How did this goofy little kid...
....turn into the Asian pop sensation that is Rain??
**At this point, I should state that more gratuitous Rain pictures will follow; consider yourself warned.**
As the Rain concert draws closer (this Sunday!), I can't help but muse about the marketing machine behind the phenomenon known as Rain or 비 (Bi in Korean).
Excuse me while I self indulge.
Love or hate him, you must have heard of Rain.
He's in that wildly popular Korean romance comedy, Full House, the one that made him a household name in Asia. Even if you haven't succumbed to Rain mania, you can't deny the masses of fans that attend his concerts and follow him everywhere (or his hot bod) Or the huge success that he is.
A sampling of his credentials:
- Worth over $100m bucks from album, concert ticket sales, and endorsements (and he's only 24 - damn, what have I been doing with my life?)
- Albums that sell in excess of a million copies each
- Concert tickets that purportedly sell out within seconds of release (first concert in Japan sold out within 30 seconds!)
- First Asian artiste ever to be invited to the American MTV Video Music Awards
- Named by Time magazine as the 2nd most influential artiste of 2006
- First Asian artiste to perform solo in Madison Square Garden (I just watched this on MTV. It was crazy. The majority were Asian American women, but there were African American, Caucasian, Indian women who declared that the LOVE Rain, and had come all over the US to see him perform. He has a pretty big fan base!)
Before watching Full House, all I knew about Rain was that he was a popular Korean singer. A Korean friend declared him her ideal man, and one of Kisu's colleagues is a HUGE fan. (Both are in their 30s - hmm, do I see a trend here?!)
In 2002, Rain made his debut under the guidance of his manager JY Park. Debuting with a monosyllabic moniker was a smart move - how many people, especially outside of Korea would remember the name Jung Ji-Hoon (which is his real name btw)?
When he debuted, he looked like this:
Now, he looks like this:
His single "Bad Guy" (Nappeun Namja) from his first self titled album was a big hit. Although, I think Bad Boy is a more appropriate English translation. (watch the MTV here) Whoever wrote this song is genius. Let's put it this way - which woman doesn't (secretly) want a bad boy??
He isn't a conventional looker, but he must have some X-factor. How else do you explain all those screaming fans? How else to explain why I bought a bunch of his CDs, dusted off my long neglected iPod to upload it with all his songs, AND paid a bomb to attend his concert? (*guilty*)
So, what's up with Rain?
- Those washboard abs
- Those biceps
- That body...
JY Park must have made him work out very hard to create the image that he now sports. Looking at him, I feel very inspired to work out at the gym (in fact, I also feel inspired to wear funky clothes and learn how to power dance just like him; those moves are just too cool)
And while the stylist that worked with him on the set of Full House ought to be shot (if you don't get what I mean, watch the show), I commend the stylist who's behind Rain the singer. Leather jackets, ripped jeans, tight wifebeaters...
But ah, I digress.
A rags to riches story, Rain used to be part of a failed boyband called Fan Club. He tried hard to make it as a singer/ dancer, but was rejected at many auditions because of his single eyelids, although he was acknowledged to have performed the best. His slitty eyes are now his trademark, and are now played up as sexy. JY Park took him under his wing by letting him start out as his backup dancer, and eventually groomed him to be Rain.
Known for being humble and a ferociously hard worker, he sleeps only 2 hours every night when touring, and practices dancing for 12 hours daily. Now, who doesn't love a hardworking man?
There's also the conundrum that is Rain: While his stage performances are dynamic and high on the sex appeal meter (lots of heavy breathing, shirt-ripping, torso baring and wet T-shirts), he comes across as quiet, boyish and even shy off stage. Add to that a sensitive and vulnerable side (he lost his mother to diabetes when he was 19 because his family was too poor to foot her hospital bills) and you have a potent combination that can turn women into putty.
My fascination with Rain started because I was curious as to why he was so popular. Watching him in Full House, I couldn't understand what the big deal was. But as I dug deeper, I found Rain to be a fabulous product of savvy marketing and slick packaging. Catchy songs, sappy lyrics, fancy dance moves excuted with precision, cool MVs* and a well crafted public and stage persona. It doesn't hurt that he seems like a genuinely nice guy who is talented and willing to work hard for his craft.
(* To illustrate my point about the quality of MVs, have you seen the Hady Mirza "You give me wings" MV? Look, I supported Hady during SI, and he's a good singer and all, but his MV really cannot make it. Compare this to Rain's In My Bed MV. I know there are budget constraints etc, but this really isn't an excuse for poor taste - what's with Hady singing in a T-shirt that looks like something he would wear at home?)
When Jenny agreed to go to the Rain concert with me, the first thing she said was that we should try to look "young" so we could blend in with the Rain groupies (!) Although, I did highlight to her that based on the price of our tickets, I was pretty sure that it wasn't going to be a bunch of teenagers that we would be surrounded by.
I'm hoping that there are some really CRAZY women around me, so if I end up screaming myself hoarse or bopping up and down enthusiastically I won't look too out of place, hee.
We'll see on Sunday :)