The last time the globally recognized news network sat down with Girls’ Generation, members Jessica and Tiffany and S.M. Entertainment’s former company CEO Lee Sooman were the only ones present for the interview. This time, however, all nine Soshi members were on hand to chat with CNN’s Robert Michael Poole about performing, occupational pressures, downtime, and future musical aspirations. Poole also speaks with the Bureau Chief of Billboard Magazine Tokyo to gain insight on what it takes for foreign acts to successfully break into the American music market. Full interview after the cut.
Profile: Girls Generation wants to be ‘nine Beyonces’
By Robert Michael Poole19 August, 2011
Music-lovers attending Japan’s largest music festival, Summer Sonic, have become accustomed to catching sets by the world’s biggest musicians, from headliners Jay-Z and Beyoncé to Coldplay and My Chemical Romance.
This year though, a “special guest” closed the show in Tokyo.
Girls Generation is the first Korean act to close the Japanese festival — and follows in the footsteps of a previous late-night special guest, Lady Gaga.
“We feel like rock stars!” said Tiffany of Girls Generation, moments before taking the stage. “It’s completely exciting to attend a rock festival when we are not rock, so we are hoping we can give it a different twist for this year’s show.”
The appearance came as little surprise to music fans in Japan.
In June, Girls Generation’s self-titled album became the best-selling debut ever by a foreign artist in Japan.
It’s gone on to break the 500,000 sales barrier, making the group the highest-earning foreign act in Japan this year.
The silver lining around their outfits — glittering black skirts, designer waistcoats, knee-high boots — proves an apt metaphor for the years of training the girls have been through.
But spend a few minutes with the chipper Hallyu leaders, and you sense their international careers have just gotten underway.
Backstage, clearly excited to be part of the eclectic Summer Sonic, California-born Tiffany couldn’t wait to show audiences her enthusiasm.
“We are definitely fans of the artists here and it’s great to be standing on the same stage as them,” she says, while perched on the edge of a sofa for nine.
“We heard Avril Lavigne and Panic at the Disco! but it wasn’t fair because Sunny walked in screaming ‘I saw James Blunt!’ and Seohyun was so sad!” says Tiffany, throwing a sympathetic arm around Seohyun.
The group has already performed shows as part of the SM Town Live tour in Los Angeles, Shanghai and Paris, and they promise future shows in other international cities.
But 22-year-old Sunny is keen to join more festivals “wherever our fans are … but if we had to choose somewhere in particular, how about South America?”
With girl groups being the latest in what has become a Korean Wave machine, Girls Generation are one of many hoping to break into the coveted U.S. market.
“We debuted in Japan last year so we sing in Japanese, but we would definitely like to sing in English and make a worldwide record,” says the group’s second U.S.-born member, Jessica
Breaking into the West
Billboard Magazine Tokyo Bureau Chief Rob Schwartz believes that it is inevitable that an Asian artist will eventually break in the United States. Could it be Girls Generation?
“I think it’s unlikely that any wave is going to break through the way that K-Pop has in Japan,” Schwartz says. “America is too big a market for that and the United States and European markets are not very unified, anyway. But an Asian artist will break through at some point.”
If Girls Generation can achieve the ultimate crossover, they will feel it’s well-earned. Jessica signed to SM Entertainment at age 11 in 2000 and all of the girls have been through years of training.
“We don’t think we achieved success quickly because we spent a lot of time ptacticing and spending our school years together,” says Jessica.
“We spent out entire lives preparing for this, so of course all of this incredible success is a blessing, but we’ve waited for so long and we are only just beginning to show what we have,” adds Tiffany.
The group also reveals personal ambitions, suggesting that each member has her own plans both inside and outside of the group.
“Each girl has practiced choreographing, acting and singing, so we are looking forward to being in the group, but also showing individual acts,” says Tiffany.
The amount of training K-Pop groups go through has led to many stories of undue pressure and overwork. Hyoyeon and Jessica are quick to dismiss the negative portrayals.
“We stay fresh by being silly!” says Jessica.
“We like to get together and play games, talk, have sleep-overs, eat and normal girls stuff,” says Tiffany. “Everyone’s silly, no one is quiet. That’s the specialty of the group, we are extremely loud!”
“We also have free time to ourselves, and we spend it with our family and friends,” says Jessica. “These days, we are travelling a lot to different countries all over the world, but we like to spend time in Korea.”
Over the next few months the girls will be promoting a new album in Korea, an album comprising “a wide variety of songs” recorded over two months, followed by a tour.
“Being on stage with all nine of us is refreshing and energizing,” says Jessica. “It’s the energy that’s important — we call it Girl Power!”
“It’s especially exciting because we get to spend the whole three hours performing, all nine of us,” adds Tiffany. “We always have a different concept when we go on stage, but I think what it comes down to is the group is always about being natural.”
Looking to the future
Schwartz believes that if the group is to succeed in other countries, it’ll take more than hard work and energy.
“It’s extremely difficult to break a new act, it takes a tremendous amount of money and savvy, and that’s not limited just to Korean or Japanese acts, it’s just as difficult for American acts,” Schwartz says.
Asian acts are a tough sell for various factors, according to Schwartz.
“[Korean companies] tend to be equally as unwilling to deal with things the way they are done in other markets as the Japanese,” he says.
“They always want people to deal with things on their terms and not on other people’s terms. On the other hand, I think that Korean acts try harder because Korea is a smaller market than Japan, so they know they have to go out.”
“It’s clear Asian acts need to adapt to American music preferences, but hopefully it doesn’t equal mimicking,” he continues, when asked how Girls Generation might break through. “They need to grab people’s attention with a cross-country campaign and I think what might work is a tie-in as a brand spokesman for a big brand, across the country, so their faces are in front of tens of millions of Americans.”
“We would love to be like Beyoncé, sexy and powerful!” says Hyoyeon.
“She’s hot and has this amazing presence on stage that we’d all love to learn about,” says Tiffany. “We need to be nine Beyonce’s!”
Girls Generation will perform at a special charity concert in Niigata to help raise funds for the victims of the Tohoku earthquake on Saturday, August 20, followed by three nights starting September 1, at the 55,000 capacity Tokyo Dome as part of SM Town Live from September 1.
Sources: email@example.com, cnngo.com, cutedevil0912@6theory for tip
Yay! Plotty’s back 😀
And thanks for correcting the Hyoyean lol.
Haha heeeeeeey! 😀 Ahh it’s so good to be back!
Wait, what? What did I correct? Sorry, I’m like twitching @ my keyboard – it’s 4:30 in the morning here lol
RageX (@RageX009) said:
Haha yea, it was originally misspelled as Hyoyean, but I think they fixed it in the original article.
RageX (@RageX009) said:
Oh wow plotbunny, haven’t seen your post in such a long time… anyway this was a great article, I hope they get more international exposure through this even though I don’t see a US debut any time soon. What CNN really needs is to do a CNN Talk Asia interview with them, they’ve done it with Rain, Epik High, Super Junior, as well as other Hallyu stars, with the girls as big as they are now, I think it would make sense to feature them and they’d certainly make a great interview.
Oh haha. Well, in the original article on the CNN site, the editor spelt it as ‘Hyoyean’. Source must’ve corrected it 🙂
Oh I get it ^^;; He must have been hounded by Hyohunnies…cheese and crackers I’m using alliteration O.o time for this bunny to go to bed haha
I dont think the girls have to conform to the standards of the US market’s preference to be global. Every generation/ era will have their own preference, set of standards (i.e plum girls during Song dynasty were considered pretty, not the hot body+good looks of current era). The girls are already global stars in their own right, **biased opinion ahead** and would have thrashed other current big pop/rock stars in the US easy had they been US based, singing in English and having same set of distribution network…but it is futile and silly to compare with the current US stars…China will be the global powerhouse + largest market in the future and had SNSD been still be as popular then, they would have easily make it as the most popular global stars…
I know mr Schwartz’s opinion is meant as a practical advise on how to be global for the current music industry’s landscape, but I think there is no need to conform to it because the girls have already succeed in ways that other big US stars have not, and would have been top global stars had Asia been the current global powerhouse instead of US
SNSD are my 9 genies said:
agree with you there. they just need to continue to be themselves and keep going forward little by little 🙂
Love this article so much!
SNSD, fighting! ^^
So good to see plotbunny back on the blog-site :D.
I have to agree with the rest; please stick to what they do best, forget about conforming too much, and eventually, the music world will come around to their “point of view”, sound-wise ;).
Uhm, yeah, have a solo concert here in Los Angeles please. I’d be buying 4 front row seats for sure.. I’m sure many others would too. Tickets will sell crazy like Prince’s. Still hoping.. Come on, Jessica and Tiffany! Make some magic in your home country please, for us US-SONEs!!!!
Will S said:
More like Hyoyeoncé
Rio Harma said:
i love them more now . . . . .
No accompanying video for CNN/CNN International?!?
I tried to simulate how a casual cnn web visitor would stumble upon the article. You have to set your CNN edition to International, then click Travel, then click CNNgo, then click “go to CNNgo website”, and then the article is linked on the front page of CNNgo, which is a website devoted to Asian travel/culture.
I sense that the article is written with the understanding that the reader is well aware of SNSD. There is no introductory sentence like: Girls’ Generation is a nine-member girl group that debuted in 2007 but shot to fame in 2009-10 with catchy pop songs like ‘Gee’ and ‘Oh!’. In fact, only five members are mentioned by name, and the number nine is only alluded to by “nine Beyonces, nine of us, a sofa for nine.”
RageX (@RageX009) said:
Yes unfortunately CNNGo is a very obscure sub site of the entire CNN network of website. So no, a stranger will not easily stumble on this article at all unless this person loves traveling and/or Asian culture and frequents CNNGo on a regular basis. A little disappointing yes, which is why I think the girls deserve a full-blown CNN Talk Asia interview, it tends to get a lot more publicity and dives into a lot more details than this article would.
I’m not sure if I agree that entering the American market means to suit your songs to their preferences. From my opinion, if there’s anywhere K-Pop should break through first, it’s Europe. The American market is truly a huge one but by taking on Europe first-hand, there will be a strong enough foundation and a big enough recognition to make them popular in America.
Also, please no more trying to be different. Make another album like SNSD’s Baby Baby album and I will love you very much SM.
come to PERU!!!!!!!
Enoch Tan said:
FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!!!
SNSD doesn’t have to be like Beyonce. They are BETTER than Beyonce!
They are a MILLION times better than GAGA.
All nine of them combined are even better than Mariah Carey (Who is the best Female singer).
Don’t even need to mention Madonna, Britney or Christina Auguilera who are all fallen stars.
Michael Jackson is ABOVE ALL stars in the world. ONLY SNSD has the light that can surpass Michael!
The only other female star I like right now is Avril Lavigne who also has pure energy and angelic beauty.
SNSD, PLEASE JUST BE SNSD!!!
K-Pop right now is WAY better than American Pop. Many Westerners themselves also say so.
Fantastic read, but as a tip, you really shouldn’t post articles in their entirety. It would be better, and more respectful to the original author, to post highlights and link to the full article (which I don’t think you do at all).
this is the first time Iv’e read plotbunny’s article. gotta like it! 😀
surely they will be known worldwide (They already have) 😉
I gotta agree with the others, they are already better than beyonce. They just have to be Girls’ Generation and stick to what they got because Snsd performs the best. I like them just the way they are (Sounds like a song) 🙂 always and forever.
can some one send me a link to the actual conference video? i really want to see it. Seems like a good source of JeTi english in it lol.