Trivia question: Who's the biggest boy band in the world? Backstreet Boys? *NSYNC? New Kids? Hanson? Take That? Menudo? Nope. According to reliable source Guinness World Records, it's JYJ.
Never heard of JYJ? Well, obviously you haven't been to Korea lately, where the group's singers, Kim Jaejoong, Park Yoochun, and Kim Junsu, are bigger than Justin Timberlake. Their popularity in their homeland landed them in Guinness in 2008 and 2009 for having the world's largest official fanclub (more than 800,000 members in Seoul alone) and for being the most photographed celebrities on the planet (they've been snapped professionally approximately 500 million times).
And now JYJ are going global, as they release their first English-language album, The Beginning, on Atlantic Records. The disc features production on two tracks, "Empty" and "Be My Girl," by superstar studio guru Rodney Jerkins (Michael Jackson, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Mary J. Blige), and the album's lead single, "Ayyy Girl," actually boasts vocals and production by a little American artist named Kanye West.
While the members of JYJ started performing together in 2003 in the Korean boy band TVXQ (who released four successful albums in Korea and four in Japan), the new album title The Beginning is apt here, since JYJ is a rebirth for them--and not just because they're finally launching their careers in America. It took a long and arduous journey for JYJ to reach this point. Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Junsu, while still in TVXQ, had to sue their record label, SM Entertainment, in order to get out of what was basically a ludicrously unfair 13-year "slave" contract. Despite having sold millions of units and breaking world records in Asia, until they successfully extricated themselves from SM Entertainment, Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Junsu were literally broke.
But things are looking up for JYJ now. A recent issue of Billboard with JYJ on the cover sold out in 24 hours, for instance, and their record label actually had to halt all pre-orders for the limited luxury edition of The Beginning due to too much demand. And obviously, JYJ's Western-friendly R&B sound has already earned them some very high-profile U.S. supporters.
"I'm really glad to work with JYJ on their debut album," says Jerkins. "It's all about the East meeting the West these days, and the world is becoming a melting pot of various cultures. To have Kanye and myself champion the cause of unifying the world through the international language of music and introducing top artists from one end of the globe to this end in America makes this a very special project to us." And JYJ add: "It was a great new experience that we are really privileged to have. We felt the pressure of working with such superstars initially, but our anxieties were allayed when Kanye/Rodney showed us great support. We were able to have a really good time working with them and exchanging ideas about music with one another."
Prepare to witness JYJ set a whole bunch of other Guinness records in the near future.