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By Benedict Leung / published in TOFU#2

When we see the generalised merchandising of words, things, bodies and souls, communication technology, now more than ever, plays a central ideological role in silencing thought. In this new age of alienation, the increasing use of pop stars by the media and in advertising illustrates this debasing process.

Pop star culture is all-pervasive in HK: radio programs are broadcast in buses, mini-buses and taxis, the latest music videos are screened in underground stations and pirated CDs buzz in shops and shopping centres. It's on the perennial TVs in bars and clubs, on giant billboards, posters and magazines. If a record company decides to plug a song into the public’s sub-conscious there's nowhere to escape. As a result, people of all ages are obsessed with these nicely packaged, characterless, soulless idols. It's all about product, promotion and sales - you can forget about content, quality or meaning.

In HK, Pop stars are at the core of popular culture. The pop-gossip sections in newspapers are the public greatest concern. Pop stars dominate the glossy magazines and every fad is detailed to entice us to buy these ubiquitous colourful pop-publications. It is these magazines, sold en-masse, create the masses.

Fast food culture is, in fact, not disposable - it stays around forever. Throwaway songs can hang around for 10 or 20 years on midnight radio shows and in karaoke clubs. When Hong Kong people emigrate to another continent, they import their old songs to their China Town. All around the world, people still listen to fourth-rate Canto-pop from 10 years ago as if it was new. Since the success of Teresa Tang in the 70s and mid 80s, Canto-pop has been marketed all over South East Asia (now with the help of satellite tv), eventually reaching the Chinese of the diaspora.

Listening and singing along to these cunning, insincere, and irresponsibly made Canto-pop songs (almost entirely made for the karaoke market - Karaoke-pop) profoundly influences Chinese people's emotions, intellect, concepts and values. Whether overseas or in Mainland China, pop star culture is symbolic of the glamorous HK lifestyle. By listening to the latest imported CD, or reading the latest imported magazine, expatriates can catch up with HK. This cures longing and nostalgia and affirms identity. Many people's notions of Chinese life are more or less created, orientated and, ultimately, limited by HK pop culture.

In HK, everything is pop, from mobile phones to part-time tutors, from pets to property. The media promotes and commercialises everything - at breakneck speed. Everyone follows. We, especially young people, inescapably live in this pop madness. We have become a youth accustomed to mundane pop mediocrity. We consume without consideration, and then recite ritualistically in karaoke clubs across the city. No one seems to value creativity and knowledge, everyone prefers noisy gimmicks. People here believe in the popular and the familiar, promotional campaigns are more entertaining than the products. One realises that marketing is the sole aim of show-business thus the collaboration between show-business and commercial products makes perfect sense. Pop stars are a readymade tool to seduce the masses and the use of pop stars to sell commercial products through advertising has become the norm. The line between pop star and product
has also disappeared.

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