. “It wasn’t until the ’70s when Cantonese songs became prevalent.”

Even as they race between projects in music, film and television, members of Mirror say they still haven’t fully moved on from an accident at a concert last July in which a huge video screen crashed onto the stage and injured two dancers, one severely. 

In January, police charged three employees of the concert’s main contractor with conspiracy to defraud, accusing them of understating the weight of the video screen. The more severely injured dancer, Mo Li, took his first steps since the accident in February with the help of an exoskeleton, according to a Facebook post by his father. The 28-year-old, who has been mostly hospitalized for the last eight months, still requires hours of daily treatment.

The band — whose other members include Frankie Chan, Alton Wong, Lokman Yeung, Anson Kong, Jer Lau, Jeremy Lee, Keung To, Tiger Yau and Ian Chan — did not appear in public for two months after the accident.

“We still think about it all the time. But I think it’s very important for us to make a comeback,” said Lo, who was on stage at the time. 

Lui, who was also performing during the accident, said the band “really tried our best to digest it.” 

“We hope we can overcome it and bring back more positive energy to the public,” he said.