If there was one reason for Jrock fans to take JYJ’s venture into America seriously, it should be because JYJ is about to struggle with the same obstacles that Jrock bands are. Asian Americans have won acceptance as athletes, classical musicians, politicians, and writers. However, to date, nobody has managed to crack the top ten on the music charts. They have not won acceptance as pop stars.
It is definitely not because no-one has tried.
Gerry Woo once won a program called Star Search. This show served as that generations version of American Idol. He landed a recording contract and even released a music video. During a performance at the infamous Apollo Theatre in New York, he managed to outperform that night’s main musical guest. The classically antagonistic audience gave him a standing ovation. Yet, somehow, it was all short lived. Once the industry found itself a new novelty, promotions for Gerry moved towards another artist and he faded into an unfortunate obscurity.
Coco Lee is a vocalist who is also the former Ms. Chinese America. Even if you don’t remember who she is it is very doubtful that you wouldn’t remember her hit single, “Do You Want My Love.” She also recorded several tie-in tracks for movies like Disney’s Mulan or Runaway Bride, and also performed at one of Michael Jackson’s charity events. However, her success in America never rivaled that of other countries and she didn’t quite catapult herself into super-stardom.
Utada Hikaru is a superstar over in Japan and she has attempted to break ground in America several times. She did a very popular tie in with the video game Kingdom Hearts, and released two English language albums. She is bilingual because she was raised in the United States, which also means that she has less of a cultural barrier. She doesn’t really have to adjust to being in this country like another artist would because she grew up here. Somehow her American promotion has not managed to push her up towards the top of the charts.
In fact, the only super-stars in the pop industry to be of Asian descent are those who are mixed with another race that has already “made it.” Asian-nation.org notes that, “Many believe that record executives feel multiracial Asian American artists are more “culturally acceptable” or “marketable” to American consumers and therefore are more eager to promote them than mono-racial Asian American artists.” Even so, there are none who could be compared in fame to artists like Shakira, Jennifer Lopez, or Rihanna.
Does this sound familiar? It should. For years Japanese rock bands have been edging towards the United States. Loudness is nearly a household name amongst the previous generation of Metal Heads, and Dir en grey have long since cemented themselves as a force to be reckoned with in the underground scene. Several times a year, bands come to tour here and pack the house with snaking cue lines but never seem to manage to get picked up by more than a local weekly or an Asian focused media outlet. There are no Japanese metal bands being played with regularity on the big radio stations or charting in the top ten. With the exception of a few knowledgeable music fanatics, the general rock loving public may not even know that it exists.
If an Asian pop act were to be able to transcend the barriers into the American music industry it would have a trickle down effect that helps us all. If you think back to the time when artists like Jennifer Lopez and Shakira were first coming out and dominating the scene, you might also remember that this was the time frame in which other Latin origin artists experienced a huge boom. We all remember mega hits from Ricky Martin, Enrique Inglesias, and Mark Anthony.
JYJ has a lot going for them. They have done this before. It wasn’t too long ago that they crossed over towards Japan and had to work hard in order to learn a new language and integrate with a different culture as part of Tohoshinki. They dominated in Japan, while still maintaining a strong following back home. The members were able to make many ties with the top entertainers in Japan. Songstress Ayumi Hamasaki is still an avid supporter. The fan-base that JYJ brings to the table is far larger, and more powerful, than any of the artists to attempt a crossover to date.
If an artist like JYJ is able to successfully step over and navigate to the top of the charts, then it will create a huge demand for other Asian artists. Korea, Japan, and China would finally have that foot in the door to launch more pop acts into the US market. The thriving Asian American hip-hop community would likely also experience a boom, and the rock side of the music industry would start looking for its own version in order not to get left out of the trend.
Jrock fans have to become aware that the issue of helping their artists cross over is a lot more complicated than scheduling a tour or releasing a domestic album. It’s further embedded in changing the way that our country looks at an Asian artist’s ability to compete with our own as sex symbols, award winners, and massive album movers. Japanese artists have to dig themselves out of the pit of segregated geek culture and take their place alongside other minorities who have infiltrated the industry. By the way, that place should be at the top.
So how can Jrock fans help?
Support Asian artists in general and broaden your musical landscape. Not just Japanese, Korean, or Chinese. If shows are booked in your area just go to it. Its not just about supporting a singular artist but supporting the scene as a whole. Chances are you have a friend who likes pop music who wouldn’t mind going with you anyway. Pick up albums if you can afford them in addition to your Jrock purchasing habits. Share artists like JYJ with your friends who are interested in dance music. They sing in English so there’s no longer a language barrier, and you have a backup plan for friends who are curious but don’t like rock music.
If everyone helps each other out, then we can all win in the end. There may come a time when this is all so big and amazing that we are no longer interdependent based off of an artists generalized race. Until that time comes, however, we are all in it together.
Source: Jrock Vagabond
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