Welcome to another Seoulbeats Roundtable!
Considering that we listen to K-pop, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to say that we like listening to music. But new experiences can change our tastes and preferences, and this would also hold true for K-pop and how it could change how we now consume music. So, this week, we ask our writers: What were you listening to before you discovered K-pop, and how has that changed since?
Ambika: This topic actually comes in at the perfect time because I was just doing some iTunes cleanup.
Prior to K-pop, the genre I listened to the most was probably alternative rock, followed by classic rock and some R&B and hip hop. I used to watch Hindi movies more frequently than I do now, so I used to listen to Hindi movie soundtracks as well. I also listened to Western classical music, primarily from the Romantic and 20th century periods along with the occasional movie soundtrack.
Since then, my listening habits have shifted to primarily K-pop focus along with older Hindi hits and the instrumentals. Not only that, but I’ve developed greater appreciation for vocal ability and ballads in general. Even though I listened to a lot of rock before, I don’t nearly as much anymore aside from some Nell and Boowhal here and there. But when idols go near that route–I remember B.A.P, Infinite‘s Kim Sung-gyu, and some turns on Immortal Song 2 the most–I do get very excited, granted it ends up going well.
I do check in with American music regularly, but not much of it makes it into the music I regularly listen to.
Fannie: I always have and still do listen to a little bit of everything (call it a short musical attention span), and in that sense the demographics of my music library haven’t changed too much, but I’d say the biggest change that K-pop has brought about for me in terms of music listening habits is that a lot of the attention that I used to pay to J-pop back then is now being diverted towards K-pop instead. It isn’t that I necessarily like K-pop better as a musical genre, but rather that it’s much more accessible on the internet as a whole.
In fact, I’m pretty sure that like me, a good portion of current K-pop listeners are also the very same Western demographic that rode the J-pop/C-pop waves five or ten years ago. No one wants to admit they’re merely riding along with what’s ‘popular’ at the moment, but like it or not, a lot of us are also lazy consumers who tend to choose things that are easy to come by and communicate with others about at a given moment in time.
Bethany: I was in my punk pop music phase when I found K-pop. My iPod had artists like Boys Like Girls, the Maine, Cobra Starship, and All Time Low on it. I also listened to some alternative stuff, such as Red Hot Chili Peppers and Incubus. I’ve never really been into Top 40 (unless it’s a really great song) so recently I’ve been into R&B and acoustic pop/rock. I think both those preferences carry over to K-pop as well… so if anyone has any song suggestions for me, that’d be nice!
Johnelle: I’ve been an off and on fan of pop music forever–it comes in waves depending on who’s hot at the moment. I never really was big on genre or who the artist was, it was just if I liked the song or not, so I listened to all types of music from Eminem to Beyonce to Britney. Before getting into K-pop I was probably most into my alternative rock phase with my faves being the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus, Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, The Foo Fighters, and No Doubt. Of course being from Hawaii I stan our local boys, Jack Johnson and Bruno Mars, hard. I’m also a big fan of Hawaiian music, both traditional and modern. Being a former band geek I also like listening to the classics like Vivaldi‘s “Four Seasons” anything Mozart, big band, jazz and musicals, though probably not as much as I used to.
I think part of the reason my transition into liking K-pop was pretty effortless was because I liked all types of music. And the whole not understanding the language thing was never a big deal to me because even though I am Hawaiian, I am not fluent in Hawaiian language so I could always only half understand what was being said in a Hawaiian song anyway. So it’s essentially the same thing with a different language and in either case I had to go look up the meaning of the lyrics if I wanted to know what was being said in the song.
Nicholas: My music preferences are probably very hard to peg down to one genre. Before K-pop I was enjoying some bossa nova (for relaxing and enjoying my sound system) and ’90s British Pop (in some ways the music that defined a generation). I also love my Chinese classic pop and some electronic dance in the mix.
K-pop in some ways has helped me rediscover those things I liked about late ’90s pop (the boy bands and easily enjoyed tunes) just that in a different language. For me the language barrier is not as big since the themes explored in K-pop is largely universal and good pop works in largely any language.
As an aside if there was any ideal that any K-pop girl group could take it would be those of the British girl groups like the Sugababes or Girls Aloud. Equal parts assertive and sensitive, with competent singing ability and musical sophistication rarely seen in girl groups
Nabeela: I used to be an indie/alt/rock junkie back before K-pop corrupted me with an addiction to flawless asian men with stellar bodies and perfect hair. I went through a hardcore Fall Out Boy phase, dabbled into bands like Mae, Relient K, The Academy Is, Boys Like Girls, Blink-182, etc. etc. Though I won’t deny loving N*SYNC back in the day. Can’t deny the JT feels. Also, I had a crush on Lance but then he came out and I was like oh, okay, can never get Lance Bass anymore, childhood crushed.
Gaya: My parents banned all Western music in our household when I was a kid, so I pretty much grew up listening to the compositions of A. R. Rahman, Ilayaraja and other Tamil composers, as well as some Hindi, Malayalam and Telugu music. Otherwise, I was reliant on school friends, the zeitgeist hijacking the 6 o’clock news and Hey Hey It’s Saturday for my mainstream music fix–I was very well versed in the Spice Girls‘ activities by the time I left primary school. Later on, I discovered FM radio and top 40 hits (really, I was that bad) as well as some great Australian music (that wasn’t John Farhnam or The Wiggles), while the internet introduced me to Wizard Rock… and K-pop.
Having been listening to music in languages I didn’t understand my whole life, it was way for me to fall under the K-pop spell, and for all the criticism of lack of originality and quality, K-pop has really broadened my music horizons: I am now somewhat familiar with artists from all over Asia, and am learning more about different genres and styles as well. I’d never paid much attention to the technical side of music before: like Johnelle, I either liked a song or I didn’t. It gets confusing at times, and I have still have no idea who Boys Like Girls are, but I’m learning.
(Images via: YG Entertainment, TS Entertainment, Avex, Sony Records, Electric Records, SM Entertainment, Sony Entertainment Records, MTV India)