Avril's flying necktie and other oddities at the MTV Asia Awards
- Igan D’Bayan () - February 1, 2003 - 12:00am
Avril Lavigne bid goodbye to her formerly omnipresent necktie, tossing it to the teenyboppers in the crowd. (Yes, Virginia, neckties do fly.) Robbie Williams rattled off the telephone number of mysterious lady. (The bad boy of British bubblegum pop scored again.) Missy Eliot made her exit via a rickshaw. (She slimmed down so she fitted.) Our very own Kyla sang into a dead microphone together with the boyband Blue and a Malaysian diva. (Either the mixer was evil or my ears don’t work.) Atomic Kitten gyrated, Matchbox Twenty rocked, and Linkin Park rode off into the sunset with the Big Kahuna, the Favorite Video award for Pts of Authority. The 2003 MTV Asia Awards in sweltering Singapore, which I was fortunate enough to cover recently, had all the elements of an audio-visual circus that MTV diehards love.
It’s Getting Hot In Herre
Was that hot or what?" Shaggy screamed after watching the song-and-dance number of co-host CoCo Lee, who ditched all those glittery Celine Dion diva dresses she wore in the past in favor of J. Lo microscopic, red-leather minis. What a really smoldering way to start the shindig. I wondered if CoCo secured a permit to wear that devil of a dress.

Missy Eliot sang her hit, Work It. What I dug about her performance were those lady breakdancers in Adidas, the two Missy figures on stilts, and the grand exit wherein the rapper rode a funky Singaporean version of a tricycle. She really "worked it," indeed.

And Miss Misdemeanor was just one of the artists featured this year. MTV Asia had a very impressive lineup for the award show’s second offing, as CoCo Lee boasted, "We have stars coming out of your ears!" Hot acts like Avril Lavigne, Matchbox Twenty, Atomic Kitten, Robbie Williams, Blue, guys from Linkin Park, as well as Asian superstars like Jay Chou (Taiwan), Siti Nurhaliza (Malaysia), Stefanie Sun (Singapore) and j.t.L. (Korea), among others, as well as our very own Regine Velasquez, Ogie Alcasid, Kyla, Parokya ni Edgar and Slapshock.

Although, the whole shebang was unfolding inside the stadium, we members of the media stayed inside the press room to pose a few questions to featured artists. The first one who came a-visiting was Anggun.

Beautiful tribal tattoo on her ankle, I mused while the Indonesian singer raved about meeting Peter Gabriel during the anniversary of the former Genesis singer’s label, Real World. Anggun wrote verses for a song about AIDS featuring artists across the globe "and Peter sang them," she gushed. She has kept herself busy by doing the soundtrack for a Danish movie, collaborating with Deep Forest, and writing tons of material for her new album.

"I don’t know what songs to keep and give away," she related. "They’re like babies. Songs are pieces of life. I’ve lived in three different continents. I have reacted to different things around me. Maybe one day these ideas will come out as songs."

A female reporter posed a scrapbook question to the singer: "Give five words to describe yourself." Anggun answered, "Curious. Simple. Happy. Complicated — because we’re women, that’s why. And smart…we try to be."

Jay Chou of Taiwan performed. He banged on a huge conga drum, displayed his skills in karate and nunchucks, and, uh, rapped. The song was interesting, though. It was a fusion of rap, hip-hop and Oriental melodies. Very creative, I must say.

After that, Linkin Park singer Chester Benington and turntablist Joe Hahn, along with weird Thai chick Palmy presented Favorite Breakthrough Artist. Avril Lavigne beat Michelle Branch, Shakira, Blue and Norah Jones for the honors. I was banking on Norah to win, what with her refreshing torch singer pipes and evocative piano playing, but the skater girl won. After all, she’s the flavor of the moment: She’s today’s Britney; I’m not sure who tomorrow’s Avril will be.

Cute Lavigne wearing a cute Chinese blouse accepted the award from the Linkin boys, last year’s awardees. She told the audience, "You guys rock." The gravity of those words didn’t surprise me at all, considering Avril’s flair for the profound in gems like Sk8ter Boi. (Yes, Virginia, I am being sarcastic.) She also said something about how cool it is that her music is being played in our part of the world. We rock, according to Avril’s philosophy.

Those sultry felines in Atomic Kitten also did a number, singing a lovely rendition of an old Blondie hit called The Tide is High. Kitschy, the song is, but those lip-syncing girls are hot. (Note the absence of sarcasm in that statement.)

During station breaks VJ Donita Rose (you might remember her as the former leading lady of local action stars forever wearing leather) and this dude called Cyrus entertained the crowd with contests (Missy Eliot look-a-like, Robbie Williams sing-a-like — in which the same person won), as well as a couple of really bad jokes. Cyrus cracked, "Michael Jackson was supposed to be here, although some parts of him weren’t ready." And "We give you Matchbox Twenty in 20 minutes." They were so bad I had no choice but to laugh.

CoCo had a major blooper: She introduced Ogie Alcasid as presenter but failed to say Avril Lavigne’s name. Oops. Avril the girl wonder looked visibly rattled. Ogie was not, being the showbiz veteran that he is. But he out-talked and overshadowed the bigger star (even addressing his wife Michelle at home, "Honey, press record right now.") One more thing, Avril is shorter than the famously diminutive Alcasid; she’s like a Hobbit’s version of Nicole Kidman.

Boyband blue romped off with Favorite Pop Act, beating (would you believe?) Destiny’s Child, No Doubt and Westlife. Strange. The only Blue song I know is an old hit by Elton John called Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word. But there were stranger things to come.

Matchbox Twenty performed the band’s latest single Disease, written by Rob Thomas and Mick Jagger. Thomas, I think, is a really talented songwriter, having penned songs not just for his band but also for Jagger, Willie Nelson, Marc Anthony and Santana (Smooth and Carlos’ duet with Seal titled You Are My Kind.) But all the other reporters could talk about was how handsome he was.

Indian composer A. R. Rahman paid a visit to the press room. Followed by an Indonesian band called Shiela on 7. Avril bagged Favorite Female Artist. She won over Kylie, Pink, J. Lo and Shakira. All she could say was, "This is so cool. Rock on! You guys rock." Her English teacher was probably either Bill and Ted or Beavis and Butt-head.

Atomic Kitten and Taiwanese David Tao presented an award. They tried to be cute by sharing useless information like "Starfish have no brains" and "An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain." How ironic for them to be talking about gray matter. But the British girl group redeemed themselves in the press room by being so warm and witty to the reporters.

Reporter:
Which star did you want to meet at the awards show?

Atomic Kitten 1:
Robbie… Robbie… Robbie…

Atomic Kitten 2:
Missy Eliot is fantastic!

Atomic Kitten 1:
Robbie… Robbie… Robbie…

Atomic Kitten 3:
Yes, Missy…

Atomic Kitten 1:
Robbbbiiieee!

We learned from the girls that an Atomic Kitten cartoon is in the works. Bubbly Jenny Frost, my personal favorite, said she spends a lot of time in Asia, her favorite part of the world. Jenny pointed to the other two kittens, "I was here for Christmas and New Year for the past three years. Some are luckier than others," and laughed.

After that, the Favorite Male Artist was presented. Odd thing that Robbie Williams beat Eminem for the honors. Eminem (who’s riding high on his smash album "The Eminem Show" and his smash movie, 8 Mile) is virtually the new Elvis. Still, we can’t question all those who voted for Robbie via Internet and SMS.

Robbie clambered onstage, thanked "656-3437121" and added, "She’s great in bed. All night, awake. Give her a call now." The former Take That star then proceeded to give away his trophy to a lucky spectator. He should’ve sent it to Eminem. Or even Moby.
How Suede It Is
Matchbox Twenty visited the press room and all the girls squealed. One dude from the band (not Rob) cackled, "Hey, you guys have catering in here." Another one (not Rob) said, "This looks like The Jerry Springer Show."

Rob talked about recording their latest album, "More Than You Think You Are," and how they spent months in the middle of the woods, living like characters from Lord of the Flies. A reporter asked Thomas the most intelligent question all evening, "Rob, you’re rich, you have a beautiful wife, you’re famous, how come you write such sad songs?" And the singer answered about drawing inspiration from old pains. "All of us have become lonely at one point in our lives," he said.

The vocalist went on to say that the band is very happy to be at the Asia awards and meet people like them who make a living out of playing music. "This is our common bond," ended Rob.

Regine Velasquez won Favorite Artist Philippines, her 2nd time, as Silly Fools (Thailand), F4 (Inspiration honoree), Siti Nurhaliza (absolutely gorgeous in a silver dress) and Palmy (absolutely nutty in a green papel de Japon skirt) paid a visit to the press. Then came Suede.

I used to like this British band. I love Suede’s Animal Nitrate and Metal Mickey on their ’93 self-titled album. Both songs are dark, f*cked-up, Bowie-esque and beautiful. Their next big hit album was "Coming Up," featuring Beautiful Ones and other happy, radio-friendly tracks. I lost my fascination for Suede as the band kept getting more and more melodic. A reporter asked the band the very thing I was thinking at that moment, "Why have your songs become more pop and less angrier?"

Here’s vocalist Brett Anderson’s stream-of-consciousness answer:

"There are fluctuations of mind. As an artist, you have a duty to express that. I want to be a member of the human race…alive…and not fit myself in a coffin. I say, ‘Bring the soul out!’ The job of an artist is to sing about what he feels and what matters to him at a particular moment. Before, I was a f*cked-up adolescent. Now, I’m trying to express myself as a 35-year-old man."

Amen to that.
More Press Room Banter
The politics of the press room: Everybody wanted to pose questions to foreign acts like Linkin Park, Avril Lavigne and Matchbox Twenty. But when an Indonesian/Malaysian/Thai artist entered the room, only the guys from the Indonesian/Malaysia/Thai press asked questions — in their own language, most of the time. It was like watching a foreign movie without subtitles: full of sound and fury signifying nothing — at least to us Pinoys.

Regine Velasquez, Ogie Alcasid, Kyla, Slapshock and Parokya ni Edgar also visited the press room. The girl they call Asia’s Songbird was a little nervous. So was Kyla. Ogie Alcasid was cool. He managed to get the attention of most of the reporters by being funny and self-deprecating.

"C’mon ask him," said moderator Rod Nepomuceno, "he’s famous in the Philippines — he’s a basketball star." Ogie added, "I’m also an action star," Well, he got people’s attention. Another Ogie stunt:

Moderator:
How does it feel…

Ogie Alcasid:
(interrupting) How does it feel to lose?

Moderator:
(laughing) No, how does it feel to be at the MTV Asia Awards?

Parokya was also funny. Chito deadpanned, "The guys in the band have been together since we were six and we haven’t won anything at all. This year, we texted and texted and still we didn’t win."

There were other oddities. A guy in a suit (the manager of a Taiwanese artist, I think) came flying out of the room when his Ketchup Song ring tone shattered the silence. When Avril Lavigne entertained queries from the press, her back-up musicians came in with her, sat on the back and started asking questions themselves. Cute. Lavingne’s guitarist, bassist and drummer (a Frankenstein look-a-like) even whispered alternative answers to the singer’s clichéd statements and made farting noises. Nice going, skater boys.

Trivia for Avril fans: Lavigne plays Gibson Les Paul and SG guitars — great instruments to play chords with all day. And she has a red white and blue wristband. Just like Rolling Stone says, we better get used to her because she’ll be with us for a long while. At least until her 18th birthday.
Random Musings
Not only did I get to watch a good show, I also hung out with some very nice people — Philip Cu-Unjieng of People Asia, Tim Yap (who wore a white fencing outfit at the show), my friend Yeng Lim (who was also one of my colleagues in a Kafkaesque tour of Korea) and Mariel Chua of Seventeen (sweet, fickle-minded Joe Satriani fan who promised she’d burn me a Stu Hamm CD). We were accompanied by the friendly joes and janes of MTV Philippines — head honcho Francis Lumen, Rod Nepomuceno, Charley Bautista, Lito Banaag, Bong Paderna and Chris Lopez, among others.

But my Singapore gig almost ended on a dour note. I was in a cab on my way back to the Stamford Hotel (where the people from MTV Philippines and the Filipino press were booked) around 3 a.m. just after the post-show party. At the far end of the road we were traversing, I saw a police checkpoint (squad cars, cops with flashlights, the works) and I felt a slight chill. It was the dreaded "spot check." The cab driver told me in almost indecipherable English, "Hey, no need to worry as long as you don’t look suspicious…" The last word flickered from his tongue as he took a look at me at the back of his cab, noticing that his passenger had long hair and gaunt face and who had skull rings and beads. And just as I expected, I was one of the lucky contestants chosen by the police to be interrogated on the sidewalk. After checking my passport and my I.D., the cop told me these comforting words: "You’re free to go." It was my prize for playing the game show of doom.

To me Singapore will always be a wonderland (what with all those Lego-land structures, Disney-like theme parks, Hello Kitty women, etc.), but I’d never forget the night I played the role of Alice to the Singaporean police’s Queen of Hearts. I had a good chuckle with the taxi driver after the incident even if my balls were still up my throat. Still, nothing could dampen my spirits after watching the MTV gig.

Call me shallow, but I’d bravely go through a dozen checkpoints just to hang out with interesting people; hear Matchbox Twenty play; listen to Suede’s Brett Anderson philosophize; watch those girls in Atomic Kitten do nothing but be their sexy selves; and soak in the MTV Asia audio-visual circus at the lovely Lion city.

I could use a souvenir, though. Say, Avril’s necktie.

ATOMIC ATOMIC KITTEN AVRIL BRVBAR MATCHBOX TWENTY PRESS ROBBIE
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