With news earlier in the year of Psy’s collaboration with American rock legend Steven Tyler of Aerosmith as well as local rap star G-Dragon’s announcement that he had indeed recorded a track with international pop superstar Justin Bieber, it appears as though K-pop artists are looking to expand their presence in the international music realm and continue to snatch any collaborative opportunities that come their way.
In August, Big Bang leader G-Dragon released his second solo album, “Coup d’etat,” featuring a number of collaborative tracks with international artists. This is only one of the few examples of high-profile international partnerships. The album included the song “Niliria,” featuring U.S. hip-hop star Missy Elliott, and “Coup d’etat,” featuring Diplo and Baauer. Compared to many K-pop collaborative projects that have been released in the past few years, this is one of the few that has made a dent in the international scene, however slight.
Although the singles with guest artists did not do as well locally as the album’s hit single “Crooked,” “Niliria” still managed to grab the attention of American men’s fashion and entertainment magazine Complex, which named G-Dragon’s electro pop track one of the year’s top 50 songs, giving it the No. 32 spot.
“Korean pop superstar G-Dragon has the power to do whatever he wants, so it was nice to see him bring Missy Elliott out of unofficial retirement this past summer when they debuted this culture-clashing collaboration to thousands of screaming fans at an L.A. sports arena,” Brendan Frederick wrote for Complex.
The two artists ― in their flashy, energetic hip-hop styles ― meshed well together, appearing to take K-pop collaborations a small step in the right direction. Through the single, G-Dragon practically lifted Missy Elliott out of retirement and back onto the stage, giving her a new status in Korea while still managing to draw attention from K-pop lovers in the U.S.
“Maybe Missy should consider signing with YG Entertainment for that comeback album,” said Frederick.
While collaborations between K-pop artists and international superstars may not be common, it is a slowly growing trend that has been years in the making. However, despite the many efforts to organize these collaborations, most of the past releases did not have the breakout power that many had hoped.
In 2011, superstar girl group Girls’ Generation released an English remix of the group’s hit single “The Boys,” featuring international rap superstar Snoop Dogg ― an artist who couldn’t be more conceptually different from the nine-member girl group ― in their attempt to break into the American music market. However, despite the inclusion of English lyrics and an American hip-hop superstar, the single made little impact in both the U.S. and Korea and the English version of the track failed to even enter the Billboard Hot 100 charts.
Of all the K-pop collaborations, one of the most unexpected matchups had to be that between the JYJ trio, hip-hop megastar Kanye West and Grammy Award-winning songwriter Malik Yusef. In 2010 JYJ released the group’s all-English debut studio album “The Beginning,” which included the single “Ayyy Girl,” featuring West and Yusef, and the track “Empty,” which was produced by famous American record producer Rodney Jerkins.
“When we met Kanye West and Rodney Jerkins, we realized that we had a similar goal. For them it was to take their music to the East, while for us we wanted to bring our music to a wider audience in the U.S.,” said Xia Jinsu in a Billboard interview.
However, despite the international powerhouse West showing off his rapping skills on “Ayyy Girl,” the track gained only moderate attention in Korea, peaking at No. 19 on the Gaon Charts, while having little to no impact in the U.S.
In the past, K-pop artists have struggled to pull off international collaborations regardless of the big names they were able to land. Although K-pop fans seem to be only slightly impressed with the featuring of famous artists, 2014 still looks to be trending toward more international collaborations, especially with the release of Psy’s first global album, which he has stated will feature a number of popular music artists.