Update: They are apparently not managed by Johnny’s.
Every girl’s fantasy English teachers?
Meet the EastWest Boys. Assembled by Johnny’s Entertainment Sony Music Japan through an audition process, the group, dubbed a “5 in 300 million miracle,” is being solely marketed and promoted within Japan, where they are competing for the hearts of teenage girls.
For their latest single “Take Me There,” they have entered a promotional tie-up with fashion brand Peach John (whose president was mired in scandal last year over a dead woman in her apartment). They are on the cover of the latest catalog and lucky viewers will be able to catch their song on TV ads.
Here’s a YouTube video of a single that recently got some play on Japanese TV, “This Time”:
Sure, I have seen dozens of cheap, poorly produced Japanese pop acts, and some pretty bad American pop groups as well. But watching Americans run through the exact same half-baked dance routines as SMAP produces a special kind of cognitive dissonance.
Johnny’s has made sure to add a few bells and whistles to maximize appeal – the songs are in simple English, and the melody has enough of a pop-punk/emo feel to seem kind of foreign. This was the tune I saw on a few morning shows promoting the group as a new kind of pop act. Girls attending promotional appearances looked overjoyed to hug their new idols.
The music gets much worse when you watch the videos for songs that people didn’t pay enough attention to. “Yesterday’s Hero” was obviously filmed in the exact same warehouse, and the song is 100% cookie-cutter J-POP – no halfway-redeeming nods to American emo to be found. Are they wearing primary colors to make them look like Power Rangers?
While there’s not much to compare, a much, much more listenable American entrant into the Japanese pop world is Jero, the African American enka singer.
The group’s videos are hosted on an official channel, which is kind of a departure for Johnny’s who until recently had a strictly Internet-phobic PR stance. By offering some of their content for free on the web, they are clearly trying to save some PR money by generating buzz online. The upside of that strategy is it gives us a lot of information on these guys that is usually not available on your typical J-pop group.
Who are these young talents?
The website says all five are from Los Angeles but offers remarkably little other information. There are YouTube biographies of each member, but they are all fictional fantasies about life in America – For example, Ben tries out for the “East West High School” basketball team (watch to see the coach use the word “mother-scratchin” to great effect). But all they really want is to become musicians. Helpfully, a portal with the words “head east” leads them off into another dimension.
Some members also have MySpace pages. AJ Holyfield has the most prolific blog, which starts in March 2009: “Music is going amazing right now! Working with amazing people and I can’t wait to share.” Later he talks about how excited he is about the group, how great it is to be away from “all the liars, all the cheats, all the scammers,” how “Oy Shi!” it is to eat omelette over rice at the Sony Music office in Nogizaka, his creative juices flowing. You can feel the energy:
I want to inspire. I want to give you reason for loving life, and deciding to leave reality behind. Follow me, and I’ll try to show you things most people forget when they grow up.
Here he is feeling a little frustrated that people won’t accommodate his every creative whim:
I get so many cravings to do great things but run out of time to do them. That’s what happens when you enter the music industry. After a while, you realize you never have enough time. You never have enough time to explain the ideas you want to express, or vision you had for a video, or how recording a song should be. No one takes time to listen. No one wants to take time to write a song based on an ideas anymore, but hurry through things because it “rhymes.” No one sees you thinking and tries to help you express your thoughts correctly. And soon, you realize all this work you put in is for others. … With so much passion comes disappointment. But, luckily, I have patience.
The blog cuts off after that post. A coincidence? His mom was apparently a recent contestant in the Mrs. California beauty pageant, and she’s kind of a MILF.
So there you have it! Some hopeful child actors got scooped up by a Japanese label to be formed into what we now know as the EastWest Boys!
To close out, here’s their live tribute to Michael Jackson: