Wednesday, March 28, 2012

K is for K-Pop

I’ll admit this right upfront: I first heard of K-Pop (which stands for Korean Pop Music) only about a year ago and, oddly, the context was New Zealand politics.

Back in April of last year, the New Zealand Parliament was debating the horrible “Copyright (Infringing File Content) Amendment Bill,” which the National Party-led government was pursuing at the behest of US media conglomerates. One National MP, Melissa Lee, said in Parliament, "Breaking a law, whether it is actually assault on a person or an assault on a copyright, should be punished, not actually excused."

The problem for Lee was that not 24 hours earlier, she Tweeted:
“Ok. Shower… Reading… And then bed! Listening to a compilation a friend did for me of K Pop. Fab. Thanks Jay.”
When her hypocrisy was pointed out to her, she declared the songs had been legally downloaded. Trouble is, it was legal for her friend, not her—not unless her friend got permission from all the companies involved, or unless the friend was a member of Lee’s household. Still, she was lucky: Since the law she argued for had not yet taken effect, she escaped a fine of up to $15,000.

As it happens, K-Pop is big business in South Korea, where Lee was born in 1966, and there’s even been some international interest in the, well, genre is the best word, I guess. But it’s not easy describing exactly what K-Pop is because there are different types.

Take the video above, for example. The song is called “So Cool” from a group called Sistar. It was the first song to be number one when Billboard began the “Korea K-Pop Hot 100”, on August 25, 2011. The video below is the current number one on the “Korea K-Pop Hot 100”. It’s by a group called 2AM and the song is “I Wonder If You Hurt Like Me”. It’s quite different—but not so very different from boybands in other countries.

And for a final bit of over-the-top K-Pop intensity, there’s “Boyfriend” by the boyband of the same name. The group is part of a sort of sub-genre called “idol group”, as in “teen idol,” apparently. Who knew that pop music could be so complicated? Anyway, it was their first single, released in May of last year and reaching 7 on the Korean chart. It is SO over-the-top that I have to include it, too. The single also starred Bora, of Sistar, where this journey through K-Pop began.

Time for another admission: I don’t actually “get” K-Pop, which is fine, since it’s not intended for me, anyway. Some of the boys in these groups, well, let’s just get it out there: They kinda look like girls to me. That’s neither good nor bad, just a fact that I notice with many of these groups. Also, the songs seem way over-produced, even for over-the-top teen-oriented pop. Still, it’s been a few years since I was in the target age group, so maybe I’m just an old fogey.

Having said all that, and having heaped my all-too-grown-up and English language-centric scorn on these songs, let me add one more admission: Despite it all, I find many of these K-Pop songs kinda, well, fun. And isn’t that really the point of pop music, wherever it comes from?

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Roger Owen Green said...

Some music is for fun, some for some "higher purpose". I like lots of music for lots of different reasons.

ROG, ABC Wednesday team

EJ said...

They do look like girls hehehe. We lived in S. Korea for two years and wasn't aware of K-Pop maybe because we live in the military base and what we watch is American shows.