Posted by Shamir Lee on 07/25 at 05:20 PM
Recently, I had to read an article for a class about K-pop (Korean pop). It caused me to reminisce on the days when I was well-informed on the K-pop news and happenings, when I called myself a fan.
I remember when I first started listening to K-pop about five years ago. I can’t deny, I loved listening to it. I had been listening to a lot of J-Rock, and somehow I stumbled across Korean music, thinking I wouldn’t be impressed. I was wrong. Daily, I was looking out for the new groups, wondering if any of the newcomers were going to take over the Korean pop scene. The perfection in their dance steps, the cool fashion sense, the cute smiles; before I knew it, I had fallen. Hard.
But two years later, I seemed to be seeing the same thing over and over again. I cute wink here, a genie pant there. Over and over and over and over again. That’s when it hit me: K-pop was a sham. I started to realize how blind I was to the fake-ness and overproduction. I kept hearing about how they would find people from China and even America (Asian-Americans, of course), move them to Korea, and train them for years to debut them on music shows, like Inkigayo. I knew this before, but I guess I didn’t really know it, or to be more honest, I didn’t want to face the truth. But finally, the truth slapped me in the face, and it was time for me to let K-pop go, at least my obsession with it.
I noticed how all the American fans of K-pop were SUPER obsessed, more like stalkers than supporters. I didn’t want to be apart of that. I thought America was bad, with all the Disney kids coming out with albums, but Korea was, and is, even worse, when it comes to manufacturing their music acts.
I feel like the music industry over there is trying too hard to be what they think western music is like, with the hopes of breaking into the western music charts. But what they don’t realize is we like things to be at least somewhat authentic. Even with people like Justin Bieber and Rihanna, we can tell they have at least a little bit of say in what they do, even if they are just a product of the companies that produce them. Psy, the artist behind “Gangnam Style,” only became popular because he was just being crazy and silly, which seems to match what he’s really like (and because the song was paired with a dance that everyone can mimic, but anyway.)
I remember when the Wonder Girls were sent over to the US. They performed on So You Think You Can Dance. The performance was good, but it was stiff and very choreographed, too choreographed. No one remembered them except people who already knew them from before. BOA and Se7en were also sent to establish a career here. They didn’t even get to perform on a TV show. Some might say it’s because they’re Asian and the music industry in America isn’t open to Asian artists. That could be part of it, but I think it’s mainly because they’re not ‘real.’ They’re the ultimate musical product. They’re pretty much walking, talking singing dolls, worse than any Disney star I can imagine.
That doesn’t mean I don’t listen to some K-pop every once in awhile. I have to admit, I think the beats and instrumentals they use are very creative, and I really like the hard work and dedication they put into the synchronized dancing. It’s some of the best dancing I’ve seen from a music act, in any part of the world. My favorite groups (called “idols” in the K-pop world) include Kara, Infinite, and f(x). But without the individuality and creativity coming from the musicians themselves (if we can even call them that), I don’t support it like I used to. Groups like 2NE1 and Big Bang are a little bit more creative than the average K-pop star, but even they seem to be a product of their company rather than just musicians with individual personalities.
Maybe if they blended the hard-work and synchronization with actually letting the artists contribute to the creative process, I could respect K-pop. They might even be able to cross-over to a western audience. But until then, they’ll simply remain manufactured “idols” who change their hairstyles every two seconds and read a script when giving interviews. No one wants to see that.
Author: Shamir Lee
Bio: Shamir Lee is a senior majoring in Advertising. She’s a writer for Penn State’s CRITIQUE, a student-run business magazine. Additionally, she has created ads and flyers for One Heart, an organization fighting against child sexual abuse. She’s interested in looking at cats, doing ballet, exercising, and ending animal cruelty. In her free time, she enjoys watching horror movies, some of her favorites being Satoshi Kon’s Perfect Blue and the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre ("sorry, I just really like the cinematography"). Music is a big part of her life, as she plays piano, a little bit of guitar, and used to play saxophone. Some of her favorite musicians are Jason Becker, BUCK-TICK, Megadeth, Aivi Tran, Missing Persons, Nina Hagen, Prince, and Koji Kondo.
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