Googled: Eric Nam ’11

Published: September 2016

In the fall of 2011, Eric Nam was living in Hyderabad, India, helping establish low-income schools on an NGO fellowship, when he received an unexpected email. A television producer in Korea liked the karaoke covers of U.S. top 40 and Korean pop (K-pop) songs Nam had posted on YouTube while a Boston College student, and he was offering Nam an audition on Birth of a Great Star, the South Korean equivalent of American Idol. The son of Korean immigrants, Nam grew up in Atlanta, and speaks fluent Korean. He majored in international studies and was offered a job at a major business consultancy in New York City. But he thought, “You live once, you have the opportunity to pursue a dream, go for it,” as he recently told the fashion magazine Milk. He placed fifth in the competition, and in September 2012 the K-pop management agency B2M Entertainment offered him a recording contract. Each of the six singles he’s released to date—sugary, splashy love songs that mix Korean and English (e.g., from “Can’t Help Myself”: “숨쉴수가 없어 / I think I’m in too deep / Because of you / 말하고 싶어”)—have cracked the top 100 on Korea’s pop chart.

K-pop is a $4 billion global industry. Nam has toured throughout Asia, Canada, and the United States, and performed at KCON (in Los Angeles and New York), an annual celebration of Hailyu, the umbrella term for the expanding “Korean Wave” of music, television drama, fashion, and food. Between 2013 and 2016, he hosted 207 episodes of the popular Korean-language, internet-based talkshow After School Club.

This past summer, Nam released “Into You,” his first English single. “K-pop serves a very niche community,” he recently told the U.S.-based pop culture news network Fusion. “But I think it would be great to see Asian-Americans and Korean faces going beyond that.”

This feature was posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2016 and is filed under Research.