Are Wonder Girls on their way to becoming Korea’s first multi-lingual pop unit?
Going by the K-pop girl group’s collective ambition to master no less than five foreign languages, it seems that glorious day may not be too far off.
The sassy quintet, best known for sprightly, catchy ditties like Nobody, Tell Me and So Hot, are currently putting the finishing touches on their hotly anticipated yet-to-be-titled debut English album.
While the gals, who banded together in 2007, have taken baby steps in the Western music scene – they famously opened for the Jonas Brothers World Tour’s North American leg in 2009 and, a year later, for Justin Bieber in Los Angeles – the upcoming release will mark their first full-fledged foray into the glitzy, glamorous English-speaking pop world.
Not bad at all for a group who already have a Chinese compilation (2010’s Wonder Girls Special Edition) and a Japanese EP (Nobody For Everyone, released just last month) to their name.
In an e-mail interview with LOUD, 23-year-olds Park Ye Eun, Min Sun Ye and Kim Yoo Bin, 20-year-old Ahn So Hee and 19-year-old Woo Hye Lim made no bones about the painstaking effort they put into perfecting their enunciation.
Don’t be surprised too if you hear them crooning in different European tongues in the near future.
“We care most about the pronunciation when we sing in English, that is why we have been studying English and practising the pronunciation so rigorously,” explained Kim.
“Right now, we are focused on learning English, but I would like to learn Mandarin, Spanish or French someday.
“Being able to overcome language barriers and communicating with so many fans through our songs – that’s what I like most about being part of Wonder Girls.”
The other members of the group echoed the sentiment.
Woo said she is “trying to learn Mandarin, to become more fluent”, with Min adding that she is in the midst of learning Japanese.
As for Ahn, who has taken Mandarin lessons in the past, she makes it a point to “study the local language” whenever she visits another country, while Kim is picking up Japanese and Spanish.
Local fans might be fortunate enough to catch the girls flaunt their linguistic abilities at their concert in Singapore next month.
It is the first ticketed solo show by the group, who previously played here at Korean Pop Night back in 2008, as well as an exclusive Sony Ericsson showcase and music fiesta SingFest in 2010.
Expect to hear a live rendition of their brand new electropop single Like Money, which will be included in the English album.
The sizzling track features guest vocals by Senegalese-American R&B singer Akon, whom the Wonder Girls could not seem to stop gushing about.
“It was nice to work with Akon... When he came to Korea, we had a meal together and he liked Korean food very much,” said Ahn.
“I was surprised that he liked spicy food,” added Kim.
Describing their partnership with Akon as a “phenomenal experience”, Woo, a self-confessed fan of the star, said she remembers him as a “a very chill person”.
“Akon spends a lot of time preparing many items for his shows, I can really learn a lot as a singer from him,” concluded Park.
So who’s the next dream collaborator after Bieber, the Jonas Brothers and Akon?
“Beyonce! I think she is the representative of all female singers,” said Min.
“I’d like to work with her if I have the chance.” As for Ahn, she’d loved to share the stage with Katy Perry, as her “performances are always so interesting, with a unique concept”.
Park picked Usher, as she adores his “voice, dance and everything”.
British boy band One Direction was Woo’s choice. “I find (the boys) down-to-earth,” she said.
Rumours about bullying within K-pop gal group T-ara shook the industry recently, leading to the sacking of one member, Hwa-young, the alleged victim.
But you wouldn’t find Wonder Girls caught in such controversy because they “hardly fight or quarrel”.
“Sometimes, we have trouble agreeing on some ideas, so we argue about whose idea is the best,” Min maintained.
“Nevertheless, it’s all good as we know each other very well... The focus is on getting the best outcome.
“In any case, it is important to be honest, considerate and respectful to each other.”
Agreed Ahn: “The secret to our harmonious relationship is having meals together. We share the same taste in food.”
Having already been to Singapore before, the girls have fond memories of the city, especially when it comes to some of the island’s most well-known delicacies.
“I really want to go to Singapore quickly to eat chilli crab!” said Ahn.
“We have it every time we are in town,” added Kim.
“Also, whenever I think of Singapore, I think of (the cocktail) Singapore Sling and peanuts.”
Get The New Paper for more stories.