Arts & Leisure

By Cecille Santillan-Visto, Contributor

The Boys of the (South Korean) Republic

Posted on January 13, 2015

WHEN EVEN a music label giant like the Universal Music Group decides to invest in Korean pop (K-pop) music, it is an affirmation that K-pop music is a bankable venture.

FANS GET up close and personal with the members of K-pop group Boys Republic; Filipino fans hold up signs in Korean. -- Cecille Santillan-Visto
In fact, Universal Music decided to groom its own Korean boy band -- hoping to cash in on the K-wave in the same manner as formidable Korean agencies SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment, and JPY Entertainment have.

The company’s first K-pop artist is the five-member group Boys Republic, who are also managed by the Happy Tribe Entertainment. And knowing that the Philippines is among the growing K-pop markets outside Korea, Japan, and China, Universal Music’s local affiliate -- Universal Music Philippines -- brought the group here over the weekend and opened what is expected to be an exciting K-pop season.

Boys Republic, which was launched in June 2013, is comprised of Onejunn, Sunwoo, Sungjun, Minsu, and Suwoong. To polish their act and sound, they received two years of training prior to their debut and Universal Music supposedly collaborated with Dsign Music, a Norwegian production company that has worked with artists like Kylie Minogue, to produce the group’s first single, “Party Rock.”

In a series of mall shows at Megaworld Lifestyle Malls -- Lucky Chinatown, Venice Piazza, and Eastwood Mall -- the boy group showed Filipino fans the product of their hard work and grueling training. Although still a bit lacking in stage presence and overall charisma when compared with their more senior and established predecessors, Boys Republic is out to prove that Universal Music’s investment is paying off.

Here are at least three reasons why they may have a chance to make it in the cutthroat K-pop industry.

First, they have a unique concept. Boys Republic recently introduced its “fantasy trilogy,” a three-song project aimed at “fulfilling every fan’s dreams and fantasy.” The songs “Video Game” (where the members are shown as main characters in a video game in the music video), “Dress Up,” and “The Real One,” the carrier single of their latest album, Real Talk, make up the trilogy. All these cuts -- plus their debut song, “Party Rock,” and “Like A Doll” -- were performed during the Manila mall tour.

Second, they have a polished and sleek style coupled with the boy-next-door image that fans go gaga over. In Friday’s press conference as well as their weekend meet-and-greet, they donned crisp suits despite the sweltering Manila heat yet still performed with much gusto.

Third, they have a lean mean marketing machine in Universal Music, which undoubtedly has a global reach compared with its Korean counterparts. The possibility of penetrating a wider audience is in Boys Republic’s hands.

The group’s Filipino fan base is not yet as big as those of other K-pop performers, but their followers were delighted by their Manila stop. The local members of the Royal Family (Boys Republic’s local fan club) staged a flash mob and held a surprise birthday celebration for member Suwoong to show their appreciation.

Now the real proof that Boys Republic has indeed arrived will be its ability to fill concert venues such as the Big Dome and the SM Mall of Asia Arena -- they promised to come back to stage a concert. It will be interesting to see if these South Korean boys can duplicate, if not surpass, the sold-out Philippine shows of some of their K-pop contemporaries. Or if they become big enough to get the chance to work with their role models -- veteran Korean groups g.o.d. and H.O.T. and even IU, a popular Korean actress-singer. If they do, then Universal Music may well be on its way to churning out more “idol” groups in the future.