Ever since Crayon Pop has signed a deal with the multi-national conglomerate label known as Sony Music, they’ve been featured on ABC News, appeared at KCON, and even won their first Music Show. Engulfed in a sea of controversy and management issues, the unconventional girl group has somehow managed to ride the Hallyu tide to reach a critical point now where they are clutching at the coattails of last year’s viral global wonder known as Psy. What are your thoughts on the Crayon Pop phenomenon and how far do you think it will go?
Nicholas: I might not be the biggest fan of the song, but I can see why it has succeeded against most odds. The song is sticky, the dance makes for easy imitation, and it’s nice to see a new group give the establishment a little shock or two.
I am also of the argument that it’s precisely because they are a new group that what they do makes them such a love-hate proposition. Being new gives them the freedom to be way out in unexpected ways, but at the same time become a target for those who believe K-pop has some principles and stands for something.
Plus, seeing them tear at their first win on Music Bank has made me feel a little for them as a group. As much as we like to knock on songs, and grumble about broadcast point wins, there’s something about seeing a small group beat the odds to take a win and have their effort and work get rewarded. If you dislike the song though, you are going to argue with my point.
As for whether the song is going to be big, it is already in Korea. As for international success, I guess it would be the same as “Gangnam Style.” Hyper catchy song with simple but addictive dance gets attention worldwide, and sells people the idea that K-pop is the next big thing (or maybe not).
Pat: I’ll be honest, I never really cared for Crayon Pop and wanted to avoid “Bar Bar Bar” at all cost. That changed when I got into VIXX and watched All The K-pop where Ellin was paired up with N. That was the only time I actually said to myself, “What does her group sound like anyway?” It was that thought that led me to watching the MV, and while I had initially said “No,” it just stayed in my mind.
How can it not when it has all the hallmarks of a chart topper? From the easy to follow dance steps to the song that just sticks in the inner crevices of your mind despite all attempts to wash the song away, what’s the real surprise is that they just achieved number one on the most recent Music Bank. The song has been riding high on the download charts for a while now that I expected them to hit number one far earlier.
So far, the song is no doubt the hit of the year in Korea. While I can see why their company signed the deal, I would wish for them to stabilize their position in Korea before anything else. The first step is better management because one or two of their issues could have easily been solved with better management. The girls seem to be quite sweet and Ellin is variety gold for me so I believe that their company could have used the new fame in a better way; say, variety shows that have a bigger audience. While I can see them gaining a bigger international fanbase, I wouldn’t wish for them to become the next Psy.
Sahar: The first time I saw the music video for “Bar Bar Bar,” I thought it was brilliant, and I couldn’t believe that it wasn’t already climbing up the charts in Korea. I especially loved it as a child of 1980s MTV! It looked like what would happen if Devo made K-pop. I still really love watching it, much more so than the live performances.
That said, I don’t think it has the potential to be another “Gangnam Style,” at least not in the US. The video is fun and will pique the interest of some, but it lacks that point of connection/fascination that engaged so many Americans — the critique of the rich in a completely hilarious way. What made “Gangnam” so powerful, and I think Psy tried to follow up on this strength in “Mother Father Gentleman,” was that you didn’t need to understand the lyrics to understand the message and to be amused by it. I also think that “Gangnam” had excellent timing with respect to people’s sentiments about the economy at the time.
By contrast, there’s no social message whatsoever in the “Bar Bar Bar” video, and there’s nothing for audiences who don’t understand Korean to connect with. This is the kind of song that people who are already K-pop fans will like and people who aren’t will say, “meh” to. Also, anything that has a dance that requires more than one person to execute it? That already reduces its potential for going viral.
In the larger picture, I’m not sure that Crayon Pop has the vocal talent to make up for their lack of charisma. I thought their previous songs were awful, so here’s to hoping that Sony has a talented songwriter wandering around, ready to write them a hit. Maybe they will have a huge crossover hit, but I think we haven’t heard it yet.
Laverne: Like Pat I was pretty indifferent to Crayon Pop. I didn’t watch the MV until I absolutely had to and wow was I missing out! The song is insanely catchy and the dance really stands out from what K-pop traditionally puts out. It’s no wonder so many parody videos of the dance have popped up on YouTube.
That said, this feels like a one time phenomena. As much as I enjoyed “Bar Bar Bar,” nothing about it made me want to learn more about them. I think this is probably how a lot of people feel and I just don’t see Crayon Pop succeeding past this.
Of course, I could be wrong since they’ve just signed with Sony. Only time will tell if Crayon Pop will become a one-hit wonder or defy the odds and find more success. My gut feeling, though, is that “Bar Bar Bar” is a watered-down version of “Gangnam Style.”
Miyoko: When I first saw Crayon Pop, they reminded me of certain J-pop artists who fill the niche of cute, but funny (like a parody). I definitely think they can still succeed in that vein, but it is a niche that wouldn’t appeal to everyone.
However, then I saw them at KCON and they were really great live. They’re cute, energetic and very appealing in person. Like Nicholas, I found myself more interested in the group at that point. I think they do have the appeal to catch fans, but I’m not sure how much their fanbase will widen based on “Bar Bar Bar” alone. I could see them maintaining success as the group with catchy, funny dances, but not have real upward mobility. I’d rather Crayon Pop (and their company) not try to recreate this “phenomenon” next time around, and instead work on building a sustained career for the group that doesn’t rely on viral-ness.
The problem now is that any viral K-pop song is going to be labelled “the next Gangnam Style,” in which case it will never be able to be Gangnam Style, because part of GS’ success was the surprise element.
Jaclyn: Like Miyoko, when I first saw the MV I thought immediately of J-pop. The concept and song, to me, were things often seen in the J-pop sphere. Though I detest “Bar Bar Bar,” I can see how everything would lead to some sort of viral success. I’m actually surprised it’s becoming viral now, since when it came out, I thought it’d be the new “it thing.” It had the hook, imitable dance, and weird visuals, then nothing happened. I thought that would be the last I’d hear of “Bar Bar Bar.”
Unfortunately for Crayon Pop, it feels like a one time thing. What made it viral and popular in Korea does not equal repeated viewings. It’s five girls dancing weirdly for three minutes to an ear wormy song. It can become stale very easily. The whole Crayon Pop extravaganza is going to soon die out. I’m curious as to what their next move is, whether they attempt to make another nonsense song or try a safer avenue. Or even worse, some global venture.
Mark: I think the popularity of “Bar Bar Bar” is being far overstated by many K-pop speculators. The last time I checked, the official MV has barely surpassed 4 million views on YouTube. To call that “viral” in this day and age is quite an overstatement. Comparing Crayon Pop to Psy is like comparing the common cold to an AIDS epidemic. Sure, they may be racking up the numbers in Korea, but no amount of music show wins, contracts with Sony Music, or coverage by major American networks can force them into the world spotlight. Unlike Psy, their efforts seem a bit forced. If something is to go viral, it has to happen organically. By being deemed the next “Gangnam Style,” they’re already going to be viewed as try-hards, and nobody wants one of those in the US of A.
Meanwhile, their popularity has already peaked in Korea; they’ve already begun to fall in the charts. This is a critical make or break moment for them. If they fail to obtain global exposure, the “Bar Bar Bar” phenomenon will diminish rather quickly, that is until their next release (currently titled “Bar Bar Bar 2.0?”).
Shweta: I actually feel kind of bad for Crayon Pop. Yes, “Bar Bar Bar” is getting them some unexpected success, but all of that is getting negated by the worst PR on the planet (after CCM). The number of stories about them having rich sponsors, manipulating charts, or stealing money under the guise of charities are insane for a group that made a relatively small splash in the K-pop music market.
As for the song, I’m pretty indifferent to it, just like I was for “Gangnam Style.” Honestly, I really don’t like the comparisons to the latter at all, especially when the circumstances surrounding the two are totally different. “Gangnam Style” was internationally popular, then gained hype in Korea. “Bar Bar Bar” is not only the other way around, but is subject to a far smaller hype. Similarly, a Tamil song called “Why this Kolaveri Di?” was featured on CNN as “the top song you’ve never heard of” in 2011; I don’t think it has done anything for the Tamil music industry.
With that in mind, why should Crayon Pop “have” to cater to what the people of the US of A like? Like Mark said, “Bar Bar Bar” cannot be called viral when there are “mid-tier” groups with far more views than them (4Minute comes to mind). People in Korea like it, and Crayon Pop should keep catering to the Korean people, the people who are most meaningful to them. It’s not worth trying to pursue markets that are irrelevant to a group’s musical style.
Despite my rather cynical sentiments about “Bar Bar Bar,” I wish them the best at just being a regular K-pop girl group. They seem to be a hardworking, earnest, bunch of girls that deserve some reward for working really hard. I’m honestly glad “Bar Bar Bar” gave them some returns for that work; however, I don’t think that “Bar Bar Bar” is going to make a mark in K-pop in the long term. All this talk about Crayon Pop being the next big thing reminds me of all the media hype surrounding the Facebook IPO–merited to some extent, but way over-hyped.
Sahar: So, one question I have is whether or not this whole internet debate started by one Wall Street Journal article? It seemed like one Western media outlet made the claim and then everyone was talking about it. I was kind of stunned by that article and thought it was yet another example of the American media being silly (see every New York Times article on K-pop ever, like the recent one claiming that because of “Gangnam Style,” K-pop as a career option was really taking off in Korea). This might all be a media invented fantasy, a la Mark’s point that the video still doesn’t have that many views. Am I wrong?
Nicholas: Not really. The song was big as a fun parody of sorts (did it with the sister for laughs recently), but most of K-pop’s “success” is really just implied by the media. It is big, but not on the scale that they would have you believe.
Our team had so much to say about this topic that we had to break it up into two parts. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Crayon Pop Roundtable!
(Images via Chrome Entertainment, YG Entertainment, Mnet, MBC, KBS)