9:46 am - 11/27/2012
Can TV Make You a K-Pop Star?
South Korea’s TV talent audition shows have been unearthing promising singers for a few years, but most of the performers find that their time in the spotlight is brief and commercial success elusive.
A 16-year-old female singer, Lee Hi, is being tipped to break the mold after sweeping to top spot in the music charts in South Korea for the past 23 days with her debut single “1,2,3,4.”
Ms. Lee was the runner-up on popular singing-audition show “K-Pop Star” in April and subsequently joined YG Entertainment, the home of Psy, Big Bang and 2NE1.
Her single has accumulated 1.3 million downloads, over half of which were in the week after its Oct. 29 launch, in the range normally set by established K-pop superstars. On Nov. 12 she became the first female debut act to hit top spot in Billboard’s K-Pop Hot 100 this year.
Ms. Lee’s strong, deep delivery has earned her the nickname “Korea’s Adele” and has set her apart from many other local artists.
“Her powerful vocal skill is well-suited for the debut track’s modern take on 60’s Motown soul,” YG Chief Executive officer Yang Hyun-suk said.
South Korea’s first talent audition show, “Super Star K,” launched three years ago. Its second season peaked at a viewing rate above 20 percent (a rate of just over 2 percent is considered a hit in the domestic cable channel industry.)
In December last year “K-Pop Star” became the latest to jump on the bandwagon of audition shows. It features judges from the nation’s three top entertainment agencies – BoA, a singer and executive of SM Entertainment, YG’s Mr. Yang, and CEO/founder Park Jin-young of JYP Entertainment . The top three finalists in the show are given the freedom to choose one of the three as their agency.
The success so far of Ms. Lee and of folk band Busker Busker, which topped the music charts for 12 weeks in the summer after breaking through on “Super Star K” last year, has rekindled the idea that reality audition shows can be a gateway to stardom. For most K-pop hopefuls, it takes years of tough training at entertainment agencies with vague hopes of their dreams coming true.
Ms. Lee has had help honing her raw talent since grabbing attention on the small screen.
Kim Gogeum-pyung, a music critic, credits YG for nurturing Ms. Lee during the six-month preparation ahead of her debut. “Far from a Barbie-doll character, she made a smart choice. If she went to a different agency, she may have ended up a banal K-pop product.”
Her first studio album is set for release in December.