4Minute to Face Competition in Japan?
After the unprecedented success of Dong Bang Shin Ki and BoA in Japan, and Big bang's burgeoning career there, it's no surprise that 4Minute are throwing their 『candy, funky』 hats into the ring. But the girl idol group may encounter a rival of unexpected origins.
It's not KARA, though the group is also testing the waters of crossover success in Japan. YG wonder-rookies 2NE1 have been receiving some love calls from the land of the rising sun. Per The Japan Times:
While 4Minute will return to play Zepp Tokyo on May 8, their alleged rivals, 2NE1, have been invited as special guests to present at the MTV Japan Video Music Awards on May 29.
「We don't actually view the other groups as rivals,」 says YG Japan』s CEO Gen Sasaki. 「We are just happy that 2NE1 even exceeded Big Bang last year by achieving the highest download amount ever in Korea with 『I Don't Care.』
Sasaki is adamant that 2NE1 not even be labeled K-pop at all. 「While K-pop is influenced by British and American pop music, 2NE1 is based directly on hip-hop,」 he says. 「CL (main rapper Lee Chae Rin, 19) blew us away with her rapping skills and all the girls have their own individuality and charisma.」
Sasaki says YG sets trends in Korea by producing actual artists and avoiding eye-candy idols: 「We have never been a commercial company. Even with Big Bang, the guys were not chosen on looks but on their diverse talents. We wanted a female version (of them) that would be colorful and funky.」
He also believes Japanese management have been far too slow in keeping up with music trends in recent years and that's where Korean acts are getting the edge globally.
However, Japan is still the first step on this road, and Sasaki alludes to plans beyond the MTV awards for when 2NE1 arrive in Japan next month.
Sasaki sounds well -meaning, but while 2NE1 do tend toward a less poppish sound than, say So Nyeo Shi Dae, as it stands their current music would be measured as a pop act.
For their credit, judging by the article, 4Minute seem poised to start a female sexual revolution in Japan – at least for the men.
「Korea was considered a female-consumer market buying boy-band products. But as the market matured, the boys wanted to spend money on groups that suited them,」 [Former NHK Pop Asia presenter Motoko Sekiya] explains. 「And Korean boys are more Americanized so they prefer aggressive groups compared to the cute-style groups that suit men in Japan.」
「The Korean market is also quite small, so they look outwards to other territories. The producers behind the girls groups have studied not only the Japanese music industry, but other countries' industries, too, and especially the U.S.」
『4Minute』s edgy, sexual style has already caused controversy in South Korea, where public broadcaster KBS banned the song 「Won't Give」 due to its sexual content. This is a marked difference from more innocent Japanese girl groups such as AKB48 or Morning Musume, who are tailored to a primarily mid-30s otaku (nerdy) male audience.
While Japan has long dominated pop-music culture across Asia thanks to stars such as Ayumi Hamasaki and SMAP, these cuter girl groups have only managed to carve niche markets.
An interesting comparison to be sure, but one that has brought to mind a question I have thought of again and again – why has SNSD not debuted in Japan? They appear absolutely tailored for that market, however over-saturated it may be. I've heard whispers that their time will be coming soon, so may we see kpop conquer the Western world yet?