EXO eclipse Thicke at MTV Asia

MTV World Stage Live in Malaysia
Sunway Resort City, Selangor, Malaysia/Sunday

He might be the hottest star from the Western pop world right now, but Robin Thicke faced strong competition from 12-man K-pop boyband EXO when it came to fan appeal in this part of the world.

This was evident at the MTV World Stage Live In Malaysia gig which featured the two acts plus Los Angeles rap/electronic dance crew Far East Movement and Malaysian rapper Joe Flizzow.

EXO played a brief, 25-minute set and came on second after Flizzow, as opposed to Thicke, who played a closing, 40-minute set.

But the screams from the 15,000-strong crowd seemed louder and the fan reaction more enthusiastic for the Korean dozen, who put on a tightly choreographed song-and-dance routine in standardised blazer and tie combos.

Thicke's appeal rode mostly on his current mega-hit, Blurred Lines, the funk-pop jam that has been heating up the charts this season. It turned out to be the only song in his setlist that truly lit up his performance.

While the song, and the album it was named after, is Thicke's first to make him a household name, he has a wide solo discography spanning the last 10 years.

The older tunes that he showcased did not have the easy and catchy appeal of his current smash hit. Dreamworld, from 2008 album Something Else, is a piano ballad with a beautiful arrangement and melody, but it lacks punch.

Thicke's voice switches between falsetto and his own full voice, but his range is neither remarkable nor wide. His strength is in choosing the material, and the newer tracks from the last three albums that he chose to perform all have the bump and grind, club appeal exemplified by songs such as Shakin' It 4 Daddy from 2009 album Sex Therapy.

Dressed in an all-black suit, Thicke capitalised on Blurred Lines for all it was worth - when his band went through equipment difficulties barely five minutes after they came on stage, he pacified the crowd by singing the song a cappella and engaging the audience in a call-and-response routine.

Prior to his set, Far East Movement (above) pulled off the rowdiest set of the night. The Asian- American quartet channelled rap pioneers Beastie Boys throughout their 50-minute set, down to the standardised red coveralls, stylised, freeze-frame poses and rabble-rousing rap/dance tunes.

Show opener Flizzow spat spit-fire rap lines in both Malay and English, bolstered by guest vocals from fellow Malaysian rapper Altimet.

Sunday's show is the fifth instalment of the annual, multi-genre concert by MTV Asia which has always featured pop acts that are current on the Western and Asian pop charts.

Last year's event, for example, was headlined by Canadian teen idol Justin Bieber and featured K-pop group Kara.

The fact that MTV Asia has chosen to have the series across the Causeway might have some local pop music fans lamenting the fact that the broadcaster has not staged a similar concert in Singapore. They have a chance to watch the gig on the music channel though - highlights from the concert will be shown on MTV Asia's television channel tomorrow evening, while the full concert will go on air on Sept 21.

Pop fans aching for live action can take heart in the fact that another multi-act, mega-size concert will take place in Singapore in a couple of weeks - the four-night F1 concerts at the Padang stage within the Singapore Grand Prix's circuit park which features Bieber, alternative rock giants The Killers and pop princess Rihanna.

It certainly is a good time to be a fan of popular music in the region today.


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