Kpop Music Video: Day 15
Believe by Ukiss under NH Media
UKiss is currently a 7 member boy band. They debuted in 2008, and broke out into the Kpop in late 2009 with their song Man Man Ha Ni, which reached #6 on the M-net countdown (one of Korea’s music variety shows, like MTV’s Total Request Live [TRL]). Since then, they have been very popular via internet and social media, but still have not garnered the popularity within Korean life that other Kpop bands enjoy. When the group originally debuted, they had 6 members, adding a 7th in 2009. In 2011, two of the members contracts were terminated, and two new members were added to the band. All of the current members of Ukiss are included in the single “Believe”
Ukiss actually is an acronym, standing for Ubiquitous Korean International Super Star. While usually I like to rag on the choice of English words that Kpop companies glue together to make a cool sounding acronym, I do no such thing with Ukiss because their acronym is dead accurate. Kpop as an industry is very hard to succeed in, and like many American celebrities, most stars do not make much money at all until they are chosen to be in advertizing campaigns. Much of the industry is controlled by the three big labels (SM, YG and JYP) and the other labels have to fight for the remaining attention (Cube, Starship, TS, Woollim, and more). Ukiss was formed to compete with these other groups internationally, as opposed to within their country, and the way that they were assembled helps the group to reach many more cultures more intimately than other groups. Ukiss was formed with language in mind, assuming that even though the average international Kpop fan wants to hear these songs in Korean, will also not mind versions of these songs in their native language, and would LOVE to have the stars answer questions directly instead of being translated. We see that some in other groups, where the members will be learning different languages to sing in and some may be fluent or semi-fluent in another language. Ukiss takes the cake in languages learned, as far as I’m concerned. While they were still young, one of their former members, Alexander, could speak 7 different languages (Korean, Japanese, Mandarin, Cantonese, English, Spanish, Portuguese). It seems that he is still producing music, but I think he should work for the Korean government giving tours if he knows that many languages. Their other former member touted Japanese as a second language, and the youngest member of the group Dongho can speak Mandarin.
The three members Kevin, Eli and AJ are of special interest to me, because they are the English speakers of Ukiss, although it should be noted that Eli also speaks Mandarin. I really feel that Ukiss was constructed to be a great international group purely on the English speaking ability of these three members. Eli grew up in Virgina and he has gained a slight accent since he’s been in Asia since 15, but his pronunciation is still very clear. He studied abroad in China to learn Mandarin. Kevin was raised in the San Fransisco Bay area. His voice has a peculiar inflection that makes it hard to tell if he has an accent, but regardless his voice is very clear and easy to understand. AJ was raised in Korea, but went to an International School. International Schools are schools set aside for children of Ambassadors or other out of country individuals, and for families who can afford their high price tag. International schools are often taught in English or English and the native language and promote world perspective as opposed to the local culture. As a result AJ is more native to Korean culture since he grew up in Korea but shares the same ease of English speaking as Eli and Kevin, including many of the cultural nuances that pass by a non native speaker. In addition to speaking English, AJ has written some of Ukiss’ songs, and enjoys composing. This means that the English in Ukiss’ later songs is very accurate and sometimes artsy and strange.
Check out AJ, Kevin and Eli’s speaking abilities in this informal backstage chat with Eat Your Kimchi:
Not only do they include English in their Korean songs, sometimes they translate the whole song into English. If you’re feeling adventurous, check out their newest Korean single here: http://youtu.be/d_AwyTp9qb0 and the English version of that same song here: http://youtu.be/VbASnZHYxtY.
Ukiss has more English speaking fans than a band of their fame within Korea, but they also enjoy success in other international communities, especially Asian countries. They were the first Kpop band to perform in Columbia, and have held a concert in Paris. They were also the first Kpop band to hold a fan meet and greet in Cambodia. Their greatest success comes from Japan, where they have peaked at 5 on the Oricon charts for their hit Tick Tack, which you can check out the beginning portion of the song below. They have toured Japan, and enjoy higher sell rates for their 6 Japanese singles than many of their Korean singles, especially factoring out the Japanese fans purchasing the Korean versions of the songs in addition to the Japanese version.
In a genre where half of the promotion exists purely on the internet, it’s very smart for a company to form a band like Ukiss that can relate well to international fans. Similar bands to Ukiss include Wonder Girls, where every member is at least conversationally fluent in English, if not fully fluent in English (they are the first Kpop band to have a single on the Billboard Hot 100), Super Junior, who has a Mandarin subgroup, and successful bands in Japan such as Girl’s Generation and Kara. Many of these groups enjoyed a large Korean following before these avenues were pursued, but I think that more bilingual bands and band members will be seen down the road.