Mirror, Mirror On The Stage

Touted as the group to revive Canto-pop, Mirror is now in the news regionally for an uncommon-in-Hong-Kong stage mishap. Who are the boys in this band of merry 12?

The 12 members of MIRROR, as seen in a performance in May, 2021. Photo: MIRROR/Facebook

Warning: video links in this post will show footages that may not be suitable to some

Hong Kong social media and news platforms have been buzzing with discussions of what happened at the pop concert mega-venue Coliseum last night, around 10pm. In the middle of the performance by the hottest boy band of the moment MIRROR, a massive LED screen, suspended mid-air, fell, according to local reports. The horrific incident was caught on video (see links below) and it went viral as quickly as the video panel crashed. According to the Chinese paper Oriental Daily (東方日報), “it fell on two dancers who were performing… and one of them was suspected to have been hit on the back of his head”. It added that “many spectators saw the accident, and screams were let out, and some covered their faces and bawled”. The South China Morning Post (SCMP) later reported that “a local hospital said one performer suffered neck injuries and was in serious condition in intensive care while another was stable.”

Staged in Canto-pop’s performance mother ship in Hung Hom (紅磡, pronounced hong hum), southeast of Kowloon, this was MIRROR’s debut at the Coliseum (香港體育館). Last night’s performance was the group’s fourth of 12 scheduled concerts. As seen in video clips circulating online (such as this and this. Please note that these clips may be distressing to some viewers), two members Anson Lo and Edan Lui performed with several dancers when one of the eight suspended LED screens (for close-ups of the boys) plunged, hitting one dancer and toppling onto another in full view of the already-entrqnced audience who screamed in palpable horror and disbelief. The news quickly travelled beyond the Coliseum. An SOTD contributor, who was on his way home in Tsuen Wan in the north, received news and the video of the incident and told us this morning that he “didn’t, at first, think it was true.” A friend then sent him a clip and assured him that it was “新鮮熱辣 (sun seen yeet lat or fresh and hot)”. “As far as I can remember,” our source said, “nothing this dramatic has happened at the Coliseum before”.

At the point of impact. Screen shot: Ezra Cheung/Twitter

Many Hongkongers woke up this morning to the shocking news. Social media platforms saw heated discussions that expressed anger: This, fans noted vehemently, was not the MIRROR concert’s first incident at the Coliseum. On Tuesday night, group member Frankie Chan, soon to celebrate his 34th birthday, fell when he moved too closely to the edge of the stage while giving a speech. But he was not seriously hurt and the concert continued. After the performance, Mr Chan shared on social media a photo of his scraped left forearm, saying, “令大家擔心sorry (leng dai ga dum sum sorry or sorry to make everyone worry”. The day after the fall, more than 11,000 fans signed an online petition to ask for better safety standards for the performers. Although the question of safety was raised again this time, Hong Kong media reported that production companies involved in the live show have not admitted that they were responsible for the suspension of the problematic LED screen. The rest of the MIRROR concerts are now halted, with the new chief executive John Lee ordering authorities to “comprehensively investigate the incident”.

The staggering popularity of MIRROR in Hong Kong has been dubbed a “social phenomenon”, with SCMP describing it as “fervour unlike anything the city has seen for some time”. The rapid rise of the group is especially significant when the mood in Hong Kong still “reels” after the city-wide protest of 2019, the imposition of the national security law that followed, and the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many MIRROR fans are drawn to “Hong Kong people singing to Hong Kong people about things Hong Kong people understand,” as our contributor explained. The fever has afflicted non-locals too. One Hong Kong-based Singaporean told us, “I follow them fervently; I watch all the TV series they are in.” On our island, there’s even an SG MIRROR Fans Club! Last year, so massive did MIRROR become that McDonalds Hong Kong. almost turned their burger chain into McMIRROR, letting the boys’ poreless faces appear practically everywhere and on anything under the Golden Arches, from restaurant interiors to the food packaging to billboards ads, to self-service ordering kiosks. There were even collectible play cards! The fasfood’s video ad with the boys in it drew more than 3.7 million views on YouTube in the past 11 months. The sudden ubiquity of the boys is mind-boggling when the group was only celebrating their 3rd anniversary in that marketing coup with McD.

Mirror in the music video of their 2018 debut track In a Second. Screen shot: MIRROR/YouTube

Like the original size of the “King of Hallyu Wave” Super Junior in 2005, MIRROR consists of 12 members (we won’t list all their names here. That would be for another post). They did not go to some training boot camp organised by a recording company. Rather, each of them participated in the talent competition Good Night Show—King Maker (known locally as Good Night Show 全民造星), which is clearly inspired by the K-pop star search series Produce 101. Created by ViuTV, the Cantonese entertainment channel of HK Television Entertainment, the King Maker (or Kings as it were for MIRROR) is a reality TV program that seeks out talents from scores who show up for competitions, fighting it out in different performances to show off what they truly have. MIRROR comprises these unique individuals, which means not all of them can sing or that anyone of them has a stand-out voice. But that is not the sole ability fans look out for. Among a dozen of winsome boys from different backgrounds (journalism to sports) who get to do their own thing (such as pursue their solo careers or act in TV series without their mates), fans can choose their perfect idol and fashion icon.

There was less of such a collective with which to enjoy one’s star obsession in the past. Until MIRROR’s almost overnight success, the popularity of Canto-pop has been on the wane. Before them, people were mostly listening to artistes from the “golden era” of Hong Kong music: the ’80s and ’90s (we confess we still have Anthony Wong Yu Meng—and his debut band Tat Ming Pair—and the largely forgotten duo The Raiders on our playlist). Three years prior to MIRROR’s entrance, the live TVB broadcast of the 2015 Jade Solid Gold Top 10 Songs Music Awards ceremony (勁歌金曲頒獎典禮), once dubbed “Hong Kong’s Grammy’s” and compulsory viewing, went by without much notice or discussion the next day. Speaking to some Hongkongers, hardly anyone remembered who won what that Sunday night. And then MIRROR arrived In a Second (一秒間).

Curiously, three of the fours bands that were formed under the auspices of ViuTV have two-syllable names that end with the ‘er’ sound, and spelled in full caps, including ERROR and the girl group COLLAR. While many would say that MIRROR offer nothing that has not been covered by far more successful K-pop groups, they are agreeably sons of the SAR soil. Their appeal, as Tatler Hong Kong put it, boils down to the boys’ “good looks and magnetic personalities”. Attractiveness and magnetism are, of course, subjected to re-definition as time passes, but some Hongkongers observing the evolving pop scene in their city note that these boys are not exactly Beyond. “I think they’re more like the Grasshoppers of their generation, only bigger in numbers” another contact told us. “They’re just a copy of what the Koreans have been doing for years”. On their allure, he replied, ”very MK”, referring to Mongkok, the residential and commercial neighbourhood many similar-looking and similarly-dreaming boys gravitate. On our shores, we may simply call them Bengs.