We got goosed by Gaga and danced the Gangnam. We thrilled to high voices and low husbands. It was quite a year
TOP OF THE POPS
LADY GAGA’S THAI DEBUT, a monster concert at Rajamangala National Stadium last May 25, came close in terms of scale of production to eclipsing Michael Jackson’s 1993 Dangerous World show.
Gaga’s “Born This Way Ball” involved a three-storey revolving castle, elaborate lighting and sound effects, a real horse and aliens that might as well have been real. With the concert easily sold out well in advance, all eyes were riveted on the American singer’s arrival at the airport, where a horde of her devoted “little monsters” turned out in full costume.
Gaga goosed up the online buzz with a tweet about buying a fake Rolex while in Bangkok. But even if it was an unintended slight, it was quickly forgotten after she attended a gay cabaret show and then, during her own concert, praised Thailand for being so tolerant of people who are “different”.
THE LIFE OF PSY
“GANGNAM STYLE”, love it or hate it, will go down as the soundtrack of 2012. South Korean pop’s new mega-star Psy had half the world doing a pony dance after the song was released on July 15 and sparked a brush fire on YouTube.
It redefined the catchword “viral” by ultimately scoring a record billion views. “Gangnam Style” joins the elite of catchy pop songs that everyone in the world knows – like “Macarena” and “YMCA”.
Did Thais like the tune? Only one other country had more citizens watching the video.
Part of the fun was the many parodies that other people made of Psy’s video, including service people in uniform, the entire staff of private firms and many celebrities. Britney Spears, Madonna and Kylie Minogue got jiggy with it and actor Ananda Everingham led the pony parade in Thailand.
And some Thais, at least, got to see the real deal. Psy did “Gangnam Style” at Impact Arena for a specially sponsored Loy Krathong concert.
“IRON CHEF THAILAND” is luring every chef in Bangkok with a righteous claim to the title. The TV cooking competition debuted last January on Channel 7 and has added to the ratings every Wednesday night since.
The Thai version of the hit Japanese show offers hotels and restaurants a jolt of free publicity, especially if their anointed chefs catch the fancy of the judges and the viewers.
The idea is to challenge one of the show’s masterful “iron chefs”, each of whom has his own cuisine speciality. You might get tagged without warning to prepare a Western steak or Chinese noodles, using only the ingredients provided.
Along with the prestige (and extra business) that an Iron Chef title brings, there’s one other thing the TV series offers restaurants: It makes people very, very hungry.
- Manote Tripathi
“RANG NGAO” wasn’t Thailand’s most popular prime-time TV soap opera in the Nielsen ratings, but it was close, and pulled in more viewers for Channel 3 than any other series – even easing road traffic in Bangkok while it was airing twice a week from October 1 to December 4.
This was the fourth adaptation of a famous novel about a married womaniser’s fling with young and innocent Mutta, but it proved to be the most successful of all, thanks in equal parts to a modernised script and the social media. Twitter, Facebook and YouTube all paid due homage to the soap and Monday and Tuesday were declared “National Rang Ngao Days” – not public holidays per se but an excuse to rush home from work.
“Rang Ngao” even contributed to the language. Female fans started referring to their husbands as Phor Or, a term normally reserved for the head of a government office, and jealous people found themselves named after an unpopular character on the show, Noo Nok.
- Pattarawadee Saengmanee
H&M turned more heads than any other fashion brand this year when it bowed to the inevitable and finally opened an outlet in Bangkok. The opening was a blessing for its fans – and a curse on the travel agents who previously booked their trips to H&M stores overseas.
The Swedish brand – popular for its wide variety, affordable prices and collaborations with Karl Lagerfeld, Stella McCartney, Versace and even David Beckham – put an end to three years of rumours by opening a shop at Siam Paragon. It has 2,700 stores around the world, so it was about time for the firm, which was established in 1947.
We’ve got some serious catching up to do.
- Kupluthai Pungkanon
SING IT LOUD
“THE VOICE”, already a TV hit in many other countries, landed in Thailand this year as an intriguing alternative. Amid a glut of talent shows in which star-quality good looks count for nine-tenths of the judges’ scoring, it zeroes in on the talent of its title.
Franchisee TrueFantasia and broadcaster Channel 3 offer viewers a solid appraisal of the country’s best singers, most of them amateurs. The show also embraces the social media to the extent that “social TV” has emerged as a new phenomenon, with judge-coaches Joey Boy and Stamp Apiwat chatting with viewers during and after the telecast.
Facebook and Twitter have declared the series such as success that TrueFantasia will next year offer both Season 2 and a sister show, “The Voice Kids” for youngsters.
- Veena Thoopkrajae
ALL IN A LINE
LINE, the Web application, is Thailand’s way of establishing its online leadership in the world, despite still puttering along without 3G speed and connectivity.
That might be a rash statement, but Thais out-tweet and out-Facebook almost every other nation, and we’re well ahead with Line too.
The app from Japan’s NHN Corp offers free SMS messaging and voice calls. Only Japanese and Taiwanese use it more than Thais. There are 85 million users worldwide, and 10 million of them are Thais who signed up in the year since its launch, a sixth of the population. And we use it around-the-clock, longer than anyone else.
One of LINE’s most appealing features for Thais is the animated stickers sent to express feelings. We’ve got a lot to express – not just the man on the street but private firms too. Fourteen key Thai companies have accounts and many more are expected as grab the chance to reach the younger generation.
- Veena Thoopkrajae
EURO 2012 already had everything it needed to seize football-mad Thailand’s attention – without a major row over broadcasting rights.
But that’s what preceded and then interfered with the Euro Cup football tournament when government officials and broadcasters were caught snoozing on the job or, worse, whispering behind fans’ backs.
A loophole in the licensing system resulted in countless TV sets with black screens where there was supposed to be footie action, and the term jor dam became a buzzword among furious fans.
The deal was that GMM Grammy, which bought the broadcast rights, would share the telecasts with the free Thai channels. Euro said nope, that would be illegal re-broadcasting because GMM had failed to reach an understanding with True Visions over the customary set-top boxes. So millions of viewers were out of luck unless they bought a special router box from GMM to pick up the Cup.
Ingenious “work-arounds” were concocted to glimpse some football via rickety antennae that became known as nuad goong – shrimp moustaches. Once the Euro Cup ended, these could be discarded. But not so fast – we seem to have recurring problems with telecommunications.
- Veena Thoopkrajae
UP FROM THE DEEP
IKEA, the Swedish home-furnishings maker, opened its first outlet in Thailand in late 2011, but it only really caught on early this year, once the atrocious flooding had subsided.
Ironically, Southeast Asia’s biggest Ikea store – at the Mega Bangna mall – also had to erect sandbags and install pumps for its soft opening the previous autumn. “We are ready but we can wait” was the advertising slogan. Ikea knew folks were in no mood to shop.
The patience was rewarded when crowds flocked there for new furniture and accessories for their flood-damaged homes. Demand was so intense that stocks were running low, and that was really saying something for a 43,000-square-metre outlet carrying 7,500 items.
Two more outlets are planned for the capital within the next 10 years. Hopefully they won’t need more natural catastrophes to spur them on.