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Coming to America: K-Pop

Updated on April 7, 2012
K-pop Fans in Time Square
K-pop Fans in Time Square | Source

America is the birth place of international super stars, from Keanue Reeves to Lady Gaga and everyone in between. People from other countries look to America in the hopes that they to can one day achieving mega succsess. Many have tried and failed to produce anything star worthy, and then there are those with unique voices such as Adele or great acting skills such as Chris Hemsworth who became overnight success' and recognizable around the globe. For many oversees acts coming to American is about the fame and the glory, but for others it is about breaking barriers and sharing another culture and lifestyle. Breaking barriers is hard enough, but attempting to do it while making it into the US music market that takes quite some moxy especially for k-pop and J-Pop artists, because it has never been done before. Since the British Invasion back in the sixties it has become quite normal to have British artists filter in and out of the American eye, it has become second nature to the industry. But When was the last time an artist from any Asian or even non European country came to American and found amicable success. I honestly can't think of a time. So for those coming over to America now, will they even stand a chance? How does their musicality stand up to that of the American Pop Sound? What are they doing right? More importantly What are they doing wrong?

Big 3 Logo's
Big 3 Logo's | Source
Rain | Source
BoA | Source
Se7en | Source

The Big 3's First Attempt's

The Big 3 refers to the top music entertainment companies in Korea. JYP, SM Entertainment, and YG Entertainment they are leading the way into the American music market. Their have been attempts before from both SM and JYP to place their artists at the forefront of this challenge and they are now going into their second attempt.

1) JYP Known for powerful vocal acts combined with pop, r&b and throw back themes, JYP is a place filled with many serious artists. The first attempt for JYP in the USA market was Rain , one of the most well known if not the most well known Korean celebrity throughout the world. I vaguely remember hearing him sing with Omarion but as we know know this went nowhere.

JYP's first female act attempt was in 2009 with The Wonder Girls, bringing their Korean hit Nobody and transforming it into an American song. Though the Wonder girls song nobody was really catchy their was really no attempt to promote the song in any way in places other than New York and California. So The wonder Girl's went no where with these promotions and turned inward taking a look at what they could do to gain more attention in the US.

2) SM Entertainment Boa is the Ultimate act from SM Entertainment, I like to view her as the female version of Rain. She an independent singer who began her journey in music in her early teens. She has had a huge impact on the Korean and Japanese music industry. Her many die hard fans, thought she would make a similar impact in America. Though BoA's songs were played on mainstream raidio, people didn't get in to her due to lack of promotional exposure and the fact that her music and music video's seemed to be to Stylized to fit her image, they were to thug for a pretty girl like BoA.

3) YG Entertainment Back in 2009 YG sent their solo Artist Se7en (seven) to try to conquer the American market, and this one out off all other attempts was the biggest fail out of any company. He had the backing of many well know producers and having Lil Kim sing on his song "GIrlz". But to be honest his song is to hip-hop for him, and the song didn't do well at all and was openly criticized by many people in the industry and the American public,

For all of the artists, it was difficult for them to put themselves into the American market, and I applaud them for this first attempt. However it was poorly executed and even more poorly received.

2012 Fans
2012 Fans | Source
The Wonder Girls
The Wonder Girls | Source
Girls Generation The Boys
Girls Generation The Boys | Source
2ne1 Scream Japanese Cover
2ne1 Scream Japanese Cover | Source

The Big 3's Second Attempt and

Fast forward to 2012, the Big 3 have struck again, but this time they are a little more prepared. Though it is only the first half of the year we can already see who has potential to succeed in the market, and who should wait for a third attempt.

1)JYP The Wonder Girl's are back, but this time JYP needs a big round of applause because he is going about it in all the right ways. Unlike the first time they appeared in America young, learning English, and thrown into the mass market, this time they have a strategy and it is working. The Wonder Girls have teamed up with Nick Cannon and released their first made for tv movie The Wonder Girls at the Apollo and made a catchy song The DJ is Mine to go with it. I really think the wonder girls have a chance to succeed this time around, their are playing to a young and impressionable audience that is always ready to accept new faces with or with out talent. Though their music is now geared towards teen pop, I think they will be able to grow with their audience and though it may take time, they will find themselves with at least one catchy hit that no one can resist. I do not see them making it into the mass market of American music with out using this opportunity to their advantage.

2)SM Entertainment The second time around I don't think SM Entertainment is doing a much better Job then what they did with BoA. Girl's Generation has released a full length album entitled The Boy's it is also the name of their title track. This group has had much more prime time exposure than the wonder girls, but I don't find it is helping their cause as much. They may be able to boast that two of their members are American born, but maybe they should have told the rest of their group, that pop music with nonsensical lyrics are not going to garner fame but turn people away. Trust me listen to the song it makes no sense. SM has not done anything to find a specific target audience to gainer support for the group, instead they are thrown in to the American public and will have little if any major attention thrown towards them. So overall better luck next time SM and do better market research.

3)YG Entertainment Everyone was in great anticipation for the US debut of 2ne1. Through recent statements from YG entertainment, it turns out 2ne1 is not releasing a US album. Instead they are releasing a single, for's new world music project. Hopefully they will garner significant success and this will lead to a debut US album.


Though the first Attempts were underexposed and had a lack of focus, the second round has been over all better. But there some reasons I don't think Korean mainstream pop artists are going to make it in the mainstream American world.

The first is the lack of focus from the companies, American music is mostly about the artist and the story that they have to tell, we have long since moved away from a bubble gum pop standard. Second, the companies to not seem to be taking into account cultural factors that may offset the American public from their artists. In the US ghetto, thug, gangsta, rap and hip-hop have completely different connotations then they do in Korea. Many American's may use this as a factor as to why they won't listen to K-pop. Lastly for me they are trying to be American pop instead of integrating a new sound with the element of their language, which might draw more people in, to learn something new and to be more culturally aware.

Though they could work on these things, K-pop artists have also been doing things right this time around. Creating a fan base around the world, and being in the public eye on all continents, will eventually bridge a gateway into success in America. They also have young Hollywood on their side, and a mass of producers and lyricists that have taken interest in Korean pop. If the major companies would just look at these factors and come up with better plans many of their acts may have a chance.


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