Did You Just Ask Why I Love K-Pop?
Others: You like K-Pop? What, like that Sigh guy?"
Others: But I’m so sick of hearing that gang-nam song, such a one-hit wonder.
Me: Actually Psy has been a significant figure in the Korean music industry for over 12 years now and he has produced a lot of really fantastic music during that time…
Nope, I’ve lost them.
I guess it's understandable how people associate K-Pop to being only a ‘one-hit wonder’, after all that’s often all they have the opportunity to see, poor things. It’s only once you’re on the inside that you really understand the true wonders of K-Pop. And you fall into it; you fall into it really, really hard. We’re talking Taeyang-ab hard, and that's pretty damned hard.
Oh I forgot to introduce myself! *waves happily* I'm Kat and I’m K-World OBSESSED. I have been for the past couple of years now and I’ll happily admit it. That, or the 4 coloured bands on my wrist give me away. Three of them say the names of my biases- BIGBANG, SHINee and JYJ, and the fourth reads SBS PopAsia (Australia’s Asian Pop Radio Station). You can also tell by the way any conversation I’m involved in veers to some aspect of Korean culture. That's because I’m always happy to do my bit to help spread some K-Pop love. Of course some are more willing to receive the love than others, but very occasionally I do find a person that will ask with genuine interest as to why I like K-Pop.
It took me a while to try to adapt my overwhelming K-Pop feels (SO.MANY.FEELS!!) into a suitably logical answer to this question without making people feel like it's a world for crazy people. Well, we are a little crazy but we’re good crazy. Like… Teen Top Crazy! STOP, STOP BREAKING MY HEARTTT!
Ah, anywayyy… So I eventually managed to distribute my feels into subcategories with headings and concise reasoning as to why I truly love K-Pop. There is a lot more, but in the interests of everyone’s sanity I have tried to cover everything both as broadly and concisely as I can. Otherwise you might be here all day with me discussing everything on down to the finer points of how epic SHINee’s belts are.
|So much epic|
I am sharing this with you, my fellow K-Worlds, so that together we can work out exactly how our hearts were won over. Then perhaps the next time a person asks us THE QUESTION, we'll be able to respond in such a way that befits our glorious world.
5. It Looks Good
OMO! So superficial!
Sure is! And there is a lot more to K-Pop than The Visual, but it is undeniably a huge factor. There is a whole member dedicated to it in each group for starters!
|Oh hey girl|
Everything looks good in K-Pop. Everything. The idols look good, the dances look good, the music videos look good. We enjoy ‘watching’ it just as much as we enjoy listening to it.
Idols work really hard to take care of their bodies, face and skin. Countless times you’ll see images of them working up a sweat in the gym- building their strength, flexibility and endurance. K-Pop dancing is tough, and it relies on you being spot on. To be able to keep up, all spare hours must be spent with your trainer. And this counts for the girls as well as our beloved washboard ab-ed guys. Did anyone see that tweet from 2NE1's Dara of her watching the 2012 MAMAs while running on a treadmill? Or the leg bruises from After School’s ‘First Love’ comeback? A lot of behind-the-scenes sweat and ugliness is poured into looking so good on stage.
That means hours upon hours of rigorous dance practice as well, running and re-running those precise movements to make the polished performances that we love so much. I’m sure there is a lot of natural dancing ability going on but you just don’t look that synchronized and fluid without really investing a lot of effort.
And then there is taking care of your looks. I’m not going to delve too much into the “plastic surgery talk” because I think Nani covered my sentiments perfectly here. K-Pop makeup artists really do know how to work wonders though- because with the amount of sleep these idols get, the diets they have to be on, the amount of strain they put on their bodies and with the constant heavy make-up… I know at least my skin would be in a whole bunch of trouble.
How about those idol diets?! Chicken breast or Korean sweet potatoes anyone? I mean those potatoes are pretty tasty, but when that is all you’re eating… And that is when you’re even able to eat. Jaejoong once said there are three times in a man’s life when he cries- when he is born, when he breaks up with his girlfriend and when his manager doesn’t feed him. Can you even imagine? Next time we feel that little twinge of jealously let us just consider that we too could look like that if we are able to be that strict on ourselves. Personally, gimme my ramyun!
So it just wouldn’t be realistic to deny that a huge part of why we love K-Pop is because our idols are gorgeous. Hours and hours can be spent on Pinterest or Tumblr just looking at T.O.P’s perfect face (did I just say that out loud?), but it is not the only reason why we love K-Pop. I say K-Pop looks good, and by this I mean music that looks good by also sounding good. Does that make sense? You get what I’m trying to say- T.O.P is insanely handsome, but he is also an insanely great rapper.
K-Pop looks good by being able to sound good, as well as by having that perfect s-line. So…
4. It’s Always There
K-Pop feeds its addicts constantly. There is ALWAYS something going on to fangirl about.
It’s the method of promotion/release that gets people really intrigued, especially when I explain the ‘Comeback’. I will then go on to explain the exciting world of concepts! K-Pop embodies a lot of different styles, and when that style is used as a theme for a comeback it’s called a ‘concept’.
A concept breathes life into a group and gives a genre style to their music, whilst at the same time demonstrating their flexibility and individuality. A group may try one particular style or concept in one year, and a completely new one the next, giving them an opportunity to find out what type of style might suit them best. It also works well with the comeback structure by building anticipation around what a group’s concept will be. Concept teasers!! *bounces*
|Minho's teasers from SHINee's "Everybody" album.|
It’s around this point that I’ll start to get a lot of comments about it being very controlled, manufactured and contrived. What of it? If there was a lack of creativity and imagination then the strategy would be detrimental, but K-Pop lacks neither creativity nor imagination.
Concepts are outlets of creativity and comebacks are moments for the idols to show off their hard work. Western artists may release an album every couple of years, but the K-Pop structure allows for a continuous flow of music and a therefore more of a continuous appreciation of the artists. And appreciation on a much grander scale, because aren’t those comeback performances something?? You can watch each performance of the exact same song just for that minute detail that makes it a whole world of difference. That little twist and wink that they just did there! The way they just sung that note ever so slightly differently… The level of planning and the level of quality as a result is always evident in these performances.
Just like this glorious moment of talent, professionalism and teamwork that SHINee is known for:
3. It’s More Than Music
I love the music, but K-Pop is so much more than that. It’s the performances we just talked about, the Awards shows, THE VARIETY SHOWS, the parodies, the behind-the-scenes videos, the dance practice videos, the concerts, the interviews, the fashion (THE FASHIONNN), the merchandise, the magazine shoots, the behind-the-scenes of the magazine shoots, the idol twitter accounts, the idol instagram accounts, the tumblrs upon tumblrs of images and gifs and the mounds upon mounds of fanfics… There is just so much content associated with the world of K-Pop that we are easily able to acquire and consume.
Enter fan service. Some might say it’s only the bromances and the OTPs ( ;) ;) ;) ), but I think it’s everything that our idols pour out for us fans. To me fan service incorporates everything I mentioned above. Whether as collaborators (photo shoots) or as inspirations (fan fics) they are providing services additional to their role as a music artist.
Instead of just being able to appreciate the artist’s music, which we do, we are also able to appreciate the artists themselves. We love their quirks, their bingu-ness and their miscellaneous talents (Onew’s ttakbam anyone?). We get to know them through their interviews and appearances on shows. Whether their personalities are pre-planned or not, it makes us feel a whole lot closer to them and it makes us realize they are more human then the perfect beings we see in the music videos and on stage. Which probably makes us love them more.
Step one of any K-Pop obsession is music appreciation. Step two is performance watching. Step three is hunt down absolutely every variety show they’ve ever been on and laugh like an awkward hyena by yourself in the middle of the night because your beautifully talented and coordinated bias is actually pretty awkward.
2. It’s Hard Work
Whoever says being an K-Pop idol is all fun and luxury does not know anything about the K-Pop industry. These idols work so.frickin.hard it is insane. Did anyone see that SHINee schedule from their Dream Girl promotions? I think it allowed for approximately 20 minutes of sleep every three days for the entire month. And it’s not even the lack of sleep. It’s the all of activities that they have to get through on those 20 minutes of sleep!
From recordings, to fansigns, to performances, to variety shows, to radio programs and then back to the studio to practice at nights, the companies work them like crazy, and for better or worse that is the reality of their lives during their time of popularity. Trainees are put through rigorous training for years before their debut, starting from their young teens. In trainee life they attend what I think of as school on steroids. Not only do they have the normal lessons and study, with emphasis on learning languages such as Japanese and Korean, but strenuous music and dance classes and training in public personas. And they go through all this not even knowing if they’ll be picked to debut. It’s ruthless and unsympathetic.
In the end, I wonder how many idols eventually envy those failed trainees. Because far from having completed it their training only gets harder from here. More lessons, more practice, more hard work, more sacrifices. And what do they go through it all for? For us. For their fans.
It’s so easy to imagine how situations like the “DBSK Scenario” happen though. If you have never heard or read the lyrics to ‘Unnamed Song’, which was written and composed by JYJ member Park Yoochun, then I suggest you head on over here and feel your heart break. Just how hard were they worked? How underappreciated did they feel? How overwhelmed, how tired, how strained? And to add on to all they had to deal with those who would call themselves their supporters, the absolute craziness of saesang fans. Like, what?!
I hope that they realize they do have (relatively) normal fans out there that love them as artists and thank them sincerely. But the following excerpt from ‘Unnamed Song’ (originally from the musical Mozart) is particularly resonating:
To be free… I don’t even wish for such things. We, made by you.
“You have raised the castle walls and closed the door firmly too.
They say that love is not an imprisonment.
Love is releasing someone to be free.
I don’t even wish for such things.
We, made by you, are not even half of half of half of that,
And will forever be frogs in a well.”
To be free… I don’t even wish for such things. We, made by you.
Kat = !___!
1. It’s Idealistic
If I picked two words to best describe myself they would be enthusiastic and idealistic. I really do like things that aim for perfection. I really admire people who work hard. I really like things that are happy and fun and excitable. I really like freaking out with people about things that I am enthusiastic about. In these ways, the K-World is Kat’s Ideal World.
|Just look at these guys! Gyaooo ^.^|
K-Pop artists are bright, talented, respectful and dedicated. They are interesting and unique. They are (generally) not rude and self-absorbed despite the amount of love they receive. If they win an award they are genuinely grateful and appreciative, and often reflect that they feel undeserving-
Work harder?? Not sure that’s physically possible, Jongie. It’s not just the artists though because we too are awesome. The K-Pop community is just as dedicated and passionate. When you love K-Pop you really love K-Pop, and you end up pretty much wanting to talk about it non-stop. Our fandoms are welcoming and love being able to enjoy endless moments of squasping together. Welcome to your fan family.
I saw this wonderful tweet during the voting for Girl’s Generation in the YouTube Music Awards (who eventually won 'Video of the Year'!):
the sweetest thing about YTMA voting was the fact that SONEs were like "west sones will take over, east sones go to bed!!" — sofia (@himchyeah) November 4, 2013
It’s this dedication and unity that makes me really happy to be a part of it. It’s moments like seeing 2.478 metric tonnes of rice dedicated by fans in the name of their idol that makes me proud to be a part of it.
K-Pop music is so addictive because it sounds good. It’s ever changing and unique. It is easy to listen to. It is fun, sad, uplifting, motivating, and it is consumable. Anyone else feel that excitement when you’re doing the ‘K-Pop iTunes shuffle’ and a song that you haven’t heard in a while comes on AND IT’S JUST SO AWESOME!? And then you’re remembering the dance moves and revisiting the MV… ah so good. K-Pop brings a smile to my face and I love it for that.
K-Pop aims for idealistic perfection. Appearance, talents, performances, attitude- everything is carefully molded and perfected. Yes, it is a lot of superficiality, and yes an idol is an “object of worship”. If they weren’t perfect to us then they are not really ‘idols’. We love them because they work damned hard, look perfect, and radiate a sense of positivity to us.
They are our happy escape, our shiny world. Dibidibidis.
About the author:
Kattack is all kinds of crazy and tends to be very enthusiastic and overly excitable about pretty much everything she finds interesting. She’s a Digital Producer, an Associate Writer for Korea.com and a Professional Fangirl for KPop, KDrama and KFood.