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Musical Match-ups – international alternatives to mainstream music

Juliana Mare

Mon Oct 01 2012


EVER thought Psy reminded you of LMFAO? Or felt Lady Gaga was the Western Ayumi Hamasaki? Juliana Mare gives you some ‘international’ alternatives to your ‘mainstream’ artists – proving music across the globe has more in common than we think.


Psy introduced the world to the hilarious electronic Korean pop song “Gangnam Style”, shining the international spotlight on K-Pop music. With an incredibly catchy beat and unique but interesting dance we’ve all tried to mimic, “Gangnam Style” has proven to be a huge success, reaching over 180 million hits on YouTube.

While wiggling in fluoro animal print Speedos hasn’t been as well-received, Californian electro-pop group LMFAO’s ‘Sexy and I Know It’ has a very similar unrelenting, energetic pop attitude and like ‘Gangnam Style’, their music plays on a constant loop inside your head for hours.

Efecto Pasillo/ Hot Chelle Rae

Efecto Pasillo is currently #1 on the Spanish music charts with their song “Pan y Mantequilla.”  Even if you don’t have a clue what they’re singing about, you’ll find your fingers, feet or both tapping away to the slightly indie, pop rhythm. The song definitely has a summer vibe, similar to American pop rock band Hot Chelle Rae who hail from Nashville, Tennessee.

Hot Chelle Rae’s 2011 album Whatever and in particular, the songs “Tonight Tonight”’ and “Honestly” are feel-good, pop arrangements with some pretty quirky lyrics. These bands have those go-to albums for beautiful summer days that demand you drive with the windows down, blasting music from the car stereo.

Ayumi Hamasaki/ Lady Gaga

She’s been dubbed Japan’s very own “Empress of Pop” and rightly so. Ayumi Hamasaki, also known as Ayu, has pioneered J-Pop music and influenced fashion across Southeast Asia. She holds several domestic music records and has sold billions of albums worldwide, most notably the single 浜崎あゆみ/’Moon’ – an almost trance style pop song which is just shy of 2 million hits on YouTube.

The other renowned Queen of Pop music is none other than New Yorker, Lady Gaga, whose flamboyant fashion is equally as recognized as her music. Not one to fit into a single genre, Lady Gaga’s music is a fusion of pop, dance, electronic, house and a dash of rock. Coincidently, both these ladies also happen to have a single titled ‘Poker Face’/浜崎あゆみ.

Sexion d’Assaut/ Pitbull

Having made his mark in the rap industry, “Mr Worldwide”, aka Pitbull is known for his wicked fast raps on top of hip-hop, house and dance tracks that have swept across clubs around the world. He’s also collaborated with some of the world’s biggest artists and successfully integrated English and Spanish lyrics in the chart-topping hit “Throw Your Hands Up.”

Likewise, the eight-piece French rap group Sexian D’Assaut mix a bit of English and French into their music which has a similar catchy dance back beat too. Their single ‘”Wati House” peaked at #4 on the French music charts and has an electronic, house style that would definitely get some fists pumping.

Jay Chou/ The Backstreet Boys

Taiwanese singer Jay Chou has an impressive résumé of composing, acting, directing and modelling – but it’s his music that’s gained him international recognition and fame. A unique blend of pop, R&B and rap, Chou’s music has been given its own name – “Chou style” which typically incorporates traditional Chinese instruments.

While “Chou style” is relatively unparalleled in Western music, the slow rock backbeat of songs like “Qian Li Zhi Wai” and “Xin Yu” are reminiscent of The Backstreet Boys, the American group who are one of the most popular, best-selling boy bands of all time. Their hit songs “I Want It That Way” and “Everybody” share a similar soft rock style with smooth harmonies coupled with throaty, sometimes raspy tones.

Lee Hyori/ Fergie

“Hyori syndrome” is the name given to the rise in popularity and stardom of Lee Hyori – the Korean born K-Pop superstar who has all the makings of a pop Princess. After splitting with the pop girl group Fin.K.L in 2002, Hyori catapulted to fame as a solo artist, releasing singles including ‘Get Ya!’ (2006) ‘U-Go-Girl’ (2008) and ‘Hey Mr Big’ (2008) which all have that sugar coated pop flare.

The Black Eyed Peas front-woman Fergie, famous for the singles “London Bridge” and “Fergalicious”, exudes a similar pop style with undertones of R&B. The fact that these songstresses have an album cover featuring themselves, scantily clad in the exact same pose is just a happy coincidence.

Hujan/ Simple Plan

This modern punk, alternative and sometimes post-hardcore Malaysian band boasts over 350,000 Facebook ‘likes’. Established in 2005, Hujan has a diverse repertoire including songs that seem like they were written to mosh to (“Mencari Konklusi”) and songs you could enjoy slow dancing to, like “Kotak Hati”, which has a much softer melody.

Canadian band Simple Plan shot to fame in the early 2000’s with their pop punk single “Perfect’ off the album No Pads, No Helmets, Just Balls. Since then, they have released countless hit singles ranging from slow ballads (“Untitled”) to intense grungy style tracks (“Me Against the World”) and upbeat pop numbers (“Love is a Lie”). Both of these bands share that classic punk style with elements of pop thrown into the mix.

Are there any other musical acts you think should be in this list? Share your suggestions in the comments below!