Editorial

American Tween Market Ready for Kpop? – Girls

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As the title already suggests, America may actually be ready for Kpop. Not only for girl groups but for boy groups as well! In this article I only analyze girl groups, but next week I will be releasing an article on boy groups. So keep an eye out for that.

Before I present to you why I think girl groups have a shot in America, I would like you to check all of your biases at the door. We will be talking about a most controversial subject: Tweens! So what exactly is a tween? It’s commonly a child between the ages of 8 to 12 who is no longer considered a child, but is not quite a teenager either.

Picture: Dream Tea Entertainment

Picture: Dream Tea Entertainment

Why are tweens so important? Well, they are ideal targets for marketers and advertisers since they spend a lot of money trying to look cool and fit in with their peers. There is a lot of pressure for tweens to be up-to-date on the newest trends. If they are not, they risk feeling left out of the group.

Therefore, the tween market is a very profitable business. Don’t believe me? You do not have to look too hard to see the influence tweens have had on the market, especially the music industry. Artists that have targeted the tween market have garnered a lot of fame, including Taylor SwiftSelena Gomez, The Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber, and the list goes on.

Over the years, the tween market has continued to expand because advertisers are finding that there is a lot of money to be made in this market. Some companies, like Disney, have solely focused on advertising to the tween market and they have done well. The strategies that  Disney uses to sell to the tween market bear a striking resemblance to those used in Kpop. First, let’s examine the image, because let’s face it, music is only part of the equation, especially when it comes to the tween market.

Photo: Naver Music

Photo: Naver Music

Usually, girls are portrayed as being  pure and innocent. Therefore, these celebrities often dress in white or in soft,  warm colors. Their makeup also gives them a youthful look and makes these celebrities look flawless, which results in fans idolizing them. Their down-to-earth personalities and sweet dispositions make it easier for fans to connect with them. They also have the added benefit of parents’ approval, because even though tweens may have some buying power, they rely mostly on their parents for money. Therefore, for the artists, image is very important. They have to appeal to both tweens and their parents.

Cynics will use Christina Aguilera and Britney Spears to argue that having a clean image is not as important for American stars, but I have to disagree. When Aguilera unleashed her new, raunchier image by releasing her music video, Dirty, she was around 22 years old. Spears also said goodbye to her innocent image by kissing Madonna during the 2003 MTV Music Awards. This happened when she was 21 years old. At that age, girls are considered to be women, so they were able to successfully transfer to their new image.

Picture: Hollywood Records

Picture: Hollywood Records

On the other hand, maybe Miley Cyrus was not so successful because she unleashed her older image a little too early, which brought her the wrong kind of publicity.  Cyrus rose to stardom when she was featured as the main character in the hit series, Hannah Montana. Just like the other celebrities who targeted the tween market, Cyrus had a youthful, clean, innocent image and a down-to-earth personality. When she decided to  switch to a more grown-up image by releasing Can’t Be Tamed, she was just 18 years old. She was still considered to be a child by the media. The 2010 album, Can’t Be Tamed, has been her last album release.  She has yet to release a new album and her fame has decreased over time.

In fact, image is so important to these American stars that transitioning from a child to an adult is the hardest part of their career. They want the public to take them seriously by showing that they’re an adult, but they risk losing their original fan base if the transition from child to adult is too quick. Korean female idols do not seem to suffer from the same problem, because they retain their innocent image even in adulthood. Female Kpop idols have a knack for having a cute and strong image, all at the same time.  I think this is a strong point for Kpop girl groups.

Picture: TV Report

Picture: TV Report

There seems to be a gap between stars that are aimed at preteens and the ones aimed for adults. Kpop girl groups can target preteens, teens and young adults. In fact, I think they should have no problem targeting all age groups. Their cute image can target the younger viewers, while their strong image can target those who are older. Girls’ Generation is one group that is especially good at it. In fact, it is known to appeal to all demographics and to males and females.

Image might not be everything, but it definitely gets you recognized. When I talk about image, a person’s looks are not the only thing I am referring to. Image includes clothes, make-up, hair, looks, etc. Basically, it is the first impression of the artist. When we first meet someone, we develop a first impression even before he or she can speak. Companies know that and a lot of thought goes into an artist’s image.

Picture: Soshified

Picture: Soshified

Some of you probably saw the members of SNSD on Late Show with David Letterman and Live! with Kelly, where they preformed The Boys. If you had, then you probably noticed the different clothes they wore for the two shows and the different versions of the song they sang. On Late Show with David Letterman, the girls wore all black clothes with some lace to show of certain parts off their body. This gave them an attractive image, which was reinforced by their dancing and song choice. They did a remix version of The Boys, which gave the song a club feel. A particular image was picked because the show had a lot of viewers that were older since it broadcasts later in the evening.

Live! With Kelly broadcasts in the morning, so the viewers tend to be younger children and stay-at-home moms. SNSD ended up wearing more conservative clothes and preformed the original version of the song, which has less of a club feel to it. This makes it ideal for the tween market. Their image seems to have worked, since they got a lot of positive reviews from people who never knew about SNSD.

Opinions were unanimous; the girls looked really good and their image appealed to both Kpop fans and non-Kpop fans. Even though the girls were seducing, they also kept it classy.  This is important because it seems that Kpop girl groups do not have to change too much about themselves to appeal to Americans. Most Kpop fans assumed that the girls would have to have a very sensual image to break into the American market, but that might not be the case. As a Kpop fan myself, I find this to be very comforting because one of the reason why I love Kpop girl groups is because they do not seem to go overboard with their inappropriate image.

Apart from their image, Kpop idols and American tween stars have similar music. Their lyrics talk about love, relationships and standing up for oneself. Out of all the American artists that appeal to tweens, Willow Smith has to be the closest thing to a female Kpop idol. If you don’t believe me, check out her music video below, Whip My Hair. If you still don’t believe me, compare Smith’s video to SNSD’s Run Devil Run.

The two videos are very similar to one another. Both of the songs are strong and are meant to empower females. They talk about standing up for oneself. Smith’s song talks about being yourself and being brave enough to be different from others. SNSD’s song is about not letting a guy walk all over you.

Both the music videos are colorful, sleek and bright. In fact, most Kpop videos are like this. If you look at their make-up you will notice that both artists decided to use white crystals on their faces. Their clothes are also between normal clothes and Lady Gaga clothes,  not over the top, but different enough that viewers notice them. It’s also important to note that the clothes are not very revealing. SNSD is older, but they are also careful to not reveal too much in their music videos.

Both of these videos also feature a lot of dancing, and they both have a signature dance. In Whip My Hair, the signature dance is literally whipping your hair back and forth. The same goes for SNSD’s Run Devil Run, where the girls line up and start to fake run (both moves make you look silly when you’re doing it alone or in front of people…).

Tween stars and Korean idols stars are also very versatile. Usually, Disney stars do more than just singing.  In fact, most of them started out acting and then moved on to their singing careers. Demi Lovato, Gomez and Cyrus all rose to fame as main characters in Disney shows or movies. Let’s use Gomez as an example. Selena was the main character on a hit show called Wizards of Waverly Place, where she played the character Alex Russo. The opening song for that show was sung by none other than Gomez. At the height of her popularity, she released a song called, A Year Without Rain, with her band The Scene.

A coincidence? I don’t think so, because the same technique is used too often and it is being used by others companies that are targeting the tween market, such as The Wonder Girls and TeenNick.  It is too early right now to determine whether or not the same strategy will work for The Wonder Girls. Using these same strategies,  the members may have a chance if they keep starring in movies, or maybe have a TV show of their own. The opening song for that TV show can of course be a song by them. Once they have enough popularity, they can release their album.

But I don’t think the girls will be starring in any more movies or TV shows. I have no idea what JYP Entertainment plans to do in the future, but one movie is not enough to bring them the attention they need from the tween market. The Wonder Girls seem to be busy preparing for their English album, which will be released in June. JYP seems to have enlisted the help of some high-profile composers who have worked with Lady Gaga, Destiny’s Child, Cyrus and Kelly Clarkson. I just don’t think tweens really care about who worked on this album. I say, throw in a collaboration with a tween star and we may have something here. But then again, I might be wrong, I guess we will just have to wait and see.

If Kpop has a chance to go mainstream in America, I urge companies  (JYP, I’m talking to you) to target the tween market first because the tween market is easier to crack. American artists that appeal to tweens are not that different from Kpop artists. I also think that girl groups will find more success with the general public compared to males because generally, females tend to be liked more compared to their male counterparts. So why do I think that boy groups can also find success in America? Well, you just have to wait for the next article to find out.

Sources: media awareness / target market / wiki christina / wiki miley / wiki Britney / WillowSmithVEVO / sment / popdust

Originally posted by [SFRASE02] on [February 15, 2012].

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