In regards to tv, film, and fashion we looked at the best of last week’s music shows, miss A for Vogue Girl, Seo In-guk, B.A.P’s Killing Camp, variety as a source of controversy, A Pink‘s Eunji for Woman Chosun.
In terms of socio-cultural topics we covered trendy dance moves, cute and sexy in K-pop, an exchange on Japan, Maria’s monthly pick of positive social progress coming out of South Korea, our K-pop nightmares, album covers, MOGEF double standards, and Sister Jo Kwon.
You read what our writers had to say, now let’s take a look at what our readers had to say back!
Note that because of the sheer length of some of the comments, I’ll only be featuring three picks of my favorite comments from this week:
Awkward — that’s what it looks like.
A sexy group doing a bubble gum cute concept looks awkward. Almost as if they feel weird doing it.
A bubble gum cute group doing a sexy concept looks awkward. Almost as if th– you get the point.
Honestly, I don’t think there is much separation between cute and sex in Kpop (or at least a mixture of the two is too common for my tastes in many instances), it’s just two different forms of sexual enticement wrapped up in different wrapping paper. Just look at that picture for Jewelry Box — a vomitous explosion of pink with cutesy little pillows spread around and, in the center, a group of thinly dressed girls, including one laying directly over another girl’s backside. I may not be a mathematician, but 1+1 = 2 last time I checked. This form of cute/sex is an abomination — but that is for another discussion.
Sexy concepts are a different beast. Sometimes they are done reasonably well (Run Devil Run), other times it looks like your little sister decided to vamp up and doesn’t look remotely comfortable enough to really sell the new look, yet.
Personally, I think new groups have to come with their own original flair to be noticed — but for whatever reason, the entertainment heads of fledgling companies think an act can only be sexy or cute, or almost a mirror of another, more successful, act. That, or they try to be TOO unique and wind up being decent in some ways, but nothing special in everything else (like AOA — who desperately needs to drop the dancing dead weight). Part of this is because the Big 3 usurp and drain the life out of any concept that exists, so there isn’t much room to find anything that hasn’t already been done to death (JYP corners retro and emo; YG has electropop and girl power messages down with 2NE1, plus hip pop with Big Bang; SM has aegyo nailed down with Girl’s Generation; all three occasionally dabble in every genre imaginable, as well). Short of coming out dressed like demented pimp leprechauns, there isn’t much unique territory left in Kpop — plus Crazyno has already laid claim to that one.
About the most unique concept that could come out in modern Kpop is, crazy enough, a normal, well-crafted R&B or pop group with no dead weight vocalists and some creative and talented, but not too well known, songwriters penning the songs. Sort of like what TVXQ was back in the day. Part of what made that group such a success is that they really didn’t have any dead weight. There were singers that weren’t as good as others, but no bad singers hidden behind rapper facades. Even their “visual,” Jaejoong, was a good singer.
Music is cyclical; eventually, it all comes back around to past influences with some modern flavor added. That’s why cats like Bruno Mars, who was heavily influenced by doo wop and other older American musical styles, bring some of that flavor into their newer songs. It’s also why, after years without them, One Direction managed to carve itself a niche in a market that wasn’t as rife with boy bands as it was back in the day. It happened in rap, too. People wanted something different from classic rap, so gangsta rap came along, When they got tired of gangsta rap, people turned to more introspective rap with Pac and mafioso rap with Nas and Biggie. When people got tired of that, bizarre rap with Missy Elliot & Busta Rhymes came along, plus bling raps with Jay-Z, Cash Money, No Limit, etc. Party and sex raps came after that with 50 Cent and Lil’ Wayne. Bizarre rap is making a comeback with Nikki Minaj. Pretty soon people will tire of it and most likely want something more substantial. It’s just the nature of people to crave what they grew up with.
Kpop just might be ready to put some of these clownish concepts to bed and go back to more simplistic ideas. If everyone is trying to be a loud, colorful character, who is going to stand out more than that one person/group acting perfectly normal?
Mrs_KimSungGyu on Will “Stop It” Put a Stop to B.A.P?:
I know what BAP‘s strategy is and I think it’s going to work. This is the same strategy that we’ve seen before, true, and it’s succeeded most of the time for good measure, albeit at different rates.
When you have a group come out with as strong of an image as BAP, such a ‘beastly’ and very much ‘idol-like’ image, chances are there will be a large amount of people (and I’m speaking about the Korean public in this case) who will roll their eyes and move onto whatever act is next. The reason for this is credited to Korea’s tastes and preferences as a whole. In a country as small as Korea, especially one with such an obvious and predictable music industry, it isn’t difficult to see that people like what is closest to them. With ‘Warrior‘, ‘Power‘, and so on, BAP managed to catch primarily the interest of the youth, and because their image was so specific, so pointed to a niche of the population, the numbers and ages of their fans tended to be specific as well (ages 10-20). But they were distant in terms of being able to connect with a solid audience.
People want to be able to relate to the artists they listen to. First of all let me digress and point out that I’m dubious about whether or not BAP’s song lyrics are really doing it for the public. I’m curious to know if the people of Korea like them for the musical value of their work, or only because they are this fierce group with amazing presence. I wonder this because their music only further isolates this group and puts them on a little island where if you don’t understand what they’re trying to say, your interest does not last as long as say, that of a fan whose favorite music speaks profound levels to them. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve fallen for a group only to fall out of love because in the end I realized that what I liked wasn’t actually the music in the first place.
Compare BAP to Busker Busker–for the sake of making a point– whose music was an instant hit. In all honesty, I listened to them and initially I didn’t know why they were popular at all because I didn’t understand their music style whatsoever. Upon further investigation (because I do research these kinds of things) I learned that it was because their music was very much Korean. The Korean public was able to connect to it on levels that K-pop, which is for the most part influenced by western culture, could not. Busker Busker isn’t a group of glamour. They don’t strut around in fashionable clothing and have twenty guards by their side ready to defend them from the oceans and oceans of fangirls at the airport. They are ordinary people, but their music speaks everything for them. They don’t need to be bathed in luxury because music is their gem. It’s a breath of fresh air. Finally a group is returning to the original Korean sentiments that had been lost in the craze of idol group music and they’re doing it in the most obvious and friendly way possible.
BAP, no matter which way you look at it, are in the process of trying to build their own style and sound. When you hear them you are able to pinpoint certain sounds and detect where they might have been drawing influence from, but they are mixing several elements and styles much too suddenly and eagerly for people to be able to catch up with them. People need time to adjust to and accept new music. BAP need time for their sound to settle, become familiar, and them become a craze, but first they need attention. They’ve already got a good portion of the international crowd following them, but people don’t often realize that it’s the success at home that truly defines the status of an idol group. If you can’t make it in Korea (or Japan in some instances), Korea doesn’t care about you or whatever success you may have achieved elsewhere. Take U-kiss for example. With the amount of attention they get from overseas one would think that their careers are flourishing in Korea as well, but they’re not.
In coming out with “Stop It“, BAP are attempting to make their image a more friendly and approachable one. Without changing their sound, without changing their musicality, they are shifting gears. It might take them a few tries because success isn’t always instantaneous, but gradually they will accumulate a broader fan base and who knows… maybe their music will one day play on the Korean radio and people not familiar with the group will at least be able to recognize their music (which is a very very rare occurrence in the idol market, by the way). It is also rare that an idol group should find success of massive proportions this way, but it is in fact being done now as we speak by another relatively newer group. If people had been following the trends of Korea and understood the sentiments of the Korean public, they would know which group it is I am referring to.
Without trying to instigate some kind of existential crisis, it is safe to say that we are all affected by some kind of conditioning that taints our mindsets and makes us guilty of ethnocentrism upon some level. Whether patriarchal, cultural, social or religious we are conditioned to understand things in a certain manner. Even just watching Kpop 24/7 can alter your views on things, discreetly, subliminally but slowly and surely it will. To step back and perceive that bias is very difficult if not impossible BUT if we don’t find a way to do so we would go insane.
If we were to believe conditioning of marketing then we would think that it is possible to have a size zero figure AND eat all the pizza, crisps and soda you want. It’s crazy to think that but marketing has conditioned people to think just like that so that impressionable people feel guilty or ashamed at being overweight even though we are just following the examples of idols. [I JUST LOVE that Kim Jong Kook is always lecturing his RM members about diet and exercise, because really how else did he attain those choco abs? Even Ha Ha has commented that he lost weight through following a customized diet program tailored by his Hyung because he wasn’t going to do it any other way, no matter how many times I’ve heard idols tell me that they eat fatty foods and drink soda all the time, like in their ads for their sponsors because their words can not match reality.]
Modern marketing is a mess of mixed messages which we grow up misunderstanding until our thoughts are just a arena of anarchy; we try to make the impossible messages a reality and the end result is never pretty or nice; bulimia if not worse.
So if we can’t rely on ourselves to decode those messages, we seek out objective protectors such as governments or ruling bodies, except we find that those people are infected too. Governments who tell us that it’s OK to let yourself become intoxicated through ‘taxed’ means such as alcohol or cigarettes but not ‘non-taxed’ means such as cocaine or weed; prostitution is a no-no but porn is fine. Hey, if the Olympic governing committee okayed MacDonalds and Coke sponsoring the games, because of their history with those sponsors since 1928 then maybe it isn’t weird to juxtapose a message of healthy lifestyle BUT it is!
My point AND I do have one, is that we need a reference point, someone objective and enlightened enough to educate us on things that we ‘might’ not be able to perceive. Setting up bodies like MOGEF is understandable and commendable but what other result were people expecting than this mess of nonsensical and inconsistent rulings when it is run by people conditioned just like you and me? Being someone who believes in God, I would make him my reference point BUT when religious leaders themselves range from banning everything to allowing everything, there isn’t much clarity there either.
For me, a step forward is making sure that you have a diverse range of voices on any governing body so that the varying viewpoints in some way find a balance and hopefully if not miraculously find a truth if not the truth. So for every patriarch supporter, a feminist, for every pornographer, a prude. This way might not be perfect BUT at least it would stop rulings being so tilted towards one mindset alone.
That’s it for my pick of comments this week, thanks for being such great readers, and as always, feel free to leave additional comments below.