Rolling Stone released their list of 10 K-pop groups most likely to break in America. Of the list are the obvious names, while others were kind of surprising. The list, needless to say, sparked much discussion in Kpop forums all over the net.
As someone who’s followed K-pop for many years (and it’s getting tiresome nowadays) I’ve always rooted for acapella quartet CSJH The Grace to make their US debut. This was before one of the members left to pursue her ballerina career in the US and so now I’m left with no group whom I confidently feel would be successful Stateside.
I still don’t. So this list Rolling Stone came up with seems a tad reaching.
Least Likely, but if successful will be the biggest impact.
The least likely are all the male boy groups for the simple fact that when it comes to appealing to the US market being an international act, girls get far more airtime, period. However talented Big Bang, B2ST (pronounced Beast) and SHINee may be is irrelevant when Kpop is 80-90% visual. While their style of appeal certainly is making a comeback, it’s not there quite yet.
Of the bottom 3, Big Bang has the most to gain IF they stick to dance music that flirts with other genres and not venture into the realms of strictly hip hop or rap.
Wouldn’t survive without the devotion of Kpop fans.
International fans would attest that without the internet, specifically YouTube, the popularity of Kpop would not survive. The wealth of exposure these artists get in Korea, then retransmitted via numerous different sharing ports is astounding.
For every great performance can be equally matched with an on stage blunder, mistake and/ or string of really bad performances. Of them are not so much the small falls from grace but the performances that fall short of reaching great heights.
In Korea, mainly due to culture and image, being able to sell a certain attitude proves quite difficult for girls who, for the lack of a better phrasing, lack “experience”. The ‘no dating’ policy that most management companies enforce seemingly castrates them in a way that no matter how technically superior they may be vocally or dance-wise, the ‘feel’ or ‘vibe’ just isn’t there to sell it.
Sistar – I was surprised they actually made the Rolling Stone radar and not 4minute, but I’m guessing it’s because of the maturity of their image which won them the spot on the list.
Sistar, like another group not mentioned on the list Brown Eyed Girls, would vet better if they were able to stick to radio. Their combined vocals are superior to everyone on the list. The only caveat is that not one of them speaks English fluently.
The Wonder Girls – While touring with the Jonas Brothers, their TV movie and recent collaboration with the School Gyrls for “DJ is Mine” may have given them exposure to the Nickelodeon audience and made a fan of Will Smith, unless they land a TV series a la S Club 7, I doubt people outside of Kpop would continue to care.
Girls Generation – Eventhough they are all legal, half of them don’t look it and border on looking like girls playing in their big sister’s closet. It’s tough maturing a group like this because it’s a little like the blind leading the blind. They are the most popular amongst the girl groups on the list and vocally strong. Where they miss the mark is the execution in their performances; they’re inconsistent. Whatever the reason of their insane schedules and having to practise separately, it shows and that’s ok to their legions of fans. They understand.
Who actually has a fighting chance?
The Kpop band who will be able to appeal to people who DON’T follow Kpop is what determines who will make that ‘break’.
Ailee – The New Jersey native may have to relearn everything she was taught in the Kpop system in order to survive in the US market. She has the vocals, but would have to find her own style in order for her to avoid coming across as a karaoke idol.
2NE1 – Without a doubt, 2NE1 has all the elements destined for them to succeed in the US mainstream separate from their Kpop fanbase. They can perform and perhaps most importantly, speak English fluently. It also helps that they are already in the company of some heavy hitmakers (Will.I.Am, Teddy Riley) and are able to deliver with the swag necessary to sell it. The only clog I see is that the swag may be interpreted as poseur-ish and therefore just make them look like wannabes … or just scary to watch.
After School – Perhaps not the most vocally talented group on the list, what After School has over all the other groups is their ability to perform with their libido. Despite their lower levels of popularity in Korea, they are still recognized as the best performance idol group in Kpop even outperforming boy bands. In their case, the lacking in the English-speaking department may or may not be a factor. If they stick with dance music, people wouldn’t have to understand what they’re saying, they just need to watch them perform and move to the beat. Kinda like b-boying where instead of break dancing it would be more like watching Pussycat Dolls/ Coyote Ugly with a few special skills thrown in.
Above all that, how the group was initially realized, different than any group on the list who follow the audition-train-debut process, would make for good editorial stories and fashion spreads. If anything, I foresee a large gay following in the way it worked for the Spice Girls and fans of reality dance shows.
miss A – In terms of packaging, Miss A has it. They have decent vocals, can dance and are overall good performers. Its members are appealing both cute and sexy without coming across forced and stay true to its Kpop-ness while still being able to appeal to a wider audience. It helps that Min can speak English. What’s important are the members seem very comfortable with themselves and their sexuality. I’d bank on their mature image and ability to sell the Good Girl/ Bad Girl vibe.
Regardless of the above mentioned, I’m willing to hold my breath on Tasha (Yoon MiRae), who inexplicably is missing from the list. Once she makes her US debut and hopefully brings her hubby Tiger JK and long time collaborator Ann One into the spotlight, she’ll give everyone a run for their money.
*Writer’s note: you’ll notice (or perhaps not) several of the linked videos are in Japanese and not Korean. This isn’t a case of “I can’t tell the difference, it all sounds the same to me” but rather an example of other markets they’ve touched outside of Korea.
[Photo credit: Rolling Stone]