By Eliza Billingham
Boston University News Service
Nearly 500 people wait for hours outside Newbury Comics, sporting matte lipsticks, streetwear and blue wristbands. Passersby crane their necks trying to find the end of the line. “What are they waiting for?” asks a white Gen X-er. “Jackson Wang!” comes the reply. She raises an eyebrow. “Who?”
Jackson Wang, a former rapper of K-pop group Got7, visited Boston this past Wednesday for a fan meet and greet at Newbury Comics in Faneuil Hall. Wang is vying for international solo fame as a musician, producer, dancer, designer, and all-around luxury showman.
In addition to lucrative partnerships with MAC, Hennessy, Fendi and Cartier, Wang has been featured in Rolling Stone India, Vogue Thailand, Elle Thailand and the first issue of Billboard China. He was also the first Chinese singer to perform on the main stage at Coachella this summer.
Wang recently released his album “MAGIC MAN” in English, accompanied by three lavish, high-production music videos. He could be the next superstar from Asia to reach mainstream American fame. But while some fans camped outside Newbury Comics all night for a chance to spend 30 seconds with Wang, most of the people heading home from work near Government Center had no idea who he was.
“They’re telling me he’s like a boyband person,” said a female security officer, who worked this event because all the other staff was male. She clocked in at 2 p.m. and was surprised by the number of women, already queued up.
The event offered no concert, no performance, just a chance to smell Wang’s cologne and try to sneak a feel of his six-pack.
Wang is well poised to climb the ranks of international fame. He speaks multiple dialects of Chinese, learned Korean as a boyband trainee, and is fluent in American English. He flits between cultures effortlessly— simultaneously flirtatious and affectionate, focused and direct, gutsy and meticulous, with an impossible mix of humility and overconfidence that Western audiences crave. It can’t hurt that he has the body of an elite athlete, which he frequently flaunts shirtless onstage and off.
“He’s a bit more than an artist,” said Misha Li, who lined up at noon for the 5 pm event. “He could do a reality show, or [be a] a comedian. He’s just iconic.”
Wang met over 400 people in Boston and hugged most of them.
“Not many Chinese celebrities will come to the States, especially Boston,” said Joy Wang, who lives in Assembly Row and skipped work to wait in line all day.
A lot of Wang’s popularity comes from his inexhaustible efforts to make not just his art but himself available to fans.
“He’s so kind to his fans,” Sana Syed said, who serendipitously had the day off work. “So considerate, very generous. He really gives the fans attention.”
Longtime followers have watched Wang extract himself from the restrictions of Korean entertainment companies and blossom into a solo career. Now as a producer and entrepreneur, Wang draws no distinction between himself and his art. Fans cling to this transparency.
“He’s true to himself,” said Donna Yang, a mother of two near the front of the line who didn’t tell her kids or her husband where she was. “His music is great. He’s very personable and honest about his feelings. And you don’t hear that from anyone these days.”
Fans sensed Wang’s authenticity throughout his entire career. “I think he’s just still the same,” Syed said, who has been a Wang fan since his Got7 days. “What he loves is that he continues to grow. He always wants to grow, as a musician, as a person.”
So far, K-pop fans are loving his transformation.
“I just want to tell him I love him, [that] I want to support his music, and just—keep going!” said Darcy D’Amato, who was fifth in line after hanging around since 5:15 am.
MAGIC MAN is a step past K-pop, with a little more angst and much more EDM infusion.
“I just wanna be honest with my crowd, my audience,” Wang wrote on Instagram. “This is me and I feel like MAGIC MAN.”