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BTS Redefined K-Pop in North America. But What About M-Pop? Chinese Pop singers like Zhang Yixing are looking for a way to succeed in a bigger market.

admin 2018-10-10 Collect

On October 5th, the variety show <The Graham Norton Show> of BBC announced that Korean male group BTS would guest star on the show. On September 24th, BTS team captain RM gave a 7-minute long speech in English in UNICEF’s “Generation Unlimited” conference in New York, urging teenagers to love themselves.


BTS became the first K-Pop artist to give a speech at the UN. Jeff Benjamin, an editor at Billboard, holds BTS in high regards and referred to BTS as far more than just a representative of the K-Pop industry during an interview with ABC News.3

With BTS laying a solid foundation for K-Pop in North America, Asian artists’ ambition in the region grew. All 3 former EXO members and Zhang Yixing (Lay) are all very commercially successful in China but their music is not as successful in China as the celebrities they are. They are eager for recognition as musicians and artists instead of commercially successful celebrities with lots of fans. Kris Wu and Zhang Yixing are especially ambitious about conquering the North America market, but how are they going to do it? China Music Business News went to Lay’s exclusive album demonstration party to find out more.

This fall, while BTS is busy preparing for the speech at the UN and Kris Wu busy attending the AMAs Music Award Festival, Zhang Yixing and his team are preparing for his new album NAMANANA.

It was October 7th and a group of fans were waiting in front of the west gate of Beijing Red-Brick Art Gallery. The security guards made sure that only people invited by Zhang Yixing’s agency gets in. He released the music video of “Give me a Chance” from his third album and hosted this album demonstration party as part of his birthday celebration.

The agency invited a diverse group of people for fresh perspectives on his songs. There are scientists from Chinese Academy of Social Science, PhD students, mothers, music producers and friends Zhang Yixing’s team member.

Zhang Yixing sat in a small room on the first floor all afternoon. Each guest would come in, pick any song from his album and tell Zhang Yixing his or her opinions of it. He is patient and listen to any advice that audience and guest brought to him for his new album. This process allows Zhang Yixing to observe the guests’ immediate response to the song in order to help him make music well-received by the public and not just circulate among his fans.


On August 9th, 2018, Zhang Yixing and Easy Entertainment reached a strategic partnership in the entertainment business. Yang Tianzhen, the CEO of Easy Entertainment, said that they decided to partner up after only two meetings. Yang Tianzhen said that Zhang Yixing has the all the necessary qualities to be a great artist and Easy Entertainment would be able to help him fully exploit those.

Zhang Yixing’s ambition to establish himself in the North America market can be demonstrated by his effort and investment in his album. It includes 22 tracks, 11 of them in Chinese and rest of them the English versions of the same songs. This album also incorporated elements of popular genres such as Future Bass, Dance, Urban, and Hip Hop.

The album charted on top of Amazon’s Best-Selling Album list only 48 hours after it went on presale. During the presale process, this album was sold out for a total of 5 times.

“3, 2, 1, Let’s go!”


At 5:21pm, our reporter sat down with Zhang Yixing and watched the music video of NAMANANA, the title song of his new album. And then he played another song Mapo Tofu. We didn’t get to hear the English version, so we asked him what the differences are. “The English lyrics and Chinese lyrics aren’t direct translations of each other. But they are both positive and energetic,” he said.

When we spoke about BTS and its success in North America, Zhang Yixing expressed his desire to represent Chinese music on the world stage, just like BTS did with K-Pop.

As candid as usual, he told us, “Even if I fail, I won’t regret it. You always fail when you’re young and naïve. I wanted to make something different and I have done it. So, however the sales number is, I already accomplished what I wanted to accomplish with this album. But I do believe in my own work and its ability to succeed internationally.”


Zhang Yixing chose to make English versions of all the songs because the substances of songs in foreign languages rarely get across in North America. Most people have no idea BTS’s songs have very interesting messages. For example, IDOL and Epiphany promotes self-love and Anpanman conveyed the message that even if you don’t have super power, you can be a superman in your own way as long as you work towards it. Psy’s Gangnam Style that went viral in the US in 2012 is a social satire poking fun at capitalism and the enlarging wealth gap. Even though the music video of this song is one of the most watched videos on YouTube, very few people understood the song beyond the catchy dance and hilarious scenes. However, songs in Romance languages such as Spanish are way better received in English speaking world.

For M-Pop to become a considerable force in the mainstream western pop culture, M-Pop have to nail the ethnic Chinese population overseas, incorporate elements of mainstream western culture as well as differentiate itself from it. In the end, it’s the music itself that matters the most.

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