Saturday, February 6, 2010

Twins Bounce Back After Two Year Break

One of the most successful Cantopop groups ever, the girl duo Twins, will finally get back together again after a two year enforced break. They have announced two Hong Kong concerts for April 16 and April 17, and will also record at least two new songs. As well as being their first public appearance together in two years, the concerts will mark the group's tenth anniversary since they formed back in 2001.

Twins is made up of Canadian-born 27 year-old Charlene Choi (蔡卓妍, pinyin: Cài Zhuóyán) and 29 year-old Gillian Chung (钟欣桐, pinyin: Zhōng Xīntóng). Both girls started their careers as models before being signed up by one of Hong Kong's largest record companies, the Emperor Entertainment Group (EEG). They achieved immediate success with their first single 明爱暗暗恋补习社 (Míng ài àn liàn bǔ xí shè - a title that is almost impossible to translate into English), and went on to become one of EEG's most successful and lucrative acts.

Seven years, 28 records and numerous awards later, the duo appeared to have come to a dramatic demise when Gillian Chung was caught up in Hong Kong's most notorious celebrity sex scandal. In February 2008, fellow pop singer Edison Chen's private and explicit photos found their way on to the internet, and Chung was one of the unfortunate partners exposed. Her wholesome, squeaky-clean image seemed irreparably tarnished and, humiliated, she withdrew from the public eye for over twelve months. Last year she made some tentative steps at restoring her career, starting with a television chat show appearance on which she made a tearful apology. In the second half of the year, she returned to the stage as an actress, appearing in a Neil Simon play, as well as making some advertising endorsements.

Meanwhile Charlene Choi had made a seamless transition from Twins member to solo artist. Her album Two Without One (二缺一) was one of Hong Kong's biggest selling records of 2009, and she picked up awards at all the major end-of-year awards shows. It was at one of those ceremonies, the RTHK Awards, that Choi revealed Twins would be reunited again, and the concerts were officially announced a few days later.

The concert theme will be "Bounce Up", presumably referring to Chung's capacity to pick herself up from the lows she recently endured. The posters for the concert show a distinct change of image for the duo - their innocent bubblegum look has been replaced by a harder, darker style. Dressed in black with sharp metallic accessories and confronting haircuts, the bright smiles and laughing poses that were standard in their publicity shots of old are also gone, with Chung looking particularly grim. The concert PR is calling it a "rock style" and refers to the "rock and roll never die spirit" (see this Sina news article, in Chinese). It remains to be seen, however, if the rock and roll look will also translate into their music.

Throughout their career Twins have managed to defy critics' predictions that their success, like that of many other manufactured bands, would be fleeting. Instead they have had a remarkably long shelf-life, partly because they have managed to change with their audience. They started off as a teen-oriented bubblegum pop group, but their music matured as their listeners grew up. After overcoming this most recent and biggest hurdle in their career, it looks like Twins may have to re-invent themselves again - the bouncy carefree music and their image of youthful innocence no longer seem appropriate. At least they can count on a fan base that has shown commendable loyalty over the past two years. With all the massive anticipation and interest in Twins' comeback it would be a surprise if the concerts were not sell-outs.

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