K-pop still targeting American market
By Noh Hyun-gi
K-pop stars have proven their influence in Asia — most of them taking their first steps entering the Japanese pop music scene.
Encouraged by the success in the neighboring country, the agencies — SM, JYP, and YG — are looking to the United States. Or rather, the agencies are once again eying the American market.
Surely, there exists a teen-driven market for stars like Justin Bieber and Senela Gomez. Still, even that niche is difficult to crack into, as seen in the case of BoA of SM and Wonder Girls of JYP. Yet the failed attempts are not stopping the star makers who are preparing to play the American game once again this year.
BoA pioneered the exporting of home-bred artists in 2001 with the Japanese version of her debut album “ID Peace B.” It took her a while to become a star in the island nation -she spent most of her career in Japan much to the Korean fans’ despair. SM tried to make BoA a star in America in 2009 with the album “Eat You Up.” Though the press and the agency hyped things up for the album and the music video’s release, the talk died down quietly — whether BoA was even noticed is questionable.
SM recently flaunted that Girls’ Generation got on the plane Monday to meet with multiple press like the Associated Press and E in America.
The group will appear on the “Late Show with David Letterman” at 1:35 p.m. today (KST) as well as “LIVE! with Kelly” at 11 p.m.
Though Girls’ Generation has been successful at translating the catchiness of their songs in Japanese versions, the English versions of their songs are ambiguous like the line in their title track, “The Boys,” which goes “Call all emergency; I’m watching the phone ring.”
The album ranked 22nd out of 25 albums on the Heatseekers Album chart on Billboard.
JYP, led by singer-songwriter Park Jin-young, has been channeling its American dream into the five-member Wonder Girls. Yet, the group’s ability to succeed in America is still dubious. In November, the artists came back to Korea briefly to release their official second album “Wonder World.” On various talk shows, the members confessed difficulty in learning English.
But the group is knocking on the door of the U.S. market once again. The group’s made-for-TV movie “The Wonder Girls” will premier on Feb. 2 on Teen Nick, a channel for teens. The movie will star a local girl group School Gyrl who also debuted with a movie on Nickelodeon, a TV channel for children. Little is known about School Gyrl outside their appearance on Nickelodeon.
Popular culture critic and professor at Kyonggi University, Jin Jong-hoon, told The Korea Times that K-pop is neglecting great marketing channels — global firms like Samsung and Hyundai are ubiquitous in America.
“K-pop artists can act as the promotional faces for global firms to benefit from collaboration,” Jin said. “Many people are well-aware of the products of such companies but honestly some are still confused whether they are Korean or Japanese.” By featuring in advertisements or campaigns with corporations who already aggressively target the United States, Jin believes K-pop artists can effectively approach the American audience.
Jin admits that K-pop artists are not likely to join the mainstream U.S. music scene. However, he believes K-pop can appeal to specific listeners who are seeking for alternatives similar to their performance in Europe. “K-pop will most likely be received as a temporary uniqueness.” According to Jin, to influence a culture, a newcomer must present advanced content and whether K-pop can offer that to American culture is questionable
Jung Duk-hyun, a culture critic, thinks music agencies’ efforts to tackle the global market deserve credit. “J-pop quickly demised because its suppliers relied on the domestic market. Japan has a substantial market already that the producers only target Japan.
However, makers of K-pop, well aware of the limited domestic consumption, have their eyes on the international market when they produce the songs and choreograph the dances. ”
Jung, like Jin, doesn’t believe that K-pop will become the next big sensation in America. “The artists are particularly well received in Southeast Asia because they are considered cultural products from ‘more developed’ countries, but this will not be the reaction in America.”