Did the Wonder Girls really have to go to America?
There is no other way to express hardship. Whatever was thought as suffering could not match what the girls went through in America. In 2009 the Wonder Girls were a nationally treasured girl group in Korea. They were the best of the best, the very tip of the top. However, in less than two years, their high profile status was upset and flipped over. Their rivals have moved into their place and even their juniors have fought their way up to stardom.
People cocked their head to one side, and put a question mark to JYP‘s strategy of leaving the home turf. Why not just stay at the top in the K-pop world? Even fans were disappointed and didn’t understand why the Wonder Girls had no other plans but to start activities in America.
To get to the point of the message here, the Wonder Girls’ activities in America were not a waste of time. Instead of being safe at the top, they tackled (and still are tackling) a challenge. Although it was a tiring and relentless two years, the pain from their experiences in America eventually became medicine. The girls’ musical foundation has definitely matured and developed and it shows in their new album “Wonder World.”
On November 6 the Wonder Girls were interviewed by Dispatch News at Imperial Hotel. The girls were asked to comment and tell their sides of the story in response to five popular rumors.
Rumor # 1: The Wonder Girls Failed in America
From “Tell Me” to “So Hot” to “Nobody,” with each song the girls took the nation by storm. Therefore their departure to America in 2009 was a bit of a surprise. Two years of activities away from home just seemed like too long a time, and the reaction to the mini-album last year was at best mediocre. There can’t help but be a lot of talk of the Wonder Girls having failed in America.
Sun Ye: We understand why people question why we left Korea. One can say it is because the expectations people had of us were big, but our side of the story was different. Two years ago, we were completely exhausted. We needed time to slowly reenergize and progress in our development. Our time in New York was probably the most important period of my life. In a diverse environment with a lot of cultures and people present, we learned a great deal. If it wasn’t for that, there would have been no producing or rap making in the new album. We are truly grateful for our time in America, and it was an important one for us as a group.
Ye Eun: If we went to America now, things would have been a bit easier. The most important thing I learned is that if you want to succeed in foreign activities, the key is learning the language. You have to be understood in order to communicate your intentions. We have no trouble understanding and answering questions now, therefore we have acquired both the language and culture. Our clearly defined goals and visions for America, give us the confidence we need to move on.
It was also a hot issue when famous American producer Teddy Riley (who produced SNSD‘s “The Boys“) posted on his Twitter that the Wonder Girls were “flops in America” and that “no body cares about them.” The girls have responded by stating that they “understand his statement” and showed mild indifference by stating “if you get hit on the right cheek, offer them your left.”
Sun Ye: There are a lot of people that think our activities in America are a failure, but things just got heated because Teddy Riley is a famous icon. Every single person out there is not going to like us or be our fans. The fact that Teddy Riley even knows who we are is an honor. But the thing is we aren’t even thinking about closing promotions and activities in America. It is too early to judge whether or not we have failed or succeeded. On the outside it may seem like we aren’t attaining the desired level of achievement, however there are many things we have learned and gained. All we ask is for fans to hear us out until the end and to support us.
Rumor # 2: The Wonder Girls Delayed Their Comeback Because of SNSD
The girls have stated that they had the confidence, but the way their comeback was implemented has fans questioning that confidence. The Wonder Girls decided to delay their comeback by three weeks, although an obvious competition between both girl groups was anticipated. People are saying that the comeback got delayed due to fear of this competition against SNSD.
Sun Ye: There was a lot of debate on how to implement plans for our new album even after the decision was made to make a comeback in Korea. In the end, the album was produced, but there were a lot of different opinions on regularities and irregularities. The decision to even make a comeback was not planned in advance, so the time we had to prepare was a very short one. For our fans in Korea we decided to make a comeback, and it was just a matter of the amount of time it took to have good music made and ready.
Yoo Bin: We have been in the business for four to five years, and this is the first time our comeback coincided with SNSD, so we are fully aware that both groups are going to be compared and pitted against. But that doesn’t mean we have to always be conscious of it and plan deliberately according to this competition. In popular media there is a diverse demand for what people want. What we can’t produce and supply, SNSD is there to fill that empty spot, and vice versa. We are just happy and grateful that we can take part in such a energetic market called K-Pop.
The girls have also expressed that SNSD were great colleagues and friends that worked towards the same goal of spreading and influencing the K-Pop scene. The girls have monitored SNSD’s work with their latest single, “The Boys,” and are excited to be working alongside each other this time around.
Rumor # 3: Retro Doesn’t Work Anymore
Ye Eun: There was a great deal of dispute over our title track. What people want within mainstream pop culture is very diverse. While some people wanted to see retro Wonder Girls, others wanted to see a different side to us. It was our challenge to come out with a fresh concept without losing the Wonder Girls touch. We found that middle ground with “Be My Baby” – the song falls somewhere in between trend and retro.
Yoo Bin: “Be My Baby” is not our usual retro music, but it is fresh with a retro touch to it. It’s a very soulful and uptempo song, but at the same time it has a 60’s style retroness to it. The outfits also follow the same concept. We made a change by adding leather, but polka dots kept a retro foundation. We got a lot of help from Beyonce‘s choreographer and Katy Perry‘s stylist.
Rumor # 4: Wonder Girls Can’t Sing Live
After music, fans demand live performances. It is known that less vocally talented Sohee and Hye Lim are given little singing time, and main vocals Sun Ye and Ye Eun are known for their frequent off note incidents. People say that Wonder Girls are poor live performers.
Sohee: For this album we tried a lot of new things while dividing songs into parts. We decided to change things up and not follow the template we followed before. In “Be My Baby,” I sing more than four lines during the introduction, and it is the same for Hye Lim. There was a lot of pressure, and we had a lot of difficulty with some parts of the song, but I developed a sense of responsibility and it was a chance for me to practice a lot more vocally. Fans can be sure to expect a lot of things from our activities.
Sun Ye: We tried hard to produce our own sound. We tried a new soulful and fresh singing method. When you listen you might think the new sound comes from higher notes or the increase in ad-libs, but it is actually from a more relaxed and comfortable style that we adapted.
Rumor # 5: Wonder Girls are Outdated
Although there are great expectations for the girls on one side, there are also those that are more cynical. There is talk that Wonder Girls are out of season. Because of spending time in America, many fans have slowly started to forget about the Wonder Girls.
Hye Lim and Yoo Bin: Waiting two years is a long time. So we wanted to make a comeback that filled in all of the empty spots that fans developed during the wait. We satisfied from the fact that people are happy and excited after hearing our music. We also plan to appease fans and become closer to them by trying our best and participating on music programs and variety shows.
Sohee and Sun Ye: There is a benefit to having been gone for such a long time. We can comeback with an outlook of a new comer. It feels exactly like the days when we got nervous from seeing the red light on the camera go on. We see it as an opportunity to grab people’s hearts. Our goal is to give a positive influence under the name “Wonder Girls.” Every day has a beginning and an end, and we still have a long ways to go.