Welcome to another Comments of the Week!

This week in idol and music news, we talked about D-Unit, rookie rappers, JYP, LOEN Tree, 4Minute‘s “Love Tension,” Sunny Days, an exchange on BoA, Teen Top‘s “Be Ma Girl.”, new trends in music videos, and what we would like to be behind-the-scenes.

In terms of fashion, film and tv, we covered Infinite‘s Ranking King episodes 1-5 and 6-10, a K-pop shopping guide for girls, a midyear check on K-dramas, conceptual guidelines in idol-based variety, and Tiffany for Bean Pole International.

In regards to socio-cultural topics, we discussed K-pop’s disconnect with authentic hip-hop culture, PSY going viral, idols and endorsements, the pros and cons of pre-screening MV’s, and navigating speech formality, positives about K-pop fans, and trot.

Seoulbeats is ever an ongoing discussion between writers and commenters about various aspects of K-pop, and so while we had a lot to say, our readers also had plenty to say back!

Here are five of my favorite comments (some of them are quite long — so brace yourselves!) from articles this week:

Michelle Chin on PSY Oppa’s Viral Style:

I would like to believe that Gangnam Style marks a break of K-pop into the US music scene but the reality is, it is more of a viral meme than anything. People find it amusing because of PSY‘s hilarious dance moves and some might find it addictive because of the catchy tunes. Beyond Gangnam Style, I do not think most listeners from the States would have the initiative to dig deeper into what is offered by K-pop unless they are genuinely curious about it.

Say, if Gangnam Style manages to pierce into the US music scene, I find it rather sensible consequence because it still retains the Korean aspect of it i.e. sung in Korean, not garbled English.

I always noticed that each time some famous Korean pop idol tries to debut in the States, often, the song becomes something different from what we normally expect or hear from the idol (anybody remember JYJ‘s Ayy Girl??? – I personally think that JYJ wouldn’t sing something like that for their Korean audience… ). Also, it is usually sung in English, which further dissociates the artist from his or her Korean roots (as much as K-pop is Westernized, according to general belief, the only thing that singles out K-pop from Western pop is the language in which the song is sung). I personally think that for a Korean idol to garner success in the States, he or she does not need to purposely try to fit into the US pop music scene because there is already an existing pool of singers floating in there. By making your music sound like the others, is not going to help you make a break into the US market. Instead, something unique, albeit in a different language might appeal more…

Put simply, Korean artistes who have dreams of making it big in the States often try too hard. There’s this saying about being a try too hard…

JasmineA on K-pop’s Disconnect With ‘Authentic’ Hip Hop Culture:

Sometimes I feel like hiphop or “black music” as they call it in Kpop almost feels like they are pulling an Elvis Presley…. Rock music was created by black people as well and it was looked as devil’s music when it first came out, now that black people are not the dominant race in rock music people do not look at it in that way anymore. It annoys me really to see that with kpop too.

It’s not necessarily the idols that make me feel like that but mostly the fans. It irks me when I read comments like this- “these kpop rappers are better than those black rappers”, or “I didn’t like rap before but kpop has opened me up to it because they dont sing about vulgar things, they actually sing about meaningful things”. I’ve even heard comments like this – “Kpop has suprassed black music in terms of quality”. This annoys me because its like as a race we can do something and its looked at in disgust, if you live in the US you know that rap music is pretty much looked at as ghetto, trash, not real music at all, but then these kpop fans praise these idols for being mediocre rappers (not all of them GD&Top, Yong-Guk&Zelo, Zico, and actual hiphop artist in Korea such as Epik High, Tasha, and Tiger JK are good but most arent), some of them even refuse to acknowledge that kpop is heavily influenced by black culture. Or they will start arguing that blacks should not feel upset by the appropriation of black culture since music is exported, yet these same people will argue that kpop is mostly for Koreans geared to Korean culture so blacks shouldn’t expect Koreans to be racially sensitive since there main target is Korea. Well if music is exported then that includes Korean music as well, these artist know by now that people around the world are watching them, they brag and over-exaggerate about it all the time, which is why they need to be more careful or at least bother to understand the music they are so influenced by.

I dunno if you guys have seen this, but there were pictures of SNSD Sunny and Shinee‘s Onew with Quincy Jones and many kpop fans were like “why are they smiling next to some old black guy”, they didn’t even know who Quincy Jones was! Boy bands like BIGBANG, Block B, and B.A.P can wear braids, dreadlocks and baggy clothes and its cute, not ghetto. BIGBANG can go to New York and film a video in the hood without taking in the real implications of living in an area like that for the fun of it, whereas Black rappers who film in hood and rap about it are talking about their real struggles living in a place like that or GD saying his life revolved around the word “Gangster”. Yong-Guk, Hoya, and Onew have all said they wanted to be reincarnated as a black person because of either body built, or singing,dancing, and rapping abilities. While they are not racist they are defiantly misguided about hiphop/black culture and it just rubs me the wrong way. Now of course there are rap songs that are vulgar but the whole genre isn’t like that, and just because kpop rappers don’t sing about sex and drugs does not mean they are singing about anything meaningful, I usually look up the lyrics to songs I listen to and the majority of the time these raps don’t make any sense, especially SM rappers. This to me shows how racially prejudice people still are that everything black is usually associated with being ghetto or negative but someone else can do the exact same thing and its sooo cool.

I don’t mind kpop idols being influenced by “black music” and wanting to sing/rap like their favorite artist, because you can be an r&b singer or rapper and not be black, that is fine. I like that they like part of our SUB-culture because theres a lot more to black people and culture than just rap/r&b and these are not the only genres black people have created you can also throw in rock, parts of Jazz, and gospel music, but what I do have problem with is how they use it as a gimmick like you said.

I’m also suprised you didn’t bring up MIR‘s comment on how to talk to a black baby, its like geez we can’t even come out the womb without being stereotyped. Why would anyone think a black BABY would speak like that is beyond me. I really hope he was joking but a lot of Koreans seem to be very stereotypical of black music, *hence* why we don’t here them call rock/country music “white music”. I mean 90’s hiphop gear is not exactly how rappers dress nowadays.

And yeah I agree that rappers in America need to be more careful about what they show to rest of the world, but like Kpop I do think there are some aspects of American music that is controlled based on what people want to see, not to extent of Kpop but it’s there. A non-stereotypical black person is not interesting to the general American audience sadly. People who adopt to the status quo are and they are the ones that get signed and get all the attention. I think a lot of people who discover rappers in the US usually go for the ones who are more stereotypical, same with acting jobs for Black Americans. If a black person does not want a stereotypical role in a hollywood film they most likely will have a really hard time finding work, there are plenty of black people who are willing to take the part just to live their dream. Sad but true.

Kennedy Halstead on Korean through K-pop 101: Navigating Speech Formality:

Very informative article. I kinda got these ideas about language and formality from reading other articles and being a speaker of a language that has similar linguistic conventions (Thai has a particular vocabulary used only when talking about members of the royal family, for instance), banmal and jondaetmal didn’t really confuse me conceptually.

What surprises me is the use of terms like”hyung” or “noona”. We have similar terms in Thai (non-gender specific though) but because Korea uses lunar years, I found the issue very confused; add to that the idea of “fast birthdays” and my head started spinning.

For example, MBLAQ‘s Lee Joon was born the year after Seungho and G.O, but because he was born early in the year, supposedly, if they’d been at school together, they would’ve been in the same grade. He calls both of them “hyung” however, and even after his fast birthday was discovered, they all continued with him calling them “hyung” even though G.O himself acknowledges he’s only about 100 days older! Confusing to me. If I was in the same grade as someone, I’d NEVER call them by an honorific. That would just be weird to me, but they insist on it, and they even insist on Mir calling Thunder hyung, despite them only being a few months apart. Yes, technically, they’re different years, but to me, the difference is soooo slight…in my own case, in Thailand, speaking Thai, I’ve had friends who are about a year younger or older, but we dropped the honorifics and no one was uncomfortable. It’s only when the difference is five years or more than “unni” or “oppa” (Thai equivalent) becomes mandatory or you’d be rude. Very interesting to me, as a non-Korean speaker, to see how that plays out in the language.

Naomi Bensen on Weighing the Pros and Cons of Pre-screening MV’s:

When I first read the proposition for the “MV screening” all I wanted to do was start laughing. I found the idea so ridiculous in a lot of ways, that I at first, honestly thought it was a joke. Yet, it’s not. I have several issues with the act even being presented.

MOGEF constantly says that they are protecting impressionable youth, and upholding a certain sort of decorum, and I do get that. It makes sense that a country that is very centered around saving face and making sure that at least your outward appearance and attitude is respectable that as K-pop expands to more of a global audience, that they expect Korean artists to represent Korea well. But I think that censoring music does little to enhance ones experience or views of Korea. Music is meant to be listened to in the way that the ARTIST intended. Not by MOGEF a group of faceless men/women that most Koreans probably know nothing about their values, biases, and motives.  It’s hard for me to trust artistic integrity and sense to a presumably small group of people that have full power to veto something. Everyone is biased in some way or another and in the past we’ve seen excellent examples of MOGEF allowing some things to pass and denying others. The reasoning for why they do each is flimsy at best. If this was more of a national consensus that saying, “Yes, we really do believe this is harmful to show fellow Koreans and also the rest of the global community” I would feel a lot more okay with this idea. That would probably never happen, just because it’s completely inefficient. But it still doesn’t make sense to me to give so much power to so few, to decide on something that isn’t a concrete concept.

I don’t necessarily agree with MOGEF to censor what is seen on TV, but I do accept it to a certain extent because it is Korean television played in Korea. But when you start to screen MV’s and films that are seen not only in Korea but all over the world it’s completely (in my mind) an overstep in terms of exerting power. It breaches the rights of artists to post what they want, when they want, without the fear of repercussions. I think it’s also fair to think about not only K-pop artists who will be affected but also other genres of music. How will this affect those who do not have the means to possibly fight a ruling for their music/music videos? A lot of K-pop fans say that they like K-pop music because it is ‘clean’ and ‘wholesome’ but I think that having those standards pressed onto other artists is not only a disservice to them as creative people, but can really seriously stop the flow of thoughts and ideas.

One of my favorite quotes on censorship that I think about when I hear about these sort of situations (not only in Korea, but North America, Britain etc. ):

“The fact is that censorship always defeats its own purpose, for it creates, in the end, a kind of society that is incapable of exercising real discretion.”

I’ve seen this so often in the U.S. with films, that nudity = bad, saying the f-word = bad, and we need to censor that, but then showing violence without repercussions = fine, and showing abuse without explanation = fine. Though K-pop is on a different tier of censorship, I think it follows the same thread when we tell others, sex = bad, showing girls as both cute pubescent girls and sexy hip thrusting women = fine. Showing belly buttons = bad, having hemlines that are two inches below the crotch = fine.

When we censor someone we take away the ability for a nation to decide whether they want to watch/comment on that particular piece of music. It’s basically saying that, “Sorry, you’re not fit enough to make your own decisions, so we’ll do it for you”.

TL:DR Censorship is often illogical in it’s means of judgment and is not representative of a nations actually beliefs in what should be shown.

/rant over.

itsmysunshine on SB Exchange #22: Queen B.O.A:

Ah, so nostalgic.

I first knew about BoA from my addiction towards anime, and specifically InuYasha series. BoA’s “Every Heart” was soon becoming my most played song back in 2001. I worked my way on her discography after that. And yes, her Japanese discography is impressive. I must say, everytime she released a Japanese single, it always managed to catch my attention.

I was shocked when I knew that she’s a Korean, because her Japanese is flawless, and she’s so young when she conquered Japan (only a year older than me). If you watched ID:Peace B, you would never thought that the girl in that MV was not even 15 year old.

To be honest, I never really paid attention to her Korean discography. I managed to listened to her “My Name” album, but I found it really lacking compared to her Japanese albums, and somehow it became a pattern in BoA’s career (at least for me).

BoA shines on stage. And I attribute that to her experiences and her natural ability to command the crowd. Watch any of her concerts, and you will be amazed of how such a solo female artist can make the crowd screams for her performance (and ahem, not only for the fanservice). And her vocal control is amazing. I haven’t seen any Korean solo artists that can control their breathing when they’re dancing and singing live at the same time like BoA does.

For everyone new to BoA, like the writers said, I will suggest you to listen to her Japanese stuffs first, because they are that good. My favorites are “Valenti“, “Listen to My Heart“, “Shine We Are“, “Every Heart“, “Key of Heart” (plus there’s Donghae, haha), “Sweet Impact“, “Mamoritai“, and “Eien“. For her Korean releases, “Atlantis Princess” is a must.

And if you’re a fan of duets, BoA also has a list of impressive duets with popular Japanese artist. My personal favorites will be: “Girlfriend” with Crystal Kay, “Love Bug” with m-flo, and possibly her most mature duet to this date “Possibility” with Miura Daichi.

That’s it for this week, thanks for the great comments!

(Images via Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, Seungho’s Twitter, Freestyle Sports, Maxim Korea, SM Entertainment)