For the legions of Wonder Girls fans who have memorized every verse and choreography from their Korean hit singles “Tell Me” and “So Hot,” expectations are high for their emergence into the U.S. market. Prior to their debut, they generated buzz after Perez Hilton started featuring their videos on his blog, calling them “one of our favorite K-Pop groups.” Then we learned that they were booked as the opener for the Jonas Brothers concert tour. Not bad, not bad at all. But is it enough to sway the hearts of young tweens and teens in the U.S.?
It’s too early tell, but their U.S. debut single, which is basically just the English version of their Korean hit “Nobody,” leaves us feeling quite iffy. Mandy, a fan of the original Korean “Nobody” single admits, “When I saw the English version of “Nobody,” it was so weird. Then I saw a clip of them opening for the Jonas Brothers, and it was so weird. I’m just not a fan so far.” Veronica, who also loved their Korean hit singles, shows her skepticism as well. “I feel like their potential success is something to watch out for, but I don’t know what they’ll do since the “cute” market is really different here than it is in Asia,” she says.
Veronica makes a great point. The reason why Asian Americans enjoy listening to Asian artists is because their lyrics, songs and styles are completely immersed in Asian culture. Therefore on one hand, they can simply dub their Korean singles like they did with “Nobody” to directly translate into the U.S. market — but at the huge risk of completely alienating U.S. listeners who don’t understand the appeal of their “cuteness.” On the other hand, taking the Asian culture out of these artists in order to “Americanize” or “sexify” them for the market in the states means they’ll lose their original charm and brand identity.
So while we wait to see how they will exactly manage to appeal to the U.S. tween and teen markets, I can only hope that they will find a way to keep their native Korean charm while bringing hit singles. As Mandy puts it, “It would be so sad if the Wonder Girls tanked in the U.S. because they are such a huge phenomenon in Korea.” We hope they will rise above our expectations as well.