By Manabu Sakurai / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff WriterSouth Korean pop acts are a dominant force in the Japanese hit charts. Among them, girl band Momoland is making a splash with their new song, “I’m So Hot,” which reached No. 1 in the Oricon daily rankings. With cute dancing and singing, as well as fashion in their own styles, the girls have won many fans in Japan, both men and women.
In May, this reporter saw Momoland’s concert at an event hall in Tokyo. Although it was a weekday evening, the venue was filled with as many as 2,000 excited fans, some of them holding message boards written in Korean.
The Momoland members came out in wild yellow and black attire. The audience erupted as they began performing the Japanese version of their “BBoom BBoom,” a buoyant dance pop song.
After greeting the audience in Japanese, the members began revving the crowd with more enticing words: “Hey, hey, can I hold hands with you?” “Please stand by me forever,” and “I want you to pat on my head, meow!”
They appeared a little shy and clumsy, but it was clear that they were working very hard to entertain their fans. Each member has her own sparkling presence, yet looks accessible and not pretentious. I think I figured out the secret of how they are steadily grabbing the hearts of fans in Japan.
Working for their breakthrough
Momoland members all come from a TV audition show in South Korea. They waited for their chances while honing their artistic skills as trainees at an entertainment agency, some of them longer than others.
“I was a trainee for a long time and wondered when I’d be able to make my debut,” Nancy said. “Because it was my dream for such a long time, I was almost perplexed when my debut became real.”
“My trainee period was relatively short,” said Ah In. “I couldn’t dance as well as now, so I thought it would take more time.”
The situation was different for each member, but they were equally delighted when they stood on the starting line.
“I was really thrilled thinking how I’d be able to show myself to fans,” Hye Bin said.
The group’s name, Momoland, derives from Michael Ende’s novel “Momo.” It expresses the members’ wish to offer excitement and soothing experiences to busy and exhausted people. Of the nine members, Daisy and Tae Ha are not taking part in “I’m So Hot” and Na Yun could not make the interview because of health reasons.
The K-pop group made their debut in 2016 in South Korea with the mini album “Welcome to Momoland.” There have been tough times, though: After releasing the debut album, there was a long gap before their next opportunity.
“I almost wondered whether we really debuted or not. I felt like I was back to being a trainee,” Hye Bin recalled.
Everything changed with the mega hit “BBoom BBoom,” which was released in 2018. With simple sounds and an easy-to-remember melody, the song easily became an earworm. The members’ dance moves in the song’s music video are cute, hot and playful, exhibiting their intriguing charms. The video has been played more than 300 million times on YouTube.
“When ‘BBoom BBoom’ became a hit, I started hearing the song on the street, in restaurants and elsewhere. That made me the happiest I’ve been since our debut,” Nancy said.
“Now we’re getting invites to attend music award ceremonies. I was sad I couldn’t do so at the time of our debut,” Yeon Woo said.
The group made their Japan debut in 2018. The three Japanese-version singles they released here have all made it to the Top 10 of the Oricon rankings. With a global perspective in their activities, they have held fan meetings in Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates.
Appreciation for fans in Japan
Information from South Korea reaches Japan in an instant through the internet and other means. So, there is mounting interest in the country not only regarding music but also cosmetics and fashion.
“When we started our activities in Japan, more people than we expected came to support us,” Ah In said.
“There was one fan who told me, ‘I’ll study Korean because I like Momoland.’ Now we can talk in Korean. It’s great,” Nancy said.
“I’m So Hot,” the group’s third single in Japan, is doing very well. The video for the Japanese version has a setting like a classroom in a Japanese school. All the participating members play different, distinct characters, doing various things like taking a nap and playing games. The video has a warm atmosphere that makes you smile.
“The setting is that we are all students of the same homeroom class,” Hye Bin said.
Their busy days go on, yet they aim to continue going forward. They also never forget to be grateful to their fans.
“After we made our debut, we’ve gained fans not only in South Korea but also in other countries. It’s such a pleasure for me to meet all the fans,” Joo E said.
“It makes me happy to hear our fans’ voices onstage,” Jane said in fluent Japanese, smiling.
Another great thing about Momoland is the happy and fun atmosphere of the group.