Hey, What’s The Deal With K-Pop?

Testimony from an ex-anti of all things Korean Pop.

Photo from Soompi.

If you told me 2 years ago (yes, only 2 years ago!) that today, I will be a K-Pop fan, I’d probably flick you off. I’m not even exaggerating. I used to hate K-Pop. This deep-rooted hatred stemmed from being annoyed at how it flooded my social media feeds, the television screen, and billboards. Radios would frequently play K-pop songs as well.

I never understood the hype… Until I did.

My ‘anti’ phase is not something that I am proud of, and I’m a bit embarrassed that it took meeting my husband for me to realise how big of a deal this $5 billion industry is. BTS, for example, is worth over $3.6 billion a year to South Korea’s economy and is projected to bring in an economic value of $37 billion over the next 10 years according to the Hyundai Research Institute.

BTS member from left to right (starting from top row): Jeon Jungkook, Kim Namjoon, Kim Taehyung, Min Yoongi, Park Jimin, Kim Seokjin, Jung Hoseok

When I first fell into the K-Pop rabbit hole, I was overwhelmed and intimidated. There were so many things I didn’t understand (aside from the language barrier), but still I find myself coming back for more.

In my short time as a recently-converted K-Pop fan, I’d like to share, in my personal opinion, what makes K-pop the global phenomenon it is. If you have ever said to yourself, “Ew, K-Pop?” then this article is for you.

1. It’s not just pop. It’s multiple genres mashed together – in one song.

If a K-Pop song was playing on the speakers and you weren’t paying attention, at some points you might think it sounds like a different song. This is because it is not uncommon for K-Pop music to incorporate multiple genres into one song. One example is Stray Kids’s God’s Menu.

The mash-up of sounds and genre in one K-Pop song keeps it fresh until the song ends. You can find beat drops, ballads, dance breaks, and dramatic crescendos in one song. A K-Pop group is commonly “divided” into different sub-units, such as a vocal line, a rap line, and a dance line. Every song combines certain elements that cater to the different sub-units.

2. The visual aesthetic is immaculate.

When I first started watching K-Pop music videos, I couldn’t help but wonder how much the visual production cost. Even when it comes to live performances, you can count on K-pop idols to be over-the-top. From their dress to the stage, K-pop performances give 110% every time and it shows.

Every time a K-Pop group or idol releases a new single, also known as a “comeback”, everything about their comeback phase will follow a certain aesthetic or theme. A lot goes into the planning of a release, and it’s easy to get sucked into it.

3. No one has mastered (and capitalised) the art of fan service like the K-Pop industry.

If you venture deep enough into the K-Pop fandom, you’d find that there are so many products that are created for fans.

An important piece of merchandise in a K-Pop fan’s arsenal is a lightstick, which is commonly used during the concert. Fun fact: The “black ocean” is a nightmare for any K-Pop idol, where the audience turns off their lightsticks and leave the stadium in complete darkness. Photo from Amino Apps.

Different entertainment groups own apps that allow fans to socialise with not only each other but also with their favourite groups and idols, such as Vlive and Bubble. They also frequently release premium content for official fan club members and do live streams to communicate with their fans.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but suffice to say that fans are spoiled hence feeling “close” to their favourite groups or idols. Ever think why K-Pop fans are so defensive? This is why.

4. The dancing is seamless and perfect – at ALL times.

There was a time when my husband would always turn on fan-made BTS stage mixes on TV when our friends came over. Stage mixes are a compilation of performances for a song. Why this was so awesome to me was because their choreography is perfect all the time.

I realised this because every single stage mix he put on showed transition after transition of BTS performances and it was flawless. Just watch it for yourself and you’d understand.

Fandoms get really creative with their favourite groups, giving us millions and millions of K-Pop content. One of the most famous, which you’ve probably seen before, is a fancam. These are basically clips of performances but focused on just one member.

An industry like K-Pop probably knows all that its fans are up to, hence the emphasis on having to look good at all times, even when the spotlight isn’t on you.

They can take my money.

Knowing all of this, can you imagine the physical and mental struggle one has to go through in order to meet expectations? I’ve seen and heard a lot of “Ew, K-Pop? They’re just a bunch of pretty people dancing” comments in my life. I used to be one of those people saying it. But no, they’re not just dancing.

Falling in love with K-Pop was a life-changing experience. I became so much happier after I stopped discriminating against it. They managed to do exactly what they set out to do… Get my money. And for that, they deserve it. *throws cash*

Singapore-bred Malaysian who enjoys sharing her too honest thoughts on life, feminism, love, and religion among other things. www.shafiqahothman.com

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