Some people love an artist unconditionally. To them, their group or bias cannot do any wrong and everything they put out is wonderful. Truthfully that may not always be the case. Sound and song experimentation and exploration will produce new work, but it may not be as pleasing as we anticipated. Because of this, we may wind up being disappointed despite wanting to like a song or album. That doesn’t mean we are unable to appreciate their hard work and efforts…it just means we’re not feeling it.
So for this week’s roundtable, we ask, how do you deal when an album or song by an artist you follow isn’t your cup of tea?
Madi: Am I the only one who still can’t get with Big Bang‘s “Bang Bang Bang”? I figured with the MADE Tour that hearing and experiencing it live, the song would grow on me. But even now, if it comes up on shuffle, I usually think about skipping it as soon as the main chorus hits. Even with waiting so long for an album which we’re finally getting, it’s definitely my least favorite single from the set and I really wanted to like it.
I also believe that not feeling a song/album is totally okay and it still makes you a fan. It’s tough when you actually want to enjoy something and your mind is going, “nope, not happening.”
Cjontai: I understand what Madi means. I was hoping MADE would be Big Bang’s opus, but aside from “Loser”, it’s been fairly bland by their standards. It’s difficult because you want to root for their success, but when the output doesn’t match expectations, you feel conflicted. Do I support a weak album, or do I champion for better quality?
For me, I’ve had a lot of anxiety doing album reviews for this reason. I gave poor scores to groups that I never expected to fail me, yet I’ll listen to an album many times before accepting that it just falls short. I take no joy in ripping anything apart. If anything, it ticks me off as a fan when it feels like they phoned it in.
I don’t care if they need more time; do what needs to be done for the best results. Send the members home for mom’s cooking. Let them sleep longer than three hours. Allow them to date so I can feel the sincerity when they’re singing love songs. Have them practice their vocals so those notes are clean without autotune! I want to reward their efforts, but I can’t do that if the music doesn’t reflect their hard work.
Angela: I’ll preface this by saying whenever a comeback for a group I follow is announced, I brace myself. So much of K-pop runs on novelty and “concepts,” I need to remind myself anything is possible. Artists with a badass image will suddenly release sweet, syrupy ballads; cutesy girl groups grow up and become sexy. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t, but I HATE being disappointed, so I try to be as open-minded about releases as possible.
That being said SNSD’s “I Got a Boy” made my ears and eyeballs bleed. Trying to shove the girls into an edgy hip-hop concept just felt really fake, awkward and silly for most of them. I basically ignored SNSD that promotion cycle, and waited for their next single. I don’t think this makes me a bad fan…it just makes me an honest one. Like Madi, I believe not liking a song is okay and perfectly acceptable.
In the end, my tastes are my own; there were plenty of fans who loved “I Got a Boy” as well as “Bang Bang Bang” (another song I also was disappointed in). More importantly, there are people who were inducted into K-pop through these two singles, so I’m always happy to see artists doing things that excite someone out there, even if it’s not me.
Jennifer: Oh boy. It’s really hard to say what you do when your favorite artist releases something that isn’t quite your cup of tea. In all honesty, it happens more than I think a lot of people are willing to admit.
I think a question that’s important to ask is whether you don’t like the release or song because you don’t think it sounds good, or because it doesn’t showcase any growth? Like, when BTS came out with “I Need U”, I just couldn’t fall in love with it the way I fell in love with the rest of the HYYH pt. 1 mini album, but I really appreciated the artistry behind it because it showed improvement and maturity from the last album/mini-album they released, and depth in their musical narrative. It’s not a perfect album, but the flow between the songs is great and they even used skits! How old school and seemingly unneeded, but functionally useful!
And if there’s nothing redeeming, though, then just avoid the music but continue to show respect for your artists. They’re working really hard. Personally, I find that K-pop artists don’t take enough time between albums; like, I don’t care if you spend three years on it, just come out with something that’s real and is more than just a manufactured string of singles. Make an album, tell me a story, share your feelings, make me understand. That’s what I want artists to do.
Lorenza: I absolutely agree with Jennifer. I tend to like albums and songs that showcase artistic growth, even if it isn’t the best thing that group or artist has ever created. If it shows they’re willing to try new things rather than just rehash old sounds and concepts, I’m more likely to give it a second chance. That’s the reason why I liked BTS’s Wings so much. It built on their last two albums and really showcased each of the members.
Big Bang is my ride or die K-pop group and I’ll admit the first half of their singles for MADE were shaky for me. I’m hoping that when they release the full album on the 12th it’ll exceed expectations but I’m not getting my hopes up.
Not liking everything your faves produce doesn’t make you a bad fan. It makes you a fan with tastes and opinions, which is totally fine and normal. Everyone in K-pop is overworked and not everyone is writing and producing their own music. On top of that, not every artist has the same amount of control over their music as some others. It’s only natural that some albums and singles aren’t going to appeal to everyone. And that’s absolutely okay.
Karen: Similar to what Lorenza and Jennifer mentioned, artistic growth is really something that fans, including myself, have to appreciate and respect of our favorite artists. Personally, I felt weirded out when Giriboy’s newer music styles became more polished and form-fitting. I wondered if he was changing his music style to fit a certain image the public wanted of rappers, or of rap music. I was slightly upset that in the process of fulfilling these expectations he was overshadowing a form of honesty in his music production regarding breaking perceptions of what rap means and entails. But his newest single, Let’s Drink, popped up and it reminded me so much of the music he made at the very start of his career. I realized that musicians experiment with their materials, but this does not necessarily mean they forgo their old selves entirely.
Even for BTS, one of the few K-pop groups I pay attention to, I must admit that not all their songs are to my taste. Nonetheless, these few songs that I may not like does not mean I will stop being their fan. As fans, I think we really must not transfix ourselves on a certain mould of music styles or image of our favorite artists. Ultimately, I find other songs and performances to my liking that win my respect for the members. If I embrace all these songs that seem unpalatable at first, I get to see so many more facets of my favorite artists. If these musicians are willing to put themselves outside of their comfort zones, why shouldn’t I as listener try to do the same?
Qing: That’s a good point, Karen. It works the other way too, right? With the same open mindset, it’s possible even for a group you don’t stan to change your mind about a music style or genre, like how BTS’s early releases caught my attention, challenged my misconceptions of hip-hop and rap, and helped me to discover the depth of meaning in those genres.
Artistic growth is a key criterion, but I also look out for meaning within releases. These don’t always reflect growth, but they are markers of creative effort. Interpretation is somewhat subjective, but there is first a level of objectivity at which you can assess a piece and determine how good or bad it is. I appreciate any effort to make meaning, whether or not I like or feel for what is being conveyed.
I start off trying to understand what the release is trying to do and consider whether it’s well-executed. The best works go beyond just this to achieve nuanced, multiple layers of meaning and even different interpretations. The bad ones have elusive meanings, are poorly executed, or worst of all, are functional or clichéd with no particular meaning.
What Lorenza mentioned about artistic control is important. It’s not always clear how much input comes from the artists themselves, the creative team employed, and the company, especially for MVs as they rarely contain credits. There is a frequent inclination to shift all the blame for a bad release onto the company, or a tendency for fans to read a piece of criticism as an attack on their artists’ personalities, forgetting how at least three parties are involved.
Like Cjontai mentioned, we as writers and fans know how much work goes into each release. But sometimes the quality just doesn’t reflect the effort. Bearing this effort in mind, I write primarily to show appreciation of a meaningful work and to encourage it in others. Conversely, when I have to critique something, I shape it towards constructive criticism or a balanced piece that acknowledges what worked and what didn’t. Then I keep my fingers crossed that the next comeback will do better.
Leesha: I’m the type to buy an album just because it’s from one of my groups and then later listen to it like “What the heck is this?” When it comes to Big Bang and the MADE series, I was really excited and only ended up liking two songs. I will physically cringe when “Bang Bang Bang” comes on because I just expected so much more. With BAP, who I stan from here and back, there are songs (*cough* “Power” *cough*) from them that I honestly pretend don’t exist. But I guess my way of dealing with it is one, setting certain songs to skip on my playlist, but also looking at it as I don’t like it, but maybe this will be the song/era that ushers in a new wave of fans and supporters. Then when the next release comes out and it’s my jam (pun intended), it’s that much better to me because I know that those fans that came in at an ‘eh’ point are seeing my group at a high point and can truly enjoy them now.
Lo: For the most part, I don’t have problems when my favs release music that isn’t my cup of tea, for the simple reason that I don’t have favs like most people do. I am the jack of all fandoms- casual listener of all, stan of none. I just don’t have my heart break when I group I previously liked releases from comes back with something that doesn’t talk to me, because I know damn well it talks to somebody else. It’s all about taste, and that’s a personal thing. I loved Reboot and don’t like Why So Lonely, but that’s on my own preference, and don’t care if others don’t agree.
However, I do have issues when groups or artists who previously released good music– whether I liked it or not– release music of low quality. I don’t like being mean. I don’t enjoy seeing groups lower their standards of output. I want to like every piece of music I hear, but I can’t because not all music is good. Sometimes it’s bland, sometimes it’s mixed poorly, sometimes the elements of production are lazy and hackneyed. And when that happens, all I can do is cross my fingers and hope next time is better, so we can get to my ideal world: where all music is of high quality, and taste is the only way judge.
Camiele: It’s actually not that deep of an issue for me, honestly. If a group or artist makes music that I’m not a fan of, yeah I’ll maybe gripe about it for five minutes. But then I just let it go. These are human beings. They’re not going to be perfect, and especially if they’re trying to experiment with something I can’t be too mad. At least their pushing themselves, searching for something new, ways to expand their craft or step out of their comfort zones. Experiments are called such for a reason: you’re trying something to see if it works. If it doesn’t, you move on to something else (or go back to what works in the meantime until you figure out in what direction you want to go next).
As with Lo, the only time I get truly frustrated is when an artist who is known to release quality music, to constantly push themselves and seek more ways to enhance their craft releases shit music for the sake of making a sale. Yes, the point of being part of the business aspect of “music business” is to make money, but for the love of god one shouldn’t have to sacrifice their creative integrity to do so, and it makes me question if this is something they love, or if this is legitimately only a job for them. There are jobs at the post office. Go there and croon to your peers if all you want to do is get a paycheck but still get the notoriety of someone in the spotlight.
Cjontai: Actually, a side conversation we had about another subject reminded me how my brain does cope with bad releases — I forget about them completely until something triggers my memory. 2PM‘s “Come Back When You Hear This Song” was a huge disappointment largely due to how they had been marketing GROWN as this mature, sexy times album before dropping the first title song. I expected hot, sweaty action and received a plate of bad Broadway instead. Luckily, “ADTOY” followed afterwards to quench my thirst.
Gaya: I have no patience for music I don’t like, good quality or not. I’m on a quest to own at least one iteration of every Shinee (Korean) record, but I will readily admit to skipping “Colorful,” a song that’s actually a pleasant listen but not my style, and “Why So Serious?” a song that should be included in road construction so that it can be repeatedly run over.
So when I see fans talking about how many times they’ve listened to a fave’s title track in order to brainwash their brain into liking it, I just want to scream “WHY ARE YOU TORTURING YOURSELF?” Others may instead see it as an obligation to fulfill as a fan, or proof of their love and dedication. To which my only response is to maybe love yourself a bit first?
On the flip side, this does mean that I am now battling an aversion to listening to new music, lest I be disappointed. I still procrastinate on listening to K-pop — you know, the thing you use to procrastinate on other stuff — but I’m slowly getting better.
Lauren M.: Like others said, I appreciate and anticipate growth in the artists I listen to. I don’t expect my faves to be in the same place from year to year. If they’re growing and experimenting, I’m a lot more likely to forgive any missteps than I am with groups whose sound has started to stagnate. For example, not everything Monsta X, VIXX, Red Velvet or Shinee put out this year was my cup of tea, but I’m willing to cut them some slack if I really love at least one or two tracks from the album (shout-out to “Some Love”, Red Velvet’s saving grace this year). However, there’s some groups like Seventeen who have moved to my back burner this year because I didn’t like their B-sides OR title tracks, despite the fact that they released a lot of material. Nothing against Seventeen; their music wasn’t bad, it just wasn’t my taste. They’re finding their sound, but the direction they’re heading doesn’t appeal to me.
Lazy work will not be tolerated though. If I see a group I once loved starting to stagnate, the writing’s on the wall. It’s just a question of when I’ll break up with them. Life’s too short to listen to crappy music.
Margaret: I agree with what Camiele said – it’s really not that big of a deal if my favorite artist comes out with music that I don’t like. I’ll admit, I have some strange tastes – Got7’s “Hard Carry” was my jam for the longest time even though many of my friends were really not feeling it, and I stayed far away from Seventeen’s “Mansae” when it was blasted over and over in shops.
Just because an artist’s music isn’t my cup of tea, however, doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate other aspects of their comeback. I find that the beauty of K-pop lies in its carefully-constructed combination of music and performance factors – concepts, stages, outfits, choreography – there are many other things other than the music that can be appreciated. Take “Mansae”, for example: I didn’t like the song itself, but I really enjoyed the fresh and fun concept and the amazing choreography that was especially impressive given the big size of the group.
Looking on the bright side, if I’m just not feeling my favorite group’s new song, this gives me all the more reason to look forward to their next comeback (and hope that it’ll be better)!
That’s about it with us? What about you – how do you deal with disappointing music from your favorite acts? Sound out below!
(Images via BigHit Entertainment, YG Entertainment, SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, Jellyfish Entertainment, TS Entertainment)