Welcome to this week’s Comments of the Week!

This week was another busy week of friendly verbal riposte between authors and commenters alike.

In idol and music related news, we talked about music show promotions, 2NE1 and Stylenoir, dance MVs, Show Me The Money, Verbal Jint, After School‘s Flashback, B.A.P‘s fashion, f(x), Gang Kiz‘s “Mama,” Electric Shock fashion, “Sexy, Free, and Single” speculation, 4D idols, U-KISS‘ ‘nugu’ conundrum, 2BiC, The Koxx, and idols showing their true colors.

In terms of socio-cultural topics, we discussed how deep our obsessions show, business and compassion, Confucianism and female roles in K-dramas, artist-owned companies, the portrayal of relationships in K-pop, unintended cultural insensitivity, K-pop wannabes, the Kwak Hyun-hwa scandal, and mouth-watering Korean cuisine.

Here are five of our favorite comments from this week:

Falling Snow on Idol Groups and Music Show Promotions:

I’ve mentioned this before on SB but there are many, many reasons why the current format on the three big music programs has got to go. It’s really quite an unhealthy way of promoting MUSIC and I don’t just mean that on a physical, health level but also mentally speaking. It certainly feeds and fans the idea of “out of sight, out of mind” mentality of the fast-paced industry doesn’t it?

I’m not going to rehash every single detail and reasoning of why the current system is so flawed but I would like to touch up on one detail. I’ve never seen music programs formatted like the ones in SK in any other country but I think there is a reason for that. Kpop is so different (and attractive because of it) because of the highly visual aspect of it. Everything from the dance, the pretty faces and figures, the costumes, the MV. That’s why promoting on radio will never be enough for Kpop as the audience will not be able to appreciate the full sensory experience of their “music”. It’s always got to be a performance. Always. Gee would never have been as popular without the help of the girls’ styling, visual appeal and choreo. And Lucifer would never be lauded for its merits if not for its insane(ly awesome) choreography. Consumers of Kpop must SEE their products before they buy into it.

It’s remarkably different from consumers of non-Kpop music where the audio appeal is much more dominate. That’s why you don’t see many Ballad singers on music programs, because you don’t really derive any additional pleasure from seeing them sing the song than simply listening. And that’s why Busker Busker‘s debut album’s dominance of music charts far outlasted their promotions onscreen – the audio speaks for itself alone rather than as a complementary to the visual. The poor sound quality fans and idols alike complain about really highlights the crux of this matter. You’d think with all the money the entertainment industry has, they’d fix the simple issue of a broken mike. But the fact that they haven’t done anything really speaks to how unimportant that aspect really is for the music programs – it’s all about the stage, not about the sound.

So Ambika, I’d have to disagree with you on this note. I think the MAIN reason why groups continue to promote on music programs is NOT to demonstrate their MUSIC prowess but their VISUAL prowess (as well as to demonstrate just how active and large their fanbase is *cough cough*) In a way, I guess Music Programs are an integral part of what makes Kpop, Kpop, simply because of the way Kpop is marketed and produced. It’s a sobering thought though.

Tara Carroway on Letting Loose: Idols Showing Their True Colors:

People always say how much they dislike pop music because the artist performing the song is not the writer, however is poetry not still beautiful when read by anyone but the poet? What if the poet had a disability and wasn’t able to read his poetry aloud? Would that mean it should never be read? Or, instead, he could find someone with a pleasing voice and eloquent speech to read it for him. That way people can hear and enjoy his words in a way they were meant to be heard. The same can be said for a song, for isn’t a song just poetry with music? Not all people are born with the talent to sing or dance, just like how not all people are born with the talent to create beautiful music.

While I do have great respect for artists like G-Dragon, B1A4‘s JinYoung, and B2ST‘s Yong JunHyung who are responsible for a lot of their groups best songs, I have an equal respect for artists who are capable of finding and expressing the emotion of a song and making it their own. An artist isn’t just someone who can express their feelings in writing, an artist is anyone who can express their feelings in any way that connects to another person; whether by voice, writing, dance, art, laughter, etc. it is not something you can just limit and its not something you can look down upon just because it is done differently. Art is different for every person who experiences it, just like how every artist expresses themselves differently. It is all beautiful, and it is all worthy of my respect.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to how the company utilizes the members, regardless of how talented they are or not. I think more than the deadweight issue, it really goes back to how the members are given parts and roles in their respective groups. Other than the ‘gimmick’, I do believe that if the company at least finds an avenue for each member (be it small or big), adding lesser talented idol members wouldn’t be such a big issue as it is now.

It’s too idealistic to say and hope for a group full of Taeyeons or CLs. And frankly, in a teen pop business catered to young people who arguably have different reasons for liking and being a fan of a certain group or band, that kind of mindset wouldn’t really work. That being said, while I don’t get particularly enamored with group faces like Sohee, Hara, Dara, Minho, etc., I understand the purpose why they’re there really. Does it ever enter my mind that they tend to bring the performances down at times? Yes, I do, but as I’ve said, so as long as the company uses them well it will be fine.

Dara, for one, has been given parts that are always geared to balancing their songs. Most parts were small, but good enough to give added dynamic in their singles. If they’re singing something that needs the quality of voice the other three possess, she gets pushed into doing something (example: it hurts mv – she was the lead). Music-wise, I can say that she isn’t shoved aside that people forget her, but at the same time she isn’t given so much (say, like Sohee in Be my Baby, although I’d like to think that JYPE has good intentions on that one) that people start to feel like the more talented members are getting the short end of the stick.

Actually, I don’t feel like this is such a big issue to groups like 2NE1, f(x) or SHINee — one, they’re small and for the most part the ‘deadweights’ can deal with what the whole group is doing, so. KARA is also a great example; I’ve seen people express that Hara and Jiyoung dragged the group down, but somehow the company was able to put all of them into good use. The company/KARA managed to find something that works well for them, despite claims that they’re one of the “less talented” groups out there.

The problem lies imo, in groups like T-ara. You make a group consisting of 5-6 people, but only have three of them to get the most exposure. To make things worse, you add more members that probably are in the same talent/skill level like the older members if not less. That’s were the deadweight issue becomes a big problem imo. AS faced the same problem if not worse, because some time during their line-up changes there was a point where their actual talented members (see Bekah) became the deadweight because the new members were given more exposure and unfortunately, got more popular to the fans. 4minute is another pressing example. There was an attempt to equalize each member by making Jihyun the leader, and giving good parts to Jiyoon and Gayoon but in the end CUBE resorted to just having HyunA take most of the job to keep 4minute afloat.

xnopex on Confucianism and The Female Roles in K-dramas:

excellent article! another interesting thing about the depiction of women in korean media is the bear/fox dichotomy. when i learned about this and how korean mythology came into play, it explained EVERYTHING i needed to know about how women are depicted in korean media.

bears: strong, fillial, loyal, may not be as refined, but dependable
foxes: seductive, dishonest, deceitful, cunning

relatable example: think of that dumb taylor swift video with the slut shaming and her wearing a t shirt.

throughout asian mythology (heavily influenced by confucianism) , bears have a positive depiction whereas foxes do not. when we watch korean dramas, our heroine is usually the bear. she’s not overly feminine, but loyal, has a great sense of family responsibility, may not be a beauty queen (but can transform into one with a makeover montage!). the loyal part is important bc when you see what the heroine goes through at the expense of the male lead and the fox (usually the well dressed, way prettier, smarter, assertive rival), you can def see another theme at play.

and that theme: the bear is marriage/girlfriend material(hence why our dopey poor female protagonist always beats all odds to get the male lead, despite how much of a dick he is to her) while the fox is someone you play around with until you marry a bear. korean women in dramas usually embody one or the other and it’s rare to see a blending of the two. realistically, no woman is one or the other as most women on a whole are conditioned and pressured by society to put male needs before their own. this trope is obnoxious bc it pits women against one another when there’s really no need for it! i want a drama where the bear and the fox team up against the male protag and walk off into the sunset, not caring about how fat food makes them, and wearing whatever the heck they want hahaha.

this isn’t to say japanese dramas aren’t rife with this bullshit either (ye olde yamato nadeshiko trope is still a thing), but the majority of dramas i’ve seen aren’t centered on a love story and interpersonal relationships between family and friends take more precedence than ‘getting a man’. plus, most japanese dramas pass the bechdel test (google this, it’ll blow your mind how much of media fails it) and that’s more of a reason why women tend to be drawn to them more.

i can still shut down the critical portion of my brain, and still enjoy korean dramas. however, sometimes, you can’t keep rooting for the doormat and sometimes, you get tired of a story about a women revolving around a man.

mybiasbeatsyourbias on Business and Compassion: Can the Two Go Hand in Hand?:

I understand that some points in this article pull some emotional heart string for some readers. But the real question in business today is “can business have compassion?” Not in the sense that both business and compassion can correlate but more so if business. In the idea of industrial recognize responsibility to both its environment, employees and consumer.

Business is pretty much about exploitation of resource, limits and the public or consumer to employee. So taking this into the concept of music industry. You know both record labels and those artists under management can both benefit but also exploit one another. With the consumer (you the fan) being the reason for need of supply and demand. But how these record labels go about reaching the expectations of its consumer. Yet try to balance moral ethic behavior and not over worked its artist IS virtually impossible.

At some point the artists will have to sacrifice a great deal in order to maintain a certain level of popularity. But also meet the demands of its consumer the fan. All the record label can ensure is that artists will be there to perform or supply the materials, technology, funds and transportation etc….for that artist or groups.

So when you read about reports of idols suffering fatigue because he or she or that group was performing for this music show. Or they need to do this variety show or need to model for this clothing company. All this is feeding a constant demand that never wavers. That must be exploited in order to supply fans demand of entertainment and enjoyment.

We the fan, the music fan is an unpredictable abstract variable that can make or break a music label and its artists. We are the reason why idols get sick,suffer injuries but our power of influence is limited. It is still up to record label to regulate some sense of order and control within this constant demand of product(supply) of that particular group or artist.

So music industry is unique compare to other business industry. Compassion is wanted by record labels and its artists and its consumer. Yet these relationships have such a close bond and fatal dependency that exploitation is enviable. There will always be someone getting the short straw. Unfortunate this usually means the group or that artist.

We’ve seen it and read about it. Groups dismember or a particular person is terminated. A soloist struggles to find a new label after being drop for low sales. Again that comes from consumer demand not necessary of the music label will.

I don’t think fans realize how much power they have. If we did we would feel obscure and less likely to buy music. Would you download a song that contribute to more extended promotion,higher demand of performance to touring at the cost of your fave group’s or artist health and well being? That is the great sacrifice that record labels and artists are talking about. The price of fame in a business sense shows the truth and ugliness of the music industry. Why fans don’t speak of it or like this article in a moral sense but not practical.

That’s it for this week! Hope you enjoyed my pick of comments (and pictures!), and as always, feel free to share additional thoughts below.

(ELLE Korea, CUBE Entertainment, DAZED Korea, VOGUE Korea, High Cut, LOTTE, Etude House)