I’ll dish out an old post or two–an old topic even– every once in a long while to rekindle a former conversation, or update some subject matter after quite a number of posts.
So, without further ado…
KPOP: The Standom Fandom [Part 1]
Some of you might be wondering: “just what the heck is Kpop? What’s the deal? Is it even a BIG deal?” Well, let us start with what it’s NOT (from a fan’s perspective ^^).
My advent with kpop is vintage 2004. The industry itself? It dates, to my knowledge, back at LEAST to the mid-90s. Why not throw this back a bit further? What about the 80s or 70s? Allow me to borrow what podcasters Josh and Chuck like to call “The Way-Back Machine” (HowStuffWorks.com/Stuff You Should Know).
Let’s take a trip.
Iconic pop groups didn’t exactly tour overseas for a mere vacation. Just look at The Beatles, Michael Jackson, Boyz II Men and the Backstreet Boys, to name too few. Can’t book gigs for a no-show. They had fans in those countries. Guess what happens when those fans grow up, inspired enough to make music? They become Billboard chart-toppers. Any MJ fan can fantasize in all seriousness about how dope of a following he’s had (and STILL has) worldwide; especially Asia. Hands down. But uh…Have you seen how true that is yet? Just check out Lee Taemin from a pop group, called SHINee. Yes, that’s “shiny;” like a new penny. Taemin feels no shame in conveying his musical influence from the designated King of Pop himself (neither do a half-a-dozen OTHER performers).
Remember the Beastie Boys? If not, don’t sweat it. This hip-hop group of Jewish boys, fresh outta New York, broke ground just doing what they loved to do, and stayed in the hearts of artists and celebs to this day. But they’re not the only crew to throw fans back in time.
If you’re a kpop fan who already has a soft spot for black-American music or maybe you’re a native Seoul sista with the same feels, you might think BIGBANG (and some do), but I’ll bet SeoTaiji comes to mind. SeoTaiji and the Boys were whom I like to call the Beastie Boys of Korea; they helped bring about what the world knows as kpop today. Ironically, SeoTaiji is a Korean ROCK. LEGEND. And that’s in addition to his street cred with hip-hop. Of all Seotaiji’s music, I got into his stuff when he was heavily influenced by KoRn and J-rock; only discovering his hip-hop roots after the fact. A pleasant surprise. Of course, not all kpop artists, CEOs and the like get their influence from solely hip-hop necessarily, but I’ll save that topic for another day ^^.
As the world gets further connected, seeing the same fashion style, hearing the same songs with the same sounds is increasingly normal. The reason? Fans! (Well money too..but…) What’s even more astonishing (and refreshing), to me and many westerners (not just from the US side of the sphere), is how Kpop musicians geek out over each other. They’re fans too! Well, duh, right? But the South Korean music industry and market naturally encourage that. Commercial-scheme or not, by some social-psychological nature, people of the Kpop industry have HUGE respect for each other. It’s a dang-near prerequisite.
Still with me? Let’s cross the street to Japan for a minute and then we’ll head back. Jazz over here is HUGE!
“war, peace & hair grease^^”
Racism, general military occupation and issues concerning diplomacy were of course the true Shakespearian rub at the time of the 2-W’s (still is, in many ways, some people may argue). That didn’t deter progressive Japanese music enthusiasts from otherwise taking part in, what I think was, one of the most relevant music swaps in history with western troops; waaay before file sharing was even TRENDING. If I listen closely enough, I can hear elements of jazz in almost any pop genre I’ve been privy to thus far. That just proves that a group liking any one thing can be a powerful and hopefully positive force –and change people. If we head on back to South Korea, ballad music and jazz is probably one of the bigger genres locally. At least that’s what my visa-employed cousin tells me >.>.
I’m perfectly content being a kpop fan. If ninety-nine problems come with being a kpop idol, learning Korean would NOT be one. Work ethic! Kpop idols work their A$$es. OFF. One-hit-wonders from the South Korean music industry are RARE. I won’t say that it can’t happen, but it’s very unlikely. Why? Let’s take a look at something else that Kpop is NOT….
“why fans willingly go broke”
Korean record labels make too much bread to let their newly debuted rookie soloist or group release just ONE single. This market rolls in the dough of their box-set production (I should know; my wallet is SCREAMING). There is a reason why Psy graced American pop culture in 2012. It was not just because he was silly. There is a reason the all-female group 2ne1 finally found them a good ‘ol sponsor in Microsoft (Surface Pro 3 comercial), gracing western and US television. There’s a reason why rap/hip-hop artists such as CL and G-Dragon of BIGBANG are working with Diplo, Skrillex, Missy Elliot, and Flo-Rida (to again name too few). FANS! (hmmm…I don’t think I remember seeing Korea Air commercials so often during high school…Coincidence? Maybe)
It’s a toss-up for me, the notion of “originality.” Anymore, it’s hard to find something that hasn’t been done before yet.
5.) overnight success
THAT. Is BULL [go-right-ahead]! Sensationalized? Sure! Cookie-cutter? Uh-uh. It’ll LOOK that way. Because that’s the fan base. That’s intentional. That’s the franchise. Each kpop record label has its own distinctive one. Remember that so-called “work ethic” I talked about earlier? Having an artist debut after solely dishing out a few YouTube vids without undergoing previous training of some sort is (again) RARE. Doesn’t mean it can’t happen, right? Fans WILL decide what sells.
If only. “Mo money, Mo problems,” has never shown so vividly for me, a mere second-party, until I learned just a fraction of what kpop artists endure. Think you can go a maximum of five years training for a record label, after signing your music contract, WITHOUT seeing family (or friends)? No? Same. Although, if you can, more power to you. I sometimes wonder if half the local gossip in South Korea is forced into the spotlight, because, seriously, what kpop idol has the freakin’ TIME to date somebody.
So, if a kpop artist of some sort makes it out of Korea and finds him or herself performing for audiences in: Japan, Australia, UK, Germany, South America, ATLANTA GEORGIA (e.g. CRUSH, Zion.T, AOMG)?? I’m sincerely happy for them! Their trip wasn’t easy. Singer Na Sung Ho, from the R&B ballad group Noel (formerly with JYP Entertainment) announced his marriage a few months ago on the Arirang international hit variety show “After School Club,” and I dang near clapped. Phew. He made it! And passed the sasaengs too! What are “sasaengs,” you may ask? We’ll just call them “anti-fans,” or “trolls” if you feel like spittin’ fire (and they’re everywhere). And with the internet becoming more culturally (and commercially) relevant, netizens can sometimes pose ridiculously big problems.
And to think: I haven’t even covered Jpop…yet ♪~♪ d(⌒o⌒)b♪~♪. The kicker is that what a lot of kpop idols go through doesn’t stray too far from those hailing from other countries. I think the only true difference (if not, one of many) between “our” Westward pop and theirs is merely language, which in this case, isn’t a barrier. It’s an opportunity!
WANNA LEARN MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC?
- After School Club
- Jazz in Japan
- “Jazz Journey’s to Japan“
**COA's, Disclaimers and ETC's**
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