Welcome to this week’s Comments of the Week!

In music news this week, we talked about Leessang‘s “Someday,” JJ Project bringing a happiness-pill to JYP, G.na‘s “2HOT” and Bloom, concert experiences as attendees at SM Town LA and as a streamer on YouTube for the MBC Google collaboration, pre-debut Zico, Infinite, Secret and T-ara‘s Japanese promotions, anticipating summer comebacks, YG and SuPearls, rookie group VIXX‘s “Super Hero,” Dalmatian‘s State of Emergency, essential dance steps in K-pop choreography, and letters showing tough love for our favorite idols.

For films and TV shows, we talked about K-variety‘s role in Hallyu beyond the the idol-sphere, the first half of Queen In-hyun’s Man, the latter half of King 2 Hearts, and SM Town‘s I Am.

In terms of socio-cultural topics and fashion, we tackled subjects on how much time Hallyu has left on the global stage, the parents of K-pop stars, the use (or denial) of sex in K-media, the culture of fanchants, “Stuff” K-pop fans say,  and also commiserated (or laughed) about horrible hairstyles in K-pop.

Last but not least, we also were able to get in on a snazzy interview (holla Ellie!) with Jay Park.

These are five of our favorite comments from this week:

marisu on Variety’s Role in Hallyu: Going Beyond Idol Vehicles:

I’m not sure if idoldom is a huge factor of success for the popularity of varieties. From what I gathered, variety shows are a staple for the Korean audience even without the presence of idols. The highest rating variety shows in Korea are usually led by a cast whose majority are non idols; 1N2D, Running Man, Infinity Challenge. Conversely, there were also shows with strong idol presence that struggled with ratings and have to be cancelled.

Perhaps internationally some variety shows may have gained recognition because fans wants to see their idols more often. Yet while people may tune in to watch their favorite guest, it doesn’t guarantee they will continue watching the show.

On the other hand, some variety shows (Running Man comes to mind) don’t need idols to be internationally popular as they managed to appeal to a broad audience including those who aren’t really big fans of Kpop. As mentioned in the article, it showcases Korea beyond the Kpop image in an entertaining format.

I think in terms of Hallyu contribution, variety could tap into a significantly larger markets than Kpop which personally I think is oversaturated and approaching marketing fatigue.

Projectorlady on Raising an Idol: Parents of K-pop Stars:

One aspect of the parent idol relationship that I was surprised you didn’t mention is the parents that live in another country while their kids are going after their dream.  During the trainee period a lot of companies will let the kids stay at home and commute to their training lessons so kids still get to see their parents during that time, but there are kids that have to live in dorms or get their own apartment just to train, cutting them off completely from their parents.

If we think that the parents of idols don’t get much information about what’s going on with their kids, I’ve got to think that those parents in other countries get virtually no information.  They can’t even pop in on their kids to see what, or how they’re doing.  It’s this lack of parental supervision that makes idols more susceptible to fraud.  UKISSEli was “scouted” when he was in China and wanted to be a martial artist movie superstar and ended up in a contract he couldn’t get out of and would have made pennies.  Eventually his parents had to fly out to him to break the contract.  (which as a fan of UKISS and Eli I’m extremely happy with his parents and as a fan of humans being nice to humans I love his parents for doing that)

You commented on how Yunho‘s parents must have felt during the glue incident which admittedly they must have felt horrible and scared for their son’s safety but they were at least able to go to him immediately.  Think how Jaebum‘s parents must have felt when he had his myspace scandal and there were people signing petitions for him to commit suicide and they were over an ocean away.  The same goes for Henry‘s parents when the Only13 movement was at its height.  I can only imagine how helpless they felt when their own kids were dealing with an onslaught of hate that was based on comments that would have faded in two minutes had he been a star in America and said it about America in Jaebum’s case, and on the decision of the company to add to a major group that Henry (probably) had no say about.

While parents supporting their kid’s dreams to become an idol is laudable I think the amount of faith that parents of overseas idols have in their kids is amazing.  They are willing to put an entire ocean between them knowing that it might be months or even years before their kids get a chance to visit them again.  My parents had a hard enough time when I moved 8 hours away I can’t imagine how the idol’s parents must feel.

Mrs_KimSungGyu on SB Exchange #17: Infinitized:

Interesting article. It echoed most of my thoughts exactly. However, one point I disagree with is that Infinite should kick Sweetune to the curb. Personally I am a huge fan of the work they’ve done with Infinite, but I do agree that there should be an “evolution” of some sort in terms of their music. The only way I can think of doing this properly would be to let the members take part in the direction and production of their songs. We already know the rappers are involved in the lyrics making, partially, but I’ve seen Infinite express their wishes to become a group that writes their own music in the future. In fact some of the members have already taken to composing songs, mainly Woohyun and Sunggyu it seems. Apparently Woohyun is more than halfway done with his first piece, but whether it gets released as an official track we’ll find out later. Hoya and Dongwoo also want to pursue Hiphop so that too will be something to anticipate in the future.

I think that right now the members are still in that growing stage, transitioning from being known as an “idol” group to artists, and once they feel comfortable and ready I believe we’ll get to see new and improved sides to them. I don’t want them to feel rushed and pressured to become super popular fast, and I think they don’t want that either. They seem content with taking their time, and though this raises concern for how well they’ll fare later on, as long as they keep moving forward and making good music people will still pay attention to them. They’ve said countless times that they want to be known as growth idols, and since that is their main goal I don’t feel too worried about them. Even if they don’t become mega hallyu stars, they are still an exceptional group to look out for.

thepurp on Does Hallyu Only Have a Short Time Left on a Global Stage?:

Kpop has an uphill climb to reach the global stage. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like the entertainment companies are willing to put the time or effort into delivering a good product. The decline in quality has become so noticeable, even Korean TV stations are now talking about it. Just the other day, MBN did an in-depth report, basically calling the hallyu wave fake and exaggerated. They pointed out the lies that these entertainment companies spread in Korea about their global dominance. I was quite surprised, because they even called out SM and SM Town. When even Korean media is turning against the Kpop facade, you know there is trouble on the horizon.

A huge part of the problem is that Kpop is driven by the built in fanclubs, rather than the actual music. Once, the current big groups age out or are no longer popular, I doubt Kpop will be what it is now. Currently, Kpop might have more flash than Jpop, but Jpop has an established culture behind it. There is gaming, anime, movies and Japan actually has a sustainable music industry. On the other hand, the Korean music industry cannot survive without the internal fan market. So if Kpop is just an internet fad, then like all fads, it will dissipate once its consumers move on to something else.

The Korean system of taking young kids and then grooming them in some idol factory is such an antithesis to other countries. It immediately adds a manufactured, fake and phony sheen to the whole thing. I’m not saying that there are no real talents in Kpop, but audiences are more willing to embrace music they feel is organic, than something they consider ‘spoon-fed, sickeningly sweet’ syrup. Similar to the smirks and disdain that some have for Disney artists trying to cross over into the mainstream.

Another problem is the imagery in Kpop. The idols are presented as fluff and their public personas come off as fake and put on. ‘Aegyo’ might be cute in Korea, but parading 20 year olds as little kids, is not something that will be viewed favorably in most international markets. Then add the language barrier, the cultural barrier and the entertainment companies trying to force their way into the market, without adequate research. Frankly, the boom, wave or whatever was never really as big as it was made to seem. The entertainment companies with their horrible, archaic managing style killed the golden goose before it laid its egg.

Zico is definitely someone with a lot of talent and potential to do great things in the future. He has the raw talent, the kind you can find on the streets, and the intelligence to produce great things. My only concern is that he won’t be able to balance his true persona, of a certified rapper, with the idol image. It is very clear that he is trying to fight off that image of an idol, despite what he says. All of his actions so far proved it. I’m afraid he’ll either get caught up in it all or chewed out.

Now as far as his mixtapes go, I have to say they are the reason i decided to give Block B a chance. Because let’s face it, their debut song and even the whole album, weren’t much. At least to me. “Freeze” was an awful song with an even more awful MV. But I won’t get into it now. Being a Big Bang fan I must admit I wasn’t a fan of this group when they debuted. Everything about them screamed “attempt to make another Big Bang”. I know it’s not that, but at the time it really did seem like it. And being a group coming out of ChoPD‘s company only made it worse. I have respect for that man’s contribution to Korean hip hop scene, but asides from that, I have nothing positive to say about him. So when I ran across Zico’s mixtapes and when i actually heard what he can do I was blown away. But not only by Zico but Kyung, Mino and Hanhae respectively. After I heard them together the only question on my mind was “Why the hell didn’t ChoPD pick them all up and debuted Block B with them?”—But then it hit me, he wanted an idol group not a potential hip hop/r’n’b group.

I agree wholeheartedly with your statement that Kyung gets overshadowed by Zico and I already mentioned it in one of the previous articles. It’s a shame really because Kyung is as good of a lyricist as Zico. Their flows are definitely different, but both have tremendous talent so I don’t find it fair. However, this is kpop we’re talking about, and when were things fair in kpop. It’s basically a rule that those who are talented get overshadowed by those who aren’t (in Block B Kyung isn’t only overshadowed by Zico, but by every other member).

Going back to Zico. As I said I feel that the stuff he did before debut was far better and more original that the stuff he did on Block B albums. You can certainly hear the difference, and sense Zico (and Kyung) not really doing what he wanted to. I know a lot of BBC’s might try to dispute this by saying how ChoPD allowed Zico complete artistic freedom, but we all know it’s not true. I get it though, it’s kpop so image and the commercial aspect come first. I hope he doesn’t lose sight of where his true talent lies in and that he gets a chance to show himself as he did in his mixtapes. No matter what I’m a huge fan of them both and they’re the only reason I keep my eye on Block B. I wish these boys all the luck and success in the world. I somehow have a gut feeling that Zico will go on to become someone extremely important in the S.Korean music industry.

Thanks for tuning in! As always, feel free to share additional comments, in the comments section below.

(Buckaroo Jeans, SBS, Semir, Woollim Entertainment, Brand New Stardom)