Crystal S. Anderson, PhD, will be presenting as part of the panel, Deconstructing Cultural Boundaries: K-pop’s Participatory Culture in the Digitally Networked Era with scholars Dal Yong Jin, Seok-Kyeong Hon and Jee Wong Lee, Ju Oak Kim and Wonjung Min at the 2019 International Communications Association Conference (#ica19) in Washington, DC on Monday, May 27, 2019, 8:00 – 9:15 a.m. in Fairchild (Washington Hilton, Terrace Level).
Her presentation, ” ‘U Go Girl’: Transcultural Fandom and K-pop Girl Groups,” focuses on female fans of K-pop girl groups. See the abstract below:
Much of the scholarship on Korean pop girl groups focuses on the perceived uniformity of the members of the groups, the appeal of the female members to men and the affinity between female fans in Korea and Asia and the members of the groups. However, with the continued global spread of K-pop comes increased transcultural fan engagement. This paper seeks to discern the appeal of K-pop girl groups for global fans. Analyzing music videos and qualitative survey data, this paper argues that K-pop girl groups emulate a range of concepts which global fans find empowering and visual aesthetics that fans find appealing. Such appeal is significant because it challenges the dominance of a white, Western standard of beauty and female celebrity. The way that “idols” invite fans to participate in engagement encourages fans to see them as more approachable as compared to Western celebrities.
Last week, I kicked off the first #WheeWednesday with a song by an artist unfamiliar to many K-pop fans. This #WheeWednesday, it’s a song by a group most K-pop fans know: EXO!
EXO burst onto the K-pop scene seven years ago with 12 members and the Gregorian chant of “Mama.” Now with 9 members (we still see you, Lay!), they have become known for upbeat tracks like “Growl” (2013) and “Don’t Mess Up My Tempo” (2018). But EXO-Ls know that the group’s music also showcases the vocal talents of its members as well. “Heaven” from the group’s third album Ex’Act (2016) opens with Chen’s distinctive vocals and a lone piano. When the beat drops, Chanyeol continues the song’s easy rhythm with a laid-back rap. The track is a nice break from their dance-infused tracks. It’s a treat!
U Go Girl! The K-pop Girl Group Fan Study is the latest survey in the iFans: K-pop’s Global Fandom project. This survey seeks to understand the appeal of K-pop girl groups for female fans outside of Korea and will be open March 20, 2019-September 20, 2019. Click here to take the survey! If you have any questions about his research please contact Dr. Crystal S. Anderson, Research Scholar of Cultural Studies, Longwood University (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Why do a study on female fans of K-pop girl groups?
Academics have been writing about K-pop more and more, but the work on girl groups tends to focus on the way girl groups appeal to men, the perception that girl groups do not have a variety of concepts or that the members are styled to look alike. Few studies ask the female fans themselves what they think about K-pop girl groups. This study will help us understand what real life fans think about K-pop girl groups.
At KPK: Kpop Kollective, we are all about K-pop music. Kaetrena writes about the musical influences on K-pop in her series Let KPK Introduce You To… In that vein, I’m starting a new series, #WheeWednesday, where I share music by some of the lesser-known K-pop artists as well as deep cuts from musical releases by K-pop’s more popular artists.
Since it’s called #WheeWednesday, its appropriate that the first song is from Wheesung (Choi Wheesung).
Wheesung debuted in 1999, the same year as another major Korean singer, Park Hyo Shin. Unlike Park, Wheesung is known for choreography as well as hip-hop inflected tracks. He’s worked with other notable Korean R&B singers like g.o.d.’s Kim Tae Woo as well as veteran hip-hop artists like Masta Wu. Such collaborations show how easily he straddle genres in K-pop. His first album, Like a Movie (2002) was a straight-up R&B endeavor, solidifying his reputation as a vocalist. The intro not only features what will become his common shoutout using his stage name, “RealSlow,” but also announces that “you don’t know me yet.”
Here is your chance to get to know Wheesung! It’s a challenge to choose a representative song by Wheesung, since his work ranges from ballads to dance tracks. “With Me,” from the 2003 album It’s Real, shows off Wheesung’s strong vocals as well as his comfort with hip-hop rhythms and rap verses.
I hope you enjoy this track and see what else RealSlow has to offer!
Increasingly, K-pop songs are being measured outside of South Korea by chart performance. This relatively new development puts greater emphasis on using charts as metrics for popularity, which some equate with music value. However, such metrics are not neutral, and obscure other ways of ascertaining popularity among K-pop listeners.
While subcultures in several countries have enjoyed it for years, K-pop music has recently experienced mainstream popularity, particularly in countries like the United States. K-pop artists such as BTS, NCT 127 and GOT7 have appeared on American television, and several other groups, including MONSTA X, BLACKPINK, and Red Velvet, are embarking on tours of the United States in 2019. With this increased popularity has come increased attention to the performance of K-pop songs on music charts. In 2018, Billboard announced that it would include plays from services such as Apple Music, Amazon Music, Spotify and SoundCloud in its chart calculations, giving them more weight to plays on services like YouTube. Such changes gave K-pop fans more incentive to mobilize to increase the visibility of their favorite groups on such charts. Unofficial fanclubs rally their members to stream and view in large numbers.
In “Reading the Charts – Making Sense With the Hit Parade” from the academic journal Popular Music, Martin Parker explains that music charts are unique in their role as reference points for music listeners (205). On one hand, music charts serve the interests of the music industry: “The sales charts empirically demonstrate the successes and failures of record companies, producers, designers, managers and recording artists, on the assumption that the more units sold the better the individuals have done in their respective jobs” (208). On the other hand, Parker also argues that “the consumer is more deeply ‘involved’ in the play of figures and faces than the professional ever is, the latter’s enthusiasm ending with the (relative) autonomy of leisure, when the former’s begins” (209). Fans also have an investment in artist performance on the chart.
However, this was not always the case with K-pop music, especially for the global fan. Before the ease of access afforded by Spotify and iTunes, global K-pop fans relied on file-sharing sites like 4shared and MediaFire to obtain music. Fans also depended on other fans to upload K-pop music videos and music to YouTube, resulting in several versions appearing on the platform. However, that scenario does not help with chart performance, so increasingly, the number of copies of music videos dwindled as fans encouraged others to view the “official” versions.
A close look at the kinds of media on YouTube by K-pop artists shows how fans now view with an eye to charts rather than enjoyment of the music. K-pop media outlets frequently report the number of views a music video receives over the course of its life on YouTube, from the first 24 hours to milestones of millions of views. However, they do not disclose the views of other kinds of media related to K-pop artist, such as comeback stages on music shows, which are part of the promotional cycle for K-pop artists. Any comparison of music video views and views of music show appearances show a significant difference.
The rise in the significance of views and streams reflect a more active listener interaction, but Parker suggests that it is also tied to the increased interest in K-pop by the music industry, including the music industry media outside of Korea: “In terms of the music industry this myth of democracy tends to conceal the extent to which the agenda of consumer choices is set in the first place by an oligopoly of transnational entertainment corporations based on a logic of profit” (211). In other words, fans may be the ones doing the viewing and streaming, but it is corporations that have granted value to the activity and act as arbiters of the measure of popularity, the music charts themselves.
At the same time, Parker notes that as prominent as music charts are, they are not the only measure of popularity: “The chart is not central to all consumers and producers of pop music. Many either do not care about it or actively resist it” (206). This is true of K-pop music. Global fans make music recommendations through sites like Reddit, which completely bypasses the charts. Fans still upload songs, and in some cases, whole albums, which allow fans to listen new music without caring about chart performance. K-pop fans continue to introduce others to K-pop music through recommendations on their personal Facebook pages as well as tweets. Even as K-pop music continues to gain more global popularity driven by corporate interests in the mainstream, K-pop fans continue to determine popularity for themselves beyond the music chart.
A recent Rolling Stone article discusses the major thread of American R&B in Kpop music. A producer notes the attraction towards the genre, sharing, “Korean pop music likes differentiation and changes,..the average American song is four melodies, maybe five. The average K-pop song is eight to 10. They are also very heavy in the harmonies. The one-loop beat doesn’t work over there…” (Leight, 2018)
Well – we stan complexity.
In this edition of “Let Us Introduce You To…” we showcase a song that highlights how that nostalgic R&B feel is built in Kpop by using numerous beats, harmonies, and even rap cadence to hook listeners by producing a new sound that simultaneously feels familiar.
Press Play to Hear “Lock You Down” from SHINee’s album The Story of Light EP 3 (released June 25, 2018).
Lock You Down’s beats echo…
Artist: Vanity 6
Press Play to Hear “Nasty Girl” from Vanity 6’s album Vanity 6 (released August 11, 1982).
Finding The Most Important K-pop Stuff So You Don’t Have To
K-pop Game Changers
Bang Shi Hyuk, CEO of Big Hit Entertainment, and Lee Soo Man, founder of SM Entertainment make Variety’s “International Music Leaders of 2018” list. The article credits Bang with BTS’s recent global success and charting in the United States in 2018 yet describes Lee’s long-term impact on the industry. (See Variety: International Music Leaders of 2018)
Taeyeon, “Something New,” Something New
BTOB, “Only One For Me (너 없인 안 된다),” This Is Us
Yang Yoseob, “On the Road,” Re: playlist, Vol.1
Like a Movie, “Twilight”
Kim Dong Han, “Sunset,” D-Day
Minseo, _Is Who
Park Kyung (Block B), “Instant (ft Sumin)
BlackPink, “DDU-DU DDU-DU,” Square Up
BlackPink, “Forever Young,” Square Up
AOA, “빙글뱅글 Bingle Bangle,” Dance Practice
Kahn, “I’m Your Girl?” Dance Practice
SMTOWN. “TAEYEON 태연 ‘Something New’ MV” YouTube. 18 Jun 2018. https://youtu.be/im1UUY8dQIk (19 Jun 2018).
1theK. “[MV] BTOB(비투비) _ Only one for me(너 없인 안 된다).” YouTube. 18 Jun 2018. https://youtu.be/fHQkdIGue3k (18 Jun 2018).
BLACKPINK. “BLACKPINK – ‘뚜두뚜두 (DDU-DU DDU-DU)’ DANCE PRACTICE VIDEO (MOVING VER.).” YouTube. 17 Jun 2018. https://youtu.be/jOJbXvjZ-cQ (18 Jun 2018).
1theK. “[MV] YANG YOSEOP(양요섭) _ On the road(길에서) (RE:PLAYLIST(리플리) Vol.1).” YouTube. 17 Jun 2018. https://youtu.be/haRMtIy8fns (18 Jun 2018).
Stone Music Entertainment. “영화처럼 (Like a Movie) – Twillight MV.” YouTube. 16 Jun 2018. https://youtu.be/MuiOTIaCCKs (18 Jun 2018).
FNCEnt. “AOA – 빙글뱅글 (Bingle Bangle) 안무영상 (Dance Practice) Full Ver.” YouTube. 19 Jun 2018. https://youtu.be/b3mMeYS2wzE (19 Jun 2018).
1theK. “[MV] Kim Dong Han(김동한) _ SUNSET.” YouTube. 19 Jun 2018. https://youtu.be/CQNvMyQTIHw (26 Jun 2018).
BLACKPINK. “BLACKPINK – ‘Forever Young’ DANCE PRACTICE VIDEO (MOVING VER.).” YouTube. 20 Jun 2018. https://youtu.be/89kTb73csYg (26 Jun 2018).
1theK. “[MV] MINSEO(민서) _ Is Who.” YouTube. 20 Jun 2018. https://youtu.be/IT7e8OtHzKM (26 Jun 2018).
KHAN. “KHAN I’m Your Girl ? dance practice.” YouTube. 20 Jun 2018. https://youtu.be/Em3Ko7g22ao (26 Jun 2018).
seven seasons. “박경 (PARK KYUNG) – INSTANT (Feat. SUMIN) Official Music Video.” YouTube. https://youtu.be/ZIgwMb4cf_w (26 Jun 2018).
Finding The Most Important K-pop Stuff So You Don’t Have To
The Return of the Kings
TVXQ broke attendance records by attracting one million to their “Begin Again” Tour in Japan that began in November 2017. This also sets a new record for most concertgoers in a single tour for a foreign artist in Japan. This is significant, as the tour is the first following their mandatory military service. As a veteran K-pop group that has been together over 15 years, the concert attendance shows that TVXQ remains popular in the competitive Japanese market. (See Soompi: “TVXQ Sets New Record in Japan for Foreign Artists With Most Concertgoers At A Single Tour“)
New videos this week from Longguo (aka Kim Yong Guk, formerly of JBJ) and Nano (formerly of History), OSTs for Are You Human? and About Time, newcomers DPR Live and BlackPink and veteran K-pop group SHINee.
Longguo, “Clover” Ft. Yoon Mirae
Lyn, Hanhae, “Love,” Are You Human? OST Part 2
DPR Live, “Playlist”
Hui, “Maybe,” About Time OST Part 3
Nano, “Walkin’ (ft. Pry)”
SHINee, “I Want You,” The Story of Light EP. 2
BlackPink, “뚜두뚜두 (DDU-DU DDU-DU),” Square Up
Choreography videos from fromis_9, A.C.E and Viction.
fromis_9, “두근두근(DKDK)” Choreography Ver.
A.C.E, “Take Me Higher” Relay Dance
Viction, “Time of Sorrow (오월애)”
Choon Entertainment. “[MV] 용국(LONGGUO) – CLOVER(Feat.윤미래).” YouTube. 13 Jun 2018. https://youtu.be/-Ot30Tlslfs (13 Jun 2018).
SUPER SOUND Bugs! “[M/V] LYn, HANHAE(린, 한해) – LOVE.” YouTube. 12 Jun 2018. https://youtu.be/py4nem_e-nA (18 Jun 2018).
Dream Perfect Regime. “DPR LIVE – Playlist (OFFICIAL M/V).” YouTube. 12 Jun 2018. https://youtu.be/n0LYGzYt6DU . (18 Jun 2018).
Stone Music Entertainment. “[멈추고 싶은 순간 : 어바웃타임 OST Part 3] 후이 (Hui) – Maybe MV.” YouTube. 12 Jun 2018. https://youtu.be/-VsOrKThs3Y (18 Jun 2018).
While it may seem that the current norm in K-pop is single-fandom (the tendency to support just one artist), data suggests that older K-pop fans started and continue to be multi-fandom. This may be another way the overall K-pop fandom has shifted in the past few years.
With the rise of K-pop groups, their individual fandoms have also garnered more attention, leading some to focus on using a single fandom to define K-pop fandom in general. However, 316 responses collected between April 29, 2011 and March 4, 2015 suggest that K-pop fans of that era exhibited very different behaviors and attitudes. Respondents were asked the open-ended question, “How did you become interested in K-pop?”
Many respondents related their entrance into K-pop with specific groups, and overwhelmingly with one group in particular: SHINee. Other high recurring groups include BigBang, Super Junior and TVXQ. Rain was the most-cited solo artist. What is interesting is that these groups all debuted between 2003 and 2009. The first responses collected in 2011, so none of these groups were brand new to the K-pop scene at the time that respondents encountered them. For this generation of K-pop fan, the appeal of K-pop was asynchronous, meaning that individuals became fans, not as a result of debut promotion or marketing, but by other means.
More importantly, respondents routinely noted that once they discovered one K-pop group, they were motivated to look for additional groups. One noted, “My friend showed me SHINee’s Lucifer video, and I was immediately addicted to them. So then I started looking up other groups too.” Another responded wrote: “I started listening to more BigBang, and then other groups such as 2NE1 and SHINee, and then read a ton of Wikipedia pages about different groups and record labels and learned about the training system that K-pop stars go through before debuting. I also started watching variety shows that K-pop idols appear on, and find that whole concept really interesting too.” I call this phenomenon branching.
Some respondents go through a great deal of effort to expand to additional K-pop groups. One respondent explained how a search to find one K-pop song led to more: “However, the obsession didn’t just stop with that song. During the many hours that I spent trying to find the name of that song, I discovered many other catchy tunes and fell in love with a new genre of music that I had never heard of before.” Several respondents use the term “research” to describe the activity of looking for more K-pop groups: “I became interested in K-pop when I accidentally happened upon a Super Junior song on YouTube about 3-4 years ago. I don’t remember what song it was. But after I heard it I was thinking… Wow. This is good stuff. I want more. I wanna hear more. I researched, found more groups I absolutely fell in love with. Then 2-3 years ago, I found Big Bang, followed by 2NE1. And now all of the other amazing groups I love.”
For some, the quest for more K-pop groups takes them to other forms of Korean entertainment. K-drama and K-pop are linked, as members of K-pop groups often star in Korean television dramas and perform on soundtracks for the shows. One respondent noted: “I happened across Kdramas and liked an actor in it. I found out he was a singer and then discovered other singers, groups, bands, etc.” Another explained: “Hulu.com recommended a Kdrama to me called “Boys over Flowers” and as I became more interested in the characters and the OST for the show, I started to look up various actors/singers on YouTube.”
And while “idols” may be the way many are introduced to K-pop, the phenomenon of branching may take fans far afield. One respondent wrote: “I think, what’s 2pm? I think my friend had mentioned groups named 2pm and 2am to me before, and I thought they were silly names. But I really liked Jason in Dream High, so I decided to look up this Wooyoung on YouTube. That day I discovered my love for K-pop. I became a hardcore Hottest, and expanded the groups and genres I listened to little by little until I was listening to anything from rap to pop to ballads to indie. All in a language I can’t completely understand.”
One respondent summed up the branching phenomenon with this formula:
JPop = discovered Tohoshinki = wiki = O.O = OMG! = google other kpop artists
Such findings suggest earlier generations of K-pop fans tend to develop more broad interests in K-pop that go beyond one group, while more contemporary fans seem to be more devoted to single groups. By only focusing exclusively on one group, they may be less knowledgeable about the larger K-pop and as a result may have distorted perceptions of it. These findings also support earlier findings that point to a more diverse general K-pop fandom, one that at the very least, is made up of those who support individual K-pop groups and those who support K-pop in general. Both may be needed for the continued viability of K-pop. Such findings reveal fan behavior that suggests that the appeal of K-pop is more complicated. The K-pop landscape continues to change.
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.
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).
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).
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).