I was asked about what I thought Akanishi Jin's chances of actually making it big in America. And honestly, I don't know. The thing is with the U.S. it's hard to guess which U.S. artist is going to hit it big let alone an artist trying to break in to the market from another country, unless it's Canada, as I don't think many from the U.S. care to differentiate them from U.S. artists as they come off similar enough for the most part.
Honestly for foreign artists the biggest hurdle is language as it's a rare feat for an artist that doesn't sing in English to make it big and if they do they tend to be one-hit wonders. But I don't think there's an artist from Asia that's trying to get mainstream recognition (because there are plenty that are happy just being a niche artist which you can see with most of the J-rock bands that come over or even Hello Pro's ventures into the U.S. market) that's foolish enough not to learn English for that reason. Jin has been learning English for years now and while he isn't as fluid in it as a native speaker is he at least seems to be able to understand it well and can speak and write it, though seemingly not as well and with some questionable vocabulary thrown in there as well. But he's still understandable and while he was doing the awkward pause thing in past interviews I would expect after working on a movie and his album over the past year or so he should have improved but we have to wait for him to do another spoken interview to see if he has.
That said there's also the music genre aspect to take into account. I think Jin may do well enough with R&B over a more general pop sound as Asian and Asian-American artists have at least some presence in that genre in the U.S. while for general pop the landscape is pretty barren of Asian or Asian-American artists that have made it big. Especially with the recent success of the Asian-American group Far East Movement the R&B/Hip-Hop music style could benefit him more.
But even with those things in his favor it's really hard to tell how he will do. He'll definitely need the support of his fans in the U.S. but unless he can do something to gain new fans I can't see him going far. His role in 47 Ronin could help, but even then that film isn't slated to come out until December 2012 and his debut album should come out well before then. What I really think he needs to do is get on music programs or even the late night shows to perform, get his songs picked up to be used in TV programs and their soundtracks and just in general get the kind of promotion and pushing any artist trying to make it big in the U.S. get to achieve the kind of success a lot of people are expecting that he's aiming for.
Of course one thing fans or just anyone who will be watching his progress needs to remember is that the U.S. market is different than Japan's in some rather significant ways. The main one will be with singles. Unlike Japan where usually all the singles from an album come out before it does in America you tend to get one song released before an album and then all the other singles come from the already released album. This is done because album sales are much more important in the U.S. market than singles so to help make the album sell for as long as possible to gain as many sales from it. So while singles are good to follow to see which songs are more popular or if an artist is gaining more fans with each new single in the end it's whether or not the album sells that's most important. That and if they give up releasing singles for an album not long after it comes out then that is a sign that the album isn't selling as well as the label thought it would compared to an album that they keep releasing songs off of as singles for years sometimes.
Only time is going to tell if Jin will be able to hit it mainstream or become another Utada Hikaru, Rain, or BoA. Though since his attitude seems to be that he just wants to release music in the U.S. as it's the kind of music he enjoys making I think he at least has the chance of being able to create a niche of fans that will support him for years even if he never makes it big in the U.S.