PREFABRICATED "boy bands" and "girl groups," you say? Record producers sorting through dozens of candidates to assemble a group that will appeal to a certain target demographic? It all started with the Monkees.
The prefab concept has been a winner many times since. The early ’80s brought us the Mary Jane Girls—four women, each with a distinctly different look—assembled by Rick James. Seduction epitomized the "girl group" look of the late ’80s—one Caucasian, one black and one Latina—while boy-band pioneer Maurice Starr assembled New Kids on the Block.
Since then we’ve seen *N Sync, O-Town, the Cheetah Girls, Eden’s Crush, Danity Kane, the post-burlesque version of the Pussycat Dolls and many, many others along the way.
A local attempt in the ’80s to fabricate a local version of Menudo fell flat, even though the producers had the original group to crib from, but Coconuts Musume, a locally recruited spinoff of J-Pop girl group Morning Musume built around Hawaii residents Ayaka Kimura and Mika Todd, enjoyed some success in Japan.
Fast-forward to 2010 and the story continues with the Wonder Girls, Korea’s biggest contribution to the prefab genre and perhaps international pop, as well.
‘THE WONDER GIRLS WITH JYP’
Where: Pipeline Cafe, 805 Pohukaina St.
When: 8 p.m. today and 1 p.m. tomorrow (doors open one hour before show time)
Cost: $32, $75 VIP; $150 "meet-and-greet" includes photo opportunity, tour gift and general admission seating. Tickets sold at Pipeline Cafe Box Office, Hawaii’s Natural High, www.groovetickets.com and www.pipelinecafehawaii.com
Info: 877-714-7668 or www.pipelinecafehawaii.com
Note: People with "meet-and-greet" tickets should be there at 7 tonight, and noon tomorrow, when doors open.
WONDER GIRLS—Sun, Yenny, Sohee, Yoobin and Lim—is the creation of Korean entertainer/songwriter/producer Park Jin-Young. Also known as JYP, he is founder and head of one of the biggest entertainment companies in Korean entertainment. In a stroke of luck for many K-Pop fans, JYP is flying in to perform with them when they play their long-anticipated shows at Pipeline Cafe this weekend.
Park had been announced as the opening act for the Girls’ two Honolulu concerts that were originally scheduled for last month. The shows would have been the start of the next leg of the Girls’ "Wonder Girls World Tour," but the unanticipated death of Sun’s father a few days before they were scheduled to arrive put everything on hold.
The Girls’ management issued a statement on the group’s behalf, thanking their Hawaii fans for their understanding and support, and the shows were rescheduled for this weekend.
Park, a Korean recording star in his own right, assembled the original quintet in 2007 and developed them first as a domestic Korean K-Pop act with television projects, a string of Korean hits and a memorable music video, then reached out to expatriate Korean communities. The Girls appeared as special guests when JYP played American concert dates in 2008 and again in 2009.
The Girls’ next steps toward mainstream American pop stardom came last year, with the release of their first English-language record and a concert tour with the Jonas Brothers.
Less than a year later, the Wonder Girls are touring North America as headliners in their own right. YouTube clips of dates earlier this year suggest their American audience is still predominately Asian, but that could soon change: Their first English album, "2 Different Tears," has been released in conjunction with the tour, with English versions of their Korean hits "Nobody," "So Hot" and "Tell Me."
The Wonder Girls’ first English single, "Nobody," charted on the Billboard Hot 100, and they seem positioned to take K-Pop into the American mainstream.
In the meantime this is probably Hawaii’s only chance to catch them in a venue the size of Pipeline Cafe. Next time around, they’ll probably be playing Blaisdell Arena.
The Wonder Girls were in Singapore last month and looking forward to visiting Hawaii. We reached out via e-mail and they responded collectively.
Q: What do you enjoy most about being in the group?
A: Performing together, experiencing new things and learning from each other.
Q: Is it difficult to sing in English?
A: Singing in English is pretty fine for us since we’ve been listening to a lot of English songs, but recording in English is kind of tough because everything has to be perfect.
Q: Is there a Korean song—a song recorded in Korean that was a hit in Korea—that you think would be a hit in the United States if you recorded it in English?
A: "I Wanna," because it’s fun and fast rhyme, and also because of the ’80s retro sound.
Q: Have any of you visited Hawaii before?
A: No, but we are really looking forward to going there because we’ve heard a lot of good things about it and also because some of our parents are going to come to our concerts there.
Q: Will you have time to do any shopping or go to the beach or go to cultural places while you are here?
A: We usually don’t have time to do that when we are on tour, but hopefully we will soon!
Q: Is there any place in Hawaii—or elsewhere in the United States—you would like to visit?
A: One of the cities we would most like to go is Orlando (Fla.) because Disney World is there.
Q: Who are some of the entertainers—from Korea or from other countries—that have influenced you as a singer, dancer or entertainer?
A: Since our basic content is "retro," we’ve been influenced by Madonna, Stacey Q, the Supremes and most of the Motown artists.
Q: It looks like you have fun making your music videos. Do you have a favorite music video of the ones that you have made? If so, why is it your favorite?
A: When we made our "2 Different Tears" music video with special guest (Korean-American comedian) Bobby Lee, he made a lot of funny dance moves, and we had a lot of fun working with him.
Q: Do you think of yourself as a role model for your fans?
A: We don’t know that we are, but it would be an absolute honor for us. We like to share a lot of feelings through our music (for our fans), just like we were influenced by others when we were children.
Q: What do you like to do when you are not performing?
A: Most of the time we try to get some rest. But since Yenny is really outgoing, she usually goes out and does something.