The Creative Input of K-pop Artists

Kangta (Source: allkpop)

While many K-pop artists are managed to varying degrees by entertainment agencies, there have always been those who participate in the creative production of music.

It is common for those who write about K-pop groups to bemoan the lack of creative input by K-pop artists, particularly those who are identified as “idols,” individuals who engage in extra-musical activities in addition to musical performance. When writers do recognize such input, they often do so to point to a handful of K-pop artists who defy the odds and participate in the production of their own music. For example, in a story on Monsta X, Taylor Glasby writes, “K-pop can seem like a factory, its idols helpless drones rather than artists, and the stress and fatigue are often in the spotlight.” Writers frequently point to the casting and training system as a factory stifles creativity. They often highlight recent groups as those who have defied the odds. Monsta X debuted in 2015.

Doing so alludes to an unspoken comparison to “authentic” artists who are  involved in the production of their own music. However, this ignores the very long and prominent history of prominent pop artists not being involved in the creation of their music, as well as musical collaboration in American pop music, much of which goes uncredited. The documentary The Wrecking Crew (2008)reveals the impact of a group of session players responsible for many songs in American pop music in the 1960s. The documentary notes that this group of musicians often made up a lot of arrangements themselves beyond what may have been written, and sometimes, the artists themselves were never involved in the production of the music. The music industry has only become more collaborative, with musicians, producers and arrangers working from various locations. They do not even have to be in the same room to make a song. When K-pop artists are routinely characterized as not participating in the music creation process, it suggests that they are not legitimate.

However, it is the very casting and training system that also trains some K-pop artists to contribute creatively to music production. Shin Hyunjoon notes that “in a multi-story building with recording studios, rehearsal rooms and conference rooms, the staff and employees work as songwriter-arrangers, recording engineers, managers, choreographers, costume designers, design coordinators. . . . Not only singer-dancer-actor aspirants but also those who want to work for the company can get the relevant education in a classroom located in the entertainment companies’ buildings” (510). It seems a bit unrealistic to expect new trainees who may be in their early to-mid teens to become conversant in music production and work on a song. However, undergoing training process and debuting and performing as a group has given trainees the necessary experience, as several artists have gone on to become music producers.

More recent K-pop groups seem more likely to be involved in the production of their own music. allkpop points to members of BigBang, Highlight (formerly BEAST), Block B, B.A.P, VIXX, BTS, CNBlue, 2PM and BTOB as individuals who have either composed, produced or written lyrics for songs. Several of these groups are newer to K-pop. Some point to them, saying that the industry is changing by allowing them to participate in the production of their own music.

However, K-pop has always has some artists who provided creative input into music production for their own groups, their solo work and other people. As longtime fans know, H.O.T, widely acknowledged as the first successful male “idol” group, began to participate in the production of their own music with the album Outside Castle (2000). Kangta, a member of H.O.T, is credited with lyrics, composing and arranging “Pray for You” from Outside Castle and “Bit” (Hope) from Resurrection (1998), a song that ends up becoming the encore song for SM Town concerts.

After H.O.T’s disbandment, Kangta contributes to music production for other SM Entertainment artists, including Fly to the Sky, BoA, Girls’ Generation and Shinhwa (before the group left the label in 2003). For example, Kangta is credited with the lyrics (with Brian Joo, one of the two members of Fly to the Sky), composition and arrangement for Fly To the Sky’s 2001 track”Shy Love.”

Kangta also embarks on a solo music career following the disbandment of H.O.T. He not only collaborates with Vanness Wu for a Mandopop album, but also writes, arranges and produces a number of tracks for his own solo albums Polaris (2001), Pine Tree (2002), and Persona (2005). While his work with Vanness is electronic dance music, Kangta consistently relies on the ballad and natural instrumentation that emphasizes his voice, such as the track “Mabi (Paralysis)”:

Kangta demonstrates that some K-pop artists have participated in music production since the beginning of K-pop. This trend has become more commonplace recently, making the K-pop landscape more complicated, one that includes those who sing music produced by others (a long-time tradition in pop music) as well as those who produce music for themselves and others.

Image

elliefilet. “Kangta of H.O.T Says He Wants To Get Married.” allkpop. 16 Sept 2017. https://www.allkpop.com/article/2017/09/kangta-of-hot-says-he-wants-to-get-married (25 May 2018).

Sources

Shin Hyunjoon. “Have You Ever Seen The Rain? And Who’ll Stop the Rain?: The Globalizing Project of Korean pop (K-pop).” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 10.4 (2009): 507-523. DOI: 10.1080/14649370903166150.

Taylor Glasby. “Monsta X: The Boyband Surviving the K-pop Factory.” The Guardian. 4 May 2018. https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/may/04/monsta-x-the-boyband-surviving-the-k-pop-factory (25 May 2018).

Videos

SONEPANDA01. “HD] All Artists – Hope @ SMTown World Tour in Tokyo.” YouTube. 27 Oct 2012. https://youtu.be/mSVppYAeH9g (25 May 2018).

Zeroforce14. “Kangta – Paralysis.” YouTube. 12 Dec 2011. https://youtu.be/4282VnkgkPI (25 May 2018).

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The Creative Input of K-pop Artists by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

New K-pop Stans, Here’s What You Missed: Fan Favorites, 2012-2015

Source: Pixabay

The K-pop fandom landscape has changed in the past few years. Data suggests that the general K-pop “idol” fandom is more divided than it was less than 10 years ago and challenges some widely held notions about the preferences of global K-pop fans.

With the expansion of K-pop globally has come increased division among the general fandom. An article on seoulwave bemoans the increase of tensions among fan groups:  “The K-pop fan community is suffering from a plague right now. Fandoms everywhere are wrought with fan wars sparked by the most minor things. The source of this illness is, ironically, loyalty. As Korean entertainment companies keep pumping out new artists and K-pop continues its plan for world domination, fandoms begin to feel an almost desperate need to keep their favorite groups on top.”  Fans argue over whether it is better to be multi-fandom (a fan of multiple K-pop artists) or single fandom (a fan of one K-pop artist). Fans exchange insults on social media when they feel their artist has been disrespected. Newer K-pop fans seek to impose standards on the “correct” way to talk about artists.

However, survey data suggests that the general K-pop fandom was not always this divisive. This data, from my 3 Year Korean Popular Music Survey asked respondents to list their three favorite K-pop groups or artists. 362 responses were collected between April 19, 2012 and March 25, 2015. Respondents hailed from the United States  (116),  the Philippines, (42), Australia (22), Indonesia (17), the United Kingdom (15), Germany (14), Malaysia (13), Canada (12) and other countries.

Only 2% of respondents identified only one group in answer to the survey question. Most of the rest of the respondents had no problem identifying three distinct groups as their favorite. This suggests that being multi-fandom was the norm for global K-pop fans between 2012 and 2015.

Survey data also suggests that most respondents were not agency-stans, or K-pop fans who exclusively support one Korean entertainment agency. Only 8.1% identified three groups that were all represented by the same agency. 40% of respondents identified three groups from three different agencies. Only 2.8% identified all-girl groups and only 3.6% identified groups that tended to be largely aligned with hip-hop. Many respondent grouped artists that represent vastly different musical styles. For example, one respondent listed 2NE1, a female “idol” group that draws heavily on hip-hop, Super Junior, an “idol” group that frequently produces electronic music and Boyfriend, a newer “idol” group with a more pop-y sound. Another listed B.A.P, a hip-hop leaning male “idol” group, Girls’ Generation, one of the oldest and most popular girl groups and EXO, a male “idol” group with strong ties to R&B and electronic dance music.

Other respondents joined groups whose fandoms experience tension today. For example, jubilantj reports on a BTS fan’s apology letter to the fans of SHINee, BEAST, Winner, EXO, BigBang and VIXX in response to recent tensions among the fandoms. However, respondents frequently listed BTS with these very groups as their favorite between 2012 and 2015. One respondent listed BTS, Infinite and BigBang. Another listed BEAST, BTS and 2NE1. There were several who listed EXO, BTS and GOT7.

Other results point to a different kind of diversity among global K-pop fans that challenges widely-held notions. K-pop tends to be populated by groups, but 10% of the respondents identified a solo artist from a range of genres as one of their three favorites, including Beenzino, G-Dragon, IU, Ailee, Kim Hyun Joong and Junsu (Xia). While K-pop has more male groups than female groups and many complain about the cutesy image of many of the female groups, 28% of respondents identified at least one girl group as one of their favorite three. In addition, several respondents (8%) listed a K-pop artist that debuted in 2003 or earlier as one of their three favorites. Such older artists included H.O.T, the first successful “idol” group, Rain (Bi), the well-known solo artist, BoA, the very successful female artist, old-school hip-hop group 1TYM and veteran hip-hop group Epik High. While many describe K-pop as trendy, these responses point to the continued impact of K-pop on fans.

Asking K-pop fans to list their favorite groups revealed patterns in fan preferences and suggests that the attitudes and behavior of general K-pop fandom has shifted over time.

 

Sources

jubilantj. “BTS fan uploads lengthy, apologetic letters to various fandoms on behalf of all the ARMYs.” allkpop. 9 May 2016. https://www.allkpop.com/article/2016/05/bts-fan-uploads-lengthy-apologetic-letters-to-various-fandoms-on-behalf-of-all-the-armys (18 May 2018).

Staff. “How To Be a Better K-pop Fan.” seoulwave. 11 Dec 2017. http://www.seoulwave.com/2017/12/11/how-to-be-a-better-k-pop-fan/ (18 May 2018).

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New K-pop Stans, Here’s What You Missed: Fan Favorites, 2012-2015 by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

For Your Reading Pleasure: A Hallyu Bibliography, Part 10: LANGUAGE

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.

University of South Carolina Lancaster

Welcome to Part 10 of my ongoing series of bibliographic entries about Hallyu.   These entries are listed by year, not by author (TIP: If you know about a title or author and you want to see if it’s included in this listing, use the CTRL + F function).

To learn more about my searching parameters, information-gathering processes, and your ability to access these items, see my earlier essay titled For Your Reading Pleasure: Introducing A Hallyu Bibliography.”  Click for Part 1 , Part 2, Part 3, Part 4,  Part 5 , Part 6, Part 7 , Part 8, and Part 9 of the bibliography.

This is a working post, so if you would like to submit items to this list or to the bibliography, please contact me directly at kaetrena@mailbox.sc.edu

NOTE:  In order to make it easier to locate authors (and where possible), I’ve modified these APA Style citations by adding full author names where possible.

Lee, Jamie Shinhee. (2004). Linguistic hybridization in K-pop: discourse of self-assertion and resistance. World Englishes, 23(3): 429-450. doi: 10.1111/j.0883-2919.2004.00367.x

Lee, Jamie Shinhee. (2006). Linguistic Hybridization in K-pop, In Kingsley Bolton and Braj B. Kachru (eds.), Critical Concepts in Linguistics: World Englishes. Pp.299-326. London & New York: Routledge. 6 volume set. vol. 4.

You, Byeong Keun. (2005). Children negotiating Korean American ethnic identity through their heritage language. Bilingual Research Journal, 29(3): 711-721. doi: 10.1080/15235882.2005.10162860

Lee, Jamie Shinhee. (2007). “Im the illest fucka”: An Analysis of African American English in South Korean Hip Hop. English Today: The International Review of the English Language 23(2): 54-60.

Lee, Jamie Shinhee. (2007). Language and Identity: Entertainers in South Korean Pop Culture, In Miguel Mantero (ed.), Identity and Second Language Learning. pp. 283-303. Charlotte, NC: Information Age Publishing.

Park, Joseph Sung Yul. (2009). Regimenting languages on Korean television: subtitles and institutional authority. Text & Talk, 29(5): 547-570.

Hu, Brian. (2010). Korean TV Serials in the English-Language Diaspora: Translating Difference Online and Making It Racial. The Velvet Light Trap, 66 (Fall): 36 -49.

Lee, Jamie Shinhee. (2010). Glocalizing Keepin’ it real: South Korean hip hop playas. In M. Terkourafi (Ed.) Languages of Global Hip-Hop. London: Continuum International Publishing Group. pp. 139 – 161.

Rembert-Lang, LaToya D. (2010-2011). Reinforcing the power of Babel: The impact of copyright law on fansubbing. Intellectual Property Brief, 2(2): 21-33. 

Lee, J.S. 2011. Globalization of African American vernacular English in popular culture Blinglish in Korean hip hop. English World-Wide, 32(1): 1-23.

Cheon, Sang Yee. Teaching the language and culture of Korean through film and tv drama in an American university setting. Accessed from http://hawaii.edu/korea/pages/announce/inha07/papers/cheon.pdf

King, Ross. Globalization and the future of the Korean language. Accessed from http://www.academia.edu/3358628/Globalization_and_the_future_of_the_Korean_language_some_preliminary_thoughts

Jin, Dal Yong & Woongjae Ryoo. (2014). Critical interpretation of hybrid K-pop: The global-local paradigm of English-mixing in lyrics. Popular Music & Society, 37(2): 113-131.

Shin, Seong-Chu. (n.d.) Students’ motivation, learning experiences, and learning style preferences: A survey on Australian college students of Korean. Accessed from http://rp-www.arts.usyd.edu.au/korean/downloads/KSAA2009/Global_Korea_Proceedings_401-417_Shin.pdf

Happy Reading!

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On The Passing of Jonghyun

Like many K-pop fans, the members of KPK: Kpop Kollective are extremely heavy at heart about the passing of Jonghyun. Both Kaetrena and I are Shawols, and just saw the group in Dallas.  We know that for many, SHINee was the group that introduced them to K-pop, and Jonghyun was not only an integral part of the group, but shared his songwriting gifts with others.  He will be deeply missed.

Kaetrena has written “A Little Less SHINe(e), The Big Loss of Bling,” for her blog The Ink on the Page, which I believe is entirely fitting.

For Your Reading Pleasure: A Hallyu Bibliography, Part 11: WINTER SONATA

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.

University of South Carolina Lancaster

Welcome to Part 11 of my ongoing series of bibliographic entries about Hallyu.   These entries are listed by year, not by author (TIP: If you know about a title or author and you want to see if it’s included in this listing, use the CTRL + F function).

To learn more about my searching parameters, information-gathering processes, and your ability to access these items, see my earlier essay titled For Your Reading Pleasure: Introducing A Hallyu Bibliography.”  Click for Part 1 , Part 2, Part 3, Part 4,  Part 5 , Part 6, Part 7 , Part 8, Part 9, and Part 10 of the bibliography.

This is a working post, so if you would like to submit items to this list or to the bibliography, please contact me directly at kaetrena@mailbox.sc.edu

NOTE:  In order to make it easier to locate authors (and where possible), I’ve modified these APA Style citations by adding full author names where possible.

Kaori, H. (2005).  Assessing the popularity of Winter Sonata. How do women’s emotions affect the public sphere in Japan. Media Consumption and the Korean Wave in East Asia

Lee, Sue Kyung. (2005). The Korean wave in Japan: Winter sonata and its implications through audience perceptions. Thesis, University of Texas, Austin.

Kim, D. (2006). Transcending Borders: Korean Soap Opera, Winter Sonata, Effects on Japanese Middle-Aged Women. Paper presented to the 56th annual convention of the International Communication Association, Dresden, Germany, June.

Han, Min Hwa et al. (2007). Forced invisibility to negotiating visibility: Winter Sonata, the Hanyru phenomenon and Zainichi Koreans in Japan. Keio Communication Review. 29: 155-174. Accessed from http://www.mediacom.keio.ac.jp/publication/pdf2007/pdf/Min%20Wha%20HAN.pdf

Hanaki, T., A. Singhal, M. Han, D.-K. Kim and K. Chitnis. (2007) Hanryu, the Korean Wave, Sweeps East Asia: Winter Sonata, a South Korean Television Series, Grips Japan,  The International Communication Gazette 69(3): 281–94. Accessed from http://utminers.utep.edu/asinghal/Reports/Hanaki_Singhal_Han_Kim_Chitnis_Gazette_2007.pdf

Han, Benjamin Min. (2008). Reliving Winter Sonata: memory, nostalgia and identity. Post Script, 27(3). Accessed from http://www.freepatentsonline.com/article/Post-Script/191765321.html

Han, Hee Joo & Jae-Sub Lee. (2008). A Study on the KBS drama Winter Sonata and its impact on Korea’s Hallyu tourism development. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing, 24 (2/3): 115-126. 

Kim, Samuel Seongseop, Jerome Agrusa and Kaye Chon. (2008). The effects of Korean pop culture on Hong Kong residents’ perceptions of Korea as a potential tourist destination. Journal of Travel & Tourism, 24(2/3):  163-183.

Mori, Yoshitaka. (2008). Winter Sonata and cultural practices of active fans in Japan: Considering middle-aged women as cultural agents. In C.B. Huat and K. Iwabuchi (Eds.) East Asian Pop Culture: Analyzing the Korean Wave. pp. 127-X. Aberdeen: Hong Kong University Press. 

Kim, Do Hyun et al. (2009). Television drama, narrative engagement and audience buying behavior: The Effects of Winter Sonata in Japan.The International Communication Gazette, 71(7): 1-17. Accessed from http://utminers.utep.edu/asinghal/Articles%20and%20Chapters/Kim-Singhal-et-al-2009-Winter-Sonata-0purchasing-behavior-Gazette-1.pdf

Lee, Jonghoon. (2010). Winter sonata dreams: The influence of the Korean wave on Japanese society. Thesis, Florida State University. 

Tokita, Alison. (2010). Winter Sonata and the politics of memory. In Black, D., Stephen Epstein and Alison Tokita (Eds.) Complicated Currents. Clayton, Victoria, Australia: Monash University ePress. Accessed from http://books.publishing.monash.edu/apps/bookworm/view/Complicated+Currents/122/xhtml/chapter3.html

Happy Reading!

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The Music of INFINITE

The Music of INFINITE

Crystal S. Anderson, PhD

Longwood University

Infinite consistently produces electronic pop. While they have their share of fans, their releases receive few reviews. However, “Amazing” and “The Chaser” have received a positive reception. Arnold notes: “This song is spot on when it comes to fusing Infinite’s voices and a flawless pop arrangement. It’s got a classic drum section, with a sparkly piano line that helps lift this song off of the ground.”  Nicola Rivera writes that “The Chaser” “is Infinite inside out. . . . The Infinite synths are there, the rap part is ever so slightly familiar, and the melody is so well-done. Another thing I like so much about Infinite is how they make a potentially heavy song very light and flow-y, without losing character and punch.”

Spotlight Tracks: 1. Tic Toc, Over the Top (2011) | 2. The Chaser, Infinitize (2012) | 3. Paradise,  Paradise (2011) | 4. Only Tears, Infinitize (2012) | 5. Amazing, Over the Top, (2011) | 6. Cover Girl (2012) | 7. Julia, Over the Top (2011) | Real Story, Over the Top (2011)

For more information about the music of Infinite, see the digital exhibit Infinite: Over the Top.

Sources

Image

alice101. “INFINITE reveal which artists they want to collaborate with.” allkpop. 7 Oct 2016. http://www.allkpop.com/article/2016/10/infinite-reveal-which-artists-they-want-to-collaborate-with (28 Jul 2017).

Sources

Arnold. “[Review] ‘Over the Top’ by INFINITE.” Allkpop. 1 Aug 2011. https://www.allkpop.com/article/2011/08/review-over-the-top-by-infinite. (29 Aug 2017).

Rivera, Nicola. “INFINITE – “INFINITIZE”” Pop Reviews Now. 15 May 2012. http://popreviewsnow.blogspot.com/2012/05/infinite-infinitize.html. (5 Sept 2017).

 

Let KPK Introduce You to…Johnny Gill

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.

University of South Carolina Lancaster

Artist: Park Hyo Shin

Press Play to Hear “어느새 (Suddenly)” from Park Hyo Shin’s album Neoclassicism (released June 2, 2005).

Park Hyo Shin’s vocal styling echoes…

Artist: Johnny Gill

Press Play to hear “Lady Dujour” from Johnny Gill’s album Let’s Get the Mood Right (released October 8, 1996).

ELEMENTS OF NOTE:

  • Wide vocal range, from falsetto to baritone.
  • Emotional vocal tones
  • Rich R&B instrumentation and arrangement.

MORE CONTEXT:

Learn more about Johnny Gill.

Happy Listening!

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For Your Reading Pleasure: A Hallyu Bibliography, Part 9: IMAGE

Kaetrena Davis Kendrick, M.S.L.S.

University of South Carolina Lancaster

Welcome to Part 9 of my ongoing series of bibliographic entries about Hallyu.   These entries are listed by year, not by author (TIP: If you know about a title or author and you want to see if it’s included in this listing, use the CTRL + F function).

To learn more about my searching parameters, information-gathering processes, and your ability to access these items, see my earlier essay titled For Your Reading Pleasure: Introducing A Hallyu Bibliography.”  Click for Part 1 , Part 2, Part 3, Part 4,  Part 5 , Part 6, Part 7 , and Part 8 of the bibliography.

This is a working post, so if you would like to submit items to this list or to the bibliography, please contact me directly at kaetrena@mailbox.sc.edu

NOTE:  In order to make it easier to locate authors (and where possible), I’ve modified these APA Style citations by adding full author names where possible.

Chung, Heejoon. (2003). Sport star vs. Rock star in globalizing popular culture: Similarities, differences and paradoxes in discussion of celebrities. International review for the Sociology of Sport, 38(1): 99-108.

Park. G. (2004). An analysis of the effects of Hanlyu reflected in street fashion in China. Korean Journal of Human Ecology, 13(6): 967-983.

Rhee, Seung Chul. (2006). The average Korean attractive face. Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 30(6): 729-730. doi: 10.1007/s00266-006-0157-x

Tsai, Eva. (2007). Caught in the terrains: an inter-referential inquiry of trans-border stardom and fandom. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 8(1): 135-154. ALSO PRINTED in:  Tsai, Eva. 2007. Caught in the terrains: an inter-referential inquiry of trans-border stardom and fandom. In K-H Chen and C.B. Huat (Eds.) The Inter-Asia Cultural Studies Reader. pp.323-344. Abingdon: Routledge.

Rhee, Seung Chul, Eun Sang Dhong and Eul Sik Yoon. (2009). Photogrammatic facial analysis of attractive Korean entertainers. Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, 33(2): 167-174.

Lee Soojin. (2010). Celebrity fandom and its relationship to tourism and leisure behaviors: the case of the Korean wave. Thesis, Texas A&M University.

Kim, Joo Mee and Se Yeong Shin. (2011). The study on fashion, beauty, design and emotional image by external image type of Korean male idol stars. Fashion Business, 15(6):71-84. abstract here: http://www.papersearch.net/view/detail.asp?detail_key=1k901120

Kim, Yeran. (2011). Idol republic: the global emergence of girl industries and the commercialization of girl bodies. Journal of Gender Studies, 20(4): 333-345. DOI:10.1080/09589236.2011.617604 

Park, Judy. (2011). The aesthetic style of Korean singers in Japan: A review of Hallyu from the perspective of fashion. International Journal of Business and Social Science, 2(19): 23- 34. Accessed from http://www.ijbssnet.com/journals/Vol_2_No_19_Special_Issue_October_2011/3.pdf

Maliangkay, Roald. (2012). The token non-conformist: The packaging of Korean boy and girl bands. Presented at the Nam Center for Korean Studies’ Hallyu 2.0: The Korean Wave in the Age of Social Media Symposium. Accessed from https://www.ii.umich.edu/ncks/news-events/events/conferences—symposia/hallyu-2-0–the-korean-wave-in-the-age-of-social-media/hallyu-program/hallyu-2-0–roald-maliangkay.html 

Sung, Sang-Yeon Loise. (2012). The role of Hallyu in the construction of East Asian regional identity in Vienna. European Journal of East Asian Studies. 11(1): 155-171.

Howard, Keith. (2015). Politics, parodies, and the paradox of Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style.’ Romanian Journal of Sociological Studies, (1): 14-29. Accessed from http://journalofsociology.ro/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Full-text-pdf.1.pdf

Unger. Michael A. (2015). The aphoria of presentation: Deconstructing the genre of K-pop girl group music videos in South Korea. Journal of Popular Music Studies, 27(1): 25-47.

Kim, Suk Young. (2016). The many faces of K-pop music videos: Revues, Motown, and Broadway in ‘Twinkle.’ Journal of Popular Culture, 49(1): 136-154.

Rocha, Nayelli Lopez. (2016). The role of Hallyu as pop culture in the creation and dissemination of the contemporary Korean woman’s image. Portes: Revista Mexicana de estudios sobre la Cuenca del Pacifico, 9(18): 171-195. Accessed 16 June 2016 from http://revistasacademicas.ucol.mx/index.php/portes/article/view/412

Happy Reading!

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3 Useful Things To Know About Cultural Appropriation and K-pop

3 Useful Things To Know About Cultural Appropriation and K-pop

 

It was great to be a part of the “Black Popular Music and K-pop” panel at #KCON17LA. The session was lively! In light of that discussion, here are three things that may be useful as people continue to think about the session or for those who could not attend. The session was important, not just for black K-pop fans to voice their experiences, but for ALL fans of K-pop, since we are getting joy from the influence of black popular music on K-pop.

What is Cultural Appropriation….REALLY?

Cultural appropriation is a term that comes from academia, used in a variety of scholarly fields, where it was a neutral concept. In Cultural Appropriation and the Arts, James O. Young notes that it has since come to mean something different:

It does not necessarily carry with it any moral baggage. Someone might prefer to use the concept of cultural appropriation to designate an objectionable class of transactions. Such people would distinguish cultural appropriation from cultural exchange or cultural borrowing, which could be unobjectionable. (5)

Young goes on to apply the concept “to any use of something developed in one cultural context by someone who belongs to another culture” (5). This is neutral. However, when people use the term in relation to K-pop, they often tend to do so to point out negative appropriation, where the cultural use is objectionable.

BUT, appropriation is inevitable when cultures come into contact with each other. Young says, “Almost all artists engage in some sort of appropriation in that they borrow ideas, motifs, plots, technical devices, and so forth from other artists (4).

So how can we tell the difference between the inevitable cultural exchange and negative appropriation? I like Elizabeth Jaikaran‘s three questions to pose when wondering if something is negative cultural appropriation in “The Discussion We Need to Have: Cultural Appropriation vs. Cultural Appreciation:”

Is the cultural element that is being used exclusive to my own cultural tradition?

Is the institution using this element a truly problematic one that is harmful to my culture’s dignity?

Based on the answers gleaned from 1 and 2, is this appropriation or appreciation?

This may be helpful for K-pop fans trying to make sense of what they may perceive as negative appropriation. This involves not only using an element of black popular culture, but doing so in a way that mocks or demeans. So, you can have feelings about some uses of black popular culture by K-pop, but it doesn’t necessarily rise to the level of negative cultural appropriation.

The Interracial Roots of Black Popular Music

Some people feel some kind of way about the influence of black music on K-pop. Black popular music been used by those who did not always acknowledge the source of the music, but it has also been made and appreciated by those outside of the culture. Black popular music itself appropriates (in the neutral sense!) from other cultures and it has operated as an inviting site where everyone is welcome.   For example, Robin D.G. Kelley notes that anyone can have soul:

Soul was a euphemism or a creative way of identifying what many believed was a black aesthetic or black style, and it was a synonym for black itself or a way to talk about being black without reference to color, which is why people of other ethnic groups could have soul. . . . It was almost never conceived by African Americans as an innate, genetically derived feature of black life (26-6).

To say that only black people can like, enjoy or participate in black music is essentialist and contradicted by the history of black music. Black popular music in the United States historically provided a space where black and white musicians could come together to make some of the most memorable music, including jazz, rock, R&B and hip-hop.  The documentary Muscle Shoals shows how white musicians from Alabama provided the instrumentation for some of the most soulful records ever produced during the segregation era.  Def Jam Records, iconic in American hip-hop, was founded by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin, a white music producer who began as a college kid running music production out of his NYU dorm room.

Moreover, black people are very involved in the production of K-pop, including Ebony Rae Vanderveer and Bruce “Automatic” Vanderveer of InRage Entertainment, who were instrumental in bringing the “Black American Music and K-pop” panel to KCON. Looking at the production credits for K-pop music reveals a plethora of black music producers who have solid credentials in American R&B and hip-hop.

The heart of black popular music is not exclusionary and K-pop artists do recognize the roots of black music. This can be seen in recorded radio show appearances by K-pop artists like Starry Night, Kiss the Radio, and Shimshimtapa, where they often talk about their influences or through interviews.

A New View on Authenticity

At the heart of the discussions at the panel at KCON was the notion of authenticity, but authenticity can be subjective. It can be impacted by how much knowledge or actual experience a person has. John L. Jackson warns of the limits of authenticity when it is based on “guidelines for proper and improper behavior, for legitimate and illegitimate group membership, for social inclusion or ostracism” that ultimately function to “delimit individuals’ social options” (13). In the case of K-pop, calls for limited forms of authenticity could result in actually excluding people if they do not conform. Different people have notions of what is real, so one person’s opinion that a K-pop artist is being “real” may differ from another. What if one person’s notion of authenticity is based on wrong information? Who gets to decide who is authentic?

Jackson poses an alternative, suggesting that we use the concept of sincerity which recognizes subjectivity and avoids exclusion: “Sincerity privileges intent . . . allowing for the possibility of performative ad-libbing and inevitable acceptance of trust amid uncertainty as the only solution to interpersonal ambiguity” (18). Instead of starting from suspicion and accusations of theft, sincerity leaves room for the possibility that people do not mean harm. A person can be sincere and still get it wrong.  Jackson suggests that we leave open that possibility.

 

Sources

Jackson, John L. Real Black: Adventures in Racial Sincerity. University of Chicago Press, 2005.

Kelley, Robin D.G. Yo Mama’s Disfunktional! Fighting the Culture Wars in Urban America. Beacon Press, 1997.

Young James O. Cultural Appropriation and the Arts. Blackwell Publishing Ltd. doi: 10.1002/9780470694190.ch1

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3 Useful Things To Know About Cultural Appropriation and K-pop by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Panelist at KCON 2017 LA!

Crystal S. Anderson (PhD), Director of KPK: Kpop Kollective will be a panelist at KCON 2017 LA! Panel 502B, “Black American Music and K-pop”, will be on Sunday, August 20, 2:30 p.m. – 3:30 p.m. Hope to see you there!

In the meantime, check out some of my work on Black American Music and K-pop.

Not Just Pretty Faces: K-pop Idols and Quiet Storm Masculinity

Black Popular Music and K-pop

Ethnicity, Glamour and Image in Korean Popular Music

How Does It Feel to be a Question?: That (Black) Girl and K-pop

K-pop and Hip Hop

Of Misconceptions About Cultural Appropriation in K-pop

Talking About Asians Behaving Badly: Fan Reaction to the Block B-Jenny Hyun-MBC Blackface Controversies