How far would you travel to see Girls' Generation?
When K-Pop frontrunner Girls’ Generation drops a new album in Korea, it truly is a national event.
Every news outlet runs stories and incites fans to near-hysteria as part of the build-up to the group's live “comebacks” to weekend TV performances on major networks.
Case in point: at a small round-table interview with the nine GG members and writers from top Korean newspapers, the terse and efficient questioning that usually characterizes such interviews is nowhere to be seen.
Instead, veteran reporters fire off extremely detailed questions that reveal avid (and acutely personal) interest.
“I noticed that in one of your concerts in Japan, you guys did not perform ‘Oh,’ which is one of your best songs, in my opinion. What was the reasoning behind that?” asks a male reporter excitedly. (The answer: we don’t know.)
“Only the release of a Girls’ Generations new album can gather these top news outlets in one place and have them be pumped up about it,” jokes the oldest reporter in the room.
The girls and "The Boys"
Girls’ Generation’s new album, titled “The Boys,” was released on iTunes worldwide on October 19 and marked a hyped return to the K-Pop scene after 11 months of promotion overseas.
The English version of the album will be released November 1.
The girls’ management company, SM Entertainment, which has proved itself extraordinarily adept at the marketing game not only domestically but also overseas, is sparing few expenses for the new album’s promotion.
Teasers of the music video were broadcast on electronic billboards in New York, Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo, and the girls appeared on MTV News in New York this week, as well as putting in an appearance at Best Buy Theater on Broadway for a brief fan meeting for approximately 1,000 fans.
The musical concept for “The Boys” is a new one for the group, featuring more of a Janet Jackson vibe than the perkier tweeniness of previous title songs.
The music video, which amassed more than 13 million views on Youtube in one week, is, as usual, the most crucial part of the song. It features perfect synchronized choreography and a multitude of latest hairstyles and wardrobes.
More on CNNGo: Girls Generation wants to be 'nine Beyonces'
“Our title song for this album targets the world,” says the group’s lead singer Tae-yeon, 22.
“This is the first time we tried rap,” adds Tiffany, 22, one of the two Korean-Americans in the group.
“It’s more of a chant than a rap, actually, and there were a few of us who really wanted to do it,” she laughs.
“It was the first time a foreign producer flew in to direct us personally,” adds Tae-yeon.
The producer in question is American singer-songwriter Teddy Riley, who co-produced Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” album and is deemed to be the creator of the fusion music genre known as new jack swing, or swingbeat.
K-Pop on the map
World-famous producers are hardly the only people flying to Korea to see Girls’ Generation.
Fans from around the world have been flying into Korea specifically for the group’s comeback.
Arc Tolentino, 25, Trian Lauang, 25 and Patrick Wiedmer, 27 are law school students in the Philippines who are taking advantage of a school holiday to witness Girls’ Generation’s comeback in person.
“We’re here for a week especially to see them,” says Tolentino. The three students were just some of the many fans standing in line to see the girls’ comeback on "M countdown," a cable music show.
“We were here since 6 a.m. to stand in line for the tickets and we saw a lot of fans from other countries, including Finland and Germany,” says Lauang.
“While we’re here, we’re going to buy CDs and K-Pop merchandise,” he adds.
The Korean government has been taking notice of the tourism draw of K-Pop, which is why public relations from Korea Tourism Organization’s Visit Korea campaigns have been K-Pop heavy.
Girls’ Generation have been named Honorary Ambassadors for "Visit Korea 2010-2012."
Tang (last name not given), 32, runs a publishing company in Thailand and flew on the morning of M countdown and is planning to stay two weeks to see the girls’ promotions.
“This is my tenth trip to see Girls’ Generation,” she says, and introduces fellow fans Pam, 22, Jessy, 21, and Jun-Yung, 22, who flew in from Thailand and China.
Tiffany (last name not given), 23, came to Korea from France at the beginning of October and got a job here.
“It’s purely for Girls’ Generation,” she says, adding that she went back to France for the SM Town concert in Paris in June. She plans to stay for a year.
When asked what places they'd recommend K-Pop tourists visit in Korea, the members laugh and jokingly recommend Every Sing, the sleek and modern Seoul karoke hub in Apgujeong run by SM Entertainment, which also sells Girls' Generation merchandise.
This is the place they are most likely to relax and goof off in between various broadcast schedules.
"We wish you could see how we play there!" exclaims Yoona, 21. "We fall over laughing because we have so much fun."
"I'd like to recommend K-Pop tourists to see my sister's musical," says Soo-young, 22, invoking laughter from the rest of the members. Soo-young's sister Soo-jin is currently starring in the musical version of the drama "Winter Sonata" at Myungbo Art Hall.
How far would you travel to see your favorite artist live? Tell us in the comments below.