[MUSIC] Can Asian Pop Make It in the United States?
- Can Asian pop make it in U.S.?
December 6, 2004
Asian pop music is crossing international boundries within Asia but
has yet to make a ripple on the U.S. music scene. That may be about
to change, though.
Forget your preconceptions of Asian pop music. Today's artists are
blending Western styles with Asian sensibilities and spawning whole
new genres. A few have forged inroads into the U.S. market but some
of the biggest stars in Asia are poised for a full-on attack to win
American ears. Will this be an Asian invasion rivaling the British
invasion of the 1960s?
"It will be more like a foothold than an invasion," according to
Rhys Ludlow, founder of Pop Goes Asia, a pan-Asian Internet radio
station. "But it is only a matter of time before an Asian pop star
strikes gold here in the U.S."
"Thanks to the Internet, the world is shrinking and musical borders
are disappearing," says Ludlow. "In Asia, musical exchange among
countries is common. For example, Korean teen phenom Boa Kwon often
holds the top position on the Japanese pop (J-pop) chart. Japanese
superstar Ayumi Hamasaki is commonly heard in Hong Kong, and
Taiwanese radio will feature songs in Japanese, Korean, Mandarin,
Cantonese and English."
While radio stations across Asia play English-language artists
alongside Asian hits, there is almost no reciprocation in the
States. It isn't for a lack of good music. When you consider that
Southeast and Eastern Asia, have nearly a third of the world's
population, and the Japanese music market alone is 1/3 the size of
the U.S. market, it should come as no surprise that there are plenty
of artists that know how to craft a good pop tune.
That said, Asian pop can take some getting used to. Female J-pop
singers often strike American ears as overly shrill and frenetic,
while Chinese ballads seem like a throwback to an earlier, more
innocent era but with modern stylings. "I happen to think love
songs are better when you don't understand the words," jokes Ludlow,
who is himself an American Caucasian. "Songs that I didn't like when
I first discovered Asian pop are now among my favorites I've
undergone a shift in my taste. It reminds me of the punk songs that
once sounded harsh and now seem tame."
But will it ever play in Peoria? "It is happening more and more."
Many American kids already know some Asian pop hits through video
games and anime. They may not be able to name the artists, but they
certainly know the songs (at least the English translations). This
year, Japan's top R&B singer, Hikaru Utada, released her U.S. debut
album on Island/Def Jam records, and her song "Devil Inside" reached
No. 2 on the Billboard dance chart.
The Cartoon Network has created a new prime-time series based on
Japan's best selling pop duo, Puffy Amiyumi. Meanwhile, Chinese
artists have been selling out arenas in Las Vegas and San Francisco,
albeit to predominantly Chinese-American crowds.
But the Internet is where the curious listener goes to proactively
explore Asian music. Asian music has become a genre on the internet,
along with its sub genres, J-pop, C-pop, K-pop and T-pop Japanese,
Chinese, Korean and Thai pop, respectively. In reality, these aren't
genres, but rather geographic and linguistic divisions. All
countries produce their own take on pop, rock, R&B, hip-hop and
dance music. There are even Chinese songs that fit the American