Thursday, December 29, 2011

2012 Will Be the Year of K-Pop. Forget the Mayans.

I had a long talk with my wife about which K-pop group could make it in America, if any. Two years ago, I would have said probably not. Now... I'm starting to believe. I read an article this year suggesting that, with the rise of K-pop, this is the first time in a long time, that South Korea is attracting more of the world's attention than North Korea with its military brinksmanship, and I think I agree.

In previous conversations, the reasons I posited that K-pop hadn't made it so far were as follows:

1. To make it in America, as a person from a different culture, a number of things have to converge. You have to have most, preferably all of these features...
  • Be fluent in English and/or cool enough to come across in an English interview (see this post
  • OR have some transcendent/singular ability in some area (Ricky Martin's dancing talent, Shakira's ass-shake, Gloria Estefan's stunning voice to draw examples from the latin invasion)
  • There (probably) needs to be a star - an individual at the center of it (sorry SNSD: too many, too indistinguishable.)
  • That star needs to have an attitude that appeals to American audiences -- some sass and color. (This is one of the main places where Boa fell short - the "kid works really hard and makes good" narrative goes over well in Asia... to make it in America, more is needed. The Mickey Mouse Club graduates who never established their own persona have evaporated. Without the nude photo leaks, nobody'd remember Vanessa Hudgens, and Justin Timberlake really established his own uniqueness as a star not with the Mickey Mouse club or his solo work (good as some of it is) but with "Dick In A Box" which was something we hadn't seen a popstar do before. 
  • You need a sound, and maybe also a look, that's not like something else... or you need to take the sounds that are out there and do them better than anyone else.
  • You need a really, really great song for your debut. I think this is where Boa fell short -- she's an amazing dancer, and a decent singer, but "I'll Eat You Up" just wasn't there. 
2. You need to work to make it in America -- my last post talked about BNL touring 300 nights a year, for years, to build up a following ready to spread the word once they had that really great radio song ready (even they needed a really, really great song to finally catch on).

But my stance on this one is changing... because of YouTube, which is basically achieving the same thing bands used to gain with those endless tours: establishing a fanbase ready to buy tickets next time you're in town.

The crucial question is simple: is YouTube (even with its dedicated Kpop channel) enough to get people out of their chairs and buying concert tickets, ordering CDs, posters, and t-shirts? I don't know if it is -- it's certainly less likely to do so than a friend excited about the show they went to, burning me a copy of their CD, or inviting me to join them at the concert, next time the band's in town.

On the other hand... Hyuna's video for "Bubble Pop" has 23 million views on YouTube, as of this writing. And you know what else? Justin Bieber got there mostly on strength of his YouTube channel. I'm not sure how many video views equals the threshhold these days to say "OK. Time for this singer to tour America and try to consolidate those YouTube views into a real fanbase" -- and maybe (as with Bieber), YouTube only works with stuff targeting tweens. Who knows? But I'm asking these questions now, where I used to sniff contemptuously at K-pop's chances of making it in America.

3. You need An American Producer/Promoter With Clout and Connections IN AMERICA to get your foot in the RIGHT doors.

This MIGHT be why the Wondergirls never quite took America by storm (though they might yet). Hero, as good as it was on its own (and hot on the coattails of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon), also got a big boost when Quentin Tarantino, with all his credibility among film lovers, stuck his name on it. Somebody from America - who knows that well what sells there - needs to invite Kpop to America, saying "Hey. I think you're going to sell here. And I'm gonna help." With all his YouTube fans, Bieber still needed an agent to agree with his YouTube fans about his talent.

4. As a scene, K-pop is too narrow, and not robust enough to generate world-class talent.

When K-pop was all just lines of boys or girls dancing in step and singing songs written by Swedish songsters (or plagiarized by Korean songsters), under one of three all-powerful labels -around 2009- I'd have agreed with you... but strangely enough, the audition shows and the survival shows -- Superstar K and "I Am A Singer" have brought actual singers and musicians into the forefront over the last two years, in a way that makes me believe that Korea's media is approaching a point where real talent will find a space that will let it find an audience, and grow. Older singers, and raw-talented ones, are finding the stage they needed, and kids who didn't pass the JYP audition are getting "Korea's Got Talent" love and "Superstar K" love, and radio play. And concert tours. I feel a lot better about the scene now, that it'd capable of generating sustainable talent, and letting real talent rise.

Who's tried to make it so far?

Wondergirls didn't have one star for people to latch onto, and "Nobody" was almost there - the retro look was cool, but anybody in America would spot it as being copped from "Dreamgirls" - so much for "something we haven't seen before." I also don't think their English songs were different enough from what else was out there for them to make a splash... add to that the language limitations (and how their pronunciation and intonation sounded a touch off when singing in English)...

Boa is extremely talented, but didn't stand out from the crowd enough, and (worst of all) her song and video didn't. WonderGirls made more noise, partly by zeroing in on an audience (Tweens, by opening for the Jonas Bros.), and having a more distinct look.

Rain's English wasn't good enough, despite getting a lot of help from Stephen Colbert. And he's too old now to lead the next stage of the Korean Wave.

Who has the best shot?

So what now?

If Lee Hyori were 23 right now, and had just two ounces more sass, I'd pin my hopes on her. She came along eight years too early, or she'd be the clear choice.

If Wondergirls were going to catch on, they probably already would have. As it is, they'll probably be remembered as a good second try (after Rain) but not quite the charm.

Girls' Generation has too many members, and the aegyo will never play outside of Asia, and Asian fetish circles (who, rest assured, will find their YouTube videos without a US Tour's support)


Honestly, as handicapping goes, she can 'pop' well - the ass-shaking dancing move in the video "Bubble Pop" - but Shakira, Beyonce, and a few other performers who are also great dancers have more to pop (sorry). Hyori's stomach was closer to being a unique selling point than Hyuna's popping will ever be. Meanwhile, I don't hear enough from her musically to set her apart, and she simply isn't charismatic enough in her videos (Hyori was), to convince me that she has a real shot. I like what she's doing for K-pop in Korea (more about that later), but I don't think she'll be the flag-carrier to bring K-pop abroad.

The artists I think have a legitimate shot at making it in the west?

The aforementioned 2NE1 might be on their way - Will.I.Am joining the 2NE1 brigade certainly won't hurt. 

More on 2NE1's chances:
These four ladies have an attitude that will play well in America's celebrity culture, and a style that works in the post Gaga pop scene. If their English is good enough, and they're ready to be caught by a paparazzo, pouring beer on a producer's head? They have a better shot than Boa.

The other one I like:

1. She's actually talented. Like, legitimately.

2. She can sing the lights out if she wants to. (embedding disabled) And she'll need to.

3. She was trained in the Kpop machine (including this abortion of a song, released before they figured out what to do with a person who had actual talent) - which means she can dance, she's trained in the image and media stuff, and knows how to put in a day's work on her musical craft. Watch her dancing with the backup dancers on her latest song: her movements are clean and intricate: she's good at it (even though dancing won't be her stock in trade: she'll go as far as her voice takes her, and no farther.) She's ready to do the work required of her.

4. Her videos are cool (except that marshmallow song) - and once her company figures out how to make them 1.5 (or sometimes four) minutes shorter each, they'll be even better.

5. She's pretty. And young. All of that together: I think she's the only Korean artist I think has even a remote shot of making it in the West without being fluent in English. (Bonus if she is, though)

My only remaining caveat: if she develops a little more personality and color (her face is kinda blank in the latest video, which won't sell her - not with Lady Gaga out there making monster snarls) and finds a way to make her clean image also be sexy (which can be done), I'd say she's the closest we've got - considering age, talent, image, etc., to a solo artist poised to make inroads in the West. And honestly? I'm rooting for her. She might be my favorite right now.

WonderGirls' song "Act Cool" is kinda catchy, frankly. Sassy - if an attitude infusion is what JYP thinks will get WonderGirls over the hump -- it caught my ear in a 7-11. It's a "boast track" where the newest WonderGirl tells everybody how awesome she is...

only problem to me: the sound of her rapping reminds me of another rapper I know:
Jaden Smith, Will Smith's kid. (here featured on a Justin Bieber track... see where I'm going here?)
(yes, I listened to Justin Bieber's album. Had to look into him - 12 million followers on Twitter, Canadian, etc.. Kid's talented. At 12 years.)


3gyupsal said...

I agree with you on the 2 ne 1 note. They made an English version of "Can't Nobody" where cl rapped about coming and taking over. You need that knd of swagger in rap.

The wonder girls need to learn how to sing. Saw a live show of them where they didn't have any vocal back upnand it sounded like a trainwreck.

Hyun ah isn't a very good singer and every time she does a concert show performance of "trouble maker." she gets upstaged by that kid from beast who totally owns that song.

I think boy bands might br more successful. When you go after the tween market you shouldn't be that concerned with tween boys, you should target twilight girls. 2 pm is a pretty international band that could probably do a song in English.

All in all though, I think that the inteqrnational Kpop craze is being propagandized the Korean media. I think that the marketing of Kpop has been pretty interesting though. I watched the international Kpop concert wher a broadcasting station and the governmental culture and tourism agency brought over talented Kpop fans to do dance and song covers along with Kpop stars. I thought it was funny how they took some ordinary folks and made them do a televised performance in front of what looked like 10,000 people in changwon. It looked like a dream or nightmare come true...there was no room for stage fright on that day. It was also funny how some of the international acts were such die hard Kpop fans that some in the audience had never heard the songs before. Three Russian girls did a b-side sunny hill track....sunny hill isn't even that popular, and they did a song by them that no one has ever heard.

Eugene said...

As much as I actually hope you are right, I have to disagree. No Korean act will succeed beyond fringe audiences for the simple fact that they are Asian. There are plenty of Asian American and Asian Canadian acts that fit all your criteria and nobody gives them a chance because they aren't seen as marketable. It's unfortunate but if this was the year for Kpop to break into America then there would already be a mainstream Asian American act. Nicole scherzonger is the only one so far.

코리 said...

As can be seen by my blog attention to them, I'm not exactly impartial, but for me 2NE1 is the only one with a shot. Recently, they won MTV Iggy's (strangely named section devoted to bringing world music to the US) Best New Band in the World competition and headlined a show in Times Square for it (with a huge, non-Korean crowd for them). I think right now they're waiting for to finish up Black-eyed Peas related stuff, then he's producing their US release. Other big names are apparently aware of them as well, Sandara tweeted a while back that Dr. Dre approached them at a party to compliment their music.

Realitycheck said...

The market for "This is the year Kpop finally makes it big in the West" is equivalent to "This is the year North Korea finally collapses."

Always on the horizon, and yet never any real signs of it actually occurring.

Sorry, but the reason Kpop in its current form will never thrive in the West is because it's juvenile, packaged, and formulaic. The lyrics are dull, childish, and uninspired. The "talent" is kept in straight jackets by management and forced to repeat creepy, robotic slogans rather than showing any individuality. The big developments in Kpop creativity-wise involve which group has the most innovative new hip gyration. They're all using the same electronic pop influences with a bad rap verse thrown in.

The groups all rely extensively on lip-syncing, which is a career-killer for real musicians. The 5/6/9/24 member groups are seen as ridiculous. There's no originality and very little emotion in the songs or performances, and thus no emotional connection to make with fans that don't wave balloons for a living.

Youtube is a great tool to reach fans worldwide, no question. But the problem is, the fans Kpop is reaching outside of Korea are exactly like the ones they reach inside Korea, which is 12-17 year olds who are mesmerized by catchy, repetitive, juvenile crap. Once they start to mature and actually have some disposable income, they also look at the shallow sillyness that is Kpop and are immediately ashamed to have been fans.

The formula works for what it is, and will roll in the dollars in Asia where cute and shallow are king. But it's not going to succeed in the West where more and better is demanded. If you think it will, I've got some great options on North Korean real estate to sell you...

코리 said...

Which is why I think 2NE1 has at least an outside chance of doing something. They really don't fit into any of the (mostly apt) stereotypes of kpop girl groups you just mentioned. They really have their own thing going and it feels genuine.

As far as the boy bands go, I think that ship has long since sailed in the West and the look of the groups today are far too effeminate and Asian to really take off in the West.

Roboseyo said...

RealityCheck, I agree with everything you said.
In 2009.

In 2011, use the handy "find and replace" function on your computer to replace "all" with "most" ... every time you used it... and notice that I wasn't writing about ALL kpop bands. Girls' Day or Sistar don't have a snowball's chance at cracking the American market, and the ones I wrote about are the (only two, note) that I think do. Have you actually watched a few 2NE1 videos? Or listened to IU sing? Your generalizations just don't apply to them, and it might be time to update your views.

As for your comments on marketing to tweens: what on earth is wrong with that? The western music market has fractured into so many splinters that barely touch each other any more, that Taylor Swift, Modest Mouse, and Miley Cyrus can all have number #1 songs while 80% of America still asks "Who the hell is that?" Tweens have a ton of discretionary spending money, and they've made Justin Bieber a bazillionaire. Those who aren't into it are invited to explore one of the many other musical scenes going on in the US, and thanks to and streaming internet radio, I never have to hear something I don't like in my headphones.

3Gyup: I love your story about the russian team doing a b-side. So much about the ways different groups of people engage with art from their home culture, or a different culture, in one anecdote.

Eugene... I haven't lived in America as an Asian-American, so I can't say for sure, but it seems to me like these days Asians are getting bigger and juicier roles to play in American television- think of Lost, Dexter, and Grey's Anatomy, for example, which suggests to me that the conditions might be improving... then again, you might also be right. I remember when Denzel and Halle won their Oscars, thinking "THat's awesome... so when do Asian actors get their turn?"

코리: I think a few of the boy groups might (again) hit it with the tweens, but not among adult audiences (again: look at young Bieber)... but those boy-bands do very, very, VERY well in Asia, and I can't speak for whether European tastes might like them, even if American adult audiences probably never will.

Becky said...

I've been saying it since I first heard KPop back in 2007 that it has a chance in the US. But it has to be a boy's band. Young girls are the ticket to stardom in the U.S. They buy the posters, pillows, calendars, you name it.

I also feel that only one member needs to be able to speak English. When I was young, ABBA hit it big in the U.S. and at the time only one member spoke English. I remember seeing them on American Bandstand and the one guy did all the talking.

Also, no more than 4-5 members. Super Junior or Girls Generation have too many members.

I really thought if JYP put together a boy's band with 4-5 boys in the 14-16 age range and produced some bubblegum songs in English, it could be golden.

Realitycheck said...

I appreciate the attempt at contrarianism. It's easy to go with the conventional wisdom that Kpop can't crack America, and writing a post challenging that CW is far more interesting than repeating the same criticisms as everyone else. I get it.

There are so many Kpop bashers out there that playing Kpop booster gives you sore thumb status instead of blending in with all the skeptics. I fully appreciate that angle. But in the end you're still just hoping and praying that a crack will emerge in the market, and the case you present is still paper thin and not anything substantial.

The two candidates you mentioned both lack the first essential ingredient necessary to crack America, which is excellent English. Without that, there is NO chance for substantial success. Lacking English, they're just foreign oddities singing Konglish and giving stilted, awkward interviews a la The Wonder Girls.

IU is cute and talented, no question. Does that differentiate her in any way from the hundreds of other cute and talented singers that show up every year on Idol/X Factor/America's Got Talent? Nope. And they all speak native English. Is there anything special (and being popular in Korea doesn't count) about IU that will distinguish her and make her stand out from all the other cute/talented? Nope. She's not even 10% of Charice, who is a perfect comparison point..cute, talented, unbelievable voice, native speaker, and she's had minimal success and a couple guest spots on Glee. Is IU even in the same ballpark? Nope.

Ask similar questions of 2NE1. Do they make groundbreaking or innovative music, or do anything musically to set them apart? No, and a blurb in Spin doesn't change that. Are their "rebel" personalities going to translate in America? Hell no, not in a culture where their brand of rebellion looks tame and boring, having been done better decades ago. Is their style and fashion going to be a huge plus in America like in Korea? No, because it's nothing new or original to Americans. It's standard fare. Again, what makes them stand out and rise above the competition in America? Nothing. They don't. Are they really that much different than The Wonder Girls (from the perspective of an American audience), outside of their "attitude"? Nope.

You're dealing from a losing hand, and I think you know that. You took a 7-deuce and you're trying to convince us that this time it's really going to turn into a full house. The real problem is that you laid out numerous reasons why Kpop hadn't made it in America (all of which I agree with), but then the two examples you give don't even come close to having all the ingredients necessary to overcome those hurdles you laid out.

Breaking into the American market as a foreign act is EXTREMELY difficult. The wall is very high, and very few get over it. This time next year (or in 2015), the odds of IU or 2NE1 having made any significant inroads into the American music market are a million to one. At best. And they're the brightest hopes.

If you're really interested in making a compelling case, FIND COMPARABLES that you can point to of similarly situated foreign groups/singers that found success in America. That's at least better than a hope and a "it's better than 2009" prayer.

코리 said...

CL of 2NE1 speaks perfect English (among Japanese and French as well), Sandara grew up in the Philippines and Bom graduated from a US high school and attended the Boston College of Music, so only Minzy would have questionable English skills.
As far as their style standing out, besides catching the attention of, CL is close friends with big name designer Jeremy Scott (while I don't really like the guy, his designs are huge right now)
I agree that the chances of them succeeding on a large scale are slim (I would argue they have already had mild success), but still don't level them with flaws they don't have because you don't know anything about the group and just lump them together with the rest. Don't want to come off as a crazy fan (just a fan is enough), but really 2NE1 is very different from any other Kpop girl group right now

Realitycheck said...

The youtube clips I've seen of 2NE1 speaking English put them at Wondergirls level, which I still don't think is good enough. If you have links showing fluent interviews, please share.

I think it's fair to say that 2NE1 are distinguishable from other Kpop groups, and in a positive way. They're a welcome change from the other plastic barbies. I just don't think that's enough to lead to success in America.

Girl groups/boy bands peaked 10-15 years ago in the US. The genre is generally laughed at now. What was the last girl group that was big in America? Pussy Cat Dolls for a few months? And they were a laughingstock soon after.

Think about it honestly for a second. There's a very good reason that American music producers aren't all scrambling to recruit and put together girl groups and boy bands. That reason is that the fad came and went, and it's not looked back at fondly. It's mocked and made fun of (see SNL skits with JT and Samberg) as ridiculous, inauthentic crap.

Now ask yourself if it's really possible that a foreign girl group, already facing a mountain of cultural and language obstacles, is going to reverse that cultural judgment on the genre? That's simply delusional.

The smart route would be to focus on Europe and the UK, because the girl group/boy band genre lasted far longer there and is still somewhat popular. The Euros embrace the shallow, packaged pop far more than Americans. Kpoppers should take advantage of that fact and quit trying to break through in America where the fundamentals are all moving strongly against them.

코리 said...

Not sure what you've been seeing either, CL tends to be the spokeswoman for the group and whenever I've heard her speak (like at the Times Square concert last month) it was always fluent, if slightly accented.

As far as the arguments you're now making, I completely agree with them and feel the "fad" nature of girl/boy bands will be the most difficult thing for them. The only reason I give 2NE1 any chance is that they feel slightly less manufactured. Another thing to keep in mind is that looking back in American music, the obsessions with girl/boy groups tends to be cyclical and comes back around. Like you said, my generation's time with it peaked 10-15 years ago and now it's derided by them. This means that the 'tweens' of today that you derided earlier likely don't have the same notions. In fact they seem more than willing to accept manufactured stars, just look at the current US pop landscape you seem so superior about, perfect example Justin Beiber. Of course maybe Disney is making enough tween idols on their own and there will be no need to import. Like I said before, is success likely for anyone? Not remotely, but also I won't discount the possibility completely.

JIW said...

You mostly focused on girl groups and singers. In my opinion the male groups can carry more weight and shine than the girls. The "sexy exotic Asian" either girl or male sails across oceans.

Anonymous said...

to reality check and Joy

it's crass to point out, but asian women have an entire genre of pornography dedicated to them... you really think an asian female singer couldn't make it on sex appeal, if she hit the right buttons? IU doesn't hit those buttons... but saying it couldn't happen is ridiculous.

Eugene said...

None of any of this speculation matters. No Asian American act has succeeded. The talented Korean Americans have to come to Korea to have a music career. If native speakers with talent can't make it in US what makes you think trained Kpop robots will? Even Utada Hikaru failed in US and she fits all criteria and then some. Tho easy breezy was a crappy song.

Roboseyo said...

Ooh. Eugene scores five points. Utada Hikaru's inability to crack the American market does indeed bode ill: as you say, Eugene, she does indeed check all those boxes.

I'm interested to know what you would take as the signals that the American market is beginning to be ready for Asian or other nonwhite, non-native English speakers to come over and "make it" -- so far most who have come here and "made it" without a ton of English, or with heavy accents, have been pale-skinned -- Antonio Banderas, Shakira, Abba, for example.

I take the increase in prominent - and legitimate non-token television roles for asian actors to be the first sign of improving conditions. What would say are the next steps/indicators?

Eugene said...

The next step in my opinion would be acceptance of the existence of Asian male sexuality and Asian female sexuality beyond the personification of someone's fetish. You may say that sex has nothing to do with it, but think about it. All the minority musical acts are sex symbols but any Asian male can't be perceived as a sexual being by mainstream America. Any Asian female also will be expected to play up that exotic angle, which even Amerie, foxy brown, and Nicole Scherzinger have had to do.

Realitycheck said...

If by "hitting the right buttons" you mean having sexual intercourse with many men on film, then the answer is yes.

If hitting the right buttons means singing, then no.

I mean, there's a reason that there's an entire genre of porn dedicated to Asian women but not an entire CD section at WalMart, right?

Anonymous said...

Realitycheck is being harsh, but I think he's mostly correct. A kid like Bieber is packaged and groomed but at least there's a hint of authenticity to what he does (even if it's all part of his larger marketing strategy).

K-pop in general just lacks character. There really is a scarily robotic aspect to all of it.

Americans like me might over-indulge in inauthentic crap when it comes to music, but K-pop is just too far beyond the pale.

Although it is interesting that some Japanese artists have "made it" in America -- Cibbo Matto comes to mind. But -- they actually moved to America and worked their way up from the bottom, weren't pre-packaged by a management company, and perhaps most importantly they wrote their own songs.

Eugene said...

Cibo Matto is actually one of my favorite groups but they are not mainstream enough to be considered to have "made it" in America. Hardly anyone knows wo they are other than that they are that group that has john Lennon's son as a bassist. They have graduated beyond indie band for sure but not quite mainstream. Besides they disbanded and went separate ways. Also I don't think it is a valid comparison with Kpop because cm is not Jpop. They are an American group made on NYC with no prior history in japan. If we are arguing about kpop's ability to thrive underground then yes it can.

Gomushin Girl said...

Kpop isn't going to ever be more than a niche thing in the US, and that should be ok for a number of reasons. First, Eugene is quite right that lots of more established and already better known acts from other parts of East Asia haven't made inroads in the US, and all Asian-American groups are still relatively rare (shout-out to Far East Movement), although lots of individual artists have found success in less mainstream genre (Jin, Miho Hattori, Yuki Honda, etc.) But I'd bet my last dollar that a Korean-American artist who is familiar with American cultural tastes and fluent in English will be successful before a manufactured Korean group. Simply speaking, any group that wants to make it in the US would have to change their style and presentation so radically, they'd end up potentially alienating fans in Korea, so you end up in a catch-22: If they're untried in Korea, Korean production companies won't risk sending them to the states. If they're already successful, the production companies won't risk their potential earnings and popularity back in Korea by letting them do anything risky that would make people back here tsk tsk.

Gomushin Girl said...

Oh, I also think that the other essential part of Kpop's existing popularity is the cultishness and intimacy of the fan experience. Unlike Korea, where it's part of the mass culture, Kpop in places like Europe, South America, and the States has a little bit of cult flavor to it - for teens, it's cool because it's out of the mainstream, not part of it.

Emma said...

First of all, I'm a little suprised only one person has brought up Far East Movement. While not the top of the industry, I think they are definitely opening the market up a bit for Asian acts. Not to mention, after they starting getting attention, I personally noticed a number of the groups here starting to edge more toward the hip-hop/electronic sound.
I do agree with a lot that's been said. It's going to be tough and it's going to take the right mixture of elements. But I don't think it's impossible. My friend (who is a Korean-American in the K-pop/hip-hop industry) and I constantly debate who we think has the most potential. He's of the mind it's going to be a hip-hop artist, Tasha. I think 2NE1 could do it. Hell, maybe even Big Bang could have a fighting chance if they would improve their English. (2PM is good to look at but...)
But who knows. I'm not sure if it will be a huge market in the States, but there is already a fairly strong niche market going on. It started years ago when anime, J-pop and J-dramas were starting to gain some ground with the anime kids. And then they eventually moved on to K-pop and K-dramas. It's not a huge market, but it is there. I'm still on the fence about whether it will be popular with the masses, but honestly, one thing that has been proven in the US music market is you never really know who's going to be the next big thing.

wetcasements said...

"But I'd bet my last dollar that a Korean-American artist who is familiar with American cultural tastes and fluent in English will be successful before a manufactured Korean group."

Maybe this guy:

gordsellar said...

I don't know that anyone will want to read more deeply about some reasons why I think Rob's criteria mean less than other, more intangible factors, but I think it's about as likely Korea busts into the American pop market as it would be for Victorian London to be capable of producing a pop act it could export to modern America so it would succeed. Perhaps a little less likely for Korea now, but not much.

And probably not for the reasons people will think I mean. But... is anyone even interested in hearing that explained?

Roboseyo said...

I'd read it... I'm feel like I have read it, or things like it, on your site, Gord.

gordsellar said...

Hm, are you suggesting I'm repeating myself?

Well, maybe, but there's a new twist, and its related to insights from evolutionary psychology, basically, as well as how cultures frame certain things for media consumption.

The sort of thing you figure out by watching videos with the sound off, looking at facial expressions, and listening to the audiobook version of Douglas Kenrick's SEX, MURDER, AND THE MEANING OF LIFE. I'll try post it sometime after the weekend, if I have time.

But, by the by, despite their origin and wider popularity in the States, Cibo Matto does get lumped in with Shibuya Kei, which I personally find about the only truly interesting "pop music" of the last few decades. Bands like Buffalo Daughter, Fantastic Plastic Machine, Cornelius, Pizzicato Five, and especially Capsule all sound individually unique, yet also, somehow, vaguely of a kind. Which is no small achievement. (They also lump Towa Tei in there, though didn't he start DJing in the US? Then again, some musical movements are transnational... in fact, I'd say the best ones always are.

Oh, and School Food Punishment is a very interesting band, too. The closest Japanese analogue I can find to 3rd Line Butterfly, except they're more experimental and playful with structure, time signatures, and so on. But they play from their f*cking hearts, as Bill Hicks so long ago advised.

Anonymous said...

Oh Hyori, I wish you were 23 and a part of my generation. She's got sass, Robo, you just haven't been watching as closely as I have. What I wouldn't do for that lady . . .

Roboseyo said...

the sass she has is perfect for Korean television.
Korean television.

Go look at Snooki, Nicki Minaj, Lady Gaga, and the cast of America's Next Whatever, and American Glamourjob. Hyori's awesome for Korean television, and the age is why I ruled her out.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but narry a one will make it in the US. They will have a niche for sure as the ROK govt is shelling out big bucks to make inroads on our shores but I cannot honestly see it as mainstream in the US because we have our own sound no matter the genre.

Kpop is cute and sugery so it fits those who like that kind of thing, which relies heavily on "visuals". Hence the overwhelming marketing of plastic surgery by its plastic clientele plastered all over Korean dramas, variety shows, YT, etc. That is the secondary motivation by the government.

Kpop is acting like a trojan horse of sorts. ROK only wants our money and to be on equal footing with the music industry in the US and/or Japan.....Money may be able to buy their way into our music industry but it may be short-lived.

Roboseyo said...

lol but in variety shows I can only feel the darkness, no scarily robotic aspect and when I see JB in interviews he just seems more and more arrogant