Why BoA Still Rocks
Okay, so taking a break from studying to give you my promised post. I haven't done as much research as I should have since I've been studying all week and watching k-pop reality TV shows in my free time. But, I figured I'd give you my preliminary assessment, and I'll update it later if necessary.
Okay, so for those of you who don't know who BoA is, she's a 23 year-old pop singer from Korea. Her music is primarily R&B/hip-hop inspired, and dancing is a huge part of her music videos and live performances. She broke on to the k-pop scene when she was only 13, and has been active ever since, gaining a huge following all over East Asia, and the nickname "Best of Asia". Make no mistake, this girl is mad talented. Peep the video below:
I'm writing this post in defense of BoA over the topic of her US debut. In 2008, BoA made moves to break onto the US market. She released a few singles with accompanying videos, then a self-titled album, all in English. Unfortunately, she failed to make huge waves in the US. Her album only got up to #127 on the Billboard 200, though manages to be #3 on the Top Heatseekers chart, #11 on Top Internet Albums, and her single "Eat You Up" got to #8 on the Dance Club playlist. Some fans blasted the album because her image and music were distinctly different from what they were in Asia. They compared her US image to Britney - all dance and glitter, but no substance. A particularly unimpressed reviewer even went so far as to say that she has no talent whatsoever.
I decided to look for BoA's own opinion on her US debut, since most of the press available were only statements from her management that didn't really go into the concept behind the album or the target market. The one that I did find had this quote from BoA: "I just wanted to make fresh, hot dance music." And I think this quote is what people need to focus on when looking at BoA's US release. She wasn't trying to become a star in the US - she was only experimenting. And that makes complete sense - why would she worry about the US market when she's already ridiculously popular in Japan, South Korea, China and Taiwan? Many people have blamed her management company's US branch for messing up BoA's image, but it's hard to tell how many of the decisions surrounding the US album were made by the management or by BoA herself. That being said, I definitely question some of the decisions made for the album. Mainly the production and release of this video for "Eat You Up":
As opposed to this one:
The second version ended up being released later, but the whole breaking into the dance competition and bringing the house down (literally) was removed. Awful decisions on both counts. Though now if you go to Youtube, this remains as the only official video for the song.
BoA does succeed in making fresh, hot dance music that people like. Popularity doesn't always correlate with quality, and her failure to make big waves in the main Billboard charts doesn't means that her music was crappy. Her performance on the digital sales and dance charts is proof that, contrary to many opinions, her music is popular in the US. And she was going for danceability and catchiness as opposed to some high artistic standard, which she definitely brought in a big way. People may not like it, but you can't knock her for it.
On the topic of image, the truth is that fans never like it when their favorite artists switch up their image. You get attached to an artist in one incarnation, and so it's hard to like them as much in another. This already happened to BoA as she began to grow out of her "teenage popstar" image some years back. People didn't like it then and they don't like it now. But she's allowed to make her own decisions about how she wants to be presented. Yes, her US image is a kind of "Britney-fied" image, but it's not her only image, or even her primary one. She continues to mature and grow, as seen in this new video and song from her new Japanese album, Identity:
Another interesting point is that she produced "Possibility" herself. The song is pretty good, which makes me think she must have picked up a couple of things from working with big US names such as Sean Garrett, Britney and Justin Timberlake. So it's not like she went to the US, made a crap album for fun and then went back to Asia to continue doing her thing. She went into the US market to try something new and learn new things at the same time to help her develop as an artist.
Despite the criticisms, you can't deny that BoA is a talented, hardworking artist who allows herself to experiment, grow and change as she moves through her career. THIS IS NOT A BAD THING, and people simply need to let her get on with it. As another blogger aptly put it, "F- the haters. BoA ROCKS."