Korea pop star heralds Asian artist boom

Big-in-Japan Korean pop princess BoA's success in Japan means more Korean artists are on the way...

The "Showcase Live" buffet at Velfarre in Tokyo this week may have included a bowl of kimchi but headline Korean J-Pop star BoA's performance was more about music than nationality.

With boy band Tohoshinki and the female foursome Tenjochiki as support, Japan's largest independent record label, Avex Group Holdings, and Korean management agency SM Entertainment held the event to celebrate BoA's fifth anniversary as a successful artist in Japan and her achievements in Asia.

BoA and six backup dancers kicked off her two-song set with "Nanairo no Ashita" (Tomorrow's Seven Colors), a poppy double-A side single released in April that reached as high as number three on the Oricon Weekly Sales chart.

"BoA is a star," said Araki Takashi, CEO of Avex, of the winner of the winner of the Most Influential Artist in Asia award at 2004 MTV Asia Awards. "She has developed beyond her cute image into a mature and beautiful artist."

With white boots and her hair pulled into a ponytail, BoA has indeed come a long way since her debut single for the Japanese market, a Japanese version of her Korean song "ID; Peace B," way back in 2001.

This year's album "Outgrow" is her fourth Japanese album to reach number one. Her 2005 single "Do the Motion" was only the fifth single by a non-Japanese artist to top the charts.

The video for "Key of Heart," which was shot in the mountains of California and whose single is set to hit stores in a five weeks, was shown to the 500-person music industry crowd immediately following her second song, "Everlasting," a ballad released as a single in February.

Tenjochiki opened the show with three hip-shaking dance selections, including their January Japan debut single "Boomerang."

The all-girl group will release their third single, the reggae-inspired "Juicy Love," early next month in Japan.

Avex executives are hopeful that the rap-influenced quintet Tohoshinki have the same positive vibe and momentum as EXILE just before they made it big in late 2003.

Tohoshinki, who displayed equal parts crooning, midsection-clutching, and rapping, through most of their three-song set, will release their seventh single "Sky" in August.

Though all of the artists being Korean, Avex emphasised that the event was first and foremost about the musicians themselves as artists.

"They are moulded and developed," Avex said about the performers in a statement following the show, "for the Japanese market as J-Pop artists with lyrics all in Japanese."

Kim Young-Min, SM Entertainment's CEO, said that the future of its artists in Asia appears bright.

"Not only have many artists under S.M. already become very successful," he said, "but there are still countless others who can reach the same level of success."