Korean Pop Star BoA Attempts to Break Stateside
For those prone to pulling all-nighters while watching the Cartoon's Network's Adult Swim, Korean-born singer BoA (real name: Boa Kwon) rings familiar, a sweetly mature voice that drives the light electronica of "Every Heart (Minnano Kimochi)," a closing theme for the popular anime InuYasha. But that was BoA as a teen idol-in-the-making and in the years since that recording, she has become one of the best-known performers in Korea and Japan, pumping out heartfelt ballads, feisty rock numbers and dance jams with equal success.
BoA was discovered by Korean S.M. Entertainment, a firm known for launching the careers of young pop artists, when she was only eleven years old. Within a few short years, she was a bona fide star in her native country and proceeded to conquer the Japanese pop market. At the same time, she managed to accumulate a fanbase in U.S. Kpop and Jpop circles, perhaps fueled in part by her appearance in several high-profile anime series. Last year, her name was abuzz throughout the music blog community when Weezer covered her hit "Meri Kuri" for the Japanese version of "The Red Album."
Now in her early-twenties, BoA has been traveling back and forth between the US and Asia so frequently that jet lag "is always there" in preparation of her first Stateside release. The self-titled album, which was released on March 17, features writing and production contributions from Bloodshy & Avant, Sean Garrett and Brian Kennedy. It's a hit-after-hit affair with a profound electro R&B influence that matches well BoA's street tough dance moves and penchant for baggy, menswear-inspired outfits. We met up with BoA in Hollywood on the day of her album release for a Q/A session.
Video for "Eat You Up"
You've played with many different styles during your career. Why release a dance album in the US?
Our plan was to introduce me to America. I'm a really new artist here. I would say that my style is an artist who can dance and sing. That's why my album is really upbeat. Maybe we will try slowly to do ballads or middle tempo songs. For now, this is my introduction album, so I want to try something that I really can do. I want to try my best.
Are you trained as a dancer as well?
I started training with singing and dance lessons at the same time. Also, I was taking Japanese lessons too, when I was eleven or twelve. After school, I went to the recording studio. I made a contract with my recording company [S.M. Entertainment] when I was eleven years old. After that, I jumped into training. It took two years. I debuted in Korea when I was thirteen years old. After that, I debuted in Japan, at fourteen years old. So, we prepared to go to Japan.
Now that you're working in America, is it like starting all over again?
Yeah, from scratch. I need to learn English and everything is so new to me. I need to learn most of all about American culture. I feel really fresh.
What makes a career in America so appealing?
I never tried to be sexy. You know, most people say that Asian or female artists should be sexy in America, but I don't think that I have to be like that. I have a tomboy style. My choreography is not that way. So, I want to focus on my music style to match the choreography, which is really cool. No girls can dance those moves. I try to make them really fresh.
I'm working with the same company, where I started first. They know me. I know them. We are good to each other.
Are you guys like a family now?
Most likely, yeah. Like Entourage.
How does it work?
If they want me to do something, they ask me. We decide together. We can share everything. I make my own ideas. They make really good ideas and we can make them together.
What influenced this record?
I [had] the chance to work with Sean Garrett, Brian Kennedy, Bloodshy and Avant, really big producers here in America. They helped me out a lot, so I would say that my inspirations are those producers...
It's amazing that I can make a record with Sean Garrett or Brian Kennedy. Sean Garrett produced a lot of hit records. I used to listen to Usher's "Yeah!" and "Run It! " by Chris Brown. I was really shocked that I could make a record with him.
BoA plays Universal City Walk on Saturday March 21 at 6:30 p.m. There will be a meet-and-greet session for 125 people.