What’s Working for Them
In Kpop, money buys good music, and you can tell SM pays. Girls’ Generation impresses with every comeback. Every fan will have his or her favorite, but there’s no denying that all of their songs are catchy. Even the music of sub-unit TTS (Tayeon, Tiffany, and Seohyun) is miles ahead of most full groups. And thanks to their success, Girls’ Generation can afford frequent comebacks. Honestly, the thing that impresses us most about SNSD is their extensive catalog of good music. Because the best pop stars, the ones who last, create good music the first time, and every time. One hit wonders are common, but being at the top for years is the sign of true star.
Girls’ Generation is also the barometer of style in Korea. They made the ‘90s happen all over again in 2013! And no matter your thoughts on jeweled denim jackets, the ability to dictate the fashion of an entire country is exactly the kind of power they would need to wield in image-obsessed America. Sure, the style is not exactly the same between countries (harem trousers just aren’t going to cross the Pacific), but being trendsetters would make their transition that much easier. And let’s be honest, it doesn’t hurt that they’re all beautiful!
What’s Working against Them
They’re all beautiful. What a problem to have, right? Is it even a problem? When trying to cross the Pacific, it might be. Because America isn’t ready for a mega-group. There have been notable successes with three- and four-member pop groups, even a few with five. But nine? That’s asking a lot for a country that invented the recliner. Because you can’t expect the American audience to take the time necessary to get to know a nine-member girl group. Of course, variety shows are everywhere, but only some of the SNSD members are fluent enough in English to participate. It would almost be easier if there were fewer.
But a crossover into America never seemed far-fetched for Girls’ Generation. Because even if they failed, they would be sure to have the backing of all those fans, ready and waiting to invite them back home. Maybe that’s what SM was thinking when they shipped Girls’ Generation to America and aired them live on The Late Show with David Letterman and on Live! with Kelly. Watching these performances is painful, in retrospect. The stages are tiny, the crowds are small (a lack of studio size), and there is virtually no production beyond a camera with a basic zoom capability. And there is something so awkward about these performances. For the biggest group in Korea, it feels amateur. And none of this is the fault of the women of SNSD.
Consider the difference in production between Letterman and Kelly and the Korean weekly performance shows. Girls’ Generation almost looks silly on stage in America. And that had everything to do with a lack of understanding of promotion. Live! with Kelly is not equipped to showcase live entertainment beyond a simple singer-songwriter deal. Letterman is used to bands, but there’s still no stage for dancing. If SM had taken America more seriously, and booked more realistic venues, Girls’ Generation might have had a better shot. But for the American audiences who had never heard of Kpop, SNSD did not leave a positive lasting impression. Any return trips will have to confront the specter of that humiliation, but there’s also a silver lining: most Americans weren’t watching Kelly or Letterman that day.
What Their Chances Are
We’re bullish on Girls’ Generation. If. The big if with SNSD continues to be the number of members. SM can thank us, however, for doing all the hard work for them. Because the answer is simple. Use TTS. The sub-group of Tayeon, Tiffany, and Seohyun was fun, energetic, and the perfect size for an American audience. Like a gateway drug, TTS could be used to introduce America to its newest addiction. So long as SM does their homework ahead of time.