WWLT, Vol. 2, No. 4

Image by Mondschwinge from Pixabay

Welcome to WWLT, or What We’re Listening To, which features mini music analyses that provide context and introduce readers to K-pop music that may be new-to-them.

This issue features analyses of tracks by Anyband, Suho, Red Velvet, BigBang and V.

Anyband, “Talk, Play Love + Promise You,” EP by Anyband (2007)

N Lina An

This collaboration had 4 prominent names from the 2nd generation of K-pop: BoA, (Jin) Bora, Tablo of Epik High and Xia (formerly Xiah Junsu of then 5-member group TVXQ). These 4 stars formed AnyBand, for the 4th Anycall music drama; as a project group to promote Samsung’s phone brand in 2007. The project band also has a 3rd track titled Daydream. The whole EP was produced by Tablo. Unfortunately, there is no official channel hosting this music video. The premise of the 9-minute music video shows an oppressed nation where talk, play and love is prohibited. Then, four separate individuals come together using the Anycall phone to spread a message encouraging people to talk, play and love freely. These 2 contrasting emotions are represented in 2 songs: Talk, Play, Love and Promise You.

In Talk, Play, Love, the song is in a minor key; giving the sense of oppression and hopelessness as the citizens are being controlled. The melody is within the same pitch range and short in its rhythmic articulations. This depicts the mundane and robotic life where there is no communication allowed. The use of the synthesizer gives a mechanical feel, and the alternating octave in the bass represents the march that the citizens are parading on the streets, elevating the cyborg-feel of the music video. In the bridge, the song scales down to a monophonic texture where BoA sings unaccompanied. Then, it crescendos to a final chorus with ad-libs by Xia, layered by BoA and Tablo singing the chorus in different octaves and Bora’s blues-y improvisation giving a polyphonic texture ending.

Promise You is the exact opposite, sounding much brighter in a major key. Its song structure is in clear verse and chorus forms, with longer and more melodious musical phrasings. We can hear BoA and Junsu as main vocals, taking turns in the verse while harmonizing in the chorus. And, Tablo’s rap is interwoven with Bora’s jazzy improvisation on the piano keys in the bridge. In the music video, it is represented by the citizens rejoicing in the newfound liberation as they are able to communicate via the Anycall phone. The chorus repeats “anytime any day with you” assuring that hope is always around with the magic of the phone’s communication system. But, in both songs, the keywords of talk, play, love is interspersed in the lyrics connecting both songs together.

BoA is no stranger to the K-pop scene. Known as the Queen of Kpop, her impact in the Kpop scene transcends borders as she is also popular in Japan and all across Asia. As of December 2021, she is a member of a group Got the Beat formed by SM Entertainment, and will release a Japanese album to commemorate her 20th anniversary in the industry. There is little found information about Jin Bora, who at a very young age learned the piano and went on to attend the prestigious Berklee College of Music under scholarship. According to her wikipedia page, her most recent performance was at the 2020 Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards where she performed “Flower” from the Crash Landing on You OST. >>

Xia has been active in the music industry since his debut with TVXQ in 2003. Apart from the 2-year hiatus to serve his military duties, he has been active in the musical theatre scene in South Korea and also as an artist in Japan. Recently, Xia has made a comeback into South Korean media by releasing his 3rd mini album Dimensions, and also appearing on cable TV, Channel A’s 요즘 남자 라이프 신랑수업 (Nowadays Men’s Life Groom Class) as a cast member. Tablo is leader, producer and one-third of hip-hop group Epik High who recently concluded their North American tour, and will be performing their 2022 Seoul tour in May 2022.

There has not been any further collaborations that saw the triangulation of pop, hip-hop and jazz styles since this project group, or even an advertisement for a phone brand of this scale. Only time would tell if such a powerful combination would make a comeback.


Windstruck44. “[ANYBAND] Music Video Full Vers. (Talk Play Love + Promise U)” YouTube. 16 Aug 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o24-Av2LIVw (15 April 2022)

The K-POP2. “2020 대한민국 대중문화예술상 시상식 | 2020 Korean Popular Culture and Arts Awards” Youtube. Streamed live on 28 Oct 2020. https://youtu.be/14dT14JYBzQ?t=2063 (15 April 2022)

Suho, “Hurdle,” Grey Suit (2022)

Vitoria F. Doretto

Following his solo debut with the mini-album Self-Portrait, in Grey Suit, the EXO’s leader deepens his roots in rock and sings about his time spent in the military (Morin, 2022). The six-track record comes shortly after Suho’s discharge from the military in February and evokes nostalgia with its 90’s vibe. 

In messages on Bubble (a chat with paid subscription), the singer asked the fans to listen to the album rightly, from the first to the last track, as it tells a story, and if one listens to the song separately it seems like watching a drama from the middle. But the second track has a livelier melody that draws attention and is completely different from “Grey Suit,” the title track, so it is not difficult for to it become the favorite on the album. “Hurdle,” the second track, has a mixture of funky verses and a cool chorus – the chorus is the highlight of the song and what makes it unforgettable, as it is fun and full of energy. It is a pop-rock song with city noise and an intense baseline in the intro that has witty lyrics about a person transcending time and running to someone loved, as the singer said in the countdown live on April 4 (EXO, 2022). Its lyrics were written by Gila, Noday, I’LL, Park Moonchi, and SH2O, it was composed by I’LL, Park Moonchi, Gila, and Noday, and arranged by Park Moonchi and Gila.

Although the music video is colorful and chaotic, settled in an office and expressing a workaholic society, its lyrics never miss the main theme, the desire to run to the lover. Its unique concept solidifies Suho’s identity as a soloist and his light tenor feels incredible in this song, more mature, and even the high number of high notes works really well and brings personality to the track.

“Hurdle” enables Suho to show his inner rock star, the live band in the performances adds to the appeal and it becomes a whole package.


EXO. [REPLAY] SUHO 수호 ‘Grey Suit’ Countdown Live. YouTube. 5 April 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZMpCCBmNLgc (April 17, 2022)

Morin, Natalie. “EXO’s Suho Talks Life After the Military and His Upcoming Solo Project”. Rolling Stone, 2022. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/suho-interview-exo-1315110 (April 17, 2022)

SMTOWN. SUHO 수호 ‘Hurdle’ MV. YouTube. 7 April 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0kPinfiIhb8 (April 17, 2022)

Red Velvet, “Day 1,” The Red (2015)  

Luisa do Amaral

Released in September 2015, Red Velvet’s first studio album The Red (2015) was the first installment in their series of records centered around their dual concept – fresh, bright and quirky “red” and  luscious, sultry and sexy “velvet” – which was followed by The Velvet (2016), Perfect Velvet (2017) and The Perfect Red Velvet (2018). In the 10-track album, “Day 1” is the second-to-last song, credited to Hwang Hyun of production team MonoTree. The star producer, a Classic Composition major who’s been called “the Beethoven of K-pop” (Gearlounge, 2021), has a long track record in the industry, having worked with Red Velvet’s senior groups at SM Entertainment – f(x), Girls’ Generation and S.E.S – as well as the agency’s boy groups Super Junior, SHINee and EXO-CBX, plus tracks such as LOONA’s “Hi High” (2018), “Kiss Later” (2017) and “Love & Live” (2017), Gfriend’s “Apple” (2020) and Stellar’s “Vibrato” (2015). More recently, he’s been recognised for his partnership with group ONF (WM Entertainment), having worked in all of their title tracks since their debut in 2017, and most of their b-sides, which have earned the group the title of “b-side masters” (Kim, 2022). 

Hwang worked in four Red Velvet tracks, including Japanese b-side “Aitai-tai” (from their 2018 Japanese debut EP #Cookie Jar). In “Day 1”, he is credited for lyrics, music and arrangement. The song’s title refers to the first day of a new relationship, right after a confession, as two good friends discover the joy of becoming lovers. Its quirky vibe made it a fan-favorite, being usually performed by the group during the special fan moments at the end of concerts. The song opens with guitar and bass, and its melody played by trumpet. The bossa nova sound establishes a distinctive softly lively atmosphere, whose upbeat aspects are highlighted by opting for pop-rock drums instead of the tamborim. The melodic motion is mainly upwards, which gives the song a sensation of constant growth. The latter part of the bridge has added layers of vocals and synths that increase its depth and make the track even bigger, and lead listeners into the last chorus and the outro to reach peak joy and excitement. This special layering of sounds to create a bigger-than-life effect is one of the most distinguishing characteristics of Hwang Hyun’s work, which is a perfect match for Red Velvet’s vocal colors. Yeri and Irene’s playfulness, Seulgi’s endearing excitement, Joy’s loveliness, and Wendy’s warm, bright range, play an important role in the process of crafting “Day 1”’s most heart-fluttering qualities. 


Red Velvet. “Day 1.” YouTube. 10 Nov 2016. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTaa3Pbv9c0 (20 Apr 2022)

Red Velvet. “[HD] Red Velvet Red Mare in Japan – Day 1.” YouTube. 28 Dec 2019. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rwzXDehdwEo (20 Apr 2022)

Gearlounge. “[GL Interview] K-Pop 프로듀싱 & 퍼블리싱 컴퍼니 모노트리의 대표, 황 현” [Hwan Hyun, CEO of K-Pop Production and Publishing Company MonoTree]. Gearlounge, 28 Jun, 2021, https://gearlounge.com/editorial/glinterview-yellowstring Accessed 20 Apr, 2022. 

EBS 펜타곤의 밤의 라디오 [EBS Pentagon Night Radio]. “[Full ver.] 음색노래춤컨셉 맛집 온앤오프의 매력을 알고 싶다면?! 김가네 K-POP w.김영대 평론가” [If you want to know the charm of ONF, the must-eat place for voices, songs, dance and concept? The Flavour of K-pop with Critic Kim Young-dae]. 11 Mar 2022. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mSkP_jXjHRM (20 Apr 2022) 

BIGBANG (featuring Park Bom of 2NE1), “We Belong Together,” Big Bang (2006)

Mariam Elba

In light of BIGBANG’s long-awaited comeback with single Still Life, and 2NE1’s surprise return to the stage for the first time since 2015 at Coachella, it’s fitting to return to their first musical collaborations together. At the beginning of both groups’ careers with YG Entertainment on BIGBANG’s debut self-titled single album (Park Bom would debut with 2NE1 two years after the release of this record). We Belong Together sets the stage for what would come for BIGBANG’s discography in the following 16 years. With music composed by member, G-Dragon, lyrics co-written with member T.O.P, and arranged by G-Dragon and YG producer, Teddy. The song is reminiscent of popular hip-hop and R&B songs that were emblematic of the 2000s. Park Bom sings the chorus, with G-Dragon and T.O.P rapping in a call-and-answer style alongside Park’s singing. Both members are also the only BIGBANG members who appear on the track, though the other three members at the time, Taeyang, Daesung, and Seungri appear in the music video.

The song showcases the songwriting talents of G-Dragon (real name: Kwon Ji-yong), and T.O.P (real name: Choi Seung-hyun), both of whom would go on to write much of BIGBANG’s discography and break historic ground in the K-pop industry’s growth and popularity outside of Korea going into the mid 2010s. NICK from The Bias List notes, “it wouldn’t be until 2007 that BIGBANG really broke through with Lies. You can hear the smallest bit of that groundwork being laid in We Belong Together.”


YG Entertainment. “BIGBANG – WE BELONG TOGETHER M/V.” YouTube. 2 October 2008. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjTEMBB-mjY (accessed 20 April 2022).

NICK. “Debut Re-Evaluation: BIGBANG – We Belong Together (ft. Park Bom).” The Bias List. 19 April 2022. https://thebiaslist.com/2022/04/19/debut-re-evaluation-bigbang-we-belong-together-ft-park-bom. (accessed 20 April 2022).

V, “Christmas Tree,” Our Beloved Summer (그 해 우리는) OST (2020)

Hannah Lee Otto

V of BTS showcases his solo vocals in one of the primary theme ballads for the original television soundtrack, Our Beloved Summer (2020). In contrast with the heavier studio effects and accentuated bassline of V’s BTS solo track “Singularity,” the simple acoustic instrumentation, slower tempo, and reflective lyrics  in “Christmas Tree” spotlight V’s voice more intimately than a BTS release. In Our Beloved Summer, “Christmas Tree” provides a melancholic sweetness for the youthful romance between icy overachiever Kook Yeon-Soo and laidback artist Choi Ung, played by V’s close friend Choi Woosik of Parasite fame. Aware of the supportive friendship between superstars Kim Taehyung (V’s real name) and Choi Woosik, the highly acclaimed OST music director Nam Hye-Seung wrote the song with V specifically in mind (Naver, 2022). 

The organic collaboration proved fruitful on the charts, as “Christmas Tree” made V the first Korean soloist to debut at No. 1 on Billboard’s Digital Song sales chart (Cha, 2022). For V as a soloist, “Christmas Tree” elevates V as an expressive vocalist, capable of poignant storytelling through ballad, in English as well as Korean (“Christmas Tree” is mostly in English, with one verse in Korean). 

With “Christmas Tree” and V’s reflective ballad carrying the memory of a youthful unrequited romance headlined by Choi Woosik, the superstar power collaboration achieves new heights for V as a soloist, as well as the genre of Kdrama. 


Cha, E. “BTS’s V becomes 1st Korean soloist ever to debut a No. 1 on Billboard’s Digital Song 

Sales chart with a solo song.” 4 Jan 2022. https://www.soompi.com/article/1506958wpp/btss-v-becomes-1st-korean-soloist-ever-to-debut-at-no-1-on-billboards-digital-song-sales-chart-with-a-solo-song (20 April 2022). 

Most Contents. “V – Christmas Tree.” YouTube. 24 Dec 2021. https://youtu.be/lj8TV9q59P4 (20 April 2022).  

Naver. “Actor Choi Wooshik thanks his best friend BTS’s V for participating in ‘Our Beloved 

Summer’ OST with ‘Christmas Tree’.” Allkpop. 26 Jan 2022. https://www.allkpop.com/article/2022/01/actor-choi-wooshik-thanks-his-best-friend-btss-v-for-participating-in-our-beloved-summer-ost-with-christmas-tree

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WWLT, Vol. 2, No. 4 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Into the New World: Research Suggests Multi-Fandom the Norm for Veteran K-pop Fans

Source: Pixabay

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.

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Into the New World: Research Suggests Multi-fandom the Norm for Veteran K-pop Fans by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

IFANS PROJECT UPDATE: Online Interview with BigBang Fan

IFANS PROJECT UPDATE:  Online Interview with BigBang Fan

L to R: T.O.P, Seungri, Taeyang, G-Dragon, Daesung; Credit: www.nii.co.kr
L to R: T.O.P, Seungri, Taeyang, G-Dragon, Daesung; Credit: http://www.nii.co.kr

iFans: Mapping K-pop’s International Fandom is a digital project that examines the attitudes, practices and creative output of global K-pop fans. VIPs (as fans of BigBang are called) were given the opportunity to participate in an online interview with questions geared toward their experience as BigBang fans. Whale, a VIP, wrote about the criticisms about BigBang as well as the group’s status as an idol group.  Read more here….

iFans Update: Anniversary Fan Projects


Screencap, 5th Anniversary Project by Italian Blackjacks
Screencap, 5th Anniversary Project by Italian Blackjacks

One of the most common projects for K-pop fans is the anniversary fan project. It is usually the result of a call for fans to participate in a project by sending a photo or making a video, then some enterprising K-pop fans combine them together for an anniversary video Because the iFans project seeks to document and curate K-pop fan culture, it has opened a new collection: Anniversary Fan Projects. This week’s videos range from a debut anniversary project by fans of UKISS to a 12th anniversary project by international fans of BoA. Click here to see more!

Image: 1

Like Vs. Love: Research Reveals Degrees of Attachment Among K-pop Fans

K-pop is well-known for the introduction of new groups, even while established groups continue to thrive. But are fans fickle in their K-pop choices? Do they abandon older groups for newer groups? Research suggests that while K-pop fans readily accept new groups, they have a deeper connection with veteran groups. These conclusions are based on data collected online through the Hallyu Korean Music Survey, part of a five-year study on international K-pop fans by Crystal S. Anderson.

The survey asks respondents to check all of the K-pop groups they like from a pre-determined list. This list emerged from earlier research that revealed a group of K-pop artists that global fans consistently identified as their favorites.  Out of 5099 responses from 282 respondents, the following groups represent the top 10:

  1. BigBang
  2. 2NE1
  3. SHINee
  4. Super Junior
  5. f(x)
  7. MBLAQ
  8. B.A.P
  9. SNSD/Girls’ Generation

Respondents were then asked to name any group they liked not found in the predetermined list.  Out of 1229 responses from 237 respondents, the top 10 responses were:

  1. EXO
  2. Block B
  3. BTOB
  4. B1A4
  5. VIXX
  6. NU’EST
  7. Teen Top
  8. BTS
  10. Secret

Respondents were then asked to list their three favorite K-pop groups. Out of 788 responses from 268 respondents, the top 10 responses were:

  1. BigBang
  2. SHINee
  3. EXO
  4. Super Junior
  5. Infinite
  6. 2NE1
  7. SNSD/Girls’ Generation
  8. JYJ
  9. MBLAQ
  10. TVXQ

This data suggests that K-pop fans are receptive to newer K-pop male groups. Nearly all of the groups not included in the predetermined list are groups that debuted after 2010. Female groups continue to lag behind, probably due to the fact that most K-pop groups that debut are male. However, established K-pop groups dominate when fans are asked to identify their favorite K-pop groups.  This list mirrors the predetermined list, which suggests that the longer the group has been active, more connected fans feel to the group.  Infinite has become a group that fans consistently say they like, replacing a group like BEAST/B2ST, which may have been out of the spotlight for a period of time. The notable exception is EXO, who fans identify as a group that they live and a favorite group. EXO debuted in 2011, and has managed to create a level of fan loyalty equal to more established K-pop groups.

So, what does this mean? It seems to suggest that fans of K-pop make choices about the degree of their fan loyalty based on the longevity of the group. K-pop group longevity (or how long a group has been active) makes a difference to fans. This has long-term implications for how K-pop continues to be promoted. Agencies who focus on churning out new groups without cultivating the fandom may see less of an impact than agencies who take time to establish a long-term fan relationship between artists and fans. Such activities may include creating the fan name so that fans can identify with a particular group, creating behind-the-scene shows where fans can see artists when they are not performing, and creating other opportunities for artists to remain in the public eye, such as endorsements and television appearances.


“BigBang, Love Song (Korea.com),” Hallyu Harmony, accessed July 14, 2014, http://kpop.omeka.net/items/show/347.

“EXO, Promo Dark Sky (seoulbeats),” Hallyu Harmony, accessed July 14, 2014, http://kpop.omeka.net/items/show/369.

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Like Vs. Love: Research Reveals Degrees of Attachment Among K-pop Fans by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

Bring The Boys Out!: Fan Attitudes on Male Kpop Groups Differ

Big Band and Super Junior
Big Bang and Super Junior

By Crystal S. Anderson, PhD

Elon University, NC (U.S).

Some people think that male K-pop groups are all the same. However, research suggests that fans differ in their attitudes towards individual male K-pop groups. Responses collected from fans of Super Junior and BigBang reveal that they also hold different opinions on their music and group dynamic.  Such responses suggest that while some do not distinguish between male K-pop groups, fans do.

Media Representations of Male K-pop Groups

Because many male K-pop groups are idol groups, they tend to be painted with the same broad, generalized brush.  Sometimes, they are described as being too similar to each other. An editorial in The Korea Times, suggests that people “seem fed up with similar ‘idol’ dance groups cropping up like mushroom[s].”

Other times, they are seen as promoting the same musical style or image.  Part of this is attributed to the training program Korean agencies use for idols. Solee I. Shin and Lanu Kim argue that “constant monitoring of the tastes and preferences of the consumers and factoring the successful elements back into the products. . . [make] successful products increasingly predictable and. . . homogenizes the entire domestic music scene.” Nabeela at seoulbeats echoes the concern about groups being the same by speculating about “how much of the content in K-entertainment is standardized and recycled.”

Fan Responses

However, a comparison of the responses from fans of Super Junior and BigBang reveals that fans like the groups for different reasons. This data represents a convenience sample collected via an online survey between December 8, 2012 and May 1, 2013. Respondents were asked to explain why they considered themselves a fan of the respective groups. 80 respondents identified themselves as fans of Super Junior, and 119 respondents identified themselves as fans of BigBang.  Of these 199 respondents, 95.7% were women and 4.3% were men.  Participants were: Asian (42.3%), White (41.2%), Latino (8.4%) and Black (7.9%).  They largely hail from the United States, Hungary, United Kingdom, Philippines and Australia.  Respondents range in age: 32.6% were 16-18, 31.6% were 18-21, 12.8% were 22-25, 14.4% were 25-30 and 8.6% were 30 and over. This data was analyzed using phenomenological methods.


Both fandoms cite music as a major factor in the appeal of the groups, but Super Junior fans liked the upbeat nature of the music, while BigBang fans valued the edgy and unique nature of the group’s music.

Super Junior fans like the cheerful nature of the music.  One respondent noted:  “I can listen to their songs any time even if I sad or depressed” (Anderson).  Another stated:  “Their music always makes me smile no matter how depressed I am” (Anderson).  Super Junior fans also cited the pop-oriented style that the group reflects, as well as a range of styles.    One respondent  wrote:  “Their music has gone from happy, bubbly pop to funky dance tracks”  (Anderson).

Reviews of Super Junior albums reveal that the group is generally known for pop-oriented fare that also ranges across genres.  Jung Bae describes their 2012 release, Mr. Simple, as “cleanly divided into club/dance and pop ballad(s),” where singles like “Opera” are “a standout, paced by an intoxicating stutter beat and a sublime sense of kinetic energy throughout.” Emily Wu references the “Super Junior Funky Style” in her review of the album:  “It contains a catchy and addicting tune and melody that is sure to grab your attention from the get-go.” 

BigBang fans focused more on the unique nature of the music. Some cited the specific genre of hip-hop as a major reason for the appeal of the group. One respondent noted:  “Their style of music is what I enjoy most in American music, even if I don’t listen to American music as much anymore. Hip hop and R&B were genres that I grew up on but then it started changing too much for me. But Big Bang has a style to them that makes me love the genre all over again” (Anderson).   Such opinions dovetail into another theme that emerged from the responses, namely, the unique nature of the group in respect to BigBang’s music. One respondent noted: “Their music caught me when I first listened to it and it is nice to listen to whenever I want to something different then the usual Kpop” (Anderson). Another noted:  “Their music is distinguishable and stands out amist all of Kpop” (Anderson). BigBang has a reputation for being more adventurous in terms of their music.

Ashleigh Gregory describes the 2011 album Alive as partaking in a range of genres:  “This album combines a variety of safe, pop style songs and pairs them up with slightly more experimental electro sounding tracks that create a great mix and leaves you wanting to replay the album as soon as it’s done.” Such eclecticism makes its way into their live shows as well. Jon Caramanica writes: “The band wove an interpolation of the signature guitar crunch of Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit” into a song. Multiple members of the group beatbox, a technique that’s hardly, if ever, used in mainstream American hip-hop, its birthplace, but is a routine part of the K-pop star arsenal.”

Group Dynamic

Both fandoms cite group dynamic as another major factor in the appeal of the groups, but Super Junior fans describe that dynamic in terms of cooperation and a close-knit bond, while BigBang fans focus on the individual members’ contribution to the group.

Super Junior
Super Junior

Despite the large number of members, Super Junior fans described the group as close-knit.  Some respondents focused on how they act as one or a team.  One respondent noted:   “They have their own personality but still can be one” (Anderson).  Another wrote:  “Not typical boyband material.  They have a strong bond despite being a huge group” (Anderson).  Other respondents focused on the close bond between members and several used the metaphor of family.    One wrote:  “Watching their bond as a group really influenced me. Seeing how they trust each other.  I can feel and see their brotherly love, how they care about each other” (Anderson).  Another wrote:  “Super Junior are a big group because they have lots of members but despite that they all get along like a family” (Anderson).  Another responded:  “What I really like from them is their close relationship with each other. They are truly like a family, they’re like brothers” (Anderson).

This may be related to fans watching Super Junior’s participation in extra-musical activities in the form of television and radio appearances.  Members of Super Junior hosted and/or starred in the Korean variety show Strong Heart from 2009-2012 and the radio show Kiss the Radio from 2006 to the present.  In these spaces, fans develop opinions about the dynamic between the members.   One respondent wrote:  “I understand and love that they’re an entertainment group with members doing radio shows, acting, variety shows and hosting! This has given me the chance to get to know them through many mediums and it’s reassuring to know that at least a few members are still active during their non-promotional period!” (Anderson).  In addition to scripted shows, Super Junior also appears on variety shows, which are often based on improvisation and require more participation.  One respondent noted:  “I didn’t actually like Super Junior much at first, but I kept watching them on variety shows that I liked and the SJ members were always making me laugh so much” (Anderson).


While fans of BigBang cite group dynamic as part of the appeal of the group, they focus on the individual members within the group.  Most respondents focused on the unique nature of the individual members.  One wrote:  “I also like how distinct the members are from each other” (Anderson).  Another said:  “Each member has their own talents and strengths when it comes to vocally and lyric writing and Big Bang along with YG utilizes that talent extremely well” (Anderson).  Still another wrote: “Each of the members have very different but equally interesting styles from their style of singing to the dancing” (Anderson).  Others cited individual members as part of their reason for liking the group.  Of these responses, the largest number cited G-Dragon as their reason for liking the group.  One respondent noted:  “G-Dragon has also been very successful on his own drawing me into the group as a whole” (Anderson).  Another noted:  “G-Dragon is probably one of the reasons why I like Big Bang so much. I like the music he produces and I appreciate that a lot since not all groups produce their own music. The fact that someone from the group produces their own music is pretty awesome” (Anderson).

What Does It Mean?

Fans of Super Junior like the group because they are traditional idol group. They like the pop nature of their music.  They value the camaraderie they see within the group as a result of television and radio appearances.   In contrast, fans of BigBang like the group because they challenge this notion of a traditional idol group.  Despite being the product of the same kind of training system that produced Super Junior, they see the group as more innovative and creative in their music.  They perceive the group as a collection of individuals rather than a cohesive unit. Because of the fewer number of television appearances, their fans may not develop the same kind of sense of camaraderie among the group.

Fans of Super Junior and BigBang represent just two individual K-pop fandoms, but this comparison suggests that fans do not view male K-pop groups in the same way.

Images: 1, 2, 3


“BIGBANG – FANTASTIC BABY M/V.” 6 Mar 2012. YouTube. Web. 19 Dec 2013.

“Super Junior 슈퍼주니어_Mr.Simple_MUSICVIDEO.” 3 Aug 2011. YouTube. Web. 19 Dec 2013.


Anderson, Crystal. “Super Junior/BigBang Data Set.” Unpublished raw data.

Bae, Jung. “Album Review: Super Junior – Mr. Simple” hellokpop. 12 Aug 2011. Web. 19 Dec 2013.

Caramanica, Jon. “BigBang Performs at the Prudential Center.” The New York Times. 9 Nov 2012.

Gregory, Ashleigh.  “[UnitedKpop K-pop Album Review] March: BigBang – Alive.” UnitedKpop. 26  Mar 2012.

Nabeela. “Does Hallyu Only Have a Short Time Left on a Global Stage?” seoulbeats. 27 May 2012. Web. 19 Dec 2013.

Shin, Solee I. and Lanu Kim. “Organizing K-pop: Emergence and Market Making of Large Korean Entertainment Houses, 1980-2010.” East Asia (December 2013): doi 10.1007/s12140-013-9200-0.

“Will ‘Hallyu’ Last Long?” The Korea Times. 10 Aug 2012. Web. 19 Dec 2013.

Wu, Emily. “Album Review: Super Junior – Mr. Simple. ” Ningin (blog). 2  Aug 2011. Web. 19 Dec 2013.

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Bring The Boys Out!: Fan Attitudes on Male Kpop Groups Differ by Crystal S. Anderson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

iFans Case Studies Status Update

Infographic based on data collected by Crystal S. Anderson as part of the iFans research study
Infographic based on data collected by Crystal S. Anderson as part of the iFans research study

If you keep with research on K-pop, you may be aware of the iFans: Mapping Kpop’s International Fandom project.  The surveys that make up the qualitative studies seek to understand how the fandoms differ from one another and their relationship to the groups they support. K-pop fans know that the fandoms are unique. Because they have detailed knowledge of the groups they support, they provide a unique perspective on the appeal of their respective groups. Too often, commentators make assumptions about K-pop fans, while the iFans studies goes to the source: the fans.

As the chart above shows, fans of 2NE1 and BigBang have participated the most in the surveys, while fans of Shinhwa and Aziatix have participated the least.   Other groups with high participation rates include SHINee and TVXQ, while other groups with low participation rates include Epik High and f(x).

These participation rates are interesting, because groups like Super Junior and Girls’ Generation have very active global fandoms, yet those numbers are not reflected in participation rates.  Rates may not reflect all fans, just fans who are likely to take (and complete) a survey.  Participation rates may be affected by the activity of the groups.

The iFans Case Studies survey is still active, and now, individuals can take the survey for multiple or  individual groups.

Now that a good deal of data has been collected, look for new research reports on what K-pop fans say about their favorite groups!

Seungri (BigBang)

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Seungri | http://cdn2.mixrmedia.com/wp-uploads/ningin/blog/2011/01/seungri1.png

 Name  Lee Seung-Hyun (이승현)
 Debut August 19, 2006
 Status  Active
 Label YG Entertainment
 Fan Name V; VI
 Origin of Fan Name Seungri in Korean means victory, so V for victory
 Official Website http://www.ygfamily.com/artist/About.asp?LANGDIV=E&ATYPE=2&ARTIDX=17
 Related Websites

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Official Fan Color: N/A

Awards: N/A

Television Appearances:


  • Sonagi (2008)
  • Shouting (2009)


  • Why Did You Come to My House? (2009)
  • Nineteen (2009)
  • Haru (Documentary)

Concert Tours: N/A


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What Can I Do? (어쩌라) 

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VVIP (January 20, 2011)(YG Entertainment)

  1. VVIP
  2. What Can I Do (어쩌라고)
  3. Open the Window (창문을 열어) ft. G-Dragon
  4. Magic
  5. I Know
  6. White Love
  7. Outro (In My World)

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