Worried about Far East Movement
Last year was a huge year for someone like me because there were multiple Asian American artists leading the Billboard charts. Bruno Mars was the secret ingredient for a lot of the hit songs, and ended up dominating America with his own singles. The other big story was Koreatown-based Far East Movement finally made it big. Like a G6 became a bit of a party anthem all over the country (and even other parts of the world) for a while. “This is awesome”, I thought. “Asian Americans have finally become mainstream”.
For this blog I put a lot more emphasis on Far East Movement (FM) than Bruno Mars for a couple of reasons. First, I watched as FM went from posting on every Asian American hip hop forum or website to promote their demos, desperate for people to know who they are, to what they have become today. I know that they’ve worked hard to help build an Asian American hip hop and music scene from scratch. Second, FM is not as racially ambiguous as Bruno Mars. I respect him very much, but when it comes to racial issues FM is more easily recognizable as an Asian American artist. When they are on TV and people don’t already recognize them, the racial makeup would be one of the attention-grabbers. This is one of the most important things to consider when it comes to acceptance of Asian faces (particularly males) in the mainstream media.
Cherrytree Records has a group that is entertaining live, hardworking, and has shown that they can make a hit. So how can they be potentially screwing this up? To put it bluntly, I don’t think whoever is in charge of marketing FM is doing a great job.
FM originally became popular within the Asian American circles because they were different. They were huge supporters of the community, but they also weren’t preaching about it in every song. They were a lot of fun to watch and were very active. Since they worked with more low-key and up-and-coming producers, they were able to experiment with a lot of different sounds (fun fact: Wiz Khalifa, Bruno Mars, and Stereotypes were all on FM’s 2008 album Animal). They were popular because they were different.
When Like a G6, which at the time was just a mixtape track that they leaked onto Youtube, got over a million views due to word of mouth, it was because the track was different. That happened again on a large scale after Cherrytree started pushing the song on radios everywhere. It was different.
The key to their success, at least in my mind, has always been because they stood out. They were stylish, clean, creative, and always a lot of fun. Ever since they signed onto Cherrytree, this has started to slip away, and I’m now very worried it will really make them one-or-two-hit wonders.
I really started worrying when I saw what their new official music videos looked like. When the video for Girls on the Dance Floor came out, it was really just live footage of them. “Fine,” I thought. “It’s just the first video. Maybe they’re testing the waters. Besides, FM is known for their live shows”. When the video for Like a G6 came out, I still forgave them. I figured they just needed to push out a video ASAP in order to catalyze the popularity of it even further. When Rocketeer came out, I thought it was a great step in the right direction. It wasn’t the best video, but there was a lot of effort put into the editing and the idea was inspired. There were still bits of the party scene at the end, but that’s ok.
Then came the next video, If I was You (OMG).
I started to get a little wary. They’re still in a party scene. There really isn’t anything new, fresh, different to see here. I guess the song was meant to be sexy so I can see why Snoop Dogg is slapping that girl’s ass. I guess. The only redeeming factor as far as Asian American representation is Kev Nish starting to get intimate with that one girl for a few seconds. I couldn’t really see anyone liking the video itself, but I wished for the best for FM.
A little over two months later another new video was released. From the previews, I thought it would be very unique. There was a lot of contrast and minimalism in the preview photos. They still had wired mics, but I figured it couldn’t be that bad. Then I saw the video.
I’m not a professional filmmaker, but I am confident that I could’ve made a better video than that. It looks like a good idea gone very wrong. The girl was out of place, the fact that the girl was dancing with all of them was out of place, the objects were out of place. This was supposed to be the video that tied everything together by bringing back the fresh, stylish FM that we all knew. They never needed sex appeal like this to be entertaining; they were classier than that. From the previews I thought this was going to be classy. Instead it ended up being typical. How disappointing.
I probably don’t know as much about marketing as the people in charge of all this. If it was another artist, this entire push might be working, but it’s not. FM doesn’t fit in here. The issue was there from the beginning: Cherrytree wants FM to be something they’re not, and that something is “bland”. Can we take some inspiration from Rocketeer about shooting for the stars? Let’s get some music video directors/producers with vision and inspiration so FM can stay famous, as they deserve to. It would be better for your company, for the band, and better for our community overall.