Too safe, too radio friendly

SINGAPORE - There's no escaping those ubiquitous posters.

It's finally here - the 2014 Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix (just trips off the tongue, doesn't it?).

And so are the accompanying concerts.

Even before the three-night fiesta begins on Friday, we know it's going to be one huge glitzy affair.

Every year without fail, up to 50,000 people throng the Padang just to catch the pop headliners in action.

Or perhaps not.

Are this year's acts really that thrilling?

Or could it be that the live music performances were always meant to be mere side dishes to the high-octane track action?

This year's entertainment line-up at the Singapore Grand Prix makes me wonder if the organisers are getting lax when it comes to booking acts.

In 2011, they kept things cool and edgy by bringing in nu-metal heroes Linkin Park.

In 2012 they earned cred by featuring two of pop's biggest names, Katy Perry and Maroon 5.

Last year, we had a three-pronged attack of tattooed bad boy Justin Bieber, dance-rockers The Killers and K-pop powerhouse quintet Big Bang.

And then there is this year's line-up.

Taiwanese pop rock band Mayday on Sept 19, British singer Robbie Williams on Sept 20, sexy diva Jennifer Lopez and soulful John Legend on Sept 21 - come across as a little staid.

Not to take anything away from these superstars, all veterans in their respective fields.

Mayday, who have performed to sold-out crowds numerous times in Singapore, became the first Chinese band to play at New York's Madison Square Garden in March.

Lopez's solo concert here in Dec 2012 was saucy and show-stopping.

As for Robbie Williams and John Legend, well, they will surely inspire mass karaoke sessions with their beloved tunes. Williams has perennial favourites Angels and Better Man. Legend has his trump card in All Of Me.


And therein lies my gripe.

The headlining acts these year are too safe, too radio-friendly.

Simply put, they are for people who are not that bothered or particular about music in the first place.

They appeal to an older, more affluent crowd who are willing to spend just to have something to do. These acts will only be background music.

I can already visualise the likely scenario for many F1 Grand Prix attendees.

Before event: Honey, let's go watch the F1 races, there's live music too.

At event: Ooh, I've heard this in the car. Nice. I wonder who it's by?

Cue a half-remembered sing-along of "'Cause all of me, loves all of you".


It doesn't help that the Grand Prix is - and will always be - extremely costly.

With the offering of hospitality and executive suites, corporate guests and high-rollers are expected to form a substantial part of the turn-out.

When prices for concert tickets get out of reach for ordinary fans, it is inevitable that you play to indifferent crowds.

The performing act could very well be the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, new-age guru Kitaro or cheery purple dinosaur Barney.

Guess what? No matter who's up there, it will STILL sell.

If the Grand Prix organisers had wanted to engage real music fans, I'm sure this year's line-up would have been vastly different.

They could have invited revered US rockers Motley Crue, who are currently on their final concert tour.

Imagine Tommy Lee's custom-made roller coaster drum kit - he would literally be turned upside down as he played - right in front of our eyes. What a sight to behold! Sadly, Singapore fans will never get to see it.

Classic British rock band Queen would be another great choice. Now on tour with guest frontman Adam Lambert, they epitomise timeless music.

Their massive catalogue of songs, including Bohemian Rhapsody and We Are The Champions, are stadium-sized hits that cross generations.

Following in the Grand Prix's tradition to have an Asian act on opening night, I would have liked to see The Voice of China World Tour take the stage.

The highly popular Chinese reality singing TV show, currently into its third season and showing on Channel 8, was so successful that the 20-odd finalists from the previous two seasons banded together for a tour in China, Hong Kong and Macau.

To be serenaded by 20 fantastic singers who breathe new life into old numbers - now that's definitely value for money.

This article was first published on Sep 17, 2014.
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