Last summer, MIRROR made international headlines earlier than they had anticipated.
While most news stories noted how the 12-member boy band was revolutionizing Hong Kong’s music scene with a renewed fandom culture for local Cantonese pop artists, the focus was on the tragic accident at one of their 12 scheduled concerts at Hong Kong Coliseum. During the fourth show on July 28, 2022, a large overhanging video screen hit dancer Moses “Mo” Li Kai-yin head-on while also striking Chang Tsz-fung mid-concert, leaving the former in critical condition and the latter with injuries. The show abruptly ended with the remaining concert dates canceled as Mo Li and Chang recovered. Meanwhile, MIRROR and their team regrouped.
Nine months later, amid starts and stops due to the incident and pandemic-related matters, MIRROR took an unprecedented leap for Hong Kong music by releasing their first English single “Rumours” on March 17. A change from their Cantonese-pop, or Canto-pop, hits like “Warrior” (their 2021 social commentary fighting against dated norms with eight million views on YouTube), “BOSS” (the theatrical, funk-pop summer single), or “We All Are” (a piano ballad that marked the group’s fourth hit on Billboard‘s 13-month-old Hong Kong Songs chart), “Rumours” signals a new era for the group.
With ages ranging from 34-23, the MIRROR members consisting of Lokman, Anson Lo, Frankie, Stanley, Alton, Edan Lui, Jer, Anson “AK” Kong, Ian, Jeremy, Keung To, and Tiger show confidence and maturity in “Rumours,” a significant step forward since their formation on 2018 TV singing competition show Good Night Show – King Maker.
Spiky, sonorous basslines soundtrack the group’s blend of singing, rapping and group chanting, while the James Bond-inspired music video shows the dazzling dozen donning dapper suits and high-fashion spy gear to pull off a mysterious heist.
The guys have spent their first five years together developing their boy band and individual careers alongside Hong Kong entertainment studio MakerVille, but agree that being together as 12 acts as a “base.” While still mentally and emotionally healing from last year’s accident, MIRROR say “Rumours” is a challenging but special project in partnership with Sony Music Hong Kong to help fuel their ambition to return to slaying the stage.
“We’re idols to these audiences; we have to stand up again,” says the charismatic Stanley, who leans into the camera when he speaks to Billboard over Zoom. The 32-year-old singer-dancer leads most of the interview alongside giggly, bubbly Anson Lo, 27, and Edan Lui, 25, to his right. “That’s what we should do.”
“We have a lot of people supporting us,” adds singer-actor Edan Lui, who listens and answers thoughtfully with pauses to find the right, and typically emotional, responses. “We can only say we’re ready to go to work and go on stage again.” Read more with MIRROR for reflections on the past nine months, their next chapter, plus song recommendations for new fans from each member.
To understand your background a little more, what are the characteristics of Canto-pop and how does MIRROR represent that?
Edan Lui: Canto-pop was very popular in the ’80s and ’90s, and the images around Canto-pop have traditionally been more for ballads and slow-paced songs; not really energetic or fast-paced songs. The lyrics have always been very meaningful and Hong Kong people can look into the lyrics deeply, which I think is one of the most unique characteristics of Canto-pop.
Anson Lo: But over the years, I think Canto-pop music has grown so much and I think there’s no difference between countries or languages in music. There are a lot of genres in Canto-pop as well, no different than in countries like Korea, the U.S. or Australia. There are different types of songs we can try or continue trying like we have for almost five years.
Stanley: Yeah, for sure. K-pop has taken over the markets for the past decade, but I do think Cantonese represents a different kind of style of music, especially in Asia. There are a lot of people who want to listen to music with Cantonese lyrics so there are multiple markets.
Paint a picture of the Canto-pop music scene in Hong Kong today. You were created on the singing competition Good Night Show – King Maker. Are there a lot of bands from reality shows?
Lui: There are many newcomers in the Canto-pop industry that come from our show, King Maker. We’re from King Maker One [the first season], there is II, III, IV, and V is coming. We’re just very happy to see that most of the new-artist award winners at many award ceremonies are coming from that show. It makes us feel like a family. It seems like these shows are producing all kinds of talents to contribute to the Canto-pop industry, so we feel really proud.
While you’ve been rising internationally, you had a tragic moment that had a lot of attention with the concert accident. In your own words, I’d like to give the opportunity for you to share what happened and your feelings on the incident.
Stanley: I would say, of course, it was a big accident. But this accident taught me how to treasure everything: Our job, friends, and opportunities to perform on stage. It influenced us so much for sure. We had to deal with our emotions—mentally, emotionally—so, it’s sad for sure. But we try our best to overcome all these kinds of feelings.
Lui: It was a big tragedy. No one wanted it to happen, no one could foresee it happening, and no one could really understand why it even happened. It was a really hard time for us, our dancers, and all Hong Kong citizens. We learned a lot from it, but we hope to learn lessons and try our best to treasure everything, contribute more to society and help more people. We hope our work and performances can bring back more positive energy and joy to our audiences again.
How are Moses and Chang Tsz-fung doing? Do you keep up with them?
Stanley: Moses’ parents share updates on Moses’ situation, so we’re not the best to give that update, but we’re in contact with them. I think they’re doing fine, everything’s going smoothly, and they are getting better.
I’m glad to hear that. Sometimes these situations can be very tough on the artist whose concert they’re at because they may feel responsible. So, how are you doing emotionally and mentally?
Lui: Different people have different ways of trying to get through it. For us, time is probably the best way to heal. But we also have our team mates, band mates, fans, and company. We have a lot of people supporting us. We can’t say we are fully recovered or even that we are “okay” after what happened—we don’t know—we can only say we’re ready to go to work and go on stage again.
Stanley: So many people are looking out for us; we’re idols to these audiences. We have to stand up again. We have to keep focusing on our work and bringing many great performances to our audiences. That’s what we should do.
As you somewhat close that chapter, you’re starting an exciting chapter with the release of “Rumors.” What does it represent in MIRROR’s story?
Lo: Simply, it’s talking to a girl and telling her, “If you ever heard a rumor that we’re cheating on you, liking you or approaching you.” It’s a very straightforward message. But it’s a very special project because it’s a dream come true for us to record a song in full English. The choreography is also very special because it’s, by far, the most complicated routine in our dance history. I think our fans have been really surprised by that.
Stanley: It’s a big challenge for us since the song is in English. We had to sing with different pronunciations and enunciations so we invited our producer Andrew…
Lui: Andrew’s actually our English teacher! He joined every session of our recording because we recorded one by one. Every session is, like, four hours so he’s really, really busy. He talked to us about pronunciation but also how to sing the song beautifully in English. But he’s really encouraging, supporting us, saying things like, “Oh, you did great, you sang well, keep going!” That’s why we can say we’re confident that it’s good. [Laughs]
Stanley: The lyrics are quite intimate and sexy—it’s not really similar to most Cantonese lyrics. So that’s a big challenge for us too.
It’s your first all-English song and you’re making some substantial changes. Why was it important to release an English song now?
Lui: We’re expecting to approach a broader range of audiences—like, maybe, the U.S.—and also we would like to meet our fans outside Hong Kong. I think releasing a full English song could get us far—hopefully! [Laughs] We’re looking forward to performing this song on stage for all the fans throughout the whole world so I think we’re pretty excited about that.
Stanley: Yeah, it’s a good step for the next chapter. We really want to promote Canto-pop to a worldwide audience, I think this English song is like a key to open the door for the audience to learn more Cantonese music.
“Rumours” kicks off alongside a new partnership with Sony Music Hong Kong. How is that so far?
Lo: We have yet to met a lot of people in the Sony Music company in person, but we’ve been putting a lot of input into the music, song arrangement, and music video so we’ve had quite good communication online and through our company.
Stanley: Due to the pandemic and the accident, so many projects have been put on hold. That’s why we’re starting over again, but I think we’ll have more opportunities now working with Sony Music.
Lo: It’s been like a dream and our honor to be working with Sony Music because they’ve helped us through a lot of things and, in a lot of ways, allow us to reach a wider audience, especially in the U.S., so we’re really grateful for that.
MIRROR is so solid as a group, but you’re also individually releasing solo music, acting, earning huge numbers on your individual social media accounts. How do your outside activities help MIRROR?
Lui: I think that is the special part about MIRROR—some of us are good at acting, some of us are good at singing, at dancing, in variety shows. Different members have different ways of pursuing their dreams. So, we have different [roles] when we’re solo, but it’s special that whoever is having solo success brings good things to MIRROR because MIRROR is our base. I think we have a good balance of group and solo [work]. People love us for us, and individually.
Lo: There will be dramas, movie shootings or solo singles, but being back in the group with 12 people, we shine even stronger and brighter. Together as 12 people, there’s a lot more energy; that’s more powerful for the audience and the performance. Being with the group really is a big part of being on stage.
Since “Rumours” may be the first time some audiences meet MIRROR, can each member share a MIRROR song to recommend?
Tiger: I would recommend the song “IGNITED,” it’s got quite an old-school sound but it’s my favorite of all MIRROR songs.
Anson “AK” Kong: Me too. [Group laughs]
Frankie: I would recommend “12,” it’s a Christmas song and that’s hard to find in Canto-pop because Canto-pop releases a smaller amount of Christmas music. But this song is really warm and about being together.
Lokman: For me, “IGNITED” too! Very funky, very groovy; I really like it.
Jer: I would recommend “Rumours.” [Group cheers] It’s such a high-energy song and it represents us as very sexy. [Laughs]
Jeremy: “BOSS” because I think it’s very energetic for us so it always makes me feel very happy and very strong.
Ian: I think “IGNITED” as well because it shows us a little bit differently than the other songs we have. And it’s actually quite unique in Canto-pop songs because we have this funky dance style so that’s pretty fun to present.
Alton: I have two ideas in my mind. “IGNITED” because I do love the funk style and, personally, I love funk music. But it depends on the mood of the day. If I’m going to a party, “IGNITED,” but if I’m going to a theme park, I’d recommend “BOSS” because the music video was shot in a theme park and is perfect for the family.
Stanley: For me, it’s “Rumours” because we put so much effort into it, so I hope listeners love it.
Lui: I also recommend “Rumors ” because I like the chorus; it’s refreshing. I also like the choreography, it’s really cool. We really put so much time and effort into this choreography so I feel like the performance of “Rumours” will be, maybe, the best we’ve ever done.
Lo: I’ll recommend “BOSS” because I think it’s, by far, the funniest music video we’ve had so far. It’s like a musical and we play different characters; it’s like a Broadway-type of vibe. When we released it, I think our fans were very surprised but also very pleased to see us in that funny way. So, I think it’s a really good experience to get to know the 12 of us.
Keung To: There isn’t really a proper English name for our first song [“???”]… “In a Second”?
Lo: “During One Second”? [Laughs] Our debut song!
Keung To: Yes, our debut song! It was so important for us because it was our first song and our first time releasing as a group. It told everyone, “We’re coming.”