J-pop artist imase gives Korean fans free concert to celebrate local success
A music venue in western Seoul’s Hongdae on Thursday night resembled a popular TikTok video as people sang along to J-pop artist imase’s hit track “Night Dancer” during the singer’s first-ever performance in Korea.
“This is the third time I’ve been to Korea but the first time performing here, and it feels so great,” he said to the excited crowd, all holding up their phones to film the J-pop star.
The title “Night Dancer” may not ring a bell, but after listening to just a few seconds of the song those well-acquainted with short-form video platforms will be able to picture hundreds of videos on TikTok, YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels.
His song has been streamed over 1.2 billion times on TikTok alone. K-pop stars IVE, Stray Kids, Ateez, Rocket Punch and more have taken part in creating their own videos using imase's "Night Dancer."
On March 26, the song peaked at No. 17 on Melon’s Top 100 chart, becoming the first J-pop song to make it onto the Korean music chart.
Thursday’s free showcase was held in celebration of the J-pop star’s unforeseen success in Korea.
“It’s amazing that my song transcended language and so many Korean people listened to it,” imase told local press in an interview held prior to the showcase on Thursday afternoon.
“I was walking around the hotel and I actually saw people doing the ‘Night Dancer’ challenge. Someone even came up to me and asked, ‘Are you imase?’ That made me really feel how popular the song became in Korea.”
The 22-year-old singer debuted in 2021 with his single "have a good day," only a year after learning to write and compose music, according to Universal Music who he is signed with. His blowout success with "Night Dancer" only a year later has won him the nickname "monster rookie."
But his triumph didn’t happen by chance. Being born fully digital native, imase knew that success in the digital era had to be dealt with differently than in the past, especially using short-form video services.
He listened to NewJeans’ “OMG” (2023) multiple times after he saw it on TikTok, for example.
“I thought about how I could make my music stick in people’s ears within the 15 or 30 seconds that I can get in the videos,” he said. “The rhythm and the melody have to be very catchy, because if it’s not good enough to make people stay for more than three seconds, they will just scroll right past to the next video.”
The fact that it takes multiple videos for viewers to go back and listen to the full song is another challenge that digital-era artists must deal with, imase said.
“It’s inevitable in a way,” he said. “But it’s up to the artist to lead the people to the song by posting the full link on their profile or uploading other parts of the song, not just the hook, so you connect the people to the whole song.”
He released his single “We Are” on Feb. 24, which has also been chosen as the campaign song for Japan’s largest telecommunications company NTT Docomo. He picked out rapper Big Naughty when asked if there was a Korean artist that he would like to collaborate with in the future.
“My goal is to keep making music that brings out the best in the Japanese language."
BY YOON SO-YEON [firstname.lastname@example.org]