[News] Asian-American History Week: America’s Great Asian Pop Star Race 090520

As NY1 celebrates Asian-American History Month, the station profiles three Asian pop stars who used New York to launch their U.S. careers. NY1’s Lewis Dodley filed the following report.

Utada Hikaru was literally the girl next door. If you went to Columbia University in 2000, you might have sat next to her in class. If you’re a Manhattanite, you might have sat next to her on the train.


But if you sat next to Hiraku on a plane from New York to Tokyo, she was probably headed to the studio to record another hit.

Born in Manhattan, the 26-year-old is Japan’s best-selling artist. She signed with EMI by the time she graduated from junior high school. Her album “First Love” sold five million copies in the first month and ten million copies to date, a record in Japan.

Now, 10 years after her first Japanese success, Utada hopes her new release “This Is The One” is the one to bring her recognition in the Unites States. The single “Come Back to Me,” released earlier this year, climbed as high as number 5 on the Billboard Hot Dance charts.

Meanwhile, 725 miles away in Seoul, South Korea, another Asian phenomenon was taking aim at global stardom. The artist known as Se7en was perfecting his dance moves, honing his singing and learning Japanese to claim a share of the growing Asian R&B market, a market with roots from a familiar source.

Yet he was beaten at his own game. In February 2006, the Korean pop star Rain was invited to perform at Madison Square Garden. Rain was to have a further tour through the United States, but his tour got bogged down by legal issues.

Later that year, Se7en took his own turn at the Garden with only moderate success. But he stayed on in the city to perfect his English skills.

Now, three years after arriving in New York from Korea, Se7en is soon releasing his first English-language album, which was produced with Dark Child and rapper Lil Kim.

Also in Korea, a trio of producers influenced by the success of Michael Jackson – singers Lee Soo Man, Yang Hyun Suk and J.Y. Park – set their sights on creating the first Asian megastar.

“Michael Jackson was the definition of music to me when I was seven,” says Park. “I just fell in love with soul, R&B, funk music, and I just followed that route my whole life.”

Such passion was the driving force behind Park’s own career and his Midas touch with other artists under his wing, like the aforementioned mega-star Rain and the contagious Wonder Girls, whose hit song “Tell Me” quickly topped the charts and made them a household name all over Asia.

The Wonder Girls’ international hit “Nobody” has become a YouTube hit, and they got to play at Madison Square Garden in 2008.

Launching the first Asian pop star in America has seemed like an uphill battle, but now success seems within reach.

“They are driven to the point of almost breaking,” says Minya Oh of Hot 97. “They are learning Chinese, English, Japanese, obviously they already know Korean. They’re learning dance, they’re having acting lessons, modeling lessons.”

So America’s next sweetheart may have first had success in Asia.

[Source: NY1 News]
[Credit: Wickerman@soompi for tip-off + sunmijjang.com]

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