My Top Picks of Korean Artists Who Should Debut In America
For the record, over the past few years I’ve been treating K-Pop music much like an all you can eat buffet: some stuff I’ll try (or listen to) for a little bit and then say to myself, “Hey, that’s pretty good, I’m definitely coming back for more.” There’s some stuff I’ll try and then say, “There’s no way I’m ever touching that again,” and then of course there are certain things I can tell are bad news just by looking at it, so I’ll pass over it without a second thought.
With that being said, I have to admit that when it comes to music these days, I’m pretty hard to impress. I may not have a fancy title that says so, but I think I can tell the difference between real driven talent, and someone just trying to sell an image and milk their 15 minutes of fame. I’m not easily amused by flashy, sometimes completely bizarre costumes, over-the-top music videos, or vocals that have been toyed with so much it doesn’t even sound like it came from a human being anymore. It’s already been discussed on this blog, which K-Pop artists/music groups would have the best chance of not only debuting, but succeeding in the American music market, and though there is plenty of room for debate, I have 2 people in particular whom I feel would be a definite shoe-in, based on their prior track record.
You might’ve already guessed who they are but here are my top 2 picks of Korean artists who can (and should) have a successful debut in the American music market.
#1 Pick-Rain/Jung Jihoon
This pick I think is a painfully obvious one. Mr. Jung isn’t just a singer or just a dancer, but a full out true entertainer. Not since Michael Jackson himself have I seen an entertainer like Rain who is not only talented but has respect for the field that he is in, and consistently proves it through his work. Rain isn’t the type who comes out with an album or new single every 5 or 6 months, and he’s not the type who will ever boast about writing a whole song in less than 10 minutes. He either gives his fans 110% or nothing, and when you’re a serious entertainer, I think that’s the way it should be.
Anyone who has listened to more than 2 or 3 songs by Rain or watched him perform knows that his act is heavily drawn from black entertainers, and if there’s ANY Korean music artist who could easily get a seal of approval from the black community, it’s Rain. Not only does he know that most of his inspiration comes from African-American entertainers, but he’s admitted it several times, and has no problem with giving credit where credit is due; he has never just swept the fact under the rug and pretend like it was never there in the first place, nor has he ever exhibited any behavior that could be perceived as a direct ‘slap-in-the-face’ to African-American entertainers.
Finally, in all of his fame and fortune that he has acquired in the past decade or so, he has never stopped practicing kindness, politeness and humility. No matter how much work he does, which countries he visits, how many screaming fans (old and young) worship the ground that he walks on, he never puts himself up on a pedestal and always presents himself as an Average Joe. He has an extremely witty sense of humor and has no problem playing the fool and being the butt of his own jokes. Somehow after pretty much growing up in poverty, debuting within months of his beloved mother passing away, and other hardships along the way, with true dedication and a passion for what he does, Jihoon has become one of the most celebrated entertainers (Asian or otherwise) within the last decade.
I think with the proper promotions and sponsorship from the right people Rain could become the next big hit here in the U.S. Only instead of just being a fad or one hit wonder, he would stick around and keep his audiences begging for more; he has the talent, he has the credentials, all he needs is a chance to shine.
#2 Pick-Boa Kwon aka BoA
As I think back on it, BoA was my very first introduction into Asian pop music, period. The first few songs I heard from her were sung in Japanese, only of course for me to find out later that BoA herself was Korean. BoA debuted about the same time Rain did, but was barely in her teens while Rain was just entering his early 20’s. I think audiences liked her because while she was super cute, her vocals and dance moves were the real deal. She could bust out the hottest hip-hop dance moves and then turn around and belt out the most heart-warming ballad. Not to mention she was able to break through both the Korean and Japanese music markets at a young age. Personally, I was attracted to how BoA’s image was a reminder of the style that many American female hip-hop/R&B artists like Brandy, Aaliyah and Toni Braxton had made popular during the 1990’s; basically wearing baggy, “boyish” attire that only occasionally showed off any skin. But the main focus was never on her image or her attire but on her singing and dancing, (I think the ONLY female dancer I say could top BoA is probably Janet Jackson). While I question the length of the contract that they signed her up for, I applaud SM Entertainment for sticking BoA with a fun, powerful yet age appropriate image.
Even now that she’s in her mid-20’s, BoA hasn’t done what many young artists do when they transition to adulthood, and make the image change of “Good Girl Gone Bad.” She’s not just a singer but an all around entertainer, and like Rain, BoA has managed to maintain a positive image through hard work, humility, and humor which has kept her out of trouble. I’d also like to point out that she’s officially become tri-lingual in Korean, Japanese and English.
BoA is also another Korean artist who I’d say would have no problem being accepted by the black community. Like Rain, she has been consistent in expressing her admiration and respect for black culture and black artists alike. She has repeatedly featured African-American back-up dancers in her music videos (starting with “Don’t Start Now”) and has been trained by African-American vocal coaches and choreographers. Never once in BoA’s whole career could you find her doing anything that would be considered making a mockery of black culture in anyway.
I’m sure many of you could come up with your own list of Korean artists and music groups who could make this list, but Rain and BoA are the two Korean artists who I’ve been following the longest and they have yet to disappoint me and are still going strong. While Rain did in fact do a major concert in New York and a few TV appearances here in America, BoA technically had an American “debut” back in 2008, which I feel was poorly promoted. While I could also name MAAAANY issues that would arise from these two trying to break into the American music market the main idea is they have the talent and the skill to get it done if they’re promoted the right way, supported by the right people, stay true to their style and are given a certain amount of freedom to present their craft as they chose. It’s really a shame that these two aren’t household names in the U.S.already; American music audiences are really missing out on 2 of South Koreas hottest stars!
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