Crossing Rain delivers Hawaii’s newest genre – ‘H-pop’

Following in the footsteps of successful, trendy J-pop and K-pop acts like BTS, Hawaii has now crafted its own genre of popular mainstream music called H-pop, and Crossing Rain (affectionately known as “XR”), a six-member boy band based on Oahu, is leading its charge.

While Hawaii is not known for rapidly churning out boy bands like Japan or Korea, it did dip its toes in the water in the late ‘80s with a quintet called the Bad Boys Club. BBC formed during the time of the resurgence of Boy Idol bands such as New Edition and New Kids on the Block. “Although they never did take off nationally, BBC was Hawaii’s first attempt in a highly cutthroat business,” noted UH West Oahu professor Jayson Chun, who co-teaches a course on K-pop culture. “XR is thus picking up where they left off.”


XR was formed in March 2021 when Tirzah Productions’ CEO Susan Kitsu announced she was looking to create a Hawaiian boy band. “I looked through over 350 videos and social media clips for young men with a God-given talent who could sing or dance. Each member had to excel at either skill and have the capability to be able to do both within a few months.”

Before joining XR, most of its teen members were just out of high school and deciding what to do with their lives. “I was working part-time waiting tables,” explained Wyatt Kaneshiro (21). He’s the group’s rapper, goes by “Monarch,” and was eager to jump into the fast lane to success. “I always dreamed of becoming an artist and getting signed was part of that dream.”

Hilo-born Jorden Kealoha-Yamanaka (“J,” 20), son of award-winning musician Mark Yamanaka, decided college wasn’t for him. He started a solo career performing acoustic/alternative R&B songs in 2020, but the pandemic temporarily paused his pursuit.

J’s fresh out of high school bandmates, Evan Harutoshi Doria (aka “Haru”), Shotaro Takasawa, Asher Morgado, and Devin Teruya, all have similar dream-come-true stories. Takasawa is the exception. At 14, he’s the youngest member and just started high school after moving here from Japan three years ago.

Barely together a year, XR was nominated for four 2022 Na Hoku awards and walked away with the coveted Favorite Entertainer of the Year prize in July’s ceremony. Their debut album Dreams dropped last December, and they have a clever app (with paid subscriptions) that unlocks exclusive access to tickets, videos, and the option to purchase animated gifs that can be sent to members during live broadcasts.

Days before their Big Island debut, XR made the rounds in Hilo with a PR campaign that included radio interviews, a supermarket meet-and-greet, and high school appearances while spreading the word to their fanbase (known as Thunder) about their upcoming Palace Theater concert, appropriately titled “Nice to Meet You.”

“They’re all so talented, but J is my favorite, and he’s local,” said Zoe from Hilo. She was the first fan in line waiting to get into last Saturday’s concert. Behind her were other fans who’ve painted signs with their favorite band members’ names on them.

Just before show time, MC Kaulana Chang came out to fire up the packed Palace crowd and got them to reach decibel-shattering screams, especially when XR entered the stage in white parachute jumpsuits. In between each song, Kaulana either interacted with the group or brought out the 11-member XR dancers to perform.

One of the most heartfelt moments in the show was Kylee Amorosa-Kawamoto’s solo dance to a piece called “Body Love,” about not being able to fit into the social norms placed on young women. Dressed in a black mesh skirt with the words timid, fat, shame, and others, Kawamoto danced to the song made famous by award-winning singer Mary Lambert.

XR melted hearts with their hits “Water,” “Shine,” and “Tangled,” but special attention was given to local boy J. He came out twice for solo performances, once to sing Amy Winehouse’s “Valerie” and then on the grand piano with “Kaleohano.” The group also introduced an unreleased song called “When You Said Goodbye,” slated for their second album due out by the end of the year.

Missing in action was sixth member Asher Morgado. According to a spokesperson, he injured himself while rehearsing but will return soon.

XR wrapped up the two-hour show with “You’re Mine,” leaving lasting impressions on the audience with their signature smooth harmonies and well-synchronized dance moves.

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