Crayon Pop in America: Are They Ready? Are We?

CriticalKPOP posted an editorial about Crayon Pop’s opening tour for Lady Gaga and lists some legitimate concerns about how the American audience would perceive them and K-pop. However, in the eyes of most Crayon Pop fans, this isn’t about invading the American pop industry, in fact, it is far from it. If it were an invasion attempt, Crayon Pop would have agreed to Lady Gaga’s request to tour for her entire tour. Chrome and Crayon Pop are well aware what this is, and it is about grabbing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that might lead to bigger things back home in Korea.

Crayon Pop, yes, the Crayon Pop is currently on tour with Lady Gaga for her fourth concert series, artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball. The popular Kpop group has been asked to bring their high-energy fun to open fourteen of Gaga’s concerts between June 26 and July 22, taking them to cities all over the U.S. and Canada. The tour is giving Crayon Pop incredible exposure to a wide audience, and maybe, just maybe, the recognition they deserve. But is Crayon Pop ready for this level of scrutiny?

The Recognition They Deserve

There is no doubt that Crayon Pop turned the Kpop world on its head with “Bar Bar Bar.” The song was inventive, addicting, and displayed an understanding of internet culture that few other groups can match. After becoming minor internet sensations, the five women received surprisingly little press or recognition. The opportunities their success granted them were…underwhelming. The awards they received all contained words like “trendy” and “new.” Overall, the women of Crayon Pop were treated like passing stars with little staying power. They were thought to be a viral hit and little more. “Lonely Christmas” and “Uh-ee” proved otherwise, but Crayon Pop still hasn’t gotten the recognition they deserve. Until now.

Opening for Lady Gaga’s artRAVE: The ARTPOP Ball puts Crayon Pop in front of sold out crowds, averaging 12,000 strong. Not only does this garner them an incredible amount of exposure, but it positions them in the same conversation as Lady Gaga at the pinnacle of pop music. Being invited to open for Gaga is its own endorsement. For my money, earning the respect of Lady Gaga, who many would consider to be the queen of pop music, speaks louder than any award Crayon Pop could win. This is huge. And they deserve it.

But Is Crayon Pop Ready?

Being an opening act is hard. In thirty minutes, it’s your job to pump up a crowd that is not there to see you, has probably never heard of you. When you walk out on stage, the audience politely claps, but stays in their seats. You have no set, no wardrobe changes, no production available to you. All you have is your music.

These are issues every opening act learns to deal with. But Crayon Pop has some additional obstacles to overcome. Their English, for one, is not good, which limits them to memorized banalities. It’s hard to showcase your charisma without being able to communicate. Crayon Pop must also face the cultural barrier between East and West. Having little to no experience with Kpop, many Westerners may have trouble enjoying the quirkiness of Crayon Pop. First reactions may tend towards laughter, or derision. And opening acts always appear more amateurish than they actually are.

For example, Crayon Pop has a limited catalog of music, none of which showcase their vocals. To date, they have only released six songs, not enough to cover a thirty-minute set, which explains why they have been performing all six, then repeating “Bar Bar Bar” as their closer. The second time, they dance with light sticks, their only prop unless you count the helmets. Though normal for an opening set, singing and dancing on a blank stage with a plastic sheet behind them works against Crayon Pop, whose dances have always been carefully choreographed to be accessible to imitation. In other words: easy. On such a stage, especially set against the lavish, drag-queen spectacle of Lady Gaga, Crayon Pop’s simplicity works against them. Will Western audiences see talent, or will they see a talent show?

And that is our fear. Though we love Crayon Pop, love their music, and choreography, and everything they have done for Kpop, they are not well represented as an opening act. We worry that Western audiences will see little that impresses them. We worry that Crayon Pop relies too heavily on “Bar Bar Bar.” We worry that they will be treated as a mild curiosity, rather than talented artists. But still, we’re excited about the recognition they’ve received. We hope that Lady Gaga’s endorsement propels Crayon Pop to an even higher level. We hope and we fear.

Source: CriticalKPOP

  • Thing is, no KPOP act is every going to be taken seriously in America because of racism and the rejection of anything that is slightly different culture-wise. Chrome knows this and Chrome has been incredibly smart about this entire thing. Crayon Pop opening for Gaga has absolutely nothing to do with breaking America or even what America thinks of CP, it’s all about their image in Korea and being able to say that they toured in venues most KPOP artists will never step foot in. This is a huge accomplishment and opportunity for CP as Korean Pop Idols in Korea, and that’s all it was ever meant to be.

    • NeonMoon

      Ditto..well said..CP has everything to gain that lose…made money, exposure, increase fan base and FREE PR..and Chrome has a month to concentrate on their newbies..while the cat is away, the meeeeses are out the fat cat is coming back soon…Soyul n companies!!

  • Stan Baker

    Chrome is quite simply not exploiting this opportunity to the degree almost any US-based promoter would. It isn’t that they are not getting any media exposure outside the Kpop-focused web, but there are no signs Chrome or their US reps are making any attempt whatever. During their prolonged layover in Montreal, would it have killed someone for Chrome to at least attempt a “media day” or two in New York? When Yongpop appeared on Chicago TV, I was amazed and very strongly suspect this was more about Tribune reaching out. There have been fewer than five stories in any US media, including the PRI drop about Pop Jhussis as a social phenomenon back home. When you considered that fans, albeit only a handful, are appearing “in uniform” at the US shows, this is a squandered opportunity to at least rise to the level of a one-hit wonder in the US.

    • Administrator

      Sony is promoting them on social media like Facebook and YouTube ads. Trying to reach out to the US media actively just because they are in the US will likely backfire. As mentioned in our blurb, it’s really more about Korea than US.

      • Stan Baker

        It is absolutely about writing off the potential of building a larger fan base, or even going further in North America which remains the largest media market in the world. They are on tour so that they may say they have been on the largest, longest tour of any Korean performer ever on this continent. That is not a useless bit of hype to be certain. I have no expectation that “big media” will be very interested. I don’t know how it works outside the English-speaking world, but over here media doesn’t come to you. You have to go to them. Even if Yongpop appears as one of the weird things foreigners do, at the very least America will know Korean pop culture didn’t die the last time Psy boarded a plane at LAX.

        • h4iumb1

          the largest media market in the world is china 😉

    • GBuster

      They (Chrome/Sony) never intended to exploit the U.S. media. Think about it, WG and SNSD, who are more popular and have way more financial backing, failed to make a dent in the Western pop market. Crayon Pop wouldnt have lasted.

      • Stan Baker

        Chrome isn’t even trying. We have our own girl groups. WG and SNSD were simply more of the same in this market. Those groups failure to catch on is a textbook page in why packaging something for a foreign market does not work. I’m not expecting Youngpop to do SNL, but I did expect them to stop by WFMU or hear they would appear on one of those afternoon chat shows by now.

        I’m not anticipating a Beatles-like career, but I am disappointed there is nothing.

        • GBuster

          Chrome isn’t trying because there is no need for it. Their focus is to get the group back when the tour is over to wrap up the album that was delayed because of said tour.

          It was pretty clear what the focus was when CEO Hwang didnt even come along for the tour.

        • Trying would equate to a loss in money that they would never gain back. There is no point in trying to break the market, no point in wasting valuable and limited resources.

        • Ray

          Stan and GB are both right. Chrome isn’t trying as much as they should. 2 shirts, I didn’t even see any of their CD’s available for merchandise. You don’t need to be a CEO to know the double benefit of selling merchandise ($ & exposure). Effort doesn’t always equal money lost when promoting yourself. No time allotted for fan meets the one touted on this site in L.A. has a price tag! CEO I believe is dipping in and out of country but he’s split between K-much, Bob Girls (he’s posting a lot of pics of Bob Girls) and Zan Zan. This tour is a once in a lifetime opp. he’s letting the girls enjoy, but more importantly it buys at least 6 months of: yes we want to interview the only kpop group to do what they’ve done and oh we’ll let you perform your new song. Sadly I don’t think their songs will penetrate the American market (& Chrome knows this…but again they’re really not trying) SNSD couldn’t do it and it wasn’t because of racism. The Boys in English sucked, the song itself made no sense and they had an American producer with some pedigree. Honestly I think this GaGa thing hit at the worst time for the company ( a lot going on) and the best time for the girls (squeeze more life out of Bar3)

          • Administrator

            The fanmeet is organized by fans for fans. A booked venue requires insurance and booking fees. Security is also hired. That’s the reason why it’s not free. Chrome on the other hand is doing it for free.

          • Ray

            point well taken, still my greater point is there was time to plan and consider ways that didn’t have to entail this (although I like the security aspect, can’t take any chances). We’ve seen vids of them in alleys and behind buildings doing fanmeets with their van as their only means of escape. I left the United Center in Chicago after their performance (no I didn’t stay for GaGa or the other act) and walked around the venue. You couldn’t look in any direction and not see at least 1 cop or their car + venue security. There was nobody at the back of the building. Drop a notice to or CrayonpopUnited or even the reddit group. Meet in back by tour bus 20 minutes after performance or whatever. Honestly it would not be a mob scene, if anything I think maybe they know the response would be tepid and maybe a little embarrassing compared to what they’re used too. I’m not mad, I just wish there was more effort we could see to reach out to us. I’ll be a fan till I die, because betrayal is death.

          • Drakis07

            I see your point of view but like lot of other here i don’t totally agree with it and my reason is on my comment a little above.

            I see Crayon Pop doing the Tour more as a nice experience to live for the girls and stress reliever for them after a hard very busy year and a cool vacation and meeting international fans too and us seeing them. I think that the CEO saw that too and that give more space too for the other Chrome artist to develop.

            About the fan meeting, you must understand one thing too. I don’t think that Chrome or Crayon pop really know how much international fans they have, it’s hard for them to organize something when they don’t how much peoples will come to the fan meeting. That’s why it’s best that the fans do it and even that can be hard because of the place and security there.
            By exemple in Montreal the bus was in a inside parking with no public access and from what i’ve saw in some pics in some cities the bus was in a outside parking with less security.

        • Drakis07

          Something must be added when people talk about SNSD, WG or any K-pop artist trying to enter on the US music market. Most of them adapted their normal style to a more americanized style like singing in english rather then in Korean. Like i remember BoA when she tried to succeed in the US she changed her style a lot and failed and for me she is one of the best asian artist in both singing and dancing.

          My opinion is that foreigner artists do not make a strong impression and will fail if they try to americanized their music and do the same thing that other US artist do because no one want to see or hear the same thing like no one want to see a second Britney Spears or a other Janet Jackson, etc..

          I’m proud and respect Psy and Crayon Pop to stay true to their language, culture and style on US ground.

          Even if Crayon Pop would do a english album one day and even it’s good i will always prefer their korean songs because it’s will be their true color and original flavour.

          • Ray

            can’t disagree with anything you said, but I like music and I don’t care who it comes from or what style it is. If I hear it, and I like it…that’s it. No image, no racial pride, no national pride. Good is good, we are all the judge of what is good…to us. It took me a long time to come to the conclusion that hating something because of who or what they are is dumb. So you can be proud of J/K-pop & rock but their influence is U.S. and now they influence back to the U.S. We are all better for it. :p Respect.

          • Drakis07

            I’m the same as you about music, when i like a artist i don’t care about the music style, where the artist is from or in what language he is singing, i just like the artist and the music he make.
            I always thought that music is universal and that everyone is influencing everyone universally like a big mix and that music taste is like food taste, it’s a personal choice and no one is wrong to like or don’t like something. Respect to you too. It’s always nice to have discussion in the respect like that.

      • viralstyle

        That’s because WG and SNSD didn’t have helmets, jumping jumping, and horsey dance.

        • GBuster

          Going viral in the U.S./ establishing a foothold in the western pop market are two different things.

  • GBuster

    Chrome knows exactly what they are doing with this opportunity. This is simply more for grabbing a bigger share of the media play back in Korea which will help when they release their first full album this Fall. This is NOT about breaking into the U.S. market, but creating a better product back home. And being a small company that is still growing, it makes perfect sense. This is not SNSD or Wonder Girls.

    • Wait, I didn’t know they were releasing a full album in the Fall. OMFG.

      • GBuster

        That’s the report I’ve heard. It was supposed to come out in the spring, but LG happened and it got pushed. I believe Dumb and Dumber are producing it.

  • Donnie G

    I think Mr. Hwang cares more for the girls than his record label or Crayon Pop the group as he owes those girls everything. He knew this was an opportunity of a lifetime and the girls really wanted this so he let them go to pursue their dream of performing on some of the biggest stages in America. Whether they succeed or fail was not the point. All the fans hope they succeed, Chrome hopes they succeed, and the girls hope they succeed. However, fans will always be fans and their fan base will only grow because it definitely won’t shrink from this tour. Whether Crayon Pop continues to make music or is disbanded, one thing is for sure, the girls can always look back and know that they lived their dream and did what very few people including American artists did in their lifetimes. Having lived that dream is worth more than any amount of financial success, popularity, or the spreading KPOP.

    • Neonmoon

      Excellent insight…yes..they are living their dreams..we should be so fortunate that they are sharing these moments with us..Don’t worry..B HAPPY!

  • poppincrayon

    That last paragraph had a lot of “worries.” All I gotta say is, “Be happy.”
    This will be a wonderful learning experience for Crayon Pop, and they can get a lot of media play in Korea for touring with Lady Gaga. Who cares about the kpop “image” you think Westerners should receive.

  • TinPeiLingFan .

    I won’t worry too much, YongPop is like a Box of Chocolate, you never know what you gonna get. As Ellin would say in Bar Bar Bar.. ”Gomindo No!” ✌ ✌ ✌ ✌ ✌

  • I wish they would perform 1,2,3,4 instead of doing barbarbar twice.

  • wollapop

    its a shame that Hwang CEO or more of the managers weren’t able to join them for the tour.. I feel there would have been more fan interaction and media play even be it guerilla style had they joined the tour just as what happened in their week in Owssstralia.. I also was a little disapointed that there were NO items to buy at the concert.. maybe a good thing cause i wouldve went bankrupt buying everything but No shirts/helmets/cds/pictures/shrimps NOTHING.. all a learning experience for young Chrome i guess..

    • Neonmoon

      I somewhat agree with your comment..Chrome is still a novice at this game..they should learn a page or two in US marketing savvy..merchandising makes money and increase brand awareness..CEO Hwang should bring a bunch of CP merchandises when he meets them in Las Vegas..never too late…more fan base in the west especially LA..I wish that they will be invited to Ellen D show, since she featured these Taiwan twins doing BARx3, to show CP the real “McCoy” that went viral..(Is her show in LA???).