Love, Peas and understanding at the MTV Asia Awards 2004
AUDIOSYNCRASY - Igan D’Bayan () - February 20, 2004 - 12:00am
Love took an early afternoon flight to sunny Singapore. It watched Jack Black in School of Rock, ate peanuts, drank red wine, feasted on stiff beef, listened to Tom Waits, went to the john and slept like a lamb on the plane. Hours later, it reached the Lion City, chilled in a swanky hotel room, blew its nose, ate a funky chicken meal, sat on the porcelain throne, took a cab to the Singapore Indoor Stadium, and attended the 2004 MTV Asia Awards along with 8,000 pop music lovers. Love was the central theme for this year’s affair. Yeah, you could say it was the main character, top dog, head honcho, life of the party, leader of the pack, the top banana for an event that fell on Valentine’s Day, so it was but fitting.

Consider these: the stage was decorated with tentacles and a giant birdcage (apt metaphors for love since relationships can sometimes be lovely prisons and beautiful strangleholds); the awardees were presented with cute Cupid trophies; those cute Cupid trophies, by the way, have built-in speakers that play romantic tunes (hopefully not My Heart Will Go On); instead of envelops the names of winning artists were placed in skimpy undergarments (sleazy G-strings, to be precise); and the hosts could be considered the Romeo and Juliet of their respective genres and regions – American pop star Michelle Branch from the West and Vanness Wu of Taiwanese boy-group F4 from the East. Although…

Here’s a caveat: This year’s hosts had no chemistry between them whatsoever, robotically reading scripts, not looking at each other, showering each other praises straight from the teleprompter, etc. Plus, Vanness spoke in that annoying, put-on black ghetto drawl ("Yo, homeboys!") with the corresponding Puff Daddy hand gestures, of course; meanwhile, Michelle was as animated as a dried piece of sinegwelas. Which made me miss last year’s Shaggy and Coco Lee who were both entertaining to watch. Shaggy with his Mr. Bombastic antics; Coco with her micro-mini skirt that was so short it could pass for the Empress’ new clothes.

What Michelle got going for her was her hot blouse that was split in the middle, which made me imagine a sartorial Moses parting a pink sea of fabric. Vanness had more costume changes than his female counterpart. Hmm… Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Anyway, this year’s awards show had its thrills. And this writer – along with The Philippine STAR’s Audrey Carpio and other writers from different publications – was quite fortunate to get invited to MTV’s V-Day gig, its 3rd year, in Singapore.

I have to admit the opening number was the Las Vegas showgirl counterpart of a Kiss show. The Pussycat Dolls from LA came into the stage looking like the girls on that Lady Marmalade video, wearing skimpy lingerie, see-through blouses, megatons of makeup and ample flesh. Like a bunch of ‘20s Berlin streetwalkers with a cheap recording contract, like Liza Minelli meets the Sex Bomb Dancers. It was that incendiary. It was that hot. It rocked in a Moulin Rouge sort of way. And it was so appropriate that the troupe performed Big Spender.

Strangely, the group’s name in lights read "PUSSCAT DOLLS" from our angle, which prompted some of the reporters to do a Black Eyed Peas and quip, "Where is the ‘Y’?" The Pussycat Dolls’ hot performance also made Vanness wisecrack about the need to change his shorts. Sure, sure. Whatever you say, dude.

At the pressroom, group leader Robin Antin said the Pussycat Dolls was formed in ’95. "We’re a band slash performers slash entertainment entity, and we’re going to come up with our album slash DVD soon," she said. (A cue for those who are not lovers of kitsch to start slashing wrists.)

Regarding a Malaysian reporter’s shock, nay, horror at the girls’ performance and attire, calling it the "chambermaid" look, Robin answered that lingerie "is a big part of our image," adding that everyone in the group sings and dances, and is inspired by R&B, disco and punk. I read that celebrities like Carmen Electra, Christina Aguilera, Christina Applegate, Gwen Stefani and Charlize Theron have performed with the group. Something tells me we’ll see more of those dolls in the future.

A boy-group called 5566 from Taiwan presented an award, looking like a bunch of Neo rejects in black Matrix outfits. The group’s first album is called "First Album." Its second album is called "Second Album." I wonder what the title of the third album will be. Uh, maybe "Fourth Album"?

Vanness rapped with diva A*Mei and the macho men of Machi from Taiwan. One guy was so muscular he looked like he could lift a ship. No, two ships. 5566 entered the pressroom and made comments about believing in this thing called love, quoting either The Darkness or Queen or Cher. Derek McDonald came in next, which made us pop a very important question: "Who the hell is Derek McDonald?"

It turned out the guy went on tour with Blue, and his after-show goal was to get drunk in a bar. (Or maybe hoist a bottle of Tiger beer with a Pussycat Doll.)

Came the other surprise of the evening: Gareth Gates won over Justin Timberlake for Favorite Male Artist. Well, I don’t like the former *N Sync curly-haired boy, not one bit. In fact, he comes across like a white (I mean whiter) Michael Jackson. Although I would concede that a song like Cry Me A River would sound great when sung by someone like Beck – which did happen in one concert. But I don’t think that a person like Gates (present at the show) whose impact on music is squat could beat someone (who didn’t attend the show) who just won a Grammy over the late great George Harrison. Asian voters can be downright unpredictable.

Stacie Orrico went onstage to perform, wearing a maid’s outfit that screamed, "Change costume!" Later on, the pop diva emerged in a hot brown blouse and did a medley of More to Life (There’s Gotta Be) and Stuck with Malaysia’s Too Phat and Singapore’s Urban Xchange.

The guys from Too Phat and Urban Xchange turned out to be sensible musicians. One guy in Adidas said, "We were nervous, but we showed the world what Asians can do – yeah, I’m a Malaysian man!" With regard to a question about Asian artists playing second fiddle to their American and European counterparts, a member of Urban Xchange said, "We’re slowly changing the general mind-set. I think Asian artists are getting more recognition."

Language should not be a barrier, his band-mate added. "People from Hong Kong buy albums of Japanese artists, even if they don’t understand the words. I think we just have to improve the sound and the packaging (to be able to make a niche in other markets)." Right on.

Rivermaya, one of my favorite local bands, presented the Favorite Artist Singapore to three-time winner Stefanie Sun. After that, the guys from Whatever Things did a skit reminiscent of Jackass: One dude kicked another dude wearing fake crutches and neck brace. Ouch…

In the pressroom, they talked about how essential it was to "pull the stunt and not run away from cops." The guys from Whatever Things nearly got arrested recently in Bangkok for doing one of their insane stunts. Note the word nearly. "You could try doing it in Singapore," one reporter quipped, which elicited a couple of giggles from the other journalists. We all knew what he meant.

Before leaving, the kick-the-gut stunt was done. Again. Which made me remember Jackasses Chris Pontius and fat Preston Lacy visiting the pressroom in last year’s MTV Europe Music Awards in Scotland, and just shitting on decorum and good taste. Pontius even whipped out his limp, long d*ng and whirled it around, saying, "I call this the Helicopter." Jackass rules.

Javier talked to the press about doing more collaboration with Asian artists. "I did a song with Urban Xchange’s Vanessa Fernandez (at the EMI party). And I’m extremely open to doing more things like that."

Simple Plan played its own brand of mall punk (in the tradition of mall-rat idols like Blink 182, Good Charlotte, SUM 41 and other tattooed and cliché-spouting annoyances), doing hits like Perfect and Addicted.

Easily the best act in the MTV list this year, the Black Eyed Peas, presented an award. The Peas walked toward the podium to the tune of All You Need Is Love. How appropriate. (who is half-Filipino and whose real name is Allen Pineda) addressed the Pinoys watching the show, "Kamusta na, mga kababayan ko!"

Hey, that was a class act. Some Filipino artists based in the States style themselves as Latinos, probably in order to penetrate a bigger market. That’s like selling our country with a kiss and for 30 pieces of silver. Whereas a guy like would write something like The Apl Song in the multi-platinum "Elephunk," and detail his experiences of growing up in the Filipino version of the ghetto. Great track. He deserves props for that. (The gallows pole for those who spend three months in the land of milk and honey – specifically California, specifically Daly City – and then come back to the country transformed into, like, a character in Clueless or Legally Blonde. Like, totally.)

When Apl, Will.I.Am (Will Adams), Taboo (Jaime Gomez) and Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas entered the pressroom, the reporters looked intimidated. No one wanted to pop a question at first. But one local journo mustered up enough courage, stood up and asked a fateful query.

Singaporean reporter: This question is for Apl. Hi, Apl! What do you think of Singaporean guys?

Apl: (Stunned) Uh…

Singaporean reporter: You must have met some last night. What can you say about them?

Apl: (Still stunned) Uh…

Singaporean reporter: (Looking strangely at Fergie, and not Apl) Well… Apl, what can you say?

Fergie: Oh no, my name is Fergie. He is Apl (laughs).

Singaporean reporter: Oh… Oh

Everyone in that pressroom started guffawing. Imagine asking a heavily bling-blinged, badass rapper about guys. Talk about getting your Peas all mixed up. Talk about not being able to tell apples (or in this case, Apl) from oranges. Anyway, after that bit of comic relief Will.I.Am spoke about the reception the rap group got in Singapore.

"I expected people to be receptive – but not this receptive," he enthused. "And it’s been like that with our music. People have accepted us – whether they spoke Thai, German or hobo ghetto language. German kids come up to us and say, ‘Yo! Wazzup?’ You know, ‘Yo! Wazzup?’ is ‘Yo! Wazzup?’ in any language (laughs)."

Apl was asked about his Filipino roots. He answered: "I was born in the Philippines. Sa Angeles, pare. I was adopted when I was 14 years old and went to the States. I remember riding water buffaloes when I was young. Yeah, we will be having a concert in the Philippines around May. I want to work with Parokya ni Edgar."

This rapper from the Black Eyed Peas is the kind of guy who knows the adage, "Ang hindi lumingon sa pinanggalingan…" by heart.
Wisecracks And Sidelights
At long last, Parokya ni Edgar won the Favorite Artist-Philippines award, something which Regine Velasquez lorded over since 1984. Nah, just before Edison started tinkering with electricity. And in the pressroom, Vinci Montaner of Parokya (or was it Darius?) jibed, "Regine is very nice. I hope she won’t get mad at us for this."

Actress Michelle Yeoh received The Asian Film Award for her enormous contribution to the film industry. She looked a bit like Coco Lee with her new hairstyle. The Malaysian star may come across as one serious chick on film (who wouldn’t look serious delivering flying kicks, anyway?), but in the pressroom she was a laidback lady. "In the movies, it’s amazing," she said, "but next year I want to come back to the awards as a singer (laughs)."

On a serious note, Michelle paid tribute to Hong Kong singer Anita Mui, who died of cervical cancer last year. "We’re very fortunate that she touched the world in so many ways," said Yeoh, who received Mui’s posthumous Inspiration Award on the late singer’s behalf.

Australian Idol Guy Sebastian sang about angels and gave us goose bumps. It was like hearing somebody sing Hindi Kita Malilimutan in a funeral.

Another highlight of the evening was Isha Kopikar’s number with a posse of Indian dancers, which was as bombastic as a Bollywood production. She showed up in the pressroom wearing really intense necklaces, complaining of a certain choking feeling. Hmm… We wondered why.

Giant-killer Gareth Gates did a duet with Malaysian pop diva Siti Nurhaliza. Siti sang so beautifully. What could I say about Gareth’s performance? Well, Siti sang so beautifully.

Blue presented Mariah Carey with the MTV Lifetime Achievement Award, with a citation that mentioned the pop diva in the same breath as The Beatles and Elvis. And – surprise! – Mariah was there to accept the award. Not just a hologram. Not just a rubber doll. Not just a figment of the imagination of a person on the brink of a nervous breakdown. She was really there. Which explains the beefed up security. Mariah’s the Al Capone of diva-hood.

BoA, who won as Favorite Artist-Korea, sang with a bunch of glam metal musicians. Hanoi Rocks, maybe? No, Trax, we were told. BoA and company played a song called Rock With You, with awesome drumming from a peroxide blonde dude. The young Korean/Japanese girl came across as an Asian Avril Lavigne. She’s big in Korea and Japan.

The Sugababes performed Too Lost In You. For a moment there I thought I was watching Atomic Kitten – a case of déjà vu all over again.

Blue, which won as Favorite Pop Act, went to the pressroom. Duncan James, who admitted that he’s pursuing an acting career, dismissed rumors that the group is splitting up. "That’s rubbish," to quote. Well, people who dig the original versions of Elton John’s Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word and Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed and Delivered, people who can’t stand manufactured, assembly-line, fake plastic music don’t give a rat’s ass whether Blue splits up or not.

(Somebody’s going to get mad at me for dissing Blue… Oh hell.)

Vanness also showed up and talked about the follow up to his solo platter "My Body Will Sing," which, despite the title, is not about gross bodily noises. Wu enthused that there is more hip-hop in his next album. "I had more input in this one, in terms of producing it. I think there should always be room for improvement."

Rico Blanco of Rivermaya praised Black Eyed Peas’ for not forgetting his roots and speaking in his native tongue. Also, he added, part of the excitement of being at the MTV Asia Awards, is to get together with other Asian artists and discover unity in diversity.

"We’re not alike, but in a way we’re alike," Rico said perceptively.

When asked what kept Rivermaya together for a decade (when its contemporaries have fallen by the rock n’ roll wayside), Blanco said give the credit to love, nothing else.

"It may sound cheesy. But we still love to play, and we still have the desire to make people smile," he concluded.

Well said, but I think the best quips came from Canadian emo-punk outfit Simple Plan, which didn’t win the Favorite Pop Act award. I think it was vocalist Pierre Bouvier who said, "Hey, nobody loses an award like we do."

And when jibed by a reporter about the fact that they were in the pop category, bassist David Desrosiers said, "No, we’re not bothered at all. There are only two kinds of music – good music and bad music. We fall somewhere in the middle (laughs)."

To close the show, brilliant hip-hop artists Black Eyed Peas performed the hits Shut Up and Where is the Love? complete with blokes with flags and balloons, a bombastic way of punctuating this year’s MTV Asia Awards. Wait, the Peas just asked a valid question. Where the hell is Love, anyway?

After the show, Love got up, took a cab to the Equinox club where the post-party was, got drunk on Tiger beer, and darted from one VIP room to the next, hoping to spot lovely Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas. Failing to do just that, Love mulled over the things it loved about the awards – cupids, robotics hosts, hip-hop hippies and all.
* * *
Check out the repeats of the 2004 MTV Asia Awards: Red carpet special: Sun, Feb. 22, 10 p.m.; Wed, March 3, 8:30 a.m.; Mon, March 15, 1p.m.; and Sat, April 3, 1 p.m. Main show: Sun, Feb. 22, 10:30 p.m.; Wed, March 3, 9 a.m.; Mon, March 15, 1:30 p.m.; Tue, March 30, 9 a.m.; Sat, April 3, 1:30 p.m.; Mon, April 12, 11p.m.; and Tue, April 27, 8 a.m. The making of the MTV Asia Awards: Mon, Feb. 23, 12:30 a.m.; Wed, March 3, 11:00 a.m.; Mon, March 15, 3:30 p.m.; Sat, April 3, 3:00pm; and Tue, April 27, 10:00 a.m.
* * *
Special thanks to MTV marketing and communications director Rod Nepomuceno. For comments, suggestions, curses and invocations, e-mail

  • Latest
Are you sure you want to log out?
Login is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

or sign in with