By Kevin Lim and Cerelia Lim
SINGAPORE (Reuters) - The pan-Asian "girl band" Blush has been around for only 11 months but already has a track record more established groups might envy -- a single that hit number three on the U.S. dance music charts and rapper Snoop Dogg in one of their songs.
This week, the English-singing group, whose members hail from Japan, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Korea and India, will open for the Black Eyed Peas at their Manila concert. They appeared at a Justin Bieber concert in Hong Kong earlier this year.
"The goal for Blush is to become really the first Asian singers to make it big in the West," said John Niermann, a former president of Walt Disney Co's Asia-Pacific unit, who brought the band together last year after a broad talent search.
"The idea started several years ago when I was curious why an Asian singer had not really made it to the top of the charts in America," he told Reuters in Singapore.
The group is made up of Japan's Natsuko Danjo, Victoria Chan from Hong Kong, Korea's Ji Hae Lee, Alisha Budhrani from India and Angeli Flores from the Philippines.
Ranging in age from 19 to 28, most of the stylishly-slender group members sang and danced from childhood, dreaming of stardom, according to the group's website. But the 26-year-old Lee only began singing seriously after graduating from Korea's Hoseo University -- with a degree in law.
"Manufactured" pop groups have been around for over 20 years. But Blush is the first to be made up entirely of singers from across Asia who perform in English, in an attempt to broaden their global appeal. Blush is also unusual among Asian performers in the sense that it hopes to make it big in the United States before becoming popular in its home region.
To help the Hong Kong-based group gain a following, Niermann hired songwriters and producers who worked on tracks by artistes such as Bon Jovi and the Spice Girls.
Their first single, "Undivided," which featured American rapper Snoop Dogg in both song and video, made it to number three on the Billboard Dance Club chart.
CONCERTS, MERCHANDISE, SPONSORSHIPS
Niermann has also tried to popularize Blush through music videos and TV appearances as well as toys and computer games, tapping contacts made during his time at Disney and Electronic Arts Inc, another former employer.
"These days you monetize through live appearances like concerts, merchandise, sponsorships and endorsements. These are the key areas," he said.
Fans at recent Singapore events praised the group for their friendliness and style.
"Lots of energy and great vocals," said Andrew Teo, the event manager at The Butter Factory, a Singapore dance club where the group performed.
The group, though, spends much of its time in North America, targeting cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and Vancouver where there are large ethnic Asian communities in hopes of building the fan base essential for success.
"Blush are wholesome enough to work with Disney yet at the same time are edgy enough to draw a crowd that might prefer to listen to Snoop Dogg or Black Eyed Peas," Niermann said.
But the group may find broad success hard, experts said.
"The difficulty about breaking into Western markets is the mindset... Westerners do not bother about singers outside their country because they do not identify with them," said Dean Augustine, head of artistes and repertoire at Sense Music, a Japanese-Singaporean management and production house.
"When an artiste has a following, fans will comment on YouTube and this gives the media something to write about."
(Editing by Elaine Lies and Yoko Nishikawa)