Roundtable: Trendy Tradeoffs
K-pop is all about trying to find the next big trend. A trend that hits a jackpot becomes a proven success formula, and is oftentimes picked up and emulated by other groups vying for their own slice of the pie. But with so many groups on the market trying to recreate the same success formula, consumers can also easily be over-saturated by the same trends regurgitated time and time again.
What is one current trend that you would like to see die by the end of the year?
Gaya: Supernatural-themed boy groups. This year’s debuts especially all seem to be aliens, demigod-like warriors, or have some kind of other-worldliness about them, and I wouldn’t mind if it the concept and execution were well thought out and planned (shout out to Mato Planet); but most of the time, bands aren’t going beyond the surface, instead coming across as gimmicky and distracting from the music. I, for one, would prefer to hear EXO talk less about the meanings of their rings and brooches and more about the meaning of their debut song.
And what’s with the guys getting all the cool powers anyway? I would love for a girl group to have a “serious” supernatural concept like the ones boy groups are getting — but the most we’ll be getting are magical girls, or girl groups being placed in a supernatural setting where they have no power of their own. I know it is not so much a trend as it is an ingrained part of K-pop culture, but I would like to see that change the most.
Fannie: For girl groups, that finger swirling thing where you put your hand next to your face and essentially have it reenact a sea anemone. Not the best description, I’m sure, but I think you all know what I’m talking about. SNSD are the worst culprits of it, but hardly any of the other girl groups manage to fully escape from it either. I’d like to see the sea anemone syndrome die a fiery half-death, as I believe that it’s alright (maybe even downright cute) when used sparingly.
Gaya: Wait, like Seohyun in “The Boys?” She was the biggest culprit out of the nine, I think, especially in the MV.
Fannie: Yup — that’s the one!
Gaya: It isn’t so bad in live performances, but Seohyun pulls that move at least four times in the MV — and it’s also a part of the chorus’ choreography too.
Another trend I want gone is the whole reaching out to the camera thing, it’s so overused and generic that it’s almost meaningless when it is used in a context where it would make sense to have that gesture.
And while we’re at it, could SM please stop making their artists lipsync their comeback stages? Seriously guys, there are rookies out there singing live on their debut stages, why can’t your acts, who are more experienced and celebrated, do the same? Making fans wait until Music Bank to hear live singing is irritating to say the least, and disrespectful to the other music shows. I don’t know why Inkigayo and M!Countdown let you get away with it (though I have my theories).
Amy: Can this trend of debuting a foreign member just for the sake of boasting you have a foreign member in your group die already? As well as debuting in multiple countries at the same time? It’s good for selling a story and moving a product, but it feels completely deceitful and just a little inhumane to push around people’s nationalities and ethnicities like it’s a plaything just for the so-called advancement of Hallyu.
Johnelle: While I can definitely do without group members having hair the colors of the rainbow to make them stand out from each other, the trend I’d like to see disappear the most has got to be the man-skirt or half man-skirt. I think Big Bang actually started it with their “Tonight” promotions with GD‘s prudish pleated skirts and T.O.P. with his half man-skirt. I know they probably use them because they look great when performing swishing around and stuff, but I remember watching an interview where GD said he found himself worrying about the way he sat when he was wearing the skirt… that’s probably a sign that you should stop wearing one if you’re a dude.
Subi: If it takes a village to raise a child, then it takes a company and a couple of years to raise idols. Teaching someone the skills to be a good singer, dancer, performer–whatever the hell–takes time, money, energy, and effort. In this day and age, however, companies think that they can throw their idols onto a stage and everything will be fine and dandy. But it doesn’t work like that. Even with all the raw talent in the world, no is born perfect and amazing. Talent needs to be grown, polished–all sorts of things–and this trend of debuting talent in K-pop really needs to stop because what we have here are all these rookies who have a world of potential but have a lot of quirks and kinks. Training won’t make you perfect but a longer training period would probably make groups like EXO better live performers (both on the stage and variety). Of course, there will always be outliers and maybe it doesn’t make THAT much of a difference at the end of the day. But the training period is a critical time and I am convinced that what you learn during those days really impacts the ability of a talent to not only be a good idol, but to be a good entertainer as well. As businesses seeking to maximize their profits, cutting output and increasing input is always the way to go but don’t put out talent that isn’t ready. They’ll just sit around awkwardly, not know the language of the country they’re promoting, and lip-sync. And that’s just not cute.
Amy: Just saying, there are idols who have trained for FOREVER but are still awful, so I really don’t think the problem is a longer training period. Companies need to stop picking non-talented people and then hoping that training will make them talented. Like CCM‘s CEO picking that kid off the street and chasing her down (cough, stalking, cough) and then debuting her in T-ara. Something like that cannot be remedied with a longer training period.
And then you have people who are clearly so talented that training for an unusually short period of time doesn’t make them any less good of a performer. If we’re going to use the EXO example, Baekhyun and Chen barely trained for a year before debuting. If they’re good to begin with, they’re going to be good when they debut. Of course, more practice makes anybody better at their craft and Baekhyun and Chen weren’t perfect when they debuted, but the underlying problem with K-pop is not the training period, it’s that companies are picking based on arbitrary factors that are not talent-related.
Dana: Amy speaks the truth. On that note, I’d really love for the entertainment industry to stop pretending like it cares so much about talent (for reference, see the growing number of survival-elimination American Idol-esque programs) while continuing to debut impressively unimpressive people.
Salima: I really want to beg entertainment companies to stop doing terrible remixes. Stop with the screamo. Stop with the dubstep. And stop with the heavy metal remixes that make perfectly good songs sound like they got run over by a submarine. I understand that K-pop wants to be edgy and unique, but if you’re going to do remixes, please do them well.
Also on the subject of dubstep, please stop doing dubstep! First of all it hurts my ears. And second of all too much of it can really make a person go insane. Especially when it’s coupled with egregious amounts of shuffling from artists who don’t know how to shuffle (lookin’ at you, IU!)
Justin: I agree with Salima in that entertainment companies need to stop doing terrible remixes. I know several folks on YouTube that make killer remixes to K-pop songs, so it’s extremely disappointing to hear the “official” remixes to K-pop songs are not even close to par with the unofficial remixes.
But because I don’t want to take someone’s idea and use it for my own, here’s my original input. I would like to see the end of crappy Japanese remakes of Korean songs. I think we all can think of one or two K-pop groups/artists that has made a less than satisfactory remake of their original song. Not only is the song in general not as great, but also a lot of the pronunciations in the Japanese version are almost insulting to the Japanese people. There are some people that take effort and learn the language before entering the Japanese market (ie BoA).
Dana: I would dearly love to see girl groups stop employing the word “Venus” in any of their songs or concepts. Korean speakers will know that the sound for the letter “v” doesn’t exist in Korean, and so the pronunciation tends to be somewhere in middle of a “b” and a “p.” In Korean, the group Hello Venus becomes…well, you do the math. Seriously, cease and desist.
Agreed with Subi about training periods — and also, please let these kids finish middle school before you shove them into hot pants and paint their faces to look as though they just emerged from Moulin Rouge. Debuting pre-pubescent idols isn’t funny or cute. It’s just sad, and so far it hasn’t added anything noteworthy to the industry.
Subi: This is probs, inapprops.and irrel. but guess what happens when you pronounce Venus with “p.” Pwahahahahaha!
Dana: As usual, Subi hits the nail on the head.