Talent is a strange thing within K-pop. Less the dearth of talent, and more so the reaction we have towards the untalented. It’s not a big secret. Although K-pop’s live performance culture is something to be admired and something I wish Western music would take after, talent it isn’t exactly abundant. Generally speaking, we’re all rather okay with it. That is, if it’s not our bias.
The funny thing is although we can act cool and ambivalent about specific idols essentially being a black hole within their groups, when it happens to be our bias, a switch turns on. No matter how much we seem to be able to admit to ourselves that hey, our favourite oppas/unnis aren’t the hottest things at dancing or singing, there’s always an insatiable need to rationalize. It’s a difficult thing, favoring someone who brings almost zilch to the group musically. I’m not talking about idols whose singing prowess is up for debate; I mean idols who are ultimate dead-weights, and most of the time it feels like there’s only one party willing to debate their value otherwise — you.
It’s a frustrating thing, especially if you’re a Seoulmate and frequent a site likes ours, where it’s all about equal opportunity in pointing out certain idols who do nought. Many a times it leads to watching fancams of Hara not singing to her lines in ‘Pandora’, sobbing into your hands going “Why do I have to like you? Why can’t everyone watch Invincible Youth and see how bad-ass you are handling a tractor?,” but I digress. But how to deal with this? How to be at peace with your existence knowing your bias is sort of a talentless non-entity but not look overly defensive for seeing the value in them?
1. Acceptance. This often the hardest step, especially when you spend so long becoming invested in someone, listening to fancam after fancam, that any potential to improve is a given. The idea of “potential” is thrown around a lot in K-pop, especially since there’s a wide array of very competent singers who probably only reached their peak through extensive training rather than natural talent. But potential isn’t the now, and comments like “Sulli has such a smooth timbre, give her three years and she’ll blow you away,” isn’t enough to justify someone’s place in a group. As a general note, if it takes five years for someone to finally become listenable on a live stage, it’s safe to say that potential will simply remain potential. Or, who knows, maybe in the future they might pull a Yunho or Taemin and leave the haters eating their words, and when that day comes you can gleefully point out “I told you so!” But until then, it’s best to simply accept it and sigh in resignation.
2. Calm down with the rationalisation. Another particularly difficult step. To a fan it’s pretty much a given that Himchan‘s skills as a classical instrumentalist are to be revered, and that the fusion dance break in “No Mercy” was all his doing. It can be doubtful to gauge the fact that casual observers aren’t aware of this, ignorant fools! Unfortunately though, it’s true. Most people just hear Himchan pull out the wannabe-DMX during his two second lines on stage. It’s great that your idol is an accomplished drummist/pianist/can play “Falling Slowly” on guitar, but how much does that actually help when they’re on stage with a mic in their hands? There can be an array of ways in which your bias is talented, but if it isn’t singing or dancing, then it’s not going to make any credible difference in their place as an idol. Also, if their talent is writing five seconds of rap for one or two songs on an album, it’s best to acknowledge that may be a little reaching. After all, where are the masses vouching for my indisputable talent when it comes to my rhymes? Equal opportunity!
3. Your idol doesn’t care about you, so play it cool. Sometimes it’s best to suppress the inexplicable outrage you feel at someone trivializing your favourite’s entire existence. In the heat of the moment, it’s hard to think of anything else other than how your poor idol can sleep at night knowing that this chick on Seoulbeats is snarking about their uselessness. Even though in reality, they’re probably swimming in wads of cash and sleep with an armada of groupies. It’s something that’s a given, but occasionally reminding yourself that idols could care less about what someone on tumblr criticises them for, or about with how much passion and fire you defend them with, can spare everybody lots of mental exhaustion.
4. On that note, eliminate all insecurities. Your idols are going to be there whether we like it or not. The biggest reason anyone acts out or goes over the top for any reason usually lies in deeply rooted insecurities. We all have them in general, and they eat away at us everyday, so why burden insecurities on behalf of someone who doesn’t know you exist? Honestly, we can complain all we want about how so and so band would be made a hundred time more better without so and so idol, but no matter how much we whine, they bring in the fans. Kim Hyun-joong can be slammed for being a bad actor, but he’ll probably be offered acting roles and continue his solo career and all we can do is shake our fists at the computer screen. Minho will probably always be the universal K-pop butt monkey, but it doesn’t change the fact that even the best of our own Seoulbeats team unashamedly have him as one of their ultimate biases. Likewise, Hara’s tendency to monopolize Kara‘s everything can become irritating, but do the advertising agencies care? This is probably the funnest and most self-satisfying step when it comes to stanning an idol that is essentially untalented, because at the end of the day, everyone loses except for you. There isn’t often a chance we’re able to non-guiltily enjoy a feeling of smug-self satisfaction, so embrace this one wholeheartedly. All the other steps went back to admitting to yourself that your idol has little musical value. This one is about confidently knowing that the people who actually matter and can actually get you places in the industry, look for different values entirely.
It can be tiring stanning an untalented idol. Cycles of loathing all the nay-sayers, loathing the idol, and then eventually loathing yourself for having questionable taste. But honestly, who really cares? It’s K-pop, and no one actually stays for the music. As the ultimate time-wasting hobby in existence, don’t cramp yours and others’ experiences simply because your bias never learned how to sing.
So Seoulmates, do you have any idols who are negative one hundred on the talent scale?
(Images via Star News, JYP Entertainment, DSP Media, Key East Entertainment, TS Entertainment)