If viewed as a manufacturing factory churning out teen stars, the Korean pop music industry is streets ahead of the U.S. in its heyday in terms of output, according to a leading U.S. media.
"American teen-pop at its peak has never been this productive. K-pop is an environment of relentless newness, both in participants and in style," the New York Times wrote on Tuesday in an article about Korean entertainment agencies' ability to foster new talent.
The paper ran the story on two pages along with a review of the SM Town Live concert held at Madison Square Garden in New York on Sunday. It said that producing a singer along the likes of Canadian teen Justin Bieber requires the effort and coordination of an army of support staff, including producers, managers, vocal trainers, choreographers and stylists. But Korea now has several entertainment companies that specialize in churning out teen idol groups in various incarnations as it has refined this process.
About Sunday's sell-out concert at the legendary Garden, the NYT said that both veteran singers like BoA and TVXQ and newer groups such as Girls' Generation and Super Junior all cater to a young audience, but the latter seem to enjoy greater freedom in terms of hopping from genre to genre, like pop, hip-hop, dance and love ballads.
The reviewer described SHINee as the "most ambitious" of the Korean performers over the weekend, praising the strong vocals and adventurous nature of songs such as "Replay," "Ring Ding Dong" and "Juliette," while clearly tickled at the band's wardrobe choice of light-colored leather, Dr. Martens and liberal use of hair mousse.
However, the NYT took a negative view of the "goofy" rapping -- the unintended comic effect of which was only exacerbated by the English supertitles -- while conceding that Amber stood out as the best rapper at the concert. It also pointed to Super Junior's performance of "Sorry Sorry Answer" as the best of the night.
The NYT article also pointed out what is saw as influences of U.S. pop music on K-pop. It said Kangta's singing was reminiscent of Josh Groban's maudlin vocals, while TVXQ's music seemed similar to that of Jodeci or early Usher songs, and BoA's "Copy and Paste" reminded of a Janet Jackson song in the early 90s.