Second to top Billboard, SuperM proves K-pop’s growing potential in U.S.

October 14, 2019


– Propelled by the decadeslong expertise of K-pop powerhouse SM Entertainment, coupled with the distribution network of Capitol Music Group (CMG), K-pop boy band SuperM scored a No. 1 on the main Billboard albums chart with its debut album.

Billboard said on its official website Monday (Korean time) that the septet’s self-titled debut album, “SuperM: The 1st Mini Album,” topped the Billboard 200 for the week of Oct. 19.

Until Monday, global phenomenon BTS had been the only K-pop music act that had topped the main Billboard albums chart, scoring three No. 1s within the span of less than two years till April.

The latest Billboard feat makes SuperM the second-ever K-pop act to conquer the album chart and the very first K-pop act to top the chart with its debut album.

The feat also marks a breakout hit for the joint music venture between SM and Capitol Music Group, one of the highest-profile K-pop collaboration projects between Korean and American music labels.

SuperM’s successful debut in the United States is the latest testimony to the broadening horizon for K-pop artists in the U.S.

To capitalize on the growing salience of K-pop in the U.S. music market, Capitol reportedly came to SM first to propose the venture, bringing its established music distribution network to the table.

SM, on its part, tapped into its more than two decades of K-pop producing experience to create the “SuperM” album as well as the boy band, whose seven members hail from four established SM boy groups — SHINee, EXO, NCT 127 and WayV.

Experts say SuperM’s breakout success may be the result of introducing a new breed of music to American music listeners, with the enlistment of the marketing power of one of the biggest American music labels.

“Because SuperM is a combination of various singers, it could have appealed to a variety of musical and personal tastes, recording a music feat unprecedented for North American (artists),” pop critic Kim Heon-sik said.

Speaking to a local forum earlier this month, Phil Quartararo, a former executive at Virgin Music and Warner Bros., lucidly captured the emergence of K-pop in the American music market where, “in the last couple of years, American pop music has got a little stale and flat.”

He has said BTS has opened the door for K-pop in the U.S., but a lot more Korean music acts could thrive there as long as good music quality is maintained.

With the arrangement of Capitol, SuperM debuted in the U.S. with a high-profile showcase concert at the outdoor stage of Capital Records Tower in Hollywood, followed by an appearance on the famous CBS TV program “The Ellen Show.”

This debut gimmick “created a common understanding among (K-pop music labels) that (a K-pop act) with a systematic arrangement could make progress in the American music scene,” another pop critic, Kim Yun-ha, said.

Releasing a press statement on Monday, SM celebrated SuperM’s Billboard victory as a joint work combining “SM’s matchless producing power and CMG’s excellent networks and marketing.”

“SuperM wrote new history today … This marks only the beginning. There will be a lot more to come,” Capitol Chairman Steve Barnett was quoted by SM as saying.

Following the headline-grabbing debut, SuperM may need to work harder to keep up its name in the highly competitive U.S. market, according to pop critic Kim Heon-sik.

“Corporate marketing could help catch the eyes in the short term, but over the long run … the key (to success) lies in forming a core fan base,” he said.