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[WS] ‘Liberal’ overseas strategy, ‘Narrow-minded’ domestic operation… Two faces of SM?

From the picture and title, I initially thought that this article would be more interesting than it is. I thought it might be comparing SM’s tactics when engaging with the Western music industry versus how it operates back home in Asia…

Alas, it seems to be an opinion piece that rehashes a lot of speculation about how SM runs its business. Not much we don’t know or think already, and not a lot of cold, hard data to back anything up. It does touch on (kind of) the recent event of JYJ’s documentary getting cancelled. Again.

Stuck in a Girly Haze: SNSD’s “The Boys”

This fall is supposed to be the return of many girl groups in K-pop. One of the frontrunners, nine-member SNSD (for 소녀시대 or Girls’ Generation), has recently released their song all over Youtube in both Korean and English versions.

I’m not really feeling either one, to be honest. I feel like I’m stuck in the rose-imprisoning glass cage from Beauty and the Beast while the beats shift between Britney-electronica and Gwen-Stefani-esque songspeak. As usual, the production value is up there for both video and audio, but other than that, it’s just another polished SM number. Not much maturation, freshness, growth or edge in the style or sound.

It’s also kind of a strange match, though the production does its best to make it work, so I’m not sure where the song will find a place. Despite its electric leanings, the slow tempo makes it difficult to take up as a club/dance track, and overall it lacks the catchiness of earlier hits like “Gee.” I can see it as cafe filler (Seoul is saturated with cafes) and used in some cover performances, but not much else. Maybe the major intent is simply to use it as a performance song, declaring SNSD’s presence, as SM continues to gear toward markets outside of Asia.

Any thoughts? Sound off!

“Banned” Group JYJ Back on Public Television

Photo Credit: Osen,

JYJ just had their first music broadcast since entering the lawsuit against their former entertainment company, SM Entertainment. The performance took place Sunday, September 4th, at the closing ceremony of the IAAF World Championships, which took place in Daegu this year:

There was some controversy prior to the broadcast where some wondered if JYJ’s performance would be allowed to air. There have been a number of incidents in the past where JYJ’s scheduled performances were either cancelled or limited on broadcast. Many attribute the group’s lack of media exposure to the sway held by entertainment giant SM.

Even though it’s a lip-synced performance, there are several points I find positive:

First, the obvious fact that JYJ has finally been allowed to appear on public television. It seems that their attempts to stay in Korean entertainment through the alternate routes of Korean dramas is working. To date, all three members have participated somehow in drama entertainment, Micky Yoochun having the most drama exposure, Jaejoong currently getting a number of positive reviews for his role in Protect the Boss and Xiah Junsu showing up for a cameo role in Scent of a Woman. It seems that through drama exposure, JYJ may be able to build up enough popularity power to continue their music careers in South Korea.

Second, the choice of performing “Empty.” One of the songs off JYJ’s English-language album, The Beginning, “Empty” was produced by Rodney “Darkchild” Jerkins. Jerkins has an incredibly impressive resume, but “Empty” was initially bumped off in favor of “Ayy Girl,” produced by Kanye West. Despite the song’s sub-par lyrics (Before I give you another try/I’d die/Love won’t make you cry or ask why/Oh why), I found “Empty” with its thumping electro-beat and dance tempo to be the catchiest contemporary track on the album–it’s the kind of pop track where melody and rhythm make up for lyrics that don’t totally make sense and you can overlook not understanding what the singer is singing.

The sound of “Empty” is comparable with Danity Kanes’ “Damaged”:

With JYJ striving for/being pushed to market outside of Korea, I hope the choice to perform “Empty” signals a better understanding of what appeals to international pop audiences. Some of the decisions Korean companies make when attempting to enter outside markets makes me wonder if and whom they consult in their decisions.

While I don’t exactly love their music, what I do appreciate about JYJ is their professionalism in performances, all three members being solid singers and dancers, as well as their increasing involvement in the products they put out. Each member has accumulated experience in songwriting, and through the post-SME releases we’ve been able to listen to their attempts at creating their own music. It seems that they are aware of the problems and limits in the domestic music market and are trying to expand outside of those boundaries as they endeavor to build up their post-teenage careers.

JYJ will be continuing their efforts through a Korea comeback, commencing through online previews tonight at midnight and a full MV release later tomorrow, September 6th, on their company website. The song, “In Heaven,” was composed by member Jaejoong after the suicide of close friend and actor Park Yong Ha (Winter Sonata, On Air). The song has been performed live several times, but I believe this is the first time it will be offically released.

Sources on IAAF performance: Soompi, Net to News
Interview with Daegu Mayor on IAAF here.
Sources on JYJ’s upcoming comeback: Allkpop, Soompi,

[WS] United Asia What???

This is a little old, from back in April, but it still unsettles me. While goals of cooperation and sharing know-how sound nice enough, and can be great in and of themselves, this new organization seems like it will only augment the Korean market’s greatest weaknesses, the lack of competition and (perhaps therefore) diversity. The Korean music industry’s tendency for hyper control and monopolization doesn’t help either. If you don’t know what I’m referring to, read on:

Top Korean talent agencies form new comapany to push K-pop overseas

Photo Credit: Sports Seoul, MTVk

SEOUL: Korean superstar Bae Yong Joon’s talent agency KEYEAST Entertainment revealed Friday that it will form United Asia Management (UAM) in conjunction with five other top Korean talent agencies to push K-pop overseas, reported Korean media.

KEYEAST Entertainment’s partners are Korean talent agencies MEnt, Star J Entertainment, SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment.

“We will be pooling each company’s business knowledge and network systems to form the foundation of our new agency.

“We are looking forward to this collaboration and the synergies it will bring for the advancement of not only Korea’s entertainment industry, but Asia’s as well,” KEYEAST Entertainment CEO Yang Geun Hwan was quoted as saying.

UAM will represent artistes currently managed by all the six companies involved, on the Asian stage.

This move will effectively bring K-pop luminaries like Rain, Big Bang, Kim Hyun Joong, Super Junior, Girl’s Generation and the Wonder Girls under one management agency when they are promoted outside Korea in Asia.

According to a press statement from KEYEAST Entertainment, UAM will also manage the international copyrights of its stars as well as implement a new media production system for dramas, films and other media projects.

Source: CNA
Other sources: MTVkKBS Global; Korean Source: Nate

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