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[WS] Mandopop taking steps toward K-pop?

Asian stars copy Korean look, sound

Photos from Derrick Hoh's second album, Change, with his new K-pop-iffied hairstyle.

SINGAPORE — As if Korean pop stars do not have enough competition from their own countrymen in the crowded entertainment industry, they now have to contend with Mandopop singers who are copying their look and sound.

More and more Taiwan-based stars are repackaging themselves in the mold of their Korean counterparts — singing fast infectious tunes with sleek dance moves complete with more adventurous styling.

The record labels of Taiwanese boy band Sigma and Singapore talents Derrick Hoh and Jocie Guo sent them to Korea to learn from dance choreographers for their new albums. Hoh also sought the expertise of Korean boy band Shinee’s stylist for his second album Change, released this year.

In addition, Taiwanese artists are also collaborating with Korean stars to incorporate Korean pop elements into their songs. Wilber Pan recruited Nichkhun from Korean boy band 2PM to feature in his new song, Drive, from his newly released album, 808.

Danson Tang worked with Amber from Korean girl group f(x) for his song “I’m Back,” released last year.

Industry insiders admit they are riding on the surge of the Korean pop wave.

James Kang, marketing director of Warner Music, which manages Hoh and Guo, says: “Taiwan has long been the place that Chinese artists go to for their training. However, over the years, we have seen increasingly similar dance moves in the hordes of artists that emerge from there every year. Therefore, training in Korea injects fresh elements into Derrick and Jocie’s appeal.

“Korean acts are known for their sleek dance moves and interesting choreography. Sending our artists to train there helps achieve something that is out of the box for the Chinese music industry.”

He cites as examples the “hot and highly synchronized dance moves complete with trademark movements” of Brown Eyed Girls’ “Abracadabra” and Super Junior’s “Sorry Sorry.”

Derek Shih, marketing director of HIM International Music, agrees that Korean dance moves are outstanding, “which is why we decided to tap on their skills and professionalism to come up with the dance moves for our new boy band, Sigma.”

For their self-titled debut album, released late last year, Sigma, which comprises Judy Chou, Mrtting Li and Tommy Lin, flew to Korea to learn from a dance choreographer who had worked with the likes of superstar Rain and girl group Wonder Girls.

Chou says in Mandarin: “The training was not easy and we practiced really hard. It is great that we get to learn from a top-notch teacher. Korean acts have very polished and sleek dance moves and we hope to be like them. We aim to be just like Korean boy band Big Bang. They can sing and dance well and are multi-talented.”

Besides that, the adventurous and unconventional styling of Korean acts — such as the bold use of eyeliner, daring hairstyles and an androgynous image — is also another distinctive factor.

Members of boy band Shinee got many fans talking about their outrageous, brightly colored hairstyles in their latest studio album Lucifer (2010). Girl group 2NE1 are also well known for their loud, in-your-face stage costumes and edgy haircuts.

Hoh has since copied such styles, going from boy-next-door in his first album to sporting a daring haircut with a more colorful getup recently.

The catchy tunes sung by Korean acts with insidiously repetitive phrases and use of unusual lingo have also found their way into, for instance, Taiwanese boy band Lollipop F’s song “Four Dimensions (2010),” which repeats the words “Crazy! Go crazy! Go crazy!” in its chorus.

It is common to find a word or phrase being repeated many times in the chorus of a Korean pop song. The entire chorus of T-ara’s hit “Bo Peep Bo Peep” consists of “Bo peep bo peep,” while boy band Super Junior’s famous song “Sorry Sorry” has them repeating the words over and over again.

Fans do not mind the K-pop imitation, saying that incorporating K-pop elements can raise the standard of Chinese pop.

Student Jaslyn Tan, 19, says: “Korean pop groups are very well-trained and they seldom make mistakes during performances. It is great that Chinese pop acts are taking a leaf out of their books.”

Marketing manager Cindy Lin, 23, adds: “I am all for improving the standard of Chinese pop. However, the industry may end up being saturated with too many Taiwanese artists sporting Korean styles.”

Monday, May 2, 2011 9:56 pm TWN, By Jocelyn Lee,The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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