The beginning of a new year has brought a new direction in K-pop. This doesn’t only mean the possible integration of dubstep in music, but also a shifted focus in the output of boy groups. In 2011 we saw a massive influx of idol groups, specifically girl groups, but this year promises to be its reciprocal. Included with the news of boy group debuts from the Big 3 is news that many of the smaller movers and shakers will be right up in the mix. Along with SME’s Exo Planet, YGE’s TBA group, and JYPE’s rumored group 2THE.O, news of other boy group debuts such as Pledis Boys, Chaos, B.A.P, etc. have brought anticipation to K-pop audiences. Whoever will come out the ultimate victor is still up for grabs, but one thing that’s got my mind buzzing is the probability that I will enjoy this year in K-pop music more so than the last.

From the first time I discovered K-pop, I have always had to tread carefully. This has been because of my slight allergy to super-sugary aegyo. Now, not all of K-pop is puke-worthy cuteness, but there is enough of it to make me itch. Don’t get me wrong; I’ve acquired somewhat of an immunity to aegyo’s sometimes gag worthy effects, but I can take it only in small doses. This is the same reason why Orange Caramel’s “Magic Girl” made me want to repeatedly bang my head into the wall, but their song “Bangkok City” had me bouncing across the floor. It was a completely opposite reaction on two songs from the same group, and though my acceptance has grown in regards to cuteness, I still prefer the opposite (fierceness) a whole lot more.

In case I ever felt like immersing myself in cute, songs like Rainbow Pixie’s “Hoi Hoi” serve as a constant reminder of exactly why I don’t like such songs. It gets to be too much. It’s not that music like this is bad; it’s just not my taste. The blend of K-pop’s colorfulness mixed with overzealous aegyo feels like it’s a diabetic epileptic seizure waiting to happen. “Hoi Hoi” is like an Orange Carmel, SNSD, Secret, Nicki Minaj Gogeta-fusion gone berserk. It’s so overwhelmingly colorful and cute that it scares me away. But it’s these exact songs that push me to like the general K-pop guy groups over the general girl groups. To me, strong and fierce trumps cute. With boybands gaining greater popularity amongst international fans, I began to wonder if I liked guy groups for their aesthetics or for some other reason. After some soul searching (okay…maybe not so much) I can honestly say…to be continued. In all seriousness, I don’t prefer guy groups because of their looks but because of their music. Though guy group music can be filled with aegyo (e.g. TVXQ’s “Balloons”) it’s not as much or as common as girl groups.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that boy groups seem to not only mature, but they also evolve. Typically boy groups can start off cute but as years progress they often go the more strong/mature route and they never look back. On the other hand girl groups can start off cute then go fierce then right back to cuteness, and I wouldn’t mind that so much but again I’m not the biggest fan of the overly cute. It’s probably my cultural upbringing that has shaped my taste, but girl/guys that have passed the age of adolescent cuteness and yet still act cute almost always make me cringe. I know people lose their innocence at different paces, but at a certain age acting like a 5-year-old is somewhat odd. So hearing about this testosterone-filled era in K-pop is like music to my ears (pun intended) — not because of raging fangirl hormones, but because I feel I will be closer to my comfort zone.

Do you like the new focus on boy groups or do you prefer the girl group focus?

(Nate)