"Do you see Asian singers on American television? I don’t!"
JYP — aka Park Jin-young, founder and CEO of JYP Entertainment and producer/manager of the Wonder Girls — posed that question about an hour in to the Wonder Girls’ Hawaii debut concert Friday night at Pipeline Cafe.
The Girls — Sun, Yenny, Sohee, Yubin and Lim — came out on stage without introduction at 8 o’clock on the dot and entertained the wall-to-wall crowd for a solid 40 minutes while a luminous sea of iPhones and other electronic devices recorded their every twist, turn and seductive gyration. Then came a momentary lull as the quintet left the stage. JYP appeared seconds later in an immaculate white suit, and the crowd went wild again.
It was JYP’s concert debut in Hawaii as well, and he made the most of it as he sang several of his signature hits, played one selection on keyboards and displayed his crowd-pleasing skills as a dancer on several others. He told the crowd he was happy to be in Hawaii not as a CEO or as the manager and producer of the Wonder Girls, but as a singer and dancer who was there to entertain them.
He also made it known that he’s a man on a mission.
"I need your help and your support," he said, noting that America has embraced Asian cars, Asian televisions, Asian actors, film directors and athletes but not yet Asian singers on mainstream American television.
He said it’s time for Wonder Girls to break through and become Asian singers on American television.
And, by any reasonable criteria, the Wonder Girls not only lived up to the expectations stoked by the concert clips on YouTube, but proved as well they’re ready and worthy of pop success in mainstream America.
First and foremost, they’re a good show as pop singers and dancers, and JYP has given them good material, but the show also transcends the issues of language and nationality that often sidetrack Asian artists en route to success in mainstream America.
Artists who come here from the Philippines often spend a significant share of their concert singing Tagalog songs and speaking either Tagalog or "Taglish," and many times non-Filipinos can feel left out and isolated. Not so, the Wonder Girls. They made it clear they appreciate the support of expatriate Koreans of all ages, but with a few brief exceptions they spoke English throughout the show and sang almost entirely in English.
"Don’t Cha," their early Pussycat Dolls tribute, came early in the show and gave them a great chance to show off their appeal as singer/dancers.
"Nobody" and "So Hot," both songs originally Korean hits but rerecorded in English for release on their American "2 Different Tears" record, also were early highlights.
"2 Different Tears" helped bring the concert to a rousing finale shortly before 10 p.m.
It was like watching the videos, but better.
I said this last month and I’m saying it again: Hawaii was lucky to see Wonder Girls and JYP in a venue as intimate as Pipeline Cafe.