Asia News: Arashi + Bruno Mars, Big Hit NYE & More

Arashi Announces Stream With Bruno Mars
Arashi – Arashi
Promo shot

In yet another attempt to gain attention before they retire from show biz at the end of the year, Japan’s top boy band, Arashi, announced on Dec. 9 a special streaming event that will feature the quintet discussing their latest single, “Whenever You Call,” with the song’s producer and writer, Bruno Mars. 

In addition to being Arashi’s last big song of their career, “Whenever You Call” is also their first-ever English language song, which, since its release in the early fall, has attracted more than 13 million views on YouTube.
The title of the event, which will be available worldwide from Dec. 17 to Dec. 20 for a fee of about $12, is “Behind the Scenes of Whenever You Call,” and, according to press reports, will feature a performance of the song and an exclusive interview. 
In order to raise interest in the streaming event a special website has been set up to count down the minutes until it takes place. 
So far, the stream will be available to viewers in the U.S., Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. 
Arashi is also scheduled to perform an exclusive New Year’s Eve concert online that will also be streamed globally. After that, they are officially supposed to call it quits.

Big Hit NYE Controversy
The upcoming New Year’s Eve concert being presented by the South Korean record label and talent management company, Big Hit, is causing some controversy within the South Korean entertainment world, according to the Korea Herald. 
Big Hit is the company that has given the world BTS, and while the concert will feature the biggest K-pop group in the world, it is mainly being done to promote other artists on the company’s various subsidiary labels. In fact, as Korea Herald puts it, the concert is “more like a debut performance for the company as Big Hit Labels—the name it now uses to reflect its embrace of affiliated music agencies Source Music, Belift Lab and Pledis Entertainment.” 
The objective seems to be to consolidate other aspects of the company, which, right now, is seen to be all about BTS, whose earnings accounted for 90 percent of Big Hit’s revenues until they acquired another agency, Pledis, which handles another superstar K-pop boy band, Seventeen.
The New Year’s Eve show may have more appeal to investors than it will to any one group of fans. 
Indeed, there have already been reports that BTS fans are disappointed that the group isn’t doing a stand-alone show on the last night of the year. 
Moreover, the idea that the show’s aim is to boost its stock price flies in the face of the usual K-pop image, which elevates fans above all else. 
But more controversial than the purpose is the date itself, when the concert, which has since been downgraded from offline/online to online only, will run up against the traditional year-end music show on MBC, one of South Korea’s public broadcasters. 
Consequently, none of Big Hit’s artists will be available for MBC’s blowout, thus greatly diminishing its appeal. Korea Herald reports that relations between Big Hit and MBC have been frosty since 2018, when the network reportedly “mistreated” BTS during its year-end extravaganza. 
Consequently, BTS performed on a number of year-end shows in 2019 but not on MBC’s. In fact, all of Big Hit’s artists have avoided MBC music shows recently, which is significant since in South Korea television is still a major PR outlet for music acts. 
One critic told Korea Herald that Big Hit’s move is actually a good sign, since the music industry has become too dependent on television. “It’s difficult for musicians to expand themselves if they don’t have independent stages and simply rely on television shows,” he said. 
However, another reason for Big Hit’s move is that it sees its mission as extending the appeal of its artists overseas, and that can’t be done by sticking to local terrestrial broadcasters. This aspect has been intensified in recent days after Big Hit announced that the show would also feature three international stars, Steve Aoki, Lauv and Halsey, as special guests. 
The streamed paid concert will also feature a “virtual fan meetup,” something that no TV station could ever offer.
Singapore’s Sands To Reopen
Roslan Rahman / AFP / Getty Images
– Singapore Sands
Singapore’s Sands Theater at the Marina Bay Sands, pictured here with a posed shot from a previous “Riverdance” production, will officially reopen on Dec. 18 with its first live performance since it closed in April due to the COVID pandemic. Five hundred spectators will be allowed into the venue each day Dec. 18 – 19 for “Back to Live,” a joint concert presented by AEG and Collective Minds.

Singapore’s Sands Theater at the Marina Bay Sands resort will officially reopen on Dec. 18 with its first live performance since the venue closed last April due to the COVID pandemic. 

Five hundred spectators will be allowed into the venue each day on Dec. 18 and 19 for “Back to Live,” a joint concert presented by AEG and Collective Minds. Among the local artists slated to appear are Benjamin Kheng, Sezairi Sezali, Charlie Lim, Narelle, Keyana, Aisyah Azia and TheLionCityBoy. 
“Back to Live” is part of a pilot program being carried out by the Singapore Ministry of Health for pre-event testing, the purpose of which is to enable large-scale events to be conducted safely by reducing the risk of COVID-positive cases at an event. 
Every ticket holder will require a valid negative Antigen Rapid Test in order to enter the premises and will thereafter have to comply with all safety measures that are put into place. 
Testing is provided free of charge. Inside the venue, attendees will be divided up into zones of 50 persons and no intermingling between zones is allowed. The Sands is also deploying Safe Distancing Ambassadors who will ensure safe distancing measures are observed. 
According to Yahoo Lifestyles, a representative of Singapore’s Tourism Board said in a statement, “With the gradual resumption of live performances, we are excited to see ‘Back to Live’ participate in the pilot to conduct pre-event testing at live performances. 
“The health and safety of visitors remain a priority, and the outcome of such pilots will be critical to out ongoing efforts to allow events of a larger scale to resume in a safe and sustainable manner.” As of the middle of December, Singapore has registered less than 30 deaths from COVID-19.

Big Mountain Festival Called Off In Thailand
A weekend music festival in the Nakhon Ratchasima region of Thailand was called off halfway through by the authorities over fears of the spread of COVID-19. 
The Big Mountain music and arts festival, a regular event held at a golf club, was cancelled by the regional governor, who said that the organizers had failed to limit the number of attendees or enforce mask-wearing on the grounds of the event, according to a report by AsiaOne. 
However, shortly after the order was given, festivalgoers on social media said that the real reason for the cancellation was the festival’s pro-democracy content, which included protest songs and paraphernalia that supported pro-democracy protests that have roiled Bangkok in recent weeks. 
The buzz on the internet was that central government officials had pressured the governor to shut down the festival and use COVID-19 as an excuse. 
Nevertheless, virus fears were sparked when a woman who had just arrived at the festival on Dec. 12 was taken to a hospital with a fever and a chest infection. 
Later, however, tests on the woman came back negative for COVID-19. Then, some attendees started posting photos of long lines and cramped conditions on social media, and on-site health officials warned organizers of lax mask protocols. The governor said that his order was made after the organizers “failed to respond” to the warnings.