The Korean pop fever has been sweeping the nation. It’s been especially gaining popularity through music artist PSY’s number one hit, “Gangnam Style,” which has made its way on radios worldwide. With the fast-growing popularity of the genre, it’s no wonder that many see potential careers in the K-pop entertainment industry.
Sophomore Andy Kang is one of these people. Andy predominantly dances and raps in both Korean and English. He chose to specialize in K-Pop so that he could be closer to his Korean background.
“Being Korean, it came to me naturally that I wanted to be part of my culture,” Andy said.
Andy auditioned for Yang Goon (YG) Entertainment two summers ago, the record label that represents PSY and other popular K-pop idols such as Big Bang and 2NE1.
Although Andy was cut from the recent level in the YG auditions, he is going to be referred to Cube Entertainment, another big-time Korean record label. The company, founded by the former CEO of Jin-Young Park (JYP) Entertainment, is distributed by Universal Music Korea and represents groups such as 4minute, Beast and BtoB.
“During that first audition [for YG], I was really excited,” Andy said. “We got to listen to others auditioning, so it was easy to pick out the really good ones, the ones that would be my competition. The whole process is actually very similar to American Idol.”
In front of three YG judges, Andy did a quick choreography of a Korean song, and performed a 30-second rap in Korean and English. Three months afterward, Andy received an email informing him that he had advanced into the next level and they wanted to see him again.
The second level auditions were held in Koreatown in Los Angeles. The performances were extended to about one and a half minutes long. and Andy performed an English song called “Paper Thin” by AM Kidd.
“I remember seeing people from level one auditions in level two,” Andy said. “We all recognized each other and were happy to see familiar faces.”
From there, Andy advanced into pre-contract training, which required infrequent trips to Seoul, South Korea for talent assessments.
“To keep my anxiety down, I treated the assessments as if I was still in the United States,” Andy said.
These trips mostly took place on weekends, so it did not interfere too severely with other commitments. However, this did result in a couple of missed cross country practices on Friday evenings.
YG Entertainment’s main base is situated in Seoul. It is an independent record label and talent agency that specializes in producing R&B and hip-hop music. The entertainment company is one of the “big three” record companies in Korea, along with Star Museum (SM) Entertainment and JYP Entertainment, both of which Andy also auditioned for.
In Seoul, Andy was put into an audition group with about six other guys, trying to appeal to the manager of the company. The company wants their clients to be able to sing a wide range of songs, so the contestants were assessed on both their range and their capability. Andy was cut from the rounds following the audition, but those remaining will debut before further progressing into the industry.
Although Andy did not make it in YG, the experience has been a big step in his K-pop career and will help him with Cube Entertainment.
Andy is choosing not to let the loss get to him and is instead focusing on improving himself as an entertainer.
“I just want to get better,” Andy said. “I realized, if you look at people who are successful in life, it’s because they do what they love. If I can get far doing what I love in the entertainment industry, then I will be set for life.”