Welcome to another Comments of the Week!

This week in music and idol news, we looked at some of Epik High‘s less known tracks, tough ladies, “black hole” idols, the beautiful Baek Ah-yeon‘s debut album and MV, shining Boyfriend, Phantom‘s pre-debut Hanhae, KARA Collection, Lunafly, The Koxx, Secret‘s “Poison”.

For film, TV and fashion topics, we highlighted the best of last week’s music shows, lessons from Ma Boy, Eun-gyo (A Muse), five things Johnelle LOVED in K-pop last week, and B1A4 for Omphalos.

In terms of socio-cultural issues, we debated on what makes a hit song, whether it is too soon for T-ara to come back, and held a Roundtable on whether or not age discrimination (‘ageism’) is justified against noona and/or samchon fans.

Here are five of my favorite comments from this week:

veiledheart on 3 Reasons Why “Black Hole” Idols Exist:

A lot of the black holes were put in because that’s what the agencies thought people would want. They figured “oh, girls will like his/her face/attitude/personality” so in he/she goes. It’s just about marketing. Sometimes it pans out and the people that get picked for attributes other than singing or dancing do actually become popular with the public, like Sohee or Yoona. Other times the public just doesn’t want to buy what you’re selling so they become these useless people stuck in these groups, like all the useless members of every group ever.

Mika_San123 on Side B: Epik High all day, err’ day:

Interestingly enough, I didn’t really like Epik High when I first encountered them. I’ve never been much of a hip-hop person and the intricacies of the lyrics don’t really have an effect on me because I don’t understand wordplay in Korean. I fully accepted that they had talent and they seemed like nice, intelligent people… I just didn’t really enjoy their music.

But listening to “Over” completely changed my attitude towards Epik High’s music. To be perfectly honest, I was not at all intrigued by the musical aspect of the song, and I was especially put off by the contrast between the loud, heavy, fast beats and the quiet, slow chords in the background of the rapping. It was the lyrics that got me.

“You’re movin’ shoe to shoe but you’re not goin’. You stop growin’ the
moment that you stay at the top./ The only way is to drop, free-fallin
down the stairs that you climbed up, lined up to freely mount the air./
But you dare not airdrop, tied up like a hairknot, hikin down without a
chance of steppin’ on a fair rock.”

For the first time in my life, I could relate to the lyrics of a song. At a time when I had felt suffocated by my desire to be THE best, instead of just doing my best, a time when I was mentally exhausted because I was terrified of making even the slightest mistake and failing to reach expectations, I chanced upon this song. I was stunned to know that someone empathized, and even more surprised to realize that the song coherently expressed thoughts that had previously existed as only a jumble of emotions and feelings, which I myself had not been able to understand.

The song “Over” did not change my life and it didn’t save me from depression or anything drastic like that. I did, however, find comfort in knowing that someone understood, and I’m extremely grateful to Tablo for penning a song to which I could finally relate.

I had a pretty different take on Ji Woo. I think Ji Woo published that story under his name not because he felt entitled to it but because he felt jealous of the developing relationship between his mentor and Eungyo and wanted to lash out. He was probably the character I disliked and yet sympathized with the most, oddly enough. He felt indebted to his teacher and followed him around like a dutiful son, partly in order to pay him back for putting him on the map as a famous writer, partly because he truly respects and reveres him. He feels guilty for having allowed his mentor to ghostwrite and he has never allowed himself to truly enjoy his success because, obviously, it was undeserved. On top of that, Ji Woo is a novelist, his mentor is a poet and Jeokyo seems to put poems on a higher pedestal than all other forms of writing, regarding poems as true art and all other forms lesser than. Ji Woo truly does respect Jeokyo and looks up to him but suffers from a crippling sense of inferiority that’s only exacerbated by the fact that he is always by Jeokyo’s side, subjugating himself to the constant reminder of the writer he wants to become but can’t because of a lack of talent.

As for Eungyo and Jeokyo’s relationship, she is exactly what the title says she is: a muse. He is fascinated by her beauty, exuberance, and most of all her youth but I don’t think Jeokyo would have ever allowed himself to take the relationship any further than friendship. From the trailers, you would’ve thought that this movie was just about an illicit and taboo relationship between an old man and a young teenage girl but I found the sexual aspect of the film to be a minor addition. It’s really about the awakening of a man who let old age put a stop to his ability to enjoy life and how one young, beautiful girl sweeps into his world, breaking his stagnant routine and making him realize that life is still worth living.

It was definitely an interesting movie. I can’t say that I enjoyed it or particularly liked it, but interesting, nonetheless.

FreakyFlyBri on Is It Too Soon for T-ara to Come Back?:

Of course they came back too soon, if for no other reason than the girls themselves needed some much-deserved R&R and time away from the spotlight after not just the craziness of the scandal, but the craziness that has pretty much followed them around since the beginning of the year: announced member additions, hectic promotional schedules in two countries at the same time, concert tours, showcases, and variety show appearances are all bound to wipe them out completely. They needed a break long before the scandal, and it’s a pity that the controversy didn’t serve as the impetus to give it to them.

Nonetheless, from a business standpoint, it’s clear to see why CCM decided to go ahead as scheduled with their most recent comeback…they’re ultimately running a business (and a crappy one at that), and T-ara still remains their biggest source of income. Does that make it right that they were unable to take a legitimate break and recharge their batteries while allowing the netizens to calm their tits? No, but business is business, and frankly CCM has no other act that feasibly brings in revenue besides T-ara at this point. Yes, Davichi is successful, but not on T-ara’s scale.

Still, to say the comeback has been a complete disaster is a bit of an exaggeration. Sexy Love seems to be holding up well on the charts, while Mirage has remained in either the first or second spot on Hanteo since the release of the physical album yesterday. While I’m not denying that they didn’t take a hit from the scandal, the contradictions between netizen’s online comments and T-ara’s current positions on the charts are…interesting, to say the least. In my personal opinion, it just goes to show that the majority of the general public really could care less about this scandal, and the ones making the big stink about it are netizens. Remember, K-Pop in and of itself is a niche market even in Korea, which panders primarily to teenagers and young adults. They do NOT comprise Korea’s entire population of 50 million. Most of the less-than-flattering comments we see about T-ara are coming from this subset of the Korean population, who seems to be engaging in “click activism,” where people are more likely to protest behind the safety of their computer monitors but don’t have much to say (or do) when it comes to putting their money where their mouth is.

With that said, yes, they did come back too soon. Is it the travesty that many of these netizens desperately want it to be, though? No. Chilly receptions and nasty comments were going to happen but considering that many were discussing the possibility of pelting the girls with rice cakes (netizens really need to come up with something new, that rice cake schtick is getting tired, to say the least) I’d go so far as to say that at this time and junction, their comeback has been more or less a success. And things will get better for them as time passes. Netizens will move on to someone else to terrorize (God have mercy on whomever the poor soul is that gets targeted) and T-ara will move forward. The fact remains, though, that they need a break in the worst way, and it’s NOT so netizens can get over the mess; it’s so they can have some time to themselves to recuperate. No more, no less. I’m of the mindset that the only thing netizens need at this point is a swift kick in the ass for overreacting and generally acting like idiots throughout this whole controversy.

I wasn’t sure if I would post on this, but since the testosterone level is decidedly non-existent up in here right now, it seems appropriate to add a male perspective until more guys show up.

Personally, I don’t think it is wrong to follow idols that are younger — as long as you are real about why you follow them and listen to your gut if it tells you “Wtf, man. She’s young enough to be your daughter/little sister/niece/(insert other young girl here).”

For instance, I like IU. Her voice is not typical of what you hear in K-pop. Just listen to You and I or Good Day. She is very good at throwing variation into her songs. As for her image… She definitely does seem to be right at home conveying the child-approaching-puberty feeling. Both videos for the songs mentioned above have common themes of young girls wanting to either grow older, or who struggle to deal with love issues that have something to do with an oppa.

When I say I like IU, I mean that in the basest sense. I like her voice, I like that she seems comfortable doing what she does best. I don’t, however, see her as a sexual or love object. If I was seventeen again, hell yes I would probably be knee deep in crush territory. As you get older, however, you start being better able to distinguish the different levels of “like” from attraction (or even love).

If I were to consider why “ahjussi”/samchon fans develop some peculiar devotions to idols that border on creepy, I would guess it has more to do with falling for an image — say 70% image, 20% person, %10 personality. I don’t know that they fall for someone like IU, so much as they fall for the image of a young, beautiful girl still giving off the feeling of youthful exuberance. In some ways, it probably unlocks protective instincts within them. Let’s be real, guys get off on being heroes, “daddies”, alpha males, etc. That is why so many guys are attracted to the innocent bubbly type. I would be willing to bet that a good number of samchon fans are attracted to the idea of a naive, bubbly idol that acts cute and never has adverse opinions, more than they are to a specific person. It just so happens one idol might be more their type over another, physically. K-pop is rife with such archetypes seemingly by the dozens.

I don’t think it is really possible to fall in love — real love — with an idol. Is it possible to fall in love with essentially half a person? Not bloody likely. That is exactly what an idol is: the better half of a person, all shined up and glittery. We don’t really know these idols as real people, so how is it possible to fall in love with them?

Now lust is a different story. The face you can fall in lust with. The body, as well. You can also fall in lust with someone for their voice. Idols are the epitome of one stop shopping for all your lusting needs. They sing good-to-great, they always look put together, they never get flustered and say “Screw this, I’m not going to perform 300 shows in a month.” They acquiesce, they smile, they flirt, they do sexy dances in sexy costumes and still play up the image of innocence. They are, in a slightly disturbing way, the poster children for subservient objects of affection. They are there to stand still and look pretty while people come along to judge and praise or critique their attributes.

When you consider the reality of K-pop’s idol worshiping scheme, it’s no wonder samchon fans exist.

In the end, it is not wrong to admire someone for the fact that they look beautiful, or because they have a great voice or a seemingly easygoing personality. It only becomes unhealthy when you take the facade and assume it represents the idol as a whole person and you stan them out of some naive notion that you have a connection — because you like the same food, or because you both have similar families, etc.

I mean, I am a fan of Nana from AS/OC. Do I know Nana? I know what she has said in interviews, and the little profiles companies tend to release about idols.

Do I know Im Jin Ah (Nana off camera)? Absolutely not. I don’t know what she is like when she isn’t getting ready for a performance or doing a variety show.

I think terms like noona and samchon are fine to use — so long as you realize that description does not apply to all adults who follow younger idols. Some people are rational enough to realize that there is a difference between the idol facade and the real person, and as a result, their affection for an idol fits more into liking an idol for their face, hair, body, voice, and not because of some imagined connection that some of the more fanatical fans seem to trumpet.

That’s it for this week!

Thanks for being such great readers, and as always, feel free to leave additional comments below.

(Images via SMG, High Cut Magazine, Wired Magazine, Vogue Girl Magazine, CCM, Hyosung’s Twitter, K-POP for AERA Magazine)