All Blackjacks, let’s face the truth, when YG Entertainment (YGE) announced that 2NE1 would skip all year-end award ceremonies, we all felt like our heart was torned apart, that YGE had just betrayed us and you caught yourself saying :
Then, it was quickly announced that CL would make her American Solo Debut in Spring 2015 ! And Minzy got us worried about rumors stating that 2NE1 would be on the verge to split, once again « B*#$$ said whaat?«
Finally, in October, 28th, CL was the only member to attend the 2014 SIA (Style Icon Award) and made a collaboration performance with the American DJ Diplo.
Have you ever been on a roller coaster ride ? So you know the feeling right ? Basically, it was more or less the same to me. Seriously, it was a lot to take in less than 2 weeks, but let’s focus on the upcoming American Solo Debut of « The Baddest Female » from 2NE1, the one and only CL !!!
My first reaction was « She totally deserves it » then, after thinking it through I wasn’t that excited after all. Wow, c’mon before all you haters start bashing around let me explain first ! Actually, K-pop artists debuting in the US has always been a hot topic in my head.
People fisrt reaction when thinking about artists like, 2NE1, BIGBANG, CL, G-Dragon or Taeyang would be « They will definitely make it in the USA » because these artists have reached such recognition in their local market that we automatically think that it will be the next step, but I have my doubts. Please remember that Korea and K-pop is a very specific industry with its codes and marketing tools aiming at a very specific audience. But apart from PSY who made his song « Gangnam Style » and K-pop in general viral nobody cares about the music in Korea which is often seen as cliché and passé. In Europe and in the US the 90s was the great glory of Boys band and Girls Band but this trend is over… ok there is still 1 Direction but that’s not all. On the other hand, Asia made it, its core business and created a huge industry.
What makes us think that those artists could break in the US lies is one thing, YG Entertainment. Indeed, if I can relate so well with YGE artists, it’s only because this company is heavily westernized and has strong American influences. There is this ability to create K-pop that doesn’t sound like K-pop. You could definitely recognize a YGE artist among many others just by the sound of his music. There is another feeling. Since I discovered BIGBANG, I have always been fascinated by this company, Yang Hyun Suk (President of YG Entertainment) gives you the feeling that his artists are free, that he gives the priority to develop individual talents, to build themselves into artists, through writing, producing, trying new musical styles (sometimes weird – T.O.P hit song « Doom Dada Doom »). When actually YG Entertainment is only a mix between strong westernized know-how, strong marketing and actually some really talented individuals.
But now, apart from being Korean, would YGE artists stand out in the lion’s den and still be considered as really talented artists outside their borders ? There is no guarantee but they are the closest.
Why K-pop would not succeed in the USA ?
K-pop is a product.
K-pop is not only a type of music, it’s a concept, a brand, a product. Artists are products manufactured by well oiled companies and to be true, for at least 90% of the industry this is all I can see. New products are launched every months, then a race starts to rank first in music charts. If you don’t make it, there is always a backup unit to debut next.
Group formations can be seen as confusing. First of all, when they should be between 3 to 5 members, it is likely to find K-pop groups between 6 to 10 members but when it comes to groups like Super Junior or EXO (12 members) or SNSD (8 members), I think that it would be very difficult to keep up with all the member names I’m actually unable to tell them apart. Then only part of the members are put in the front stage when to other are just back-up dancers, or sing only words or part of the lyrics.
Every actions of the idols life are monitored from Fans meetings (for example GOT7 – Eye contact and Hand shake at the end of one of their secret fan meetings) to public speech. I don’t see any idols expressing their true / own opinions. In the end they all look alike, there’s no difference from a band to another as they all look like puppets, saying the same old sentence to present themselves, making the same old smile and repeating the same old text about how they love their company and that they will work hard to do even better. It’s lame!
Also, group formations are always the same, you have the leader, who usualu is the lead vocalist. Then you have the main dancer, the cute face and the lead rapper. Let’s talk about that…
Auto-tune I hate you!
Can K-pop idols actually sing? At some point I just started to ask myself over and over again this question. Auto-tune is that wonderful audio processor that helps to disguise all off-key inacurracies. In other words you originally sing out of tune but thanks to auto-tune, you actually sound pretty good.
When I first listened to 2NE1, this is the first thing I heard. Their voices weren’t real and they used auto-tune everywhere. It’s only because their music grew in me that I progressively forgot about it and started to appreciated their style and performances. But unfortunately, 90% of idols use auto-tune. When this additional elements added some style at the beigining now it has become common use. If Korea decides to ban auto-tune from the music production process, I’m sure at 100% that we will be left with average teenagers, with average voices, with average talent, who can barely keep up with a few high notes (just watch the MR removed versions).
Mastering acting, dancing, catwalk like, fashion, rap and pretty faces is one thing, but if you want to break in the US market you need more. Nowadays having a unique voice, « THE VOICE », being vocally gifted is all it takes and unfortunately, at this stage, K-pop scene is full of too many wannabees, too many pretty faces, too many so called singer seeking for recognition and they really lack of vocally gifted idols as much as they rely to much on their « main/lead dancer », « main/lead vocalist » and so called « rappers » meaning worst singer of the band. You find them in every bands but again there are exceptions, don’t misunderstand my sayings, of course there are vocally gifted ones like, Raina, Ailee, Park Bom or Hyorin, but when they are considered as gifted in Korea, would they actually been considered the same way in the US ? Or would we actually consider that their voices are okay but not amazing?
Finally, all K-pop idols aspire for global recognition but so many can barely speak in English. I think that it’s essential from the very begining to be able to communicate in English, as K-pop grew attention among international fans they need to be able to communicate with foreign audiences. Unfortunately, it’s always awkward to see only one member standing for the whole band and seeing the others bending their heads or trying to say a few words when what they know is only the English parts of their songs. If they seek for international carrers then they need to integrate the culture and start learning English from the trainee period. This way they will be best able to express feelings and share.
Are the USA the only way to access international fame?
I really don’t understand the rush in debuting in the USA when it’s actually the Lion’s den and if you’re not prepared enough as BoA says « they will eat you up ». I mean, there is Europe too and I’m pretty sure that there are even more European fans eager to meet their favorite idols than in the US. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to also think about debuting artists in Europe? I really think that we are more open minded and eager to novelty if we can welcome artists like « Conchita Wurst » I think that we can handle some K-pop. Just saying ! The USA is too big as a country to reach first, when they should start by English-speaking countries like Australia, UK (Europe as a whole) which would give way to the American scene.
Reasons why there is still a chance for K-pop success in the US.
I think that CL’s upcoming American solo debut is seen as a true challenge for the future of K-pop industry, as K-pop has attracted international curiosity and fandoms from foreigners, CL is considered as a Queen in her country, she attracts international music scene and because some have failed before, it feels like with CL they might have in their hands the right person to open the door to the American market. In some ways she’s a tool to access the American market.
It all started with « The Baddest Female »
CL was shaped to become « The » Baddest Female in Korea. There aren’t 2 like her. She’s that small girl, who was pushed in the front scene with that strong attitude and could compete with any male artists. Because BIGBANG and 2NE1 are so closed, we canno’t deny that CL is G-Dragon alter-ego. And she was pushed, encourgaed to surpass him and show that « Girls, run the world ! ».
She is the leader of 2NE1, she is fierce, she’s a strong woman, she is powerful and very confident. Other female rappers like Hyuna or Bora look cute beside her. I really regreat Bekha from After School though as I really think that she could have been a serious competitor to CL if she’d stayed in the industry.
CL has become very popular among international artists and she has built great relationships that keep her in the front page.
These elements make it more likely that CL would definitely make a hit in the US. But still even if she has the help of internationally recognized artists, she has to start from scratch. In the US she will be considered as a Rookie and I really think that she doesn’t have to take it for granted but has to work her ass off to prove to the international scene that she is worth being called « The Baddest Female » and be at the top in Korea and even better abroad. This is through work that she will make it big and be taken seriously. K-pop is one thing, but when abroad, it doesn’t count anymore. This is why I hope she will work really hard to bring us some great beat, not by only creating a catchy song but by becoming her own music.
She needs to develop her own style. I’m not expecting her to be a pro solo artist already and her performance at the 2014 SIA proved it. Something was off, something was missing, CL as a solo artist is a big challenge to take. Even though the audience was DEAD, it wasn’t her best performance for sure. I felt like The Baddest Female wasn’t The Baddest Female yet. She needs to empower this image, to lead us towards her music, her world and then people will follow her. She needs to lead us and not only perform with famous/internationally recognized people. She needs to endorse her role to grow big. She is still Chaelin becoming CL when on stage she has to become 100% CL – The Baddest Female and not only playing the beat of someone else’s. CL has to own the stage and make her audience stand up for up.
CL’s American Solo Debut, could determine the future of K-pop.
CL’s debut in the US is definitely something to look forward to. If CL succeed, it means that one big step would have been done and will open the door to other artists. I think that there is a lot of pressure in this upcoming debut, because all eyes are on her. If she makes it she becomes a Goddess, if she fails… well let’s not think about it, but it could be a terrible thing for her carreer as CL might be the only K-pop idol in a while who has the ability, to carry the hope that she could break in the USA and join the wide family by being a respected artist. To my opinion CL’s success in the US market could definitely change the future of K-pop.
To conclude, keep looking for CL’s debut, she needs our support and love! Vive Queen CL! #BaddestFemale