In Photo: K-pop groups Wonder Girls and Big Bang Courtesy of JYP Entertainment and YG Entertainment
By Audrie Julienne Bernas
We are often regarded as the lesser beings when it comes to classifying people by their tastes in music—ridiculous but is often done by so many it is starting off as a trend. What is so gross and uncultured about Korean pop music? There is none.
As the term “millennial” surges through the year, other another sort of surge comes with it—the cultural surge. It is in this generation—our generation—where the world saw a whole new outlook on the arts, politics, religion, nationalism, and social awareness. One could only go so long explaining each category. The arts itself can stand alone to define this generation.
The year is 2008 and the Wonder Girls are an icon not only in South Korea but also in Pearl of the Orient Seas. Basing the mean from our age, almost everyone is in fifth or sixth grade when that time came to be. The skinny-jean trend just started and the Twilight Saga was the bomb everyone did not expect to explode. Flo Rida released his apple bottom jeans and the boots with the fur, and everyone was suddenly his muse.
“Nobody” was the genesis of it all the book just never ends—eight years in and there is no end in sight. The whole song is in Korean, except for the first part of the chorus where English is spoken. Everyone is knows how every line of the song goes, with the perfect intonation on every word and where to stress a certain syllable.
Only few international fans of Korean pop understand what every line means—except for Koreans themselves. This went on and on, and fast forward to 2016, it is still a living, breathing trend.
So why are we devoting ourselves to this entity, when we cannot even understand a word they are saying? (For some, this is the case. For others, translating every line is the spine of their devotion.)
Korean pop, or “K-pop” as popularyly known, is enclosed with so many details that it can be at par with its Western counterparts.
Aside from the tactical choreography and creative vocalization of the songs—be it in rap or simple, repetitive reverbs—the songs entail the vision some artists don’t have. When translated, most of the lyrics are so literal it becomes poetic.
Some western artists like to play with words to sound smart and bring their listeners to an unending spiral of questions about where those praises came from. But with K-Pop it is all laid out, loud and clear. These pop stars are bringing back the trend of telling someone that the beat of their heart is equal to the waves of the ocean through a pop or rap song. Imagine hearing that in English.
The lyrics that are hiding behind the foreign language gives the songs the beauty it conveys, along with how it is told on music videos.
K-Pop music videos are a big deal. Release dates of certain videos are religiously followed by millions of fans around the world. These are so much more than the views, as each video tells the story of the song and this is where it gets all revolutionary: costumes and color themes are used to describe the mood of the song what makes it sound or look like that.
In Girls’ Generation’s “I Got A Boy,” the use of the color pink was utilized in all the possible parts: the costume, the neon lights, the pavement—everything. This symbolizes the romantic thrill the girls are experiencing, as with “having” a boy by their side. Very literal and straightforward that it almost gives itself away to the fans—which is good, because in K-pop, there is no room for gray areas. Everything is wildly utilized and nothing can be eased.
SEVENTEEN, one of the most freshmen K-pop bands out there, are also the geniuses of their kind. With their music vide for the song “Very Nice,” the bubbly color scheme and romantic themes it used portrayed what the song was about: not being able to function well when around the person you are head-over-heels for. The upbeat croon with the catchy tune brings the audience the understanding that this a song of devotion to one’s feelings.
Costumes also play a big part, as it usually introduces their conflict of the music video based on the garments the artists are sporting. Almost resembling the techniques of filmmaking and presenting symbolisms, the music videos act as the adaptation of the immaculately chosen lyrics. A word to visual exploration.
To call K-pop artists talentless and empty would be a disappointment. Taking several years of training, most of the bands that were formed by recording companies underwent years of training. It usually takes them about six to seven years before their debut and one can only imagine the amount of pressure and talent it costs.
Another fascinating thing would be the fact that the industry of K-pop in Korea is part of their economy and is registered as a domestic product across the globe. It literally transcends from the arts and music to the business and economy. The ideal millennial surge.
Social media and the rise of being opinionated also brought about the change K-pop is trying to be. It has sparked numerous debates on how and why K-pop is “art.”
Does it matter? So long as it makes the hearts of the desperate, dream-driven teen beat, whether it is an art form or not, is not important. The term “jejemon” just wouldn’t work anymore when used to spite its fans.
“Couldn’t you do better than that?” the fans would reply as you type out how gross and shameful they are for supporting these skinny-jean sporting boys and daisy-dukes-with-roller-skates-clad girls, dancing and singing and rapping their emotions out in a strange Asian language.
There’s no room anymore for shunning one’s idolatry for a certain trope. It’s not a thing anymore, at least not in our time.
So to speak badly of K-pop would be an entire predicament for one, as it definitely defines this generation and what it stands for.