Can the New Single from K-Pop Stars Girls’ Generation Challenge ‘Gangnam Style’?

The South Korean singers are making big moves in the U.S. this year—and, if YouTube is any indication, it's working

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The inescapable pop song “Gangnam Style” is the most-watched YouTube video ever. But PSY, the man behind the horsey dance, is now sharing the YouTube chart stage with his fellow South Korean pop stars, big names in the genre known as “K-Pop”—nine of them, to be exact. The K-Pop megagroup Girls’ Generation (also known as SNSD is Korea) released a new album in Korea at the beginning of this year. Its catchy, multi-genre, Korean-language title track, “I Got a Boy,” has garnered more than 25 million views since Dec. 31. On the YouTube music charts, the song is at No. 2—behind, of course, “Gangnam Style.”

But many of the video’s viewers are not in South Korea. Jane Choi, the band’s U.S. marketing rep, spoke to TIME about what’s next for the band—and she says that the biggest market for the video’s YouTube viewership is in the United States. Every Girls’ Generation release is seen as global, says Choi, but the band’s management feels “like the U.S. market has been wanting the Girls.” With that in mind, later this year Interscope Records is in talks to release a version of I Got a Boy as the Girls’ first full-length American album; details, including the album title, have not yet been settled. (Last year, they brought out an English-language version of the single “The Boys.”)

Mere months after PSY completely dominated global pop culture, what does it mean for a K-Pop group to challenge him at the top of the YouTube charts, even if a billion views is a long way off?

(MORESelling ‘Gangnam Style’: Why K-Pop and Commercials Are a Perfect Match)

For one thing, not all YouTube numbers are the same. New York Magazine calculates that, shortly after PSY broke the YouTube record in late November of 2012, his approximately 850 million views translated into about $1.7 million for PSY and his team (most of which came from video ads rather than from actual ownership of the song in the U.S.). According to the Associated Press, ad rates in richer countries like the U.S. are higher, meaning that not all YouTube fans are equal to pop artists hoping to strike gold—and those ads don’t even have to air before the official video; parodies and tributes that use the song also contribute to revenue, which is one reason going viral gives artists so much of a financial bump. Choi could not comment on Girls’ Generation’s earnings from YouTube ads, but the Girls’ complicated choreography does mean the average camera-phone owner can’t just pop out an “I Got a Boy” video of her own. (A Girls Generation hair-tutorial YouTube video, on the other hand, is another story, but the group only gets paid if their music is used.)

And YouTube is just one platform. Choi guesses that perhaps the U.S.-dominant YouTube watching is due to the fact that, in Korea and elsewhere in Asia, they can be seen live, watched on TV and heard on the radio. “I don’t know if [YouTube numbers] directly translate to sales on iTunes, but it does really help get the song out to new fans, internationally,” she says. Girls Generation does have American fans already—Choi says she was surprised at the level of excitement among non-Asian fans when the group came to promote “The Boys” on David Letterman a year ago—but, away from YouTube, the group is still listed on Billboard’s K-Pop Hot 100 (at No. 1 this week) rather than the mainstream Hot 100 (where PSY is at No. 14).

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To make that move, the group must find out whether they can get air play. “Even though a lot of people do just turn to YouTube for music these days, we think that radio is still important. That’s what mainstream music is,” says Choi. “I don’t think we’re at a disadvantage because we’re not as funny and the dance isn’t as easy to follow as the horsey dance.”

Finally, there’s the fact that many American audiences—guilty as charged!—will make the inevitable PSY comparison. PSY is the biggest name in K-Pop in the U.S. but Girls’ Generation and their colleagues have been around since way before “Gangnam Style.” And while the acts are listed on the same music charts in South Korea as well, they’re not very similar. “‘Gangnam Style’ and what Girls’ Generation is doing, even though they’re labeled under K-Pop, it’s completely different, just like how in the U.S. there’s rock and there’s pop,” says Choi. It’s not just gender and numbers and fashion; if PSY sounds a bit like LMFAO, Girls’ Generation would be nine Miley Cyruses or Destiny’s Child times three.

The goal, as for many artists—and not just musicians—trying to break into the U.S. market from other countries, is to be seen as pop stars, not Korean pop stars.

Not that being lumped in with PSY is all a bad thing.

K-Pop is not a zero-sum game, after all, and Choi says that PSY’s success has been good for Girls’ Generation. Pop songs in other languages are novelties for American listeners, but PSY showed that the unfamiliarity doesn’t have to hold an artist back. Interest in K-Pop, specifically, is running high. And there’s the obvious moral to the story, too, at least where Girls’ Generation’s U.S. hopes are concerned. “[‘Gangnam Style’] helped open the door, but did it affect how we approach our music? No,” says Choi. “If anything, it just proves that music is universal.”

(MORE: Korean Pop, with Online Help, Goes Global)

72 comments
BLACKJACK
BLACKJACK

hey btw everybody, snsd's igab made 9.7 million... just by teasers, before the song was even released. however... th real revenue from the song... i can't tell you.

blakemanner
blakemanner

When I visited Seoul last year, I noticed the power of Girls Generation. They were one of the most popular groups not only in Korea but all of Asia. However, I don't think their appeal and type of music would blend well with the American music industry. I actually just read an article on Yahoo that talks about K-pop crossovers and what groups would maybe be successful. Pretty good read...check it out

http://voices.yahoo.com/life-after-gangnam-style-4-k-pop-groups-we-want-11974143.html?cat=33

top1four
top1four

I appreciate so much that you pointed out that Girls' Generation is NOT a second PSY, that they are different and that they have been around for awhile. :) It's clear you did your research and as a long time Kpop fan I appreciate that.

KpopView
KpopView

9 Miley Cyruses?   No.  Maybe 9 Taylor swifts

treauseeker
treauseeker

"Girls’ Generation and their colleagues have been around since way before “Gangnam Style.”"

And Psy has been around way before Girls' Generation.

Ling775
Ling775

I like this song, SNSD is the best GG for me . Because I know more of SNSD ,so I liked more too :))  I'm Sone . SNSD is Amazing . SNSD's life      so amazing too , I like SNSD all members but the best is Kwon Yuri :))

ExtraChair
ExtraChair

If they're really going to go with IGAB, they need to get good lyrics; it's the only way a disjointed song like this can survive airplay without a massive overhaul of its structure

BAMzilla
BAMzilla

I can attest to the "moral of the story" that Psy introduced me (an American) to Kpop. And now I am a newbie SONE. ^^

yoonaSNSD_juli
yoonaSNSD_juli

I am not after GG beating Gangnam syle. but just for them to be notice like this is well enough..

kay
kay

hell no

Seo_Dzur
Seo_Dzur

2 billion  IndoneSone here to support you girls.....

Seo_Dzur
Seo_Dzur

Go go girls.... 
TaeYeon, Jessica, Sunny, Tiffany, HyoYeon, Yuri, SooYoung, YoonA, SeoHyun

iceski
iceski

This article...... WOW...... Is PSY really that famous in the US? Did he really sell that many albums over there? I agree with many comments that there were many other groups that were already famous in the US before PSY and these groups have managed to maintain their fans' interest in their work, not even to mention growing their fan-base. Call me a cynic but its too early to comment on PSY's success in the US, much less compare it to the successes of other groups before him. 


simplelife18
simplelife18

They need to make the video, I got a boy,  available on itunes, just like the boys.

SoShe9
SoShe9

If there is any other kpop group who can break into the American Music Industry, it's got to be Girls' Generation. All it's going to take is the right song and these girls will become the next big thing. The crazy thing is that their fanbase consists of both males AND females, and they're most popular with ages 13-24. Even still, they also have a lot of older fans. I think it's very possible for the girls to be the first nine-girl group that America falls in love with. They have the charisma of the Spice Girls so I really hope Interscope Records will give these girls the hit song that they deserve. 

The crazy thing is that although a lot of people still don't know who Girls Generation is, the majority of the ones that do know who they are are crazy about them. Maybe they need a reality show or something so that people can get to know them better. I know one of the reasons that they became so popular in Korea was through their on-screen time and I would love to see some sort of documentary about their challenges and triumphs in the American Music industry. 

Either that or a collaboration with a major American artist may win them some publicity.

JohnCarlosGatchalian
JohnCarlosGatchalian

...If that album was released TIME should make Girls Generation the cover of their magazine...

itsjhamzyS
itsjhamzyS

i hope that the american album will have english version of paparazzi too!!! i got a boy english, im so looking forward for that!!

itsjhamzyS
itsjhamzyS

i really agree with this... SNSD deserve this unlike psy's humorless gangnam style that make the people of the world thinks kpop is nothing serious!



and its nice to see that TIME make some comparison like 9 Miley Cyruses or 3x Destiny's Child... deffinitely awesome!!!

TA
TA

I love Girls Generation and I've been following them since November 2011. They are very talented and I Got A Boy is on another level. I can't wait to hear more music from them. <3


JohnCarlosGatchalian
JohnCarlosGatchalian

...i think for now they cant beat psy's gangnam style but who knows maybe next month the views of their video will reach 100 million views...

JohnCarlosGatchalian
JohnCarlosGatchalian

...yeeaahhh our girls is ready to conquer the world ...yeahh... after the boys they are now back with their new song I GOT A BOY !!!!1

Soshi_Zone
Soshi_Zone

Emm,,,they can do it but i don't think they can't surpass Gangnam Style...i'm their fan but it's not possible to create new history..

They already famous than Psy before..Even Psy is a biggest of Girls'Generation..Psy like Taeyeon.We can see at many show where Psy really love them..So,it's not useful if we compare them.This song maybe a bit confuse if we hear for first time but it will more interesting if we hear more..I hope Girls'Generation can do the best for 2013!!

CanadaELFDiana
CanadaELFDiana

Girls' Generation were popular before Psy. They had the most viewed Kpop video GEE which is now like 100 000 000 views before psy came about. I hope other Kpop artists like Super Junior can also go viral :)

김혜성
김혜성

Why not ? I mean I THINK lots of people including non-KPOP fans say that 'I GOT A BOY' is AWESOME and has that NEW STYLE ! Making more songs in just one is just amazing ~ And yet, the song and the members make it all through out ! Plus, IGAB is really gaining interest from other parts of the world. So I think SOMEDAY, SNSD will beat Gangnam Style.. 

jhainje
jhainje

YES!! SNSD needs to break into America. TOP 40 in the USA is so boring right now. And lets be honest, SNSD is one of the few Kpop acts that speak/sing English very well so a language barrier would not be an issue. I am half Korean and I am so happy/proud/excited that Kpop is finally getting some positive recognition in the US, even if it is because of PSY haha.                  소녀시대 화이팅!!!! ㅋㅋㅋㅋ ㅋㅋ

Athenasaints
Athenasaints

Funny thing, 2 of the SNSD members are actually Americans. Another one is technically an American (born in USA, but moved to Kuwait and later South Korea).  In the post-Youtube world, broadband internet completely changed how digital content get distributed.  This world is completely different when I first came to United States in the late 1980's.  Back then, American kids don't even know what Japanese anime is, but they love their "Thundercats", "Galaxy Rangers" and "Silver Hawks".

jeanniee
jeanniee

i think they should come over to america, as an american, i have been listening to them for quite a while, i have no idea what they are saying, but i love the music... music is most definitely universal.

iCrayS
iCrayS

I Got A Boy is definitely not your conventional K-Pop, personally as a fan I had my moment of dislike in the first listen, probably about the delivery and awkward mule grunt after Taeyeon's [middle of the body wave trio] verse and just before Jessica's [batgirl] dabble (probably half the reason why I love it). Could do a little smoother around the transition of genres but after a fare few listens, the flaws make the song... or that is what I keep telling myself. It isn't my favorite cuppa tea but it is still an enjoyable song, after all it is personal preferences. Killer choreography though. I prefer their smooth voices in Promise and jingle in Baby Maybe.

I'd love to see what else they have to offer in their English albums, this is just one of the many choreography I'm hoping to have more. The girls had so much fun performing it I'm sure. They really are an impossible nine, no newies out there take your pick *coughcoughtheshortyisminecough*, such uber adorable kids once you get to know them so make no mistake if they already stole your heart.

Izamar
Izamar

I think they're very talented women and I would be as absolutely delighted to hear them sing in English as I have been when I heard them sing in Korean or Japanese. They're hard working entertainers with incredible work ethics and personaly I also think of them as good role models. 


OnThisIsland
OnThisIsland

Although I LOVE this group I, initially, wasn't a big fan of this song. It was too different from Gee or Run Devil Run for me to like it on the get go but after listening to it multiple times and watching it be performed however, I gradually came to love it. I personally would rather a different song for their American release because after all, had I not been a fan when I first heard it, I highly doubt I would have given it the time of day to re-watch and re-listen to it. I guess what I'm saying is, if fans like myself had to put in effort and time to like this single, why would a non-fan bother to give it a second thought?

With that said, I have trouble imagining the widespread success of a Korean pop group in America, but perhaps if anyone's going to do it, it's going to be these girls and their crazy work ethic and refreshing humbleness. 

1Guest
1Guest

Note to Lily Rothman: When posting a link to the YouTube music charts, do consider choosing a specific week found at the calendar icon just above the most viewed videos on YouTube's page; This way the reader will be directed to the chart's archives instead of the current top 6 YouTube music videos - And thats important because this is a well-written article and you can be assured us K-Pop fans are going to share and spread this article around for quite some time!

NikySho1987
NikySho1987

@blakemanner Thanks for the article! I agree, Girls Generation is mass-produced, superficial and artificial. When it comes to K-pop there are gimmicks that can be used to make you appealing, or if you have a genuine message and choose to be authentic there are ways to market yourself to make sure your message gets heard. I think Psy took a real life issue and made it into a fun satirical song and that message has been distorted and turned into a gimmick. 

Girls Generation on the other hand is extremely gimmicky, they dress up like barbie dolls, sing in small high pitched voices, make cute-yet-far-too childish gestures, and sing about really generic topics. They don't preach girl power, they are the opposite of girl power. Their image is agreeably very appealing to a lot of people because it's easy, it's normal, it's digestible.  I'm not buying it though and neither will the American (USA) public who don't care about how innocent you look. Now don't get me wrong, not every American is the same, so there will be fans of what GG has to offer, there already is. 

However, the type of music Girls Generation makes just isn't the type of music that is on the top ten USA billboard music charts and that's hiphop/dance/electronic/country/Rock-Rock Alternative. There are groups in K-pop today that would make more appealing music and would mesh well with what is currently popular around the world but Girls Generations fluffy-bubblegum-pop music will never appeal!

top1four
top1four

@treauseeker yup, and I would hope most Kpop fans know that. but the writer didn't say they've been around longer than PSY. what she said is true. Girls' Generation HAS been around longer than Gangnam Style.

SpiderWeb2007
SpiderWeb2007

@massiejeremia nope not just korea or japan....they are popurlare more than these two countries in asia....dont be an ignorants ass

sunshinersone9
sunshinersone9

@iceski He's not really that popular... only popular because of the crazy dance and MV. :/ 


pggcoding
pggcoding

No, they don't have the charisma of the Spice Girls. Psy is the only pop star yet from Korea, even asia, to bring the charisma.

pggcoding
pggcoding

you obviously cn't sense humor

itsjhamzyS
itsjhamzyS

@JohnCarlosGatchalian if fans wont re upload it again! sick of that! they should just watch it on SMTOWN's youtube account! and better yet upload to GirlsGenerationVEVO

itsjhamzyS
itsjhamzyS

@TiffanyMiyoungieHwang why hate? im a fan of both! and actually i really find SNSD's music a slight similar to what miley's music is... pop, pop-rock hiphop! and they only compare the music... and why hate miley? she's just a girl that is judge wrongly...



just accept that Miley Cyrus is good good gone bad of this generation!

JohnCarlosGatchalian
JohnCarlosGatchalian

@itsjhamzyS I recently post on our group in facebook SSPH. that they should watch I GOT A BOY more on you tube for the video to reach high views ... and they agree..