Earlier this week, I found myself checking out some of the newest rookie groups on the K-pop scene, which is unusual for me because I, like some of my fellow writers, prefer to stick with the older, well-established groups instead of venturing into the shaky rookie territory. Eventually, I stumbled across NU’EST, a five-member urban pop/dance group that released their first single, Face, on March 16. They took to the stage just two days later, sending waves through the K-pop world with a catchy song and some seriously badass dance moves.

One member of NU’EST prompted me to do a little research on the group before making my final judgment: Ren, the blond, effeminate sixteen-year old who is somehow miles prettier than me even as a boy. During my research session, I was also surprised by the group’s youthfulness–as a seventeen-year old girl, I didn’t think I’d have to deal with noona-fan depression for a little while, but apparently that is not the case. I also came across Ren’s teaser, released by Pledis Entertainment a few days before release of the music video for Face, which highly disturbed me. If you have not seen it, I strongly urge you to check it out in Nabeela’s article.

I’ll admit it: I don’t find feminine boys very attractive. Sure, I’m envious of their features as a girl–just check out Taemin’s perfect facial structure and Jaejoong‘s Cupid’s bow-shaped lips–but I’m not physically attracted to them, because they just look… well, too much like girls. So why do K-pop groups play up the femininity of their members?

The answer is easy: feminine guys draw attention to the group overall. Nowadays, there are so many K-pop groups out there, scrambling to get to the top, and it’s no secret to the entertainment companies that they have to throw an extra something into their group to get people to notice them. Even if the little extra something causes a huge “WTF?!” from fans, at least it draws attention to the group. Every K-pop group needs something to make them stand out from the other groups out there in order to become successful, and a girly male member does the trick… sometimes.

For example, the first DBSK music video I saw was Purple Line, about two years ago. I had been a relatively new convert to K-pop back then and had finally decided to check out this apparently “legendary” boy group that appeared on almost every K-pop fan’s list of favorite artists. After a quick YouTube search, I found their music video and settled back to watch, unsure of what to expect.

The first few shots of the video didn’t really leave an impression on me, but what did was Jaejoong‘s drop-dead gorgeous face (and his voice) appearing in front of me less than ten seconds into the music video. If I hadn’t been paying attention before, he sure had me watching devotedly with his opening lines. With his blond hair and huge eyes, I could pick Jaejoong out from his other members by the end of the video. And that was what SM wanted–Jaejoong was the face for DBSK, the one that everyone should be able to recognize because he looked different. It’s a genius idea too, because for maybe two or three days, he was the only member I could recognize and name during their other music videos, even with different hairstyles. But what’s important is that Jaejoong’s somewhat feminine image is an attention-grabber: it causes viewers to pause for a moment and wonder, “Who is that pretty guy?” And sometimes, a moment is all that K-pop needs to have you hooked.

SM really does like using the pretty boy hook too, because a few years later, they released Lucifer by SHINee. And boy, was Taemin playing the pretty boy thing up like a pro.

Taemin’s well-known for his pretty boy looks. And with the recent release of Sherlock, it doesn’t seem like he’s shedding that image just yet. But when I watched Lucifer for the first time, his hair definitely caught my attention (along with Key‘s, but that’s tragic and I really would not like to talk about SM messed up majorly with his hair). As for his teaser photos from Sherlock, there is absolutely nothing masculine about them. He doesn’t have muscles, his hair length is probably pretty close to mine, and he’s not even holding the grapes in a manly way. Although a good number of fans were pretty disturbed by his pictures, you have to admit that they catch your attention… just not in a good way. But enough so that you’ll probably take the time to find out why the heck a half-naked, girly looking guy is sitting in a leather armchair holding a grape to his mouth.

Of course, there are other ways for K-pop groups to catch the attention of their fans. Including a girly member is definitely just one option in many. Take 2PM, for example, which happens to be one of the most masculine idol groups out there. They lack a pretty boy member (unless you count Nichkhun, which I don’t, simply because he’s not really marketed as a pretty boy by JYP), so instead, they simply use their sex appeal and charisma to catch the attention of K-pop fans.

It seems that pretty boy groups are appearing on the K-pop scene more and more often in the last two years. I’m not quite sure what to make of that, because I’m definitely on the fence about whether or not I like pretty boys, but it definitely seems like they’re here to stay for a while. 

What about you guys? Why do you think entertainment companies try to play up their “pretty boy” members in groups? And does anyone else want to kind of want to see a dance-off between Rain and Taemin?

(SM Entertainment, Pledis Entertainment, NH Media, Vogue Girl)