SG Wannabe Tap Into Sleeper Fan Base in Japan

Nov 7, 2006

The R&B trio SG Wannabe are among the most popular singers in the country with sales of their second album last year recording over 400,000 and their third album this year selling more than 300,000. Now the group is slowly but steadily capturing Japan, where they have an estimated 100,000 fans despite the fact that they never released an album there. But every SG Wannabe concert here sees some 100 fans fly in from the island country. Perhaps that is what will draw a 10,000-strong crowd to their NHK Hall concert on Nov. 12.

"Not all Korean singers are dancers. We’re really grateful to our fans in Japan for recognizing that there are other Korean singers who can’t dance but can sing like us," SG Wannabe said. Chae Dong-ha, the group leader, said the Japanese fans learned about them through Korean shows aired in Japan or because they have been to Korea. "Many fans describe us as the greatest singers in Korea, and I feel both embarrassed and proud whenever I hear that," he says. Member Kim Yong-jun says, "We met some Japanese fans at our concerts, and what impressed us was they could speak Korean. They asked me for my autograph in Korean or said ‘I love you.’ Anyway, we’ve been getting tons of Japanese cookies and sake."

Asked if the scheduled concert is the first step to work in Japan given that tickets for it were sold a month ago, Kim Jin-ho, the baby in the team, said they’re just concerned that they may not be able to satisfy the expectations of Japanese fans, who have a good idea from the Internet what their concerts are like.

Their humble outfits — they usually wear jeans and T-shirts — and attitude make them look ordinary. They are a bit like rowdy high-schoolers when they quarrel over snacks. "For the last three years since our debut, we were able to take less than a week off," Chae said. "Sometimes we feel deathly tired, but the cheers and encouragement from fans always enliven us." People say their singing is like cattle driving — "woo woo." The younger Kim laughs. "I’ve sung in front of a cow but it didn’t move, so I don’t agree."

SG Wannabe will release a new album of greatest hits and three new songs in the middle of the month. The members say they are nothing but pop stars now, but their goal is to get so good they inspire younger singers the way Stevie Wonder did.

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