Yes. The answer, despite the fact that he may not be as popular as EXO-M or Han Geng, is a “yes.” Success and fame are completely different things. With Henry‘s upcoming comeback with Fantastic, it’s worth taking a moment to realize how successful he has become.
Canadian-born Henry Lau, who debuted in 2008 as a member of Super Junior-M, has become more and more popular throughout Korea throughout the past few years. Despite some rough times, when Super Junior fans resisted Henry and fellow SuJu-M member Zhou Mi (regardless of how Super Junior’s other members felt), Henry ended up coming out on top of just about every other artist of Chinese descent to pass through SM Entertainment’s doors.
Let’s look at where Henry is now:
Last year, he debuted as a solo artist, making him SM Entertainment’s first male solo artist in thirteen years. Since then, he promoted his first album Trap successfully, and ended up becoming a variety favorite by appearing on the military-variety show, Real Men. Even though he’s not Korean and doesn’t have to serve in the military, Henry’s shown Korean audiences that not only does he value their country’s military service, but he can learn from it. And do it with a smile on his face.
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When Henry joined Super Junior to promote as a Super Junior-M member with fellow Chinese singer Zhou Mi, Korean Super Junior fans protested. Super Junior was thirteen members, they claimed. Since then, Super Junior’s had a whole slew of changes to its line up, but fans still won’t accept Henry and Zhou Mi. Which, personally, I think is ridiculous. Not only is Henry talented, but the other Super Junior members have begged fans to accept Zhou Mi and Henry just like fans have accepted every other member.
But Super Junior’s fanclub, ELF (Everlasting Friends) claims that Henry and Zhou Mi are Super Junior, but only if they have M to their name. One would think that this would be an end of a career for the two of the idols, and for a long time, it seemed like both Zhou Mi and Henry would merely promote as members of Super Junior-M.
But Henry’s plunge into becoming a solo singer showed the K-Pop world that being a member of a subgroup isn’t a death sentence. While Zhou Mi’s pursued an acting career in China and is one of Super Junior’s resident composers, Henry’s done everything he can to make Korean and international fans recognize him as what he is, an extremely talented musician—he’s, in fact, an excellent musician, regardless of his training from SM Entertainment.
So he’s done well. Zhou Mi has also. Why do I say that Henry is the most successful of SM’s Chinese artists?
First, let’s look at other Chinese artists at SM. There are the three remaining Chinese members of EXO (EXO-M): Luhan, Lay, and Tao. They’re popular, because EXO is popular, and are each getting recognition, but as members of EXO rather than individuals. Kris, who has since left EXO, is trying to make a name for himself in China, but many fans think of him as a traitor and no longer favor him.
Then, in f(x), there’s Victoria and Amber. Again, popular, and they each have many, many fans, but because they’re members of f(x) and have done promotions representing not only themselves, but also the group. But Henry is generally just Henry, except when he’s Super Junior-M’s Henry.
Okay, so Zhou Mi. Zhou Mi is popular. But he hasn’t been able to gain the solo fame to compete with Henry, who is able to appear on Korean television and be recognized immediately.
Zhang Liyin was extremely popular in the late 2000’s, but her popularity waned due to a large period of inactivity- her last single was released in 2009, and her last album was released in 2008. She is a member of SM The Ballad and is rumored to be making a comeback soon, but it’s almost impossible for her to compete with younger idols like Henry.
And then there’s Han Geng. He is probably the most famous Chinese person to ever walk through the doors of SM Entertainment. He’s an icon in China, having been picked out of hundreds of other Chinese auditions to be the first Chinese trainee at SM Entertainment, and then when he left Super Junior, he became a star in China, both as a singer and as an actor.
Unlike Kris, who has evoked fans’ fury by immediately starting a career in China, Han Geng obviously was unable to work due to his contract with SM Entertainment. He’s now considered to be a world star, and recently appeared in the latest Transformers movie.
Okay, so he’s famous. And popular. But is that successful? Many would say yes. But is he as successful as Henry who, despite the hardships he faced for being an unwanted member of Super Junior, still waited patiently for his day to shine? Personally, as someone who values patience and loyalty, I don’t really think so.
Just to make this clear: I don’t think Han Geng should have stayed at SM. The company had no idea what they were doing with a Chinese idol. But, as awful as it sounds, Han Geng cleared the way for Henry, Zhou Mi, and all other of SM’s Chinese trainees.
Henry was a hated member of one of the most popular K-Pop groups ever. To this day, fans of Super Junior don’t accept Henry as a “true” member of the group, whatever that means. But rather than accept his place, Henry has overcome the rejection and started slowly. He accepted his own personal fans, known as Strings thanks to his violin skills, and never really spoke up about how much it must have hurt for ELF to reject him and Zhou Mi.
He worked hard, appeared on variety shows, promoted as a Super Junior-M member, and practically forced the world to recognize him as a hardworking, talented performer. Only then was he able to promote alone as a solo artist, Henry.
While SM Entertainment has struggled with Chinese members, Henry is the most successful one because he’s done the impossible- he’s practically convinced the Korean audience that he’s a Korean idol. Everyone knows that he’s not, and in fact that’s part of his charm. It’s because of this, the fact that Henry has been able to endure until he reached acceptance from the very audience that originally rejected him, why I think that Henry’s the most successful.
His name is 헨리 (Henry), and he appears on a show that emulates Korean army service and people accept it, he speaks Korean fluently. He is a Korean idol not only as a member of a group but in his own right.
He may not be the most popular, and he may not be the wealthiest, but he is the most accepted Chinese K-Pop idol. And because of that, Henry Lau is the most successful Chinese person in K-Pop today.
What do you think? Are other Chinese idols more successful? Share your opinion with us! Make sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Bloglovin’ so you can keep up with all our posts.