K-Pop has become an unstoppable global force. In 2019, it doesn't seem to matter what language you speak or understand, the barriers that once kept K-Pop outside of Western countries has finally let their guard down to give listeners a taste of something brand new and worthy of attention. The integration of Korean Pop into the mainstream has been a result of K-Pop's ability to be considered a global export product. K-Pop isn't just considered a silly music fad that's bound to fade out, instead, it's an unstoppable force set to change mindsets and mentalities worldwide.
The Korean government and people so wholeheartedly believe in K-Pop, and that is a driving factor that's tantamount to its global success. That and its absolutely incredible level of showmanship, hard work, artistry, and abilities are all factors that contribute to its international acclaim. But, just how did the music manage to navigate its way through to Western audiences?
Cue the talented folks at ASIAN AGENT. ASIAN AGENT is a family of creatives led by Chief Agent, Danny Lee, who also consults at YG Entertainment USA. Danny, who grew up Korean American, works alongside a number of other extremely talented artists like Wengie, Melanie Fontana, David Amber, Susie Shu, Bailey Sok, and Ivan Wong to bridge that gap between the Western and Eastern market. All of ASIAN AGENT is American with the exception of Wengie, who is Chinese Australian. But don't let their individual heritages distract you! This group of talent serves as some of the most creative and powerfully influential minds on K-Pop right now.
In fact, there's a high possibility that your favorite song had some help from one of these talented folks! If your favorite track is BTS “Boy With Luv," "Mikrokosmos," or "Euphoria," TXT "Crown", TWICE "Yes or Yes" or LOONA "Satellite," you have Melanie and David to thank for that! Or maybe you enjoy the amazing album art created by artistic mastermind, Ivan! Whether it's songwriting, art, or relating to Wengie, Bailey, and Susie performing, dancing, and fangirling to their favorite K-Pop track to their enormously loyal followings, it seems like this family of artists is a driving force that's taking the fundamentals of Western Pop music and intersecting it with Korean Pop. If the fact that the AA family has achieved two perfect all-kills with BTS "Boy With Luv" and TWICE "Yes or Yes" isn't indicative of an imminent takeover, we don't know what is.
allkpop had the chance to interview the major players that are part of the ASIAN AGENT family and ask them a few questions about how they got started, what their contribution to the K-Pop scene is and where they see multiculturalism in K-Pop and the bridge between East and West going in the years to come. Get to know the ASIAN AGENT family below!
Danny Lee (Founder/ASIAN AGENT)
"Asian Agent was actually a nickname given to me when I was working with the Black Eyed Peas. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 13 years old and I was a hip hop DJ, a b-boy, and a graffiti artist. Through this, I met my first mentor in the business, Polo Molina, who is the manager for the Black Eyed Peas. That was my first exposure to the industry, and I was 14 when I started as a flyer boy. Polo took me under his wing and I went from being a street team promoter into a marketing role and finally started learning more about A&R and the music business. Growing up, I didn't identify heavily with my Korean heritage, because I was in places like Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa, where there wasn't very much Asian representation. As I worked with the Black Eyed Peas, the entire team pushed me to realize that K-Pop was very much on the horizon and the team, specifically Polo and will.i.am empowered me. People who weren't Korean were promoting the Korean community, and from there I began studying K-Pop and thought about how I was going to contribute.
When I saw G-Dragon, I realized that K-Pop wasn't always bubbly, soft, and pop, and that it was undergoing a major shift that allowed it to be edgy and fresh. I think K-Pop is very much the integrity of Korean culture today. BLACKPINK is a great example of this multiculturalism, as you have Rose from Australia, Jennie from New Zealand, Lisa from Thailand, and Jisoo from Korea. Their reach, and global distribution, from an APAC perspective, is unique and wide-spanning and gives many folks all over the world a way to relate to the group. Because I'm Korean-American, and I grew up with a lot of the Latin community, I can't wait for a huge collaboration between a Latin artist, Korean artist, and US/UK artist! If there could ever be a "We Are The World" kind of song, that would be the climax of K-Pop's induction into the mainstream."
Melanie Fontana (Singer/Songwriter/Producer)
"I started writing music by taking my mom’s recordings and recording over them, so you could say I’ve been writing music since childhood! I started off in the industry as a prospective girl group member, but changed paths once I decided the obsession over me being thin and pretty wasn’t worth it. I utilized the connections and friendships I created during my time there and played various open mics prior to getting my first big break writing songs for artists like Justin Bieber, The Chainsmokers, Girls’ Generation, Tiffany Young, Minzy, CL, and BTS. K-Pop is special because it opens minds to new melodies, ideas, and lyrics and the genre has made huge impacts on my life. [Laughs] I swear I eat more KBBQ and do more facemasks than ever!
In the future, I’d love to see more collaborations between artists from Korea and the US. My three wishlist collaborations would be Ariana Grande and BTS, Skrillex, and NCT, or a Diplo and Girls’ Generation! AKP readers will be seeing much more of me in upcoming releases- Most people know that I wrote BTS "Euphoria", but I've been working with BigHit closely to write the newest songs for both BTS and their new group, TXT! I'm proud to announce that myself and my husband, Michel, co-wrote "Boy With Luv," BTS' newest single! I also recently worked with Hyolyn, YH Girls, and Wengie on new tracks that will be available soon! Last Saturday, I got to perform with BTS on Saturday Night Live, which was a total dream come true to be a part of history!"
David Amber (Singer/Songwriter/Producer)
"l got my start in New York writing music for TV, specifically for commercials and shows. I had friends in California who encouraged me to move out there and pursue writing songs seriously for overseas groups. I've been a fan of K-Pop and familiar with the genre for about 15 years now and have always gravitated to it because of how fundamentally different it was from the music scene I was used to. Now, I write songs for artists like TWICE, AOA, G-Friend, fromis_9 and most recently, LOONA! I have about 20 or so releases that are coming up in the K-Pop industry and most recently I am working on some great projects with fellow ASIAN AGENT family, Wengie and Melanie Fontana! I'm currently taking a Korean language class to have a concept of how the language will ultimately affect my song structures and melodies. I'm hoping that K-Pop has a ‘true’ East meets West collaboration soon wherein they bring in the aspects of K-Pop and marry it with Western influences. Up until this point, we've seen a lot of artists from Korea, who are extremely palatable to a Western audience, achieve success, but I'd love to see something more fundamentally Korean be brought to the scene overseas. I'd personally love to see an American artist collaborate with TWICE."
Wendy Ayche / Wengie (Recording Artist and Content Creator)
"I'm a first generation Australian who is ethnically Chinese. Growing up, I was always told to pursue the traditional Asian kid path- study hard, go to college, graduate, and get a good job! There was always pressure to do well, so I spent time pursuing an accounting degree and actually worked as an accountant for 4 years. However, I always had a passion for content creation and loved the act of giving back to those who commented and asked for more content! A little known fact is that when I first started YouTube, my first videos were K-Pop inspired tutorials, dance covers, and more! I've always been a huge K-Pop fan from Shinhwa and Girl's Day to ITZY, BLACKPINK, and BTS. K-Pop, in my opinion, represents one of the most major waves of multiculturalism that's come about in music. We've seen Hip-Hop and Latin music skyrocket in popularity, so K-Pop was bound to have this moment. It seems like no matter what language a song is in, music has the ability to transcend all cultures!
As we're moving towards a period of global inclusion of different peoples, cultures, and music, it's inspiring that people are moving away towards preconceived notions of others based off the color of their skin! I hope I can help the movement through my music as well! I recently worked with fellow ASIAN AGENT sister, Melanie Fontana on an amazing Christmas song that went #1 on YouTube as well as worked with a few other AA family members on my solo single, "Lace Up". A number of new projects are coming up for me. My newest and latest project was created alongside another ASIAN AGENT family member, David Amber, and incredible Filipino artist, Inigo Pascual. We incorporated aspects of Inigo's culture by including Tagalog lyrics! Be sure to look forward to more music from me on the horizon!"
Susie Shu (Dancer and Instagram Content Creator)
"[As a K-Pop Dance Ambassador on Instagram] I love K-Pop and K-Pop dances so I’ve created hundreds of dance covers throughout the years. Ever since, my IGTV dance covers have reached a wide range of audiences and through that, I’m happy to promote the culture of K-Pop worldwide. Seeing K-Pop culture grow and idols work hard for stages and comebacks really motivate me to work harder. As K-Pop expands, I think there will be a lot more global collaborations in the next few years like what we’ve seen with BLACKPINK X Dua Lipa. I think western pop culture will be influenced by the high intensity of K-Pop and I can see western music incorporate more iconic point dance in the future like Ciara did in “Level Up”. As I continue to work on more dance covers, I am working towards my first singing cover and a K-Pop dance collaboration with local artists. My personal favorite K-Pop songs are BLACKPINK “As If It’s Your Last”, EXO “Love Shot”, and After School “Because of You”!"
Ivan Wong (Artist)
"After the collaboration between BLACKPINK and Dua Lipa, I wanted to do an East meets West edit for the song. With the upcoming movie Alita, originating from Asia, and Dua Lipa singing the theme song, I wanted to remix a digital art piece with Dua in Alita's world. I've also worked on the music video for artist, Shook, on his song "Tidal" and artist, JVNA, for her first original song, "I'm With You". I'm also responsible for Wengie's album art on "Lace Up"!
I discovered K-Pop at a fairly young age when I stumbled across BoA's "Amazing Kiss". That's when I realized that there was a huge world outside the US that I had yet to explore. I think that in the near future, there will definitely be more collaboration between Western and Eastern artists in music, film, and the arts. Wonder Girls cracked the status quo in 2009 with "Nobody" and I think we're seeing those seeds grow with more and more global collaborations and Asian representation. People are starting to focus more on talent, vision, and story without the confinement of borders. My favorite K-Pop artists of all time are BoA, 2NE1, Girl's Generation, SISTAR, and BLACKPINK. Up next for me? I'll be heading to Japan with nine other Sony Alpha Collective ambassadors to shoot street photography in mid-March. I'm also focusing more on collaborations with a spin on digital art with other content creators and social influencers on Instagram and YouTube, so keep an eye out!"
ASIAN AGENT is an unlikely, but powerful team that has repeatedly triumphed because of their raw talent and dedication to teamwork. Their ability to play on each other's strengths is what has made them a driving force in bridging the previously unpaved cultural divide between the West and the East. This fundamentally Western group uses their individual skills to apply a new angle to Korean Music globally and serves as a driving force for what's to come in the industry. The extraordinarily talented team and family of ASIAN AGENT is shaking up the music industry's status quo as we know it.