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Can the Wonder Girls Impact the United States?

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There hasn’t been a strong presence of Asians or Asian-Americans in the music of the United States. Several artists like BoA and Utada have carved very small niches for their fans online. One of the latest groups to attempt breaking into the US market is Korea’s Wonder Girls. Managed by JYP Entertainment, The Wonder Girls have become minor internet sensations with their music videos for “Tell Me” and “Nobody.” One could find thousands of vocal covers, dance-covers, homemade English versions, and music video parodies of many of the Wonder Girls’ discography.

The Wonder Girls have even made concert tours in the United States under JYP Entertainment hitting New York City and Los Angeles. The girls have spent the last few months training in English as well as reproducing their music from Korean. Soon they will be releasing their hits “Nobody” and “Tell Me” into the English market. Can the girls hit the Billboard charts with steam or will they be like Utada and bubble in the upper 100s of the Top 100. Here are a few advantages the Wonder Girls have over Boa and Utada.

They have a tour lined up – The Wonder Girls have announced that they will serve as the opening act to the Jonas Brothers. Some fans are a little confused about the idea (read: they are not fans of the Jonas Brothers), but when one realizes that all the girls are younger than 25 it makes some sense. With the Jonas Brothers being huge in the teen sector, the Wonder Girls can capture a huge market.

They have very catchy music
– I don’t speak Korean and I love their music. Why? Because it has this universal pop sound. I don’t need to know what they are saying because it’s fun to listen to. For all I know they could be talking about feminine hygiene and I would still love their music. The real question is if their songs will lose something in translation.

They have aggressive management – I truly think that Park Jin Young, founder of JYP Entertainment, knows what he is doing. He’s striking while the iron is hot getting the girls to learn not only English, but Japanese, and Chinese as well.

Fashion Sense – I’m often jealous of petite Asian women because they often can wear a combination of different clothes and mysteriously pull it off. The girls have a very colorful fashion sense and all of them could be trend setters. The “Nobody” video is a take on the film Dreamgirls but they often perform the song in different outfits. If one looks online they have different costumes spreading out the gamut of 60s fashion when they perform “Nobody” in different venues. Their fashion will not stagnate at 50s/60s girl group clothes, but rather be influenced by both European and Asian fashion trends.

They are young – There is the slight chance that the girls will fail in the US, but they still have time to attempt another hit. They have the youth and stamina to tour their songs. They know the usefulness of websites like Facebook and MySpace. They all have Twitter accounts. The girls can make a grassroots push using the internet fan base to gain fame.

As an Asian-American, I hope that the Wonder Girls succeed. Young Asians don’t have many Asian role models, and very few (a few American Idol contestants) are singers.

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About Michael Pascua

  • jk

    @doubtit…100% agree

  • bleng13

    @doubt it..wongergirls did not fail.. they were gone for a few moments because one of the members was replaced by a new member because she needs to pursue her education… they should have to go to US again but it was canceled first beacuse of that.

  • Macy

    Well i live in the D.C. and the only people who went to their concert were Korean-Americans good for them but the rest of us aren’t interested. I realize that music groups with lots of members are popular in kpop right now but here boy bands went out in the 90’s. Top artists are usually solo here unless they’re in a band so WG may be a little out of style :(. I agree with clint too i think they need someone like rihanna or selena gomez to say “hey go check them out” without that i think they may have to return to sk.

  • clint

    i really doubt if they can hit the billboard top 200 album.they need mainstream guestings,appearances,influencial celebrities back up.asian singers with very good exposures:charice,lea salonga,coco lee

  • Cari

    I hope for the best for these girls, they seem incredibly sweet and hardworking… I just saw several fancams from their DC concert, one thing I will say is if you consider they have so much less at their disposal compared to other groups… meaning elaborate shows like most artists i’ve seen, all they have is their dancing and singing. Just the five of them… no back up dancers, elaborate lighting, etc… and they’re just fun to watch. That’s the thing about K-Pop, the music just makes me smile… I adore Koreans 🙂

  • Eon

    Kit, I have no idea why you’re embarrassed. It’s obvious that the US has a bigger market/audience when it comes to music and entertainment and that’s why Korean and Japanese singers try to make it big there. Few Asian singers are known outside of Asia compared to how many American singers are known in Asia and they’re trying to change that.

    That being said, I don’t think the Wonder Girls will make it big in the US. ‘Nobody’ is catchy in Korea, but it simply doesn’t translate in the West, just like how the retro look was something fresh and attractive for the Korean audience but not so much for the US. Besides, the US already has a lot of pop singers. What does Wonder Girls have that differs from other singers in terms of music style and can they show that properly?

    I do applaud them on trying hard as they are and I do like that they didn’t make songs and change their style to appeal to the US market, like BoA and Utada did slightly, but they’ve got to step it up if they want to keep on going.

  • kit

    wtf is with kpop doing to artists? moving them from countries to country? state to state now? seriously, i don’t see kanye west going to japand or russia to make a big hit of his biggest songs. you’ve got to be kidding me. i’m utterly embarrassed as an asian to be honest. the wonder girls changed their lyrics in english thinking that it’ll go on perfectly but it doesn’t. the lyrics seems like crap and just doesn’t go well. dam, they are just pushing them artists these days. what next? mexicans singers coming to hawaii to make a big hit there? pff, my ass.
    i’m not hating on the wondergirls and those artists that tried to make it in the U.S but, really, i’m going to facepalm if i see racist comments when one of u hit the top on the charts.

  • Sabrina

    In terms of the broader American market, yes…Wonder Girls are sorely lacking. But in terms of the disney teenybopper market, I think Wonder Girls will smash the competition. They stand out with their refreshing image, catchy tunes and concepts. And JYP is a genius producer and marketer, so he’ll be sure to put them in the best limelight. Moreover, I’ve found Wonder Girls to be extremely humble and down to earth girls who really work hard. No doubt, they are beyond lucky to get where they are, but if anyone deserves to break into the market first, I think it is them 🙂

  • More Lol

    One GOOD hit for now is really very Good. Hey more are coming.

  • lol

    one hit only nothing more

  • pija

    I hope they can make it big.
    if not, i still proud of them
    at least. they are trying

  • Penny (thailand)

    Hey i’m from Thailand and i must admit that the Kpop has been influencing Thai and many other Asian entertainments very successfully for the past few years. You will actually see a lot of trends from Korean in many countries around SEA.

    For myself, i’ve been taking a closer look at this WG too. Wondering if they will make it to the top chart they way they do in my countries. With their new styles and songs, i’m sure they will make quite an appearance in the US market. But still, i believe that the US music industry is much more complex and diverse than mine (by the way, i used to live in US). And of course, this is a totally new concept for US. Girls as young as they are, dancing and singing with such a unique style.

    So in my opinion, they will SURE DO make some impact but i don’t think it will last long. For i believe this is something new to the market…. not very often that the singers have their own personal dance that fans can do it as well (Nobody). but for some reason, i still have this strange feeling of them making the English songs that i think will be hindering their way. I don’t speak Korean but still i love Nobody Korean version better. The English version not only sounds strange but also didn’t really fit the music. I felt like they were just trying to squeeze an unfit jigsaw in the space. So it does sound weird!! the music is great, dance is fabulous, but do something with the lyrics plz

  • RT: DoubtIt

    idk, but to me, it seems like your idea of “making it” in the US is reaching Taylor Swift-fame and grabbing some grammy noms. you have to remember that the wonder girls have been in the states for less than a year. already, they have mustered up a pretty impressive fanbase. along with the billboards, they performed on ‘so you think you can dance’. unlike other US-debuting-attempters, they have JYP. although im not really a fan of JYP, i have to admit, he’s a hell of a businessman. Not only do they have a super-smart producer, they have connections w/ the jonas bros, jordin sparks, and other big name idols. i totally agree with you that se7en, boa, etc. didn’t really succeed in the US, but i’m hoping that the wonder girls will be different, and i think they just might make it.

  • bleh

    i think they can make it. they can sing dance and rap. they are very pretty and they still are at a young age. and its nice to see something new. it might be a slow start but they got here right. ang they did make it to the top 100’s which is awesome. i love there music, and if they dont suceed at least thay tried. but i do hope they suceed, i love there songs. and i wish to visit korea someday with my sister, hopefully see a wonder girls concert. i love there korean songs even though i dont know what they say. its catchy and wonderful. wonder girls introduced my to korean music and i love it and hope more groups come to america (2ne1 but i didnt say anything) wonder girls are awesomely amazing!

  • Tae Rin

    BoA did not fail. She got #3 on the Hearseaker Charts!

    The Wonder Girls are ok. I didn’t like Nobody to begin with and the English version sucks. They got #71 on the singles charts, but it took them six months.

    I also did not like their 50’s mod style. And the fact that they changed their names for an English debut is stupid and completely takes away from being a Korean group trying to make it in America.

  • DoubtIt

    Examples of past “failures”: BoA, Rain, Utada, Se7en….
    Only significant success: CoCo Lee hit mainstream USA. People still know her hit songs here. She did a music video for the Hollywood film “Runaway Bride”. Lea Salonga hit Broadway & International waters. She’s won many awards and paved way for Asians aspiring to be in Broadway. Famous for Disney songs such as “A Whole New World” & “Reflection”. I know there are a couple more Asian artists that found fame in the States, but those are 2 that made significant strides.

  • DoubtIt

    The WonderGirls will end up being just like all the washed up acts in Asia. In a matter of months, they’ll be back in Korea for good. Here’s my in-depth analysis: look at all these aggressive promotions they’ve had in the US. They promote like crazy yet there’s no significant result. They toured with one of the most popular tween band in the US, yet they didn’t get noticed. They’ve gone out to local malls to promote and appeared on a second rate talk show that nobody even watches, and tried to partner up with some little tween store to sell their single. Results, after constant and excessive promoting, BARELY a #76 on the charts and they were already gone in an instant after the next week. The point is, that 76 means nothing. It just so happened, it was a slow day for the Billboard Charts. Call me a hater, critic, whatever you wanna say, but it’s only obvious to so many people except their die hard fans. Look at their so-called hit, NOBODY, hardly did anything in the US. If they’re translating all their “hit” songs in English and NOBODY was their best bet, they might as well already pack their bags and go back to Korea already. JYP is obviously trying to save face. He doesn’t wanna go back to Korea so soon so he’ll just wait it out for a while. Just look at the price for their album, $15? Who would care to buy that except their Asian fans? Even popular artists in the US sell their albums for less. JYP knows he won’t sell millions of albums, let alone 100,000s, so he jacked up the price in order to get more money by the time he goes back to Korea. It’s alright to dream as should anybody in the world should be able to do, BUT some articles I’ve read about the WondeGirls’ so-called success in America is just ridiculous. Nobody even knows them. Only Asians and their friends they forced to listen to the WG know about them. THEY are the ones buying these CDs and most likely the insane fans are buying more than 5 copies just to make it seem like they’re selling fast. Trust me, they’ll be back in Korea no later than 6 months. Until the WG hit the Top 50 of the Billboard Charts and stay there for a while, and hit Top 10 on iTunes & Amazon, and guest on popular shows in the US, then I am still not impressed. Just K-Pop entertainment trying to hype up their artists going abroad.

  • WMok

    This article is very well written, the analysis is precise and the argument is sound. Kudos to the author for almost answering the question to the article itself ahead of it’s time. The Wonder Girls had impacted America within a short period of just 4 months from their debut in the Jonas Tour. The question asked by this article by now has been convincingly answered as the result speaks for itself. My appreciation to the brilliant author and the hardworking, affable and talented Wonder Girls. Cheers.

  • omg

    Looks like they just did!!!
    #76 on the Top 100 chart, % #4 in the Heatseeker chart!!!

  • I think they’re perfect idols for kids and teens and people of any age out there, they’re very cute and attractive, also they have great personalities!! I became a fan when they debut in the US (I’m Asian and I did not attend any of the concerts) I love them! seriously I think I’ll love them 4ever ^^ I have no doubt in them in anyway, they always care for their fans and strive for the better!! They’re talented. They already sold 17k copy units of their single “Nobody” in 4 days!! I’m so happy for them ^^

  • eric

    i personally think their musical talent is enough for korea but sorely lacking for the US market. In korean entertainment industry they survive through their sex appeal, and their tv image from all the tv shows they go on every week. In the US, there are plenty of women with sex appeal, and less tv shows that is dedicated 1-2 hours a day to create an image.

  • lydia

    i think they can (wonder girls)