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Road to MIRROR: Hong Kong's Biggest Boy Band
Anyone who's been in Hong Kong lately would be able to attest to this: MIRROR is big.
The Cantopop boy band is everywhere, appearing in TV shows and countless advertisements promoting everything from beauty products and fast food to banking services and public health notices. Their albums and concert tickets sell out in the blink of an eye, their retail collabs inspire long lines out the door, and the members are showered with the type of fervent fan support usually reserved for K-pop idols.
Hong Kong has fallen in love with MIRROR in a way that hasn't been seen here for years.
Meet MIRRORMIRROR consists of 12 members discovered through ViuTV's audition reality program Good Night Show – King Maker. Winner Keung To and runner-ups Ian Chan and Lokman Yeung are joined by top contestants Anson Kong, Edan Lui, Jeremy Lee, Stanley Yau, Frankie Chan, Alton Wong, Jer Lau, Anson Lo and Tiger Yau to form MIRROR, with the aspiration of "reflecting unlimited possibilities" together as an idol group. They officially debuted in November 2018 with their first digital single "In a Second," which became one of 903 Ultimate Song Chart's Top Ten Songs of the Year.
Garnering high local popularity, MIRROR has been sweeping awards at major music award ceremonies since debut, including Best Group at the 2020 Metro Radio Music Awards. In January 2021, they released their first full-length album One and All. The album collected all 21 of MIRROR's group and solo singles released over the span of two years, such as their megahits Reflection and Ignited. The limited album famously sold out upon release due to high demand, and is still highly sought after by fans in the resale market.
MIRROR doesn't focus only on group and music activities. The members are active in different areas of the entertainment industry as solo singers, actors, dancers and hosts. Despite often being compared to K-pop groups in terms of musicality and performance, MIRROR has asserted that they perform with their own style and interpretation, showing their determination to be one of a kind in the Cantopop world.
Hong Kong Boy Bands from the 1980s to the 2010s
So, just how unique is MIRROR in the history of Hong Kong music? From Leslie Cheung and Anita Mui to the Four Heavenly Kings and Twins, Hong Kong has had no shortage of iconic pop idols – but barely any idol boy bands to even speak of. Before MIRROR, Cantopop has never seen an idol boy band of this size and level of popularity.
While instrument-playing bands like Wynners, Beyond and Tai Chi reigned in the 70s and 80s, boy bands were unrepresented with the exception of Little Tigers and Grasshopper. Not to be confused with Taiwan's more famous Little Tigers, Hong Kong's Little Tigers was a boy band formed in 1984 by contestants of TVB's New Talent Singing Awards. Though the trio disbanded after a year, they're remembered for the classic Police Cadet '84 series theme song.
Hong Kong's longest-running male dance group is undoubtedly Grasshopper. Formed by Edmond So and brothers Calvin Choy and Remus Choy, Grasshopper first appeared on New Talent Singing Awards in 1985, and caught the attention of Anita Mui, who became their mentor. Officially debuting in 1988, the trio established themselves as one of Hong Kong's very few dance groups. Like the Little Tigers, Grasshopper started out with an energetic look and sound modeled after Japan's Shonentai, but they soon emerged as a different kind of boy band that emphasized performance without the idol image.
Hong Kong had another dance trio in the 90s called Wind Fire Sea. Though the group didn’t take off, members Jordan Chan and Michael Tse became known thanks to their appearances in the Young & Dangerous film series, and went on to become successful actors. Dry and Swing also came up in the late 90s, but the two music producer duos generally don't fit the boy band prototype.
In the early and mid-2000s when Taiwan boy bands like F4 and Fahrenheit were taking Asia by storm, Hong Kong jumped on the bandwagon with youthful boy groups. Formed in 2001, teen duo Shine debuted around the same time as Twins, and gave off a down-to-earth, slacker-next-door vibe that worked better onscreen. Members Chui Tien You and Wong Yau Nam, both of whom were discovered by director Fruit Chan, would develop more fruitful careers as actors than singers.
In 2002, EEG launched Boy'z with Kenny Kwan and Steven Cheung, which was intended to be the idol-making label's male counterpart to Twins, though they did not reach the same level of fame. Boy'z later evolved into the trio Sun Boy'z after Kenny went solo, and Dennis Mak and William Chan joined the group. However, Boy'z would eventually return to its original lineup.
Also in 2002, StarEast Music debuted two boy bands together: EO2 and E-kids. The former disbanded in 2013, while the latter disbanded in 2006 but reunited in 2016. Two other short-lived Hong Kong boy bands of that time were VRF and Sky, both of which disbanded after two years. In the grand tradition of SoftHard, popular DJs got in on the fun in 2002 as well with the parody boy group I Love You Boyz (later ILUB), which ended up outlasting many actual idol groups.
After that brief spell of debuts in the early oughties, Hong Kong saw only a handful of new male pop vocal groups for the remainder of the decade, including the twin brother duo Soler in 2005 and the briefly active Square in 2008. While K-pop was busily taking over the world, Cantopop had stepped back from the boy band experiment.
In 2014, the same year that K-pop group GOT7 debuted with a Hong Kong member and TFBoys broke out as the biggest mainland Chinese boy band ever, the term "MK Pop" – a reference to the trend-chasing culture of the Mong Kok area – emerged online to describe several new K-pop-influenced Cantopop groups. Boy bands Bird of Paradise and Faith, the poster boys of this mockingly dubbed genre, may have debuted to mixed reviews, but they attracted loyal fans and awakened interest in the idea of a Hong Kong boy band.
The 2010s also notably saw a boom of new-generation Cantopop rock bands like Mr., Dear Jane, Supper Moment, RubberBand, Kolor and ToNick, not to mention the male vocal group C Allstar. Formed in 2009 by the top four winners of a singing competition, C AllStar quickly became known for their a cappella singing and karaoke-favorite ballads, consistently charting through the decade until they went on hiatus in 2017. The popularity of these artists affirmed local interest in Cantopop among a broad cross-section of music fans. Hong Kong was ready for an idol boy band of its own.
The Rise of MIRRORIn 2018, Hong Kong broadcaster ViuTV launched the inaugural season of Good Night Show – King Maker, riding on the popular wave of idol audition shows in Asia. Aired from July to October, Good Night Show – King Maker became ViuTV's highest-rated and most talked-about program ever, propelling the show's winner Keung To, in particular, to stardom.
MIRROR swiftly debuted less than a month after the show finale, and held their first sold-out concert before the end of the year. Aired from December 2018 to April 2019 on ViuTV, the reality show Mirror Go revealed more of the members' personalities as the group turned into a household name in Hong Kong.
Entering 2021, MIRROR has become a veritable phenomenon. After releasing their first album at the start of the year, the group commemorated their second debut anniversary with their second live concert One & All, which was held at the KITEC Star Hall for six consecutive days in May 2021. Besides setting off another ticketing frenzy, the concert reflected MIRROR's growth as singers and performers. The group has been trying out various genres, and their songs often feature inspiring and relatable lyrics, especially their latest singles Warrior and Boss.
Together, they reflect unlimited possibilities, but the MIRROR members also shine on their own. Besides releasing group singles a few times a year, they all pursue solo activities in different arenas. MIRROR members regularly release solo and collaboration songs, and they can be seen hosting variety shows and radio programs, not to mention taking on a wide range of endorsements.
The members have also expanded into acting, appearing in dramas like We are the Littles and Retire to Queen. They've popped up in movies, including leader Lokman in The Way We Keep Dancing, Tiger in Hong Kong West Side Stories SP, and Ian's voice acting for the local release of Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarfs.
Most notably, the hit BL drama Ossan's Love Hong Kong starring Edan, Anson Lo and Stanley arrived in the summer of 2021. A remake of the same-titled Japanese series, Ossan's Love broke new ground as Hong Kong's first mainstream TV drama centered around a gay romance, and it brought the stars to another level of fame and popularity.
In less than three years, MIRROR has grown into the biggest boy band in Cantopop, becoming a source of happiness, entertainment and pride for Hong Kong during uneasy times. After all, nothing brings people together like fangirling. We welcome the era of MIRROR.
Published September 20, 2021