To say American fans have been patient for K-Pop queens Wonder Girls' U.S. debut album would be an understatement. They first hit the scene in 2009 with an English-language version of their Korean mega hit "Nobody." Fast-forward to 2012, the girls still have not released a full-length English album but have put in the work for a successful American release. They drastically improved their fluency (each member chimed in during our interview), filmed a full-length feature on TEENick, and most recently snatched Akon for their latest English single "Like Money."
"The song 'Like Money' is an electric, dance song and about how to treat a woman right. Originally, we only had our own version, the Wonder Girls version, and then we met Akon. He listened to the song and he really loved it," explains the most talkative member, vocalist Yenny, of the track. "Now we have the female perspective and also the male perspective of the song."
While "Like Money" dives straight into mainstream territory and is one of their best bets to make it onto American radio, the girls cite different sounds for the upcoming record. "We worked so hard on each song and we have all different styles [on the album]. All different genres like electro, very party-dance songs. We also have very emotional ballad songs....we have a little bit of retro," the girls say of the record which will include an English version of their No. 1 K-Pop Hot 100 hit "Be My Baby."
While a title and date are still undecided, the group is more than aware of how hungry fans are for this album. "[American fans] have been waiting for our U.S. album. It's going to come out very soon!" the quintet says. They are sure to add a quick apology, "Thanks for waiting and sorry for making you wait so long."
Yet with who is working on the album, it may prove to be worth the wait. Confirmed producers include J.R. Rotem ("SOS" Rihanna, "Fly" Nicki Minaj & Rihanna) and producers from their agency JYP Entertainment. As well, top-notch songwriters like Chrystal Nicole (who wrote "Like Money" and their track "DJ Is Mine"), Wynter Gordon, Claude Kelly, Nick Jonas are all on-board. Yenny even wrote a song in English (when their leader Sun mentions the accomplishment, she proudly exclaims "Yes! I wrote a song!"). Throw in collaborations with Akon and School Gyrls ("DJ Is Mine") and you got a star-studded album.
Are there more collaborations in the works though? "At this moment, we want to show more of ourselves," they explain. "In the future, we'd love to collaborate with another artist. There's a lot of great artists out there so we'd love to."
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Who would be at the top of their list? None other than: Beyonce, Rihanna, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, One Direction, and Usher (whose name makes Yenny swoon). If the names sound over-reaching, one must remember that Wonder Girls are K-pop royalty as one of the few Korean acts popular enough to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 (the funky "Nobody" charted at No. 76 in 2009), not to mention two No. 1s on the K-Pop Hot 100 this year alone. But while huge teams and labels may or may not manufacture the aforementioned names, the unique flair comes natural to Wonder Girls they say.
"We don't try to be unique. It's not like we have to be so different from others," says Yenny. "But I think because we performed in Korea, Asia, and we came to America. We experienced both cultures and music styles and I think that can be our strong point."
Adds main rapper Yubin, "Our songs are very catchy and our dance moves are easy to follow and that connects."
The girls stand as forces in the K-pop Western advancement that includes the likes of Psy (with his unstoppable "Gangnam Style" viral hit), Girls' Generation (said to release a new U.S. album this year), and 2NE1 (who just wrapped their first American arena tour). How do the girls feel about their counterparts hitting the scene too?
"It's really fun. We're very proud to be part of it," Yenny says. "We all are really close, Girls' Generation, 2NE1 [and us]. We all know each other because we're experiencing the same things. We can relate to each other. It's a good thing."
Though in the end, it comes down to the fans the girls say, "The reaction from our fans...like letters on the computer and on Facebook. They write to us about how they have been influenced from us," says Sun. "We're really enjoying that kind of thing. I think that's the main point of being the Wonder Girls."
When asked if they'd like to add anything more, newest member Lim (with impeccable English) is sure to finish off with a message to fans. "We'll never let you guys down because we're very proud. Thanks for always believing in us and thanks for always loving and supporting us."