K-pop is an extremely competitive genre, a small country with a population of merely 50 million people produces new artists literally almost every day. The industry is like a ruthless stepmother: once you make a serious mistake, it might cost you your career and more. Career ups and downs are normal in an artist’s life but in K-pop, once you reached the lowest part, it is very difficult to climb up the mountain again. Ultimate K-pop Survival Guide will be a short series on artists who have managed to turn their failing career from point zero back again or who had gone through a lot of hardships and still managed to remain successful. Not only rookie artists but we, the audience, can also learn a lot from them.
Avoid them as if they were lepers
The first installment of the series is dedicated to perhaps the biggest survivors of the dark side of K-pop: JYJ. Everyone knows what they have been through, but it doesn’t hurt to summarize and focus on how they actually managed to cope with the situation.
For the uninitiated: once there had been an idol band we can possibly call one of the greatest successes of K-pop ever: Dong Bang Shin Ki, or by their English abbreviation, TVXQ. The five-member boyband, consisting of Jaejoong, Yunho, Yoochun, Junsu and Changmin, was among the first successful wave of K-pop to set foot in Japan, and with blood and tears, they worked their way up the ladder, from performing to a mere handful of fans to filling the 50,000 seat Tokyo Dome in rows. Their fandom, Cassiopeia, was certified by the Guinness Book of Records for being the largest official fan club in the world. They reached unimaginable heights in Asia, thus their break-up was probably one of the biggest shocking events ever to shake the world of K-pop. Not because boybands are supposed to last forever, but because they were at the height of their careers and were known to be close to each other. When the news broke out that Jaejoong, Yoochun and Junsu started a lawsuit against their agency, S.M. Entertainment, to nullify their 13-year contract. At first, everyone hoped there could be a settlement, but in October 2009 the Seoul court ruled in favor of JYJ, and as a result, the Fair Trade Commission started advocating the use of ‘model contracts’ to prevent agencies from having artists sign excessive deals.
Though the social impact of their lawsuit was huge, industry players were forced to rethink the ways they were treating their artists, and JYJ emerged as a moral winner, the real hardships were to begin just then. S.M. Entertainment appealed against the court decision and a three year desperate battle took off. Not long after JYJ announced the establishment of their new band, their initial supporter in Japan, Avex, suddenly had a change of heart, claiming sole rights to manage the band in Japan, dismissing claims that JYJ’s new management company, C-JeS Entertainment, had any rights to organize events for the band on Japanese grounds. They too, ended up in a long lawsuit, during which JYJ was denied any kind of rights to perform in Japan. At the same time, all doors in Korea closed as well. The industry suddenly started treating the three young men as if they had leprosy. In silent agreement, major broadcasting stations denied them appearances as musicians. Some were claiming that they did not wish to get entangled in court related issues.
At the time, we had no one to speak for us, and we could do nothing but silently stand our ground - Kim Jaejoong
C-JeS Entertainment thus had to build a different strategy to promote JYJ. With no possibilities to appear on televised music shows and variety programs, the usual promotion cycle was out of question. The possibility of failure also lingered in the air, with the artists preparing themselves for the worst; that they might not be able to stand on stage again.
The rules of survival for JYJ were as follows:
1. Keep silent. Despite the constant rumors, the extensive media coverage, part of the torn fandom accusing them of betrayal, former label mates openly criticising them for their decision, JYJ kept silent. As they expressed in their 1000 day anniversary magazine, they decided to work silently and not be shaken by accusations and rumors.
2. If you cannot enter through the door, climb through the window. As they were denied the chance to promote through television, JYJ had to look for other ways of reaching their audience. They started separate activities, Yoochun and Jaejoong became involved in television dramas and movies, gaining wide followings as actors. Junsu began to appear in musicals and in a mere three years’ time, he went from being looked at as a ‘box office bringing tool’ to a highly praised and critically acclaimed musical actor on his own right. When the nation’s main broadcasters were not willing to talk to them as musicians, ironically, they became the sweethearts of the government, appointed as goodwill ambassadors and promoters of national and international scale events like the 2014 Asian Games, and were among the few selected artists invited to perform at President Park Geun-hye’s inauguration. The latter marked their first televised performance in three years in their home country. When local record labels were unwilling to assist, they went to the US and started working with American producers, despite their lack of English skills.
3. No regrets, no complaints. In their 1000 day anniversary magazine, the band members expressed that despite all the hardships, they did not regret their decision, not once. Having faith in your decisions is important for obtaining and maintaining the strength necessary to survive. They have also never complained of unfair treatment or the lack of opportunities because of the silent ban in Korea and Japan. They just did what they had to do: work hard and smile. I believe that having a positive attitude and being able to smile at their fans was an important factor in their success. Instead of giving in to striking waves of depression and self-pity, they rose above hard times by sticking together and supporting each other.
4. Don’t lose your trust. When unfortunate events happen, one can easily feel they are no longer able to trust other people. JYJ, too, had gone through this period. When Baek Chang-ju offered his help in 2009, they did not trust him, it took them months to open up and accept his helping hand. C-JeS Entertainment was established exclusively to steer JYJ’s boat through troubled waters and it went from a one person venture to a serious agency that employs over 40 people with sales amounting to 33 billion won (roughly 30 million USD) in only two years’ time.
JYJ’s legal fights have just recently ended, but their battle is far from being over yet. Broadcasting stations are still treading carefully. Despite all the unfortunate events that had befallen them (appearances denied, concerts cancelled last minute, accusations, rumors, some of their own fans turning their backs on the band), JYJ never once gave up.
Their album, In Heaven, sold over 350,000 copies, Junsu’s Tarantallegra was one of the most successful solo albums of 2012 despite lacking in promotion, both JYJ’s and Junsu’s solo world tours were completely sold out. Their Tokyo Dome comeback concert in April 2013 had successfully wrapped up and attracted 210,000 people altogether.
Besides part of the Cassiopeia fandom still supporting them as much as they also support the duo TVXQ, JYJ gained a firm and enthusiastic new fan base as well, through their numerous group and individual activities. Jaejoong’s limited edition mini album became a huge success, Yoochun is virtually the most successful idol actor on the market and Junsu cemented his name as one of the best singers ever born in Korea. They are wealthier than most artists under their former agency, including their former band members Yunho and Changmin.
Were they lucky? I would not think so. Many of us would have given up such a grueling and frankly, seemingly hopeless battle against giant obstacles. What we can learn from JYJ is that you need to keep your faith, grind your teeth, work hard and believe in your own abilities. Only then will you be able to turn all unfortunate events into glistening success.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely of the writer and not of hellokpop as a whole.
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Photo source: AfterJae
Sharp and wild. Perfect dance moves that awe K-pop fans are no longer bound by Korean artists themselves.
With the influence of the Korean wave in recent years, K-pop fans have seen an increase of non-Korean YouTube dance artists who are also fans themselves. They rise from everywhere around the world and showcase their dancing talents on their own YouTube channels.
In one of our recent editorials, hellokpop‘s Nini talked about dance choreography, ran through facts on why dance is an important element, and explained how dance has drawn fans to the K-pop phenomenon. An academic research study conducted by hellokpop’s Crystal last year also revealed that dance choreography does, indeed, play a major role in the appeal of K-pop. These two articles clearly point to how influential the dance factor can be in K-pop.
So, what happens when these K-pop dance cover artists combine their passion for dancing and K-pop? Amazing things.
Here we bring you the top 10 most influential K-pop dance cover artists who have successfully made a name for themselves on YouTube by harnessing the power of their passion for K-pop dance.
Darren is our favourite boy, whom we have known from the days when he started to cover K-pop dances. He is a dancing machine, and if you reside in Australia, do check out his Facebook page for dance workshops that he frequently conducts.
9. NOVOLUM TeVe
What is more awesome than knowing how far K-pop has reached, all the way to Mexico. You have to watch these guys. Swag.
These seven beautiful Russian girls called themselves Inspirit. They have been active since 2011 and have won awards in major contests.
7. Brian and Daniel Zhou
Brothers Brian and Daniel cover K-pop dances because they love to dance and have an affinity for K-pop. They also upload helpful tutorials for fans to learn how to dance too.
Check out their dance cover of Nu’est’s Hello, which has also helped them to came in first place in Loen dance competition, Let’s Dance Nu’est.
6. Cindy Zhang
A dancing girl from Canada, Cindy is inspired by 4Minute’s Hyuna.
Henry and Miles are twins who like to dance a lot, and they are really popular.
4. Secciya Ying Ying
Ying Ying is a dancer that learns from the young and also owns her own dance studio. Apart from her rich experience and exposure in the field, she was also one of the back dancers for G.Na during one of her concerts in 2011. Get mesmerized by her dancing talents.
Yet another dancing twin duo, Nicolas and Colin joined in the K-pop dance cover scene in 2010. They also have their own fan club named Cloud9. Fans and supporters are called Raindrops.
Kaotsun is definitely one of the most influential dance cover artists on social media, particularly with fans and supporters in Asia and Australia. She has also won several dance competitions.
NS Yoon G & Jay Park – If you love me
According to the number of views and subscribers on YouTube, St.319 is the most influential and leading K-pop dance artists on social media. The group hails from Hanoi, Vietnam, and has won a number of accolades, including from the top three entertainment agencies in South Korea–SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment and YG Entertainment. They have their own fan club, which is called IOWA.
To read more about St.319, click here - Uncovering St.319, the K-pop dance cover group from Vietnam
Offical Facebook page: st319dance
Fanclub Facebook page: IOWA
After reading and watching these 10 K-pop dance cover artists, I am sure you have become impressed by their talents and understand why some K-pop fans really love and support them.
During our recent interview with Tyrone “Niddy” Buckner, head of Billboard Entertainment Group LLC and freelance Co-Producer/A&R for C-JES Entertainment, he said this: “…. That’s why I love K-Pop fans. They’ve embraced me. They tell me about their dreams, hopes, stories, aspirations, what they love about K-Pop, what they want to see happen in K-Pop, what they’re willing to do to make it happen. They are active themselves ….” – U.S. A&R Exec signs African-American K-pop artist and reveals ‘true’ side of JYJ
Believe me or not, that’s going to be what happens. K-pop fans are making all the difference right now.
The next future big thing in K-pop is going to be K-pop fans themselves, and if you are a K-pop fan, I am talking about you too.
Exclusive: U.S. Artist and Repertoire Executive/Producer ‘Niddy’ talks about signing the first African-American K-Pop artist and opens up about working with JYJ.
When you talk to K-Pop fans in the U.S., their biggest complaint is usually centered around the lack of attention the genre gets in the mainstream music scene and how the aforementioned oversight has become a detrimental obstacle to the path of wide-scale K-Pop tours in the U.S. While K-Pop is slowly starting to gain a foothold in the country’s market, many labels and producers still have not had the chance to fall in love with the genre.
I had never seen an ethnicity that could perform soulfully and physically on the level of any other mainstream pop artist here in America and have the audience that K-Pop has.
As we delved deeper into this unfortunate issue, we came across an individual who has not only worked with K-Pop artists in the past, but who also shares an overwhelming passion with K-Pop fans. With his love for the genre driving him, he has set his sights on correcting misconceptions about K-Pop, and is endeavoring to bring K-Pop to the U.S. mainstream music market in a big way.
Tyrone “Niddy” Buckner, head of Billboard Entertainment Group LLC and freelance Co-Producer/A&R for C-JES Entertainment, started out in the business at a young age, as an aspiring artist/rapper in Atlanta, Georgia. After graduating from high school, Niddy studied music and film at Full Sail University and earned a degree in both film-making and the recording arts.
Niddy began his career as a A&R talent scout for Transcontinental Records/Fashion Rock, working with groups like the N’SYNC and the Backstreet Boys. He has worked with huge names such as Pitbull and Nelly/St. Lunatics on music-based film projects and has now gained the attention of the K-Pop fans worldwide with his work with CJeS Entertainment’s own Xia/Kim Junsu, from JYJ.
Recently, hellokpop sat down with Niddy via satellite, from the Qubeey headquarters in Los Angeles, to discuss how he got into K-Pop, what the genre means to him, what it was like working with Kim Junsu, and his plans and aspirations for the future of K-Pop in not only the U.S., but also around the world.
How were you introduced to K-Pop?
Niddy: “I was working with an artist by the name of Francis Kim. He is a really good friend of mine. When I saw him perform, he was just this amazing K-Pop artist. When I heard his voice, I was like, ‘Man, this kid is just amazing.’ So, he’s the one that kind of introduced me to K-Pop. Then, as I started learning about the genre, I was even more amazed. I was so surprised when I started to look at the American pop charts and realized that not one K-Pop artist was on there.”
What was it about K-Pop specifically that made you fall in love with the genre?
Niddy: “The performances of K-Pop artists themselves. I had never seen an ethnicity that could perform soulfully and physically on the level of any other mainstream pop artist here in America and have the audience that K-Pop has. It was this that specifically peaked my interest. I looked at it and I realized that the Asian community in the U.S. really didn’t have their own niche in popular music here, and I wondered why. Music transcends race, gender, ethnicity and everything. So, I felt like K-Pop truly deserved a place in the mainstream market, because it’s dope.”
How did you end up working with CJeS Entertainment as a freelance co-producer and A&R Exec?
Niddy: “While working with Francis Kim, I was asked by Dr. Dre to bring in some songwriters for a new record. So, I brought in Francis. We spent nine hours in the studio with Dr. Dre. After that, he introduced me to CJES.”
I got to see just how powerful and amazing JYJ truly are. I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live.
With the collaboration between Bruce “Automatic” Vanderveer and Kim Junsu for his solo English album, Uncommitted, you were heavily involved with its creation. Can you tell us a little about how that project came about?
Niddy: “At the time, as A&R for CJeS, I had about seventy-five track submissions from different producers and songwriters. I was introduced to Automatic through a friend, and he sent me a couple of tracks, one of those being Uncommitted. When I heard it, I was like “Aw man, this is a banger. This is right up their alley.” The funny thing is that track actually was originally submitted for JYJ [as a whole]. It just so happened that CJeS Executive Ray Yeom loved it and wanted to do it for Junsu. It almost happened accidentally.
CJeS hadn’t even announced that they were going to do a solo album for Junsu at the time. So, I thought they were going to use it for the boys. But it ended up being for Junsu’s solo project instead, which was a really good thing for myself, Automatic and the company, because it became a very successful English record. I’m so very proud of that record.”
Can you tell us a little about what it was like working with both Automatic and Kim Junsu in the studio?
Niddy: “The actual experience in the studio was amazing, because it was the first time I got to really hang out with Junsu. It was really exciting, because he has this really cool vibe. He’s got great energy and he smiles a lot. The funny thing about Junsu is his smile. You know when he’s in a good mood, in a good place, and when he’s around good energy, because he always smiles. He was totally a really great and fun person to work with. He worked hard and diligently. He wanted to make sure that record was really good. It was amazing.”
Recently JYJ held their “The Return of JYJ: Tokyo Dome” concerts in Japan. Afterwards, Uncommitted hit number one on Japan’s Amazon K-Pop charts. How did you feel when you found out the news?
Niddy: “I was actually at my son’s track meet when I got the call from Automatic. He was like “Yo Niddy! We’re there son! We made it baby!”, and I was like, “What happened?” He told me that Uncommitted hit number one on Japan’s Amazon K-Pop charts, and I was amazed. I was so excited about it, because it was a great accomplishment, considering what JYJ has been through over the last few years. To see the fight starting to show a winning phase felt really good.”
How did you feel when you found out that Junsu performed the track in front of 210,000 Japanese fans?
Niddy: “The first time I ever saw JYJ perform, I was in Peru. I had the privilege to be sent to Peru by CJeS to see them perform in front of about eighteen thousand fans. When I got there, I got to see just how powerful and amazing JYJ truly is. I’ll never forget that moment for as long as I live. There were thousands of fans with glow sticks in the air. It was dark, and they’re screaming and chanting JYJ’s name. My heart was just pounding, because I knew that one day they would be singing a track that I was a part of, that I did.
When I saw the fan-cams of Junsu performing Uncommitted in front of the fans at the Tokyo Dome, it was overwhelming, because it brought me back to that feeling I felt in Peru. It was amazing to see all the effort that we had put into this track was paying off and that the fans were loving it. I was ecstatic.”
At that moment, Mr. Automatic popped into the studio to say hello to Niddy and to check out what he was up to. You could tell that the two were truly great friends by their interaction with one another. We asked Automatic if there was anything he would like to say to our readers about Niddy, and he gladly responded with the following statement:
Automatic: “I’m happy for my boy Niddy and for being a part of this team. InRage Entertainment loves CJeS and JYJ. This whole experience has been phenomenal, and it all got started with my man Niddy. It’s just an incredible camp, and I’m proud to be a part of it! He’s about to do some big things. So, watch out for it.”
We then steered the interview to the subject of K-Pop fans and discussed how Niddy feels about being a K-Pop fan himself, how he views the other fans of the genre, and how the fans have treated him since the release of Uncommitted.
While K-Pop music itself can boast a wide range of accolades, it’s the genre’s dedicated and loving fans that have become the heart of K-Pop. What is it about this genre’s fans that you like the most?
Niddy: “As professionals, we always try to find a way to get back to the essence of the real fan. When I ran into the K-Pop fans, I saw a rebirth of that essence. I saw the real fan–the fans that cry, that fight for their artists and believe that their artists can do no wrong. They love their artists unconditionally. They love their music and they are willing to fight for their cause and what the music stands for. So, that deserves a place in our music industry.
That’s why I love K-Pop fans. They’ve embraced me. They tell me about their dreams, hopes, stories, aspirations, what they love about K-Pop, what they want to see happen in K-Pop, what they’re willing to do to make it happen. They are active themselves. I haven’t seen a community of fans like that in a very long time. I think that if the ‘big’ people in America could really get an eye on K-Pop fans and really see them, then they would truly see the power of this music and how it really deserves a place here. These fans deserve a place here.”
K-Pop fans always love to share their favorite artists with their friends. As a fan yourself, who are some of the K-Pop artists you enjoy and why?
Niddy: “I’ll have to go with my boys JYJ first, because I’ve worked with them and they are just extremely talented. Aside from them, there’s another group that I really think is dope: Big Bang. I really love Big Bang. They’ve got a track called Bad Boy that I like, and the music video is dope. I also like BoA, Girls Generation, 2NE1, Tablo, Wonder Girls, 2PM, Aziatix, and definitely Jay Park. I want to do something with Jay Park, because he’s amazing. I want to do a couple things with that dude.”
Have you ever wondered if your favorite artist really reads fan letters or appreciates fan gifts? We had been discussing K-Pop fans for a lengthy amount of time, when Niddy was reminded of a very interesting incident that happened while he was on tour with JYJ in Peru. He decided to share it with us. Listening to his story epitomizes the very essence of why JYJ is so loved the world over.
Niddy: “When I was in Peru, I had the opportunity to witness the gift-giving portion of the fans’ love. The fans, once again, because they are so incredible, take time out to create all kinds of fan gifts–from bag and posters to even buying merchandise–for the group. It was the last day of the tour in Peru, and we all went out to take a tour of the city. When we were leaving the hotel, there were fans everywhere, putting gifts for the group in our hands–asking us to give them to JYJ, and even throwing them through the window of the bus. After the boys stopped to pick up some new Samsung tablet phones and pairs of Beats By Dre,we got back on the bus to finish the tour.
When an artist gets that big, you know fans always wonder if they really keep that personal connection with their fans.
I was sitting on the bus and Junsu was sitting right in front of me. I asked him to check out a record I was listening to. So, I handed him my phone. While he was checking out the record, he reached over into the seat next to him and starting going through the fans’ gifts and reading the letters. I thought that was kind of cool. because I knew he was still a real person, that he was still down to earth, and that he truly cared about his fans. I just thought that was so cool. That was one of the greatest experiences of my time with them, before I got to know them better, and I wanted to let the fan fans know. The JYJ members are all like that. The really do love their fans.”
After Niddy finished his heartwarming story about Junsu, he introduced us to one of his closest friends and fellow K-Pop fan, super producer Jukebox.
Jukebox has become a highly successful producer in the music business with his work with renowned artist and actor Will Smith. He’s most well known for producing mega hits like Swizz Beatz Everyday Birthday, featuring Chris Brown, Ludacris and Jukebox, and the pop sensation Whip My Hair, by Willow Smith. We asked Jukebox what he thought about what Niddy was doing for the K-Pop market and he had this to say:
Jukebox: “(laughs) He’s the “Diddy” of K-Pop. I think what Niddy is trying to do is huge for music in general. He has a really innovative mind, and he’s really looking to bring that genuine love back to music. I think that’s one crucial thing that needs to happen, especially in today’s American music.”
As our interview began to wind down, we wanted to get a little more insight into what his company does, what their goals for the future are, and what they plan to accomplish for the K-Pop music market. He also gave us an exclusive on a very exciting, never-before-released announcement about a new artist that Billboard Entertainment Group LLC recently signed.
Could you explain a little about what Billboard Entertainment Group LLC is all about? What is your company’s mission statement?
Niddy: “We’re an across-the-board service company. We provide entertainment and music services such as marketing, A&R, management, and major distribution for artist and labels–especially for those international companies out there who are looking to tap into the U.S. market and global distribution. Our mission is our client’s mission.”
Would Billboard Entertainment Group LLC be interested in signing K-Pop or J-Pop groups in the near future? If so, is there any particular style of artist you are looking for?
Niddy: “Absolutely. We’re definitely going to be looking to sign some K-Pop artists and J-Pop artists. We’re looking for the same style as we would for American pop music. If I found an artist that’s an R&B K-Pop artist, and he or she is really great, then I’m going to want to work with them. If it’s a Soul artist, a Neo-Soul artist, a Pop artist, a Hip-Hop artist, a Rap artist, or even if there’s a Country K-Pop artist, I want to work with them all. I’m open to it all.”
What is Billboard Entertainment Group LLC’s vision for the future of K-Pop, and what do you want to do for the genre?
Niddy: “The vision of my company, within K-Pop, is to become another support system, another leg for K-Pop stand on, from the business side and the creative side as well. What we want to bring to K-Pop is to help companies and artists that are trying to work with producers and songwriters in the U.S. (or wanting to work on features with American artists), help artists from the U.S. who want to work with K-Pop artists, and kind of facilitate that convergence on both sides. I want to be able to offer the same services that we offered to CJeS (and more) to anyone that wants that opportunity. That’s the part that Billboard Entertainment Group LLC wants to play.”
How does it feel to be considered one of the most successful African American companies in K-Pop?
Niddy: “That’s very flattering statement. I’m proud that I’m an African American in K-Pop. It make me very proud to be recognized, both my company and myself, as a leader from the African American side in K-Pop. My company and I still have a lot to prove to K-Pop and the K-Pop fans. I don’t want to jump. I want to take my time. I want the fans to let me take my time. I want the K-Pop industry to allow me to take my time to prove myself, so that when those accolades come, they will really be deserved. That’s whats important to me.”
You recently posted on your social media, that you had a big announcement coming up with regard to signing a new artist. Could you tell us about her?
Niddy: “This is probably the most exciting announcement, and I’ve been holding it in for so long. Actually, we weren’t even supposed to be announcing this right now, but some really great things have come up. So, we’ve taken the position and made the decision to release this news to hellokpop first!
My company, Billboard Entertainment Group LLC, has signed the first female African American K-Pop artist in the world, commonly known as the Queen of K-Pop Covers. She is Pumashock (aka Natalie White). Pumashock is amazing on every level. She has covered some of the hottest songs in K-Pop. She has millions and millions of views online. She’s the only African American female K-Pop cover artist to appear on the Korean television show Star King and others. I think she going to make a huge impact on K-Pop. So, I’m very happy and proud to announce that we have signed Pumashock. I am looking forward to some great things that you guys are going to get to see in the next couple of days. She’s getting ready to release a huge feature with DTMG, which is another great K-Pop cover group. You’re about to see her star power.”
Before we let you go, is there anyone you’d like to thank? Do you have any special message that you want to leave for the fans?
Niddy: “I’d like to thank C-JES Entertainment Inc., music executive Jerrold Thompson and Qubeey.com. Also, a special thanks to hellokpop’s Adrian Cheng, for the opportunity to talk about K-Pop with the fans. Thank you to the fans for taking the time to read this interview, and for tapping into all the links that are in this interview, and I want you guys to continue to support me, because I will continue to support K-Pop.”
We would like to graciously thank Niddy for taking time out of his busy schedule to sit down with us and for giving us some insight on what he is doing in and for the K-Pop world. It was an absolute pleasure, and we are looking forward to a very bright future for K-Pop in the U.S. with him and this genre and its fans.
[UPDATE] Check out our exclusive coverage of Pumashock’s feature with DTMG right here.
*A&R REFERS TO ARTISTS AND REPERTOIRE: A DIVISION OF A RECORD LABEL OR MUSIC PUBLISHING COMPANY THAT IS RESPONSIBLE FOR TALENT SCOUTING AND OVERSEEING THE ARTISTIC DEVELOPMENT OF RECORDING ARTISTS AND/OR SONGWRITERS.
**QUBEEY: QUBEEY IS YOUR SOCIAL AND BUSINESS NETWORKING SOLUTION. IT ALLOWS YOU TO HAVE REAL TIME ACCESS TO MOST OF THE MOST IMPORTANT SOCIAL AND BUSINESS SITES AND ATTRIBUTES ON WEB, ON DESKTOP AND ON MOBILE FROM ONE EASY-TO-USE PLACE. THE QUBEEY PLATFORM IS FLEXIBLE, ROBUST, AND FUN! IT BRINGS ALL YOUR FAVORITE ONLINE PROGRAMS INTO ONE CONVENIENT LOCATION DIRECT FROM YOUR DESKTOP, IPAD OR MOBILE DEVICE. WHETHER YOU ARE CONNECTING WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY OR BUSINESS ASSOCIATES AROUND THE WORLD.
On February 7, after receiving a lot of love and support from his fans, C-Jes Entertainment announced that JYJ’s Jae Joong would be releasing a repackaged version of his album I. The new album is entitled Y and has been created especially for fans who have been craving more songs from Jae Joong’s solo debut, which has been a hot topic for weeks.
Apart from the five original tracks on I, the repackaged Y version will contain two brand new tracks, one of which will be Jae Joong’s self-written song called Only Love. The album will also contain a new set of concept photos.
The repackaged album, Y, will go on sale starting February 26. Pre-ordering will begin on February 13.
You can read our review of the music video, Mine: The Artistry and Symbolism behind Kim Jaejoong’s ”Mine”.
As K-pop continues to stretch ever forward into the world’s music market, the genre has been blessed with contributions from major movers and shakers from the US market on numerous occasions. From JYJ‘s early collaboration with Kanye West and the Wonder Girls release of Like Money featuring Akon, to the anticipated collaborations between PSY and Scooter Braun and 2NE1‘s work with will.I.AM, more and more international music producers and artists are getting bit by the K-pop bug.
Recently we sat down with producer and songwriter Bruce “Automatic” Vanderveer who made his K-pop debut with his collaboration with JYJ’s soulful vocalist Kim Junsu on the English single Uncommitted that was released in August 2012. We set out to not only get to know Mr. Vanderveer better, but grab some insights on how his collaboration with Junsu came to be – what was is like meeting and working with him, and how the fan’s reaction to the collaboration has changed his view on not only K-pop and its scores of fans but also the limitless talent and global potential of JYJ and its members.
Automatic, as he is called by his friends and family, was born in Brooklyn, New York and currently works as producer and song writer for Sony Music. He has worked with great artists like Pink, The Pussy Cat Dolls, and Snoop Dog along with iconic artists like Cher, James Brown and Michael Jackson over his twenty year career. Although well known in the music scene in the states, little is known about him globally. As we sat down with him, we started off with getting a little back story on how he originally got into the business and he regaled us with the story of how he got his nickname.
How did you get the nickname “Automatic”?
Automatic (laughing) : ”I can start out by telling you my story about playing guitar. I beat up a kid in Brooklyn, NY because he didn’t want to let me play his guitar. So, I kicked his (butt) very quickly and then grabbed the guitar and tried to play it as fast as I could because I knew his parents were going to come out and get me arrested or something. But, I quickly wrote a song in fifteen minutes and my mom came out and instead of her, you know trippin’ because I beat the kid up, she was just like “How did you do that so quickly?”. She’s the one who gave me the nickname “Automatic”. She was like “You automatically played that.” So she got on the phone and started telling her friends “My son automatically played the guitar.” “Little Automatic” and I [began] to use that as a dancing name.
Could you tell us a little about how you got into the music business?
Automatic: “I started a band in New York and we played everywhere, the Cat Club, and the Palladium, and we had an incredible following. I auditioned for a lot of record companies and finally Morgan Creek Polygram Records signed me. That’s how I got into the industry.”
After Mr. Vanderveer gave us a glimpse into his history in the music business, we turned to the subject of his collaboration with Kim Junsu and discussed how the collaboration came to be, the story behind the track itself, his first impressions of Junsu, and what it was like working in the studio with him.
While you have been in the music business for quite some time, your notoriety in the K-pop world didn’t make its debut till the release of “Uncommitted”. Could you tell a little about how that collaboration came to be? Who contacted you initially?
Automatic: “The craziest thing about this whole thing was that I didn’t even know who Junsu or JYJ was. I didn’t know what Kpop was until August. My daughter would constantly tell me about groups that she listened to from Korea and Japan (for the last couple of years). She would say “Daddy I just heard this great Korean group.” It was wild.”
Automatic: “The executive from CJeS, Niddy (Tyrone “Niddy” Buckner), called me and he asked me if I was “Automatic” from Sony Music, because I had a hit record a few years ago with Bettina Bush from American Idol. He said “I’m working for a group called JYJ. Do you have any songs to submit?” I was like “What kind of music do they do?” and he said “Oh, well they are from Korea but they do Pop and R&B. So, if you have any male oriented songs, we’re really interested in what you have.” So I submitted some stuff. Uncommitted was a song I wrote four years ago, so I wasn’t even going to submit that song, but at the last minute I just threw it in there anyway.”
Automatic: “I got a phone call a couple weeks later from Niddy saying that CJeS loved the song and that Junsu wanted to do it. At that point my daughter freaked out and said “Junsu! Junsu! Daddy do you know who that is?” I was just like “No” and she ran me through all of his stuff. She sat me down and gave me a JYJ and Junsu lesson. I was just blown away because these guys were not only awesome but they work so hard to perfect their craft. It was something you didn’t see that much anymore in America.”
Is there any story behind “Uncommitted”? Is it based on an event in your life?
Automatic: “It wasn’t from my life, but, a friend’s. He was a serious player. I would always tell him he needed to stop that lifestyle because everyone knew he had this reputation. It was going to be hard when he got serious. But he kept saying “I’m never going to get serious.” until he literally found a woman that was just perfect. She was just awesome. He said “This is the woman I want to settle down with.” And I was so happy for him. So he told her how he felt and she stopped him mid sentence. She said “I know you’re not going to ask me to go steady or get married.” He was stunned as she told him “You’re good for these kinds of dates but I know all about your reputation. I know who you are. I’m not going to be bringing you home to meet my parents. He was so brokenhearted.”
What was your initial impression when you met Kim Junsu for the very first time?
Automatic: “I was expecting him to be a lot more reserved but the greatest thing was that when we met it was instantly like were two old friends. He cracked a joke and then I cracked a joke. It was like we (already) knew each other. It was just not what I thought it was going to be like. I thought he was going to be reserved, quiet, and shy, and he was not at all. Junsu was hilarious, funny, vibrant, and just ready to work. We had a ball. We were laughing together like two old fools. It was crazy.”
Are there any interesting stories that you would care to share about your experiences while working with Kim Junsu in the studio?
Automatic: “We hit it off so well. When Ebony Cunningham (the VP of InRage Entertainment and my fiance) was vocally guiding Junsu on the second verse and the bridge sections of the song, he got it really well. He went into the booth and every time he did it so beautifully that I got excited and said to him “Man you sound black. You’re just a brother.” to which he replied “I’m not black, I’m yellow.” and it was hilarious. Everybody in the studio started cracking up. He was so funny. This was one of the best sessions I ever had.”
After experiencing Kim Junsu’s vocals in person, what did you think?
Automatic: “My daughter had already ran me through JYJ’s repertoire. I just didn’t know that he was so soulful. One of the things I realized is that with a lot of his songs, he records really well but you still have not heard the best of Junsu yet. That boy can blow. Every time I sang a note he would sing that note and out-sing it. He would sing it better. He’s got so much soul. I don’t know where it comes from but I’m just blown away by it. He has talents and the gifts that people haven’t even heard yet. He has got the skills and I want to capture that onto records, on tracks. He reminds me of Michael Jackson. He’s the Michael Jackson of Asia to me.”
We then started to discuss a key point that InRage Entertainment and Automatic are great proponents of when it comes to the music industry – artist freedom. While it’s highly accepted by JYJ fans worldwide that their entertainment company CJeS has been very adamant about allowing JYJ all the artist freedom they desire, Automatic gave us an even deeper glimpse into the truth behind that understanding.
Automatic: “They have artist freedom and that’s what I love about CJeS. They are giving them the chance to explore other genres and languages. CJeS is just great for supporting JYJ artistically. When we were in the studio the CEO of CJeS was there. He was there for the entire session. How many CEO are there for their artists like that? You don’t see CEO’s and Presidents do that. It’s a rare thing. To see the CEO actually there making sure that Junsu had everything he needed, making sure that he was comfortable. It was amazing.”
After the entire experience, how did you feel about the time spend working with him? Did you know that the song was going to be a hit or were you a little apprehensive?
Automatic: “The greatest part about the whole session was that it was so fast. Junsu was dope. We did it quickly. We even took a break. He free style, we played guitar, he sang, and I played some other songs. Then he went back in and polished off the rest of the song. We did it in a couple of hours and usually my sessions last a day or two. Junsu is awesome – a complete professional.
I knew it was going to be a hit. I knew it when we were in the studio and he was singing the song. We were so excited, jumping for joy and clapping. We just knew it.”
We concluded our interview with a discussion on how the whole experience has not only affected his outlook on K-pop and JYJ but also how the treatment h’es received from the groups fans has affected him personally. It was quite heartwarming to hear an artist from the US, not normally associated with the K-pop industry, talk so appreciatively and respectfully about how passionate and loving Kpop fans truly are.
As most people are well aware, K-pop fans are one of the most passionate group of fans in the world. When the news was released that you collaborated on this track, the eyes of the fan base was quickly fixed on you. How does it feel to be receiving so much fan love?
Automatic: “It’s the greatest reward, really. The fans are so loving and caring. Fans hit me up and ask me things like “Are you eating?”, “How are you doing?”, and “How’s your daughter.” That’s so bizarre to me. Fans in America don’t have that kind of appreciation.They are so caring that I’m hoping that we in America can learn a lot from how these fans treat the people they respect. The fan love is incredible. They are so dedicated to making sure that JYJ progresses and their YouTube views are up. It’s such a caring movement. I love it.
I’m so glad that I got a chance to do this, and witness the kind of love that they show. I’m so happy, and so appreciative, of all the fans that I get to talk to. I enjoy talking to the fans. They (JYJ) have the greatest fans in the world. JYJ are so lucky to have fans like that. I wish a lot of artist in America had that kind of fandom. I’m hoping we can learn from these fan groups and eventually adopt some of that love and respect. It’s so rare and it’s beautiful. “
Do you have anything you would like to say to our readers before we let you go?
Automatic: “I want to thank the fans from all around the world and let them know that their love has empowered me to be a better producer and writer. I believe that we are not only fans but friends. I call a lot of my friends “InRagers” because we stand for music equality; we stand for racial equality, and artistic freedom. These are all the things that JYJ has had to overcome. All these boundaries that have been put in their way, they have overcome them. That is what my company is all about. So,all the fans out there are InRagers to me. “
Mr. Vanderveer is currently working on numerous projects in and out of the Kpop world. His band, Asphalt Messiah, recently released a new track called Lets Get Dirty 2Nite which is currently available on ITUNES and Amazon. The rock anthem melds heavy guitar and driving beat with lyrics that incorporate web terminology to get your heart racing and your feet moving. While Mr. Vanderveer was unable to give us any specifics on his upcoming projects from the K-pop side of his endeavors he made it quite clear to fully expect some amazing things in that area, real soon.
We at hellokpop would like to thank Bruce “Automatic” Vanderveer for spending time with us and allowing us to give our readers a deeper look into Kim Junsu’s personality and his work ethic along with sharing with us humorous stories about his experiences working with him. We are looking forward to everything he has in store for the all the K-pop fans and wish him all the best in his endeavors.
Sources: Video: CJESJYJ, Photos: (Main) JYJ Official, Bruce Vanderveer.