The Korea Herald Op-Ed on Korean/US Crossovers

The Korea Herald had an interesting piece about the flock of KPOP singers attempting to break through the US market. It’s a great, short read and I’ll quote the entire article after the break just in case the page is ever removed.

Although nothing is really shocking about what’s written, it poses some good questions and summarizes the current pop culture climate and obstacles many of these singers are facing.

Will Korean singers appeal to American audience?

By Hyun Ji-hyang

Initiated by Rain’s world tour concert in 2005, Korean pop singers are trying to break the U.S. entertainment industry. But it remains yet to be seen whether Korean pop stars will be able to be as successful as they are in Korea.

Pop star Rain has repeatedly made forays into the North American continent as a potential Hollywood star. His first Hollywood movie, “Speed Racer,” (2008) paved the way for him to star in “Ninja Assassin,” (2009). The new movie, upon its release in November, is expected to strongly influence his potential performance as a singer in the United States.

Another Korean pop sensation, Se7en entered the U.S. music field in 2006, following his Japanese debut in 2005. After three years of preparation, the singer released his first single, “Girls,” in March. But despite his solid Asian fan base, Se7en still does not have much recognition in the United States.

Having achieved stardom in Japan, BoA moved her way on to America in 2008. In March, the singer represented her first official U.S. album, titling “I Did It for Love.” Currently, BoA is promoting her album by touring the country, appearing on radio shows and performing.

Lately, Wonder Girls made their debut in the United States, with English version of “Nobody,” a mega-hit song in Korea. Last month Wonder Girls began their tour opening for Jonas Brothers, in front of tens of thousands of people each night.

It may be too early to predict the outcomes of the Korean singers’ performance in the United States. However, entering into the Billboard chart has not been easy for many foreign musicians. “The U.S market is a tough gateway to knock even for British singers performing in English-speaking regions. There have been a number of celebrated U.K. musicians who failed to penetrate the continent,” Kim Dogg, a music reviewer in Korea for Hottracks magazine and Izm, said in an interview with The Korea Herald.

“To effectively ensure their local recognition there, the artists need to make active use of current trendsetters or icons who are hot locally,” music critic Hong Hyuk-eui in Izm told the newspaper. For example, he said, “Participation of Lil’ Kim and Darkchild in Se7en’s album making was not the best choice because of their dwindling influence.” He pointed to much healthier Billboard chart rankings of songs featured by prominent figures such as Jay-z, T-Pain and Kanye West.

Another pop culture critic, who wished not to be named, emphasized the need for a good communication with local fans. “The singers should be able to promote their albums and do interviews in English.”

Good performance and real talent as a singer may be key points of fan connection, rather than English skill. “I believe that they (American fans) also value the best performance, and are more open to performances that are not in English,” said Catherine Moore, a clinical associate professor of music business in New York University. “They (her students) chose Rain as one of the strongest because of the high-quality production, pop genre, and Rain’s voice and energy. Even though the students did not understand the words, they felt a strong connection to the performance,” she said in an e-mail interview with The Korea Herald.

There have been concerns among critics about Korean pop stars’ actual singing abilities. “Without a unique quality, outstanding singing ability or performance, and attractive points, it will be difficult for the singers to survive in the business,” said Han Dong-yoon, another music critic.

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