Lollipop@F give it their best shot

Members of Lollipop@F (from left) Owodog, Fabien, A-Wei and William. -- PHOTO: PRODIGEE MEDIA ENTERTAINMENT
Members of Lollipop@F (from left) Owodog, Fabien, A-Wei and William. -- PHOTO: PRODIGEE MEDIA ENTERTAINMENT

The lads of Taiwanese boyband Lollipop@F are not afraid to speak their mind about why Mandopop groups are losing ground even in their own backyard.

"Don't be shy about asking us such questions. We're really open," the chatty A-Wei interjects at one point during the 30-minute interview.

They were in town to promote their new EP Big Shot and attend the Singapore Entertainment Awards' Celebration Party last month.

There is not a silent moment as the four talkative members, Owodog, 31, and Fabien, William and A-Wei, all 28, take turns to chime in while sitting snugly on a sofa at the Equarius Hotel at Resorts World Sentosa.

They throw up reasons for the current state of affairs for groups like them, ranging from the shrinking Mandopop industry to fierce competition from South Korean acts.

The straight-talking Fabien puts it bluntly: "The music industry is not doing well. Everyone knows that it's hard for a record label to make money nowadays.

"When a recording company wants to groom an artist, it needs to invest a lot of money. Grooming a group with, say, four members requires four times the amount required to groom a solo artist. "

Finding a financial backer to produce their EP Big Shot was a great challenge for the quartet. The group last released an album, Dance, three years ago.

Lollipop@F made headlines last year when an alleged contractual dispute with their then-record label Gold Typhoon emerged. Taiwanese media reported that the members were spotted in a cafe venting their frustrations about financial constraints due to lack of work opportunities.

However, there was no sign of such resentment during the interview. Despite the two-year break when Lollipop@F had no album releases, the members said they were kept busy with solo activities such as acting and hosting.

William said: "We had no problems supporting ourselves. But we did feel lost because there was no definite plan to release an album."

The group left Gold Typhoon last July.

The four members have started anew by signing to Hong Kong celebrity Eric Tsang's management company A Entertainment. A press conference was held in March to announce their joining the new agency and EP release. They released their new EP in April, under Taiwanese record label Seed Music.

Lollipop@F members were formerly part of the six-man boyband Lollipop, which split in 2009 when two members Prince and LilJay left. Prince and LilJay are now part of boyband JPM.

They have worked hard to set themselves apart from other boybands with their choreographed moves - they dance using resistance bands in their techno-based dance track Big Shot.

Still, Lollipop@F have had their share of brick bats. Netizens accused Lollipop@F's of copying K-pop boyband Super Junior-M's track Swing, with their song Big Shot.

They panned the Big Shot music video for ripping off Swing's music video concept - both bands are seen in suits and dancing in the office in their videos.

The Lollipop@F music video was released on YouTube in April, while the Super Junior-M music video was uploaded a month earlier in March.

"K-pop is king now. If you're the less popular group you'll be automatically labelled the copycat," said A-Wei. "If you dye your hair blonde, or if your music has a techno beat, they will say that you are copying."

Still, having gone through rigorous dance training in South Korea to prepare for their Dance album (2011), the Lollipop@F guys express admiration for how seriously Korean entertainers take their craft.

Owodog says: "There's no joking around. The Korean trainees have a good dance foundation. Their strict system produces groups with flawless moves."

That said, Owodog adds: "Put bluntly, it's robotic training. The K-pop groups dance in sync, but lack a certain vitality. I think there should be life injected into our dance moves.

"We won't insist so much that our hand movements must be at this particular degree."

And unlike South Korean artists who are well-schooled in public relations and the art of saying a lot without giving away anything at all, the Lollipop@F members display a kind of unguardedness and spontaneity.

Amid the free-flowing conversation, in which no question was left unanswered, they cracked silly jokes (such as how this note-taking reporter looked like she was a doctor writing them a prescription).

That freedom and ability to express themselves are an edge that the Mandopop groups have over K-pop ones in conquering the vast Chinese market.

"Our advantage is our language," says Fabien. "The K-pop groups need a translator. We can express ourselves to the media, letting them know the details of production."

A-Wei says singing in a language that the fans understand also allows them to move fans with their lyrics.

Next year, they hope to release a full album and go on a concert tour.

The optimistic William said: "I believe there will come a time when the craze around K-pop will not be as fervent. If we keep working at it and innovating, there will be a time when we will succeed."

Lollipop@F's EP Big Shot is available in stores and on digital platform iTunes.