Not everything’s inspired by K-pop: Nat Ho

Kai Fong
Nat Ho’s debut music video also features cameos by blogger Xiaxue and actress Dawn Yeoh. (Screengrab: YouTube)
Nat Ho’s debut music video also features cameos by blogger Xiaxue and actress Dawn Yeoh. (Screengrab: YouTube)

He might have been slammed for allegedly trying to ride the Korean pop wave, but he's taking it all in his stride.

"I'm human, I have feelings, but I was upset for just about five minutes," local actor-turned-singer Nat Ho said, after his debut music video drew flak from internet users.

The visually impressive video for his mini-album's title track "Unleashed" — made at a whopping S$100,000 — has clocked over 66,000 views and garnered some 640 'likes' since it was posted on YouTube last week. The number of 'dislikes' trailed closely behind at 630.

While many impressed viewers applauded Ho for his efforts and courage to live his dream, a significant number also criticised the 27-year-old for "trying too hard" to "act K-pop". Some also complained that the video lacked substance and contained "too much auto tune and extremely obvious product placings".

Speaking to Yahoo! Singapore over the phone on Wednesday afternoon, the former model and MediaCorp actor defended the video.

"I think a large bulk of (the negative sentiment) came from K-pop fans because they think I'm trying to follow K-pop, but if they really knew what the inspiration behind my video was they'd realise that it wasn't intentional," Ho explained.

"It wasn't inspired by K-pop at all… I think it's very silly to say that everything's inspired by K-pop just because it's supposedly really hot right now," he added.

The singer, who now sports a new blonde hairdo for his EP, also denied being a "K-pop star wannabe".

A recent blog entry titled "So I copied T.O.P… Not" saw Ho explaining that he had always wanted to bleach his hair white "even before K-pop came to Singapore, and that was in 2004 when (he) was inspired by one of our local male supermodels Colin Wee".

K-pop group Big Bang's T.O.P, Nat Ho and local model Colin Wee sport a similar blonde hairdo. (Photos from Ho's blog)
K-pop group Big Bang's T.O.P, Nat Ho and local model Colin Wee sport a similar blonde hairdo. (Photos from Ho's blog)

Ho also said that when recording the song "Unleashed" he had wanted his music producer to use Auto-Tune to make his voice sound as robotic as possible "because the song is talking about the almost-robotic culture in Singapore".

"People know what Auto-Tune is nowadays, it's very easy for them to automatically assume that if you use Auto-Tune, you can't sing," he said. "It doesn't mean that."

"Unleashed was actually written based on observations of our society," Ho explained. "I think many Singaporeans are unhappy because social pressure and expectations in Singapore are very high."

"You're expected to get a degree, find a job, climb the corporate ladder, get married by a certain age and all that. It's a very structural and rigid… a lot of people just conform because it is the norm and they end up being very bitter," he observed.

"The song is meant to encourage these people to break out of it, go and chase their dreams and really, get unleashed," he pointed out.

Trying to break out is precisely what he's trying to do with his latest effort, he said.

"Nobody said it was easy, (and) I never expected it to be easy anyway, but I'm glad that at least a point is being made right now," said Ho.

How is the budding singer dealing with trolls then?

Well, he doesn't delete their comments, for one.

"I've actually left all the negative comments intact," said Ho. "I want to let this thing be as organic as possible so I can gauge the results from the reaction."

And while most of those who 'disliked' the video came from Singapore, Ho did notice a peculiar trend he identified as "very fishy".

"There was a string of negative comments that came in within the space of half an hour or one hour, they all originate from Vietnam and all the accounts were created on the same date."

"That same night, I tweeted something. The next day, there was another wave… I'm inclined to believe that it's a local person somehow being able to spoof the country (because) I'm not even very known in Vietnam to begin with."

Ho's tweet after reading the string of negative comments. (Screengrab from Ho's Twitter account)
Ho's tweet after reading the string of negative comments. (Screengrab from Ho's Twitter account)

Ho's PR company has since reported the matter to YouTube but has been told that a case for online harassment could be pursued only if it persisted for more than a week.

"But I've realised that good or bad comments it doesn't really matter because I think what I've managed to achieve with this video is awareness," Ho said. "It's even better to get a reaction out of it… it shows that there must be something about the video that got to them."

But the star also admitted that he found it "a bit ironic that Singaporeans are slamming other Singaporeans".

"When I first started this project — besides my own aspirations as a singer, of course — my larger hope was to bring up as many local talents as possible and give them a platform. It is not everyday someone already in the public eye wants to do a project like this and is willing to work with newbies."

"But with this move — the buzz around the video is quite overwhelming — I think it's kind of dropped the emphasis back on the local industry, even for up and coming bands and other local artistes who are releasing their own albums. And I feel in that sense, I've succeeded in my own small little way," he said.