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Rain debut draws far from positive reviews

2006/02/06 Source

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Rain, Korea's pop singer whose influence is growing throughout Asia, finally showcased his talent for American audiences last week, but the reaction was far from positive.

Rain, or Bi in Korean, performed at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City on Thursday and Friday, a new step for the "Korean Wave". Tickets for the both performances sold out, but local reviewers were not impressed by his act.

The New York Times, for one, noted that "Rain sounded like a nostalgia act", criticizing the absence of originality in his music style. The U.S. daily said Rain and his songwriter, producer and mastermind Park Jin-young have attempted to piece together styles of different artists - Michael Jackson, Babyface, Justin Timberlake, George Michael and Usher.

The problem is that" Rain"'s mimicking of Jackson's costumes and other popular American singers' styles did not generate a totally new trend that could upstage American audiences, even though he charmed mostly Asian female audiences last week.

"Rain seems like a nice guy, but he doesn't have the tormented charisma of Jackson, the relaxed sex appeal of Usher or the quick pop reflexes of Mr. Timberlake", the paper said. The particularly painful judgment for Rain and Park is "Seeing him onstage was like watching old MTV videos dubbed into Korean".

But local media in Seoul hailed Rain's inroads into the U.S. market. Yonhap news agency reported in an upbeat note that the 24-year-old singer attracted 10,000 fans as well as hundreds of journalists during the two-day performances.

The performance is to be rebroadcast by MTV through local language services like MTV-Chi for Chinese and MTV-K for Koreans.

Local media also reported that major labels such as Sony Music, Universal Records and Warner Brothers Music are showing interest in Rain.

JYP Entertainment, the management agency to which Rain belongs, said it is in talks with major Japanese labels for Rain's record contracts.

The question is whether Rain will indeed move beyond the Asian market. He is the very symbol of the Korean Wave, a fad for Korean pop music, drama and movies. His third album released in 2005 sold a total of 920,000 copies throughout Asia, including Japan, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Indonesia.

Rain's live tour, titled "Rainy Day", stormed through Asian countries from July to December last year, attracting 130,000 fans in total, a new record for any Korean pop singer. Meanwhile, the television drama "Full House" featuring Rain as a main character is winning over a growing number of Asian viewers.

By Yang Sung-jin

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