By Sterling Wong
We’ve blogged a couple of times about the much-loved, nine-member Korean girl group Girls Generation these past few days. The all-singing, all-dancing group is now on a promotional tour of the US, having already achieved mega success in Korea, Japan and the rest of Asia.
“Be careful world we’re on the way!" band member Tiffany told our very own Christina Garibaldi when the girls popped by the MTV Newsroom. Yes, it seems like now that they've conquered Asia, the girls have set their sights on winning over America, having recently signed with Interscope Records (maybe they can rope in label mate Lady Gaga for a collaboration).
Judging by the music video of the group’s catchy Teddy Riley-crafted English single, “The Boys,” the girls certainly have the hooks and the moves to make it big stateside. But the task the girls face is an uphill one. The American market is a tough one to crack for foreign artists. Many highly successful Asian acts have tried their best to make it here, but despite their best efforts, there still isn’t a nationally recognized mainstream Asian pop star. If Girls Generation is to succeed, they’d do well to study the attempts by these five Asian artists to break the lucrative American market in the past few years.
Read on for more and vote in our poll for who you think will be the first Asian artist to break in a big way in America!
It’s an understatement to say Utada Hikaru has had an impressive career. Her debut album First Love, is the bestselling albums of all time in Japan, and she has sold over 52 million records since she broke onto the Japanese music scene in 1997. The American-born Utada was probably the most likely to break America with her R&B sensibilities. The 28-year-old certainly tried her best, releasing two albums here, Exodus in 2004 and This is the One in 2009, both of which were met with indifference from the general public. With the quality of Utada’s music, though, we’re still hoping that she’ll make it some day!
Ciara must be glad that BoA didn’t take off here: The 24-year-old Korean can definitely cut a rug as well as Ciara does, as she displays in the video to her 2008 English single, “Eat You Up.” BoA was the first Korean artist to break through the tough-to-crack Japanese market, but unfortunately, the US proved a step too far as her self-titled album, released in 2009, failed to gain traction here. Realizing that she was neglecting her core Japanese and Korean markets, BoA decided to abandon her US ambitions for the time being and concentrate on her fans back home. But now that Girls Generation is breaking big, maybe it's time to give it another go?
It’s common for many Asian artists to straddle film and music careers, and Rain is an expert juggler of both. The 29-year-old Korean is perhaps the biggest heartthrob in all of Asia and he even made it onto People magazine’s Most Beautiful People list in 2007. Rain made a foray into America though film instead of music. "Speed Racer" underwhelmed, but the kickass star did win the Biggest Badass Award at last year’s MTV Movie Awards. Rain is currently serving his mandatory service back home in Korea, so any US ambitions have to be paused for now, but perhaps he’ll attempt to conquer the English music scene when he makes his comeback.
Wonder Girls (Korea)
Fans of the Jonas Brothers will probably be familiar with this Korean five-piece girl group. The quintet was the opening act of the brothers’ 2009 world tour, where they performed their first English single, “Nobody.” The song made history when it became the first from a Korean group to make the Billboard Hot 100, but plans for an album release here were halted when a member of the group, Sunmi, left. News about a full-length English release has been sporadic since, but with the girls still red hot all across Asia, it’s probably a matter of finding some time so they can concentrate on promoting their music here.
Yes, it seems like it’s the Koreans who are intent on breaking America. Se7en, like Rain, is renowned for his dancing prowess. For his English debut in 2009, the 26 year-old took the hip-hop direction, working with Amerie, Lil’ Kim and Fabolous. Se7en’s first single, “Girls,” on which Lil’ Kim guested, dropped in 2009, with the video also getting a BET 106 & Park premiere. Due to the poor reception to the single, plans for Se7en’s English album were scrapped, and the star turned his focus back to Korea and Japan.