Associate Professor of English, Longwood University
One of the things that happens when conducting qualitative surveys is that they can raise more questions than they answer. This is what happened with the preliminary data from Last Fans Standing: Longtime and Adult Fans of Korean Popular Music (K-pop). Response rates were unusually low, which was unusual given the rising number of fans who have been fans for more than five years. I speculated that respondents may think that only adult fans who had also been fans for five years or more could take the survey. So, I revised the survey to focus solely on veteran fans of K-pop, individuals who had been fans for five years or more. This means all you fans of ZE:A, CN Blue, SISTAR, Infinite, Miss A, Teen Top, Nine Muses, T-ara, f(x), BEAST/Highlight, SHINee, UKISS, 2PM, IU, Wonder Girls, KARA, FT. Island, Girls’ Generation, SS501, Super Junior, BoA, Dynamic Duo, Epik High, Lee Hyori, Kangta, Se7en, TVXQ, K. Will, Big Bang, 2NE1, 4Minute, Fly to the Sky, g.o.d, H.O.T, Jinusean, S.E.S, Sechs Kies, Shinhwa, and any other group that debuted more than 5 years ago need to get on it!
Associate Professor of English, Longwood University
As their 2014 comeback shows, Fly to the Sky (FTTS) remains a potent force in K-pop, even after a five-year hiatus. However, even before the rumors of a comeback, the group was ever-present in the minds of fans, who recalled Fly to the Sky’s emotional impact and place in K-pop history.
A review of 361 YouTube comments posted between 2006 and 2011 on videos uploaded to YouTube show a lingering sense of nostalgia for the group. These comments appeared on uploaded videos for “Day By Day” (music video), “Sea of Love” (performance and music video), “Condition of the Heart” (music video, performance and audio), “Missing You” (music video, performance and audio) and “Habit” (performance).
Some still associate even veteran K-pop groups with American boy bands from the 1990s. Most frequently, viewers compare Fly to the Sky to the Backstreet Boys (BSB). bgurl1210 explains:
vujonny89 stated that FTTS are the Korean version of BSB. And ForeverJunjin wondered y she or he chose BSB rather than NSYNC. I was explaining that being compared to BSB is a compliment. NSYNC was never really praised for the outstanding vocal abilities. They were more known for their dance songs than their vocal abilities. IMO, JC was the strongest singer of the group. BSB is considered by many as a true vocal/a capella group and have been praised for them. That’s what I mean.
However, other commentators reflect a more emotional attachment to the group that they associate with the past. Sometimes, such nostalgia relates to how long one has been a fan and the length of FTTS’s career. hyegyo1 writes: “THE song [Missing You] that made me a FTTS fan and brought me into K-pop way back then… Am forever in love with this song and this duo.” Similarly, Amy L writes: “Miss them. I’m just looking forward to Hwany finishing his military service and FTTS releasing their new album. I’ve been a huge fan of them for more than 7 years, and I will always be their big supporter. Love you guys.” These are sentiments of long-time fans of the group, who follow their activities even during periods of inactivity. Other comments relate the group’s emotional impact in terms of personal memories related to FTTS’s music. Jenny Leem relates: “Wah. I finally found it [MIssing You]. My parents used to play this song when we went on road trips and I didn’t know its name or who it was by I just really loved the song… But I found it! I’m so happy ^^”
In addition to nostalgia, fans also recognize FTTS as a pioneer in K-pop and an influence on newer K-pop groups. Beating the odds that befall many K-pop idol groups, such as the so-called “five-year curse,” where male groups would disband or be dissolved by agencies in the light of mandatory military service, FTTS’s decade-long career is also reflected in its impact on other K-pop groups.
Their songs have been covered by a variety of K-pop groups and singers. These covers not only show the group’s lasting impact, but also the way they bring new fans to FTTS. Perhaps owing to the time FTTS spend on the label, SM Entertainment artists tend to cover their songs frequently. Yesung of Super Junior and Jonghyun of SHINee covered Fly to the Sky songs at the SM Town concert in Los Angeles in 2010. MissAshleyCakes notes how the cover of FTTS’s “Sea of Love” changed her perception of the group: “If Yesung and Jonghyun wouldn’t have sang this song at the SM TOWN concert in LA I would have NEVER found this song! I was never a big fan of Fly To the Sky. I only knew 1 song by them.. But now that I’ve heard this song by them, I love them! They are an amazing band! BRIAN<3.” D.O of EXO and Ryeowook of Super Junior, covered Fly to the Sky’s “Missing You” during the SM Town show in Seoul in 2014, as well as on the Sukira radio show in 2013. haz reen writes: “I was looking for the original version of this song . And here I am. Big thanks to D.O and Ryeong who brought me here. I love both version ok.” Other artists cover Fly to the Sky songs as well. K-pop male group ZE:A, with the Star Empire Entertainment agency, performed Fly to the Sky’s “Missing You” live on MBC in 2014. “Missing You” was chosen for performance as part of The Voice of Korea television show.
With frequent criticisms that K-pop is a fad or a passing trend, such comments during Fly to the Sky’s inactive period shows how fans feel a sense of nostalgia for K-pop groups. FTTS emerges as a foundation Korean R&B group, one that fans refer to with nostalgia and as elders to more contemporary idol groups.
Often believed to appeal only to teenagers, K-pop is experiencing a trend with old school groups making successful comebacks.
Some believe that K-pop has a short shelf life. Several point to the “five-year curse,” a trend where male K-pop groups break up or disband, often in the face of mandatory military service in Korea. Others believe that K-pop is a fad that will run its course. In 2011, Ree at seoulbeats declared: “One thing people must note when discussing the popularity of K-Pop, is that to many people, whether they realize it or not, K-Pop has almost simply become a fad. Meaning that despite the fact it is at its peak of popularity, it will once again start heading on a downhill slope.”
However, successful comebacks of groups who debuted prior to 2000 challenge these notions. Tickets for Shinhwa‘s Grand Tour 2012: The Return concert sold out in February, ahead of the release of the album The Return in March. Such success occurred after a four-year hiatus by group from the music scene. Other first-generation K-pop groups, such as g.o.d and Fly To the Sky, have also announced comeback plans.
Who are the people who support groups who have been inactive for years and why do they continue to like such groups? I want to find out! If you are a fan of a group who debut before 2000, take this survey! It will ask you questions about old school K-pop groups such as H.O.T, Shinhwa, S.E.S, Fin.K.L, Fly to the Sky, g.o.d, 1TYM, Deux and others.
Hybrid Hallyu: The American Soul Tradition In K-pop
2013 Popular Culture Association/American Culture Association (PCA/ACA)
Washington, DC • March 27-30, 2012
Crystal S. Anderson, Ph.D. • Elon University
Hallyu (Korean wave), a Korean cultural movement directed towards global audiences, represents hybrid and transnational sensibilities. Ever since the debut of Seo Taiji and the Boys in 1992, Korean popular music (K-pop) has been influenced by American soul and R&B. This paper examines the soul tradition in contemporary K-pop by interrogating the adoption and adaptation of the genre by several K-pop groups.