What Makes Kpop

I’m not a Kpop expert but this I know much about Kpop. I’ve been a fan of Kpop for almost 7 years now. What’s interesting about Kpop is that even though it’s basically pop music expressed in the Korean language (and it’s true), it is still distinguished as a separate genre (with a vast range of sub-genres in it) and an industry as a whole. Why? Here’s what I’ve gathered. Take it from the fan.

1) Language

Obviously, Kpop should be in Korean (Hangul) because even though it has a huge international fan-base, it still caters first and foremost to the Koreans. Its main audience are still Koreans. Even though there are English phrases thrown here and there in the songs, its main language is still Korean because of this reason. But another important thing is that it should be promoted IN Korea. To further elaborate: If you change the language of the song (to Japanese or Mandarin) it isn’t Kpop anymore although it’s the same song. EXAMPLE: EXO-K and EXO-M. There are also lots of Kpop groups debuting in Japan nowadays. Notice that they are doing this to penetrate the Jpop scene and once they do that, they aren’t promoting as a Kpop group anymore. They ‘debut’ a second time in Japan. This time, they are promoting as a Jpop group now and their songs are all in Japanese, even though it was originally a Kpop song and even though the members are all Korean. Race/Ethnicity doesn’t matter in a Kpop group. There are Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and even half-American members in some groups. But Kpop is Kpop ’cause like I said, Kpop is in Korea and for Koreans. The basic reason.

2) Choreography

If the group is not trying to be an idol band that plays instruments (like CN Blue or FT Island) then there should be a choreography. Idol groups are very synchronized and creative with their choreography. Kpop group dances look so clean and precise as a whole, like, their movements look synchronized. The movements of the members are of the same level or intensity even though there are better dancers in the group. The way each member move and dance looks the same, if you get what I mean. Every Korean Idol group (take note I said, Idol, because there still non-Idol Korean artists and musicians) makes choreography even if it’s as simple as banging your head or waving your hands. But even if it can be that simple, it’s not just any choreography. There should be a ‘point.’ Point is the main part of the dance and it’s important. It’s what makes the dance memorable and possibly the move that’s going to trend. Even though most Kpop groups have powerful choreography, there’s at least one movement that people can easily remember and copy, and once they see it, they’ll know immediately that “ah, this move is this idol group’s signature dance for this song.” Famous example: the horse dance in Psy’s Gangnam Style. Other examples: hing dance in Seventeen’s Mansae, Thor dance in B.A.P’s Young Wild & Free, the rubbing of hands in SuJu’s Sorry Sorry, etc.

3) Music Video

Music videos are flashy and high in quality. From what I’ve seen through the years, this is how Korean music videos usually work: First, there should be the dance set or group shot. It’s where the whole group can be seen dancing as a group. Sometimes they use multiple sets or back drop theme for this shot. Often, it can be one dark-themed set and the other a bright-themed set. The whole point of this is to show the group’s choreography, obviously, in different angles or light. Second, the individual shots. Close-up of the members doing their individual parts. I think it’s also called the lip-sync shot? Because, of course, fans would also want to see their ‘bias’ or favorite member up close. Third, most Kpop MVs also have a story-line. Just a simple ‘plot’ that is connected to the song. You’d notice that many Korean male idol groups are going after a single girl in their MVs. It’s the most common plot. The plot can be as simple as that. But there are also a lot of MVs with complex story-lines that fans have to interpret. (Ahem, BTS – RUN, ahem.) Chop chop chop these scenes and put them alternately together in one video and BOOM. Your basic Kpop music video. But over-all these scenes should follow one, concise concept. Korean music videos aren’t just made up of random colorful sets and scenes. They have a single concept. There are many Kpop groups trying new styles and execution of music videos but there is still a main concept behind it.

4) Concept

Speaking of concepts, Idols take concepts seriously. Each comeback (or new album release) they have a ‘concept’ that they use, may that be a sexy concept, a cute concept, summer concept, a dark concept, a mature concept, fairy tale concept or whatever. It can be anything really. But they follow it all through-out promotion. B.A.P and EXO debuted with a concept of being ‘aliens from a distant planet.’ You’ll see that from their outfits to their music videos. It’s obvious that their concept is ‘alien.’ As they release new songs or albums, they change concepts to show a different side of them and fit into an image that they want to portray.

5) Fashion

Oh, the fashion sense. It’s important in showing off the group’s current concept. You’ll know what kind of outfits and make-up and hairstyle they have by checking out Kpop music videos and live shows. It’s kind of experimental, sometimes flashy or vibrant or fancy or trendy (it depends on the vibe they wanna show), but at the same time, uniform in the group. Their clothes, obviously, still matches the concept even with the wild statements. Like, even if the members are sporting a different style or even an individual concept, when you put them together, they still look uniform. You know there’s a theme going on.

6) Member Roles

Each member has a different role. They don’t just gather random cute guys that can sing and dance to form a group. Each one has a vital role in the group. You can call it an assigned archetype or whatever. You’ve got the main dancer, the main vocal, the main rapper, the lead dancer, the lead vocal, the lead rapper, the leader, the maknae (youngest), the visual or face of the group, and even the guy with the 4D personality. They take these roles seriously and it depends on what the member can do best. Some members take 2 or 3 roles, like the leader can also be the main dancer and the lead vocal or the maknae can be the main vocal with the 4d personality. It really depends on the skills and personality of the member. But the thing is, when they introduce themselves, that’s what they say to the fans. EX: “Hello everyone, I’m Seventeen’s vocal team leader, Woozi.” It is important as it is what makes the group complete.

7) Fandom

The fan clubs are taken very, very seriously and it’s a crazy, crazy world in the Kpop scene. You’ve got an official fan club name, official fan cafe, official group color, light stick designs, and official merchs. Being a fan of a Kpop group is serious business. Kpop groups often show their gratitude by doing a lot of fan services and there are even official OTPs and sailing ships, most of the time, boy to boy, amongst members. It’s not weird. It’s just how it is. Kpop groups have to go through a lot of activities and promotions to have a stable fandom and keep these fans happy and satisfied.

8) Training

What makes the Kpop industry different from the American pop industry is that Idols go through the training system. They train for a couple of years before debuting in a group even though most of them have real talents already. Entertainment companies still sharpen the skills they have to turn them into real Idols. Some only take a year while others even have to go through 6 years of training before finally debuting. They don’t just pop out of nowhere. Even though there are many groups debuting these days, these Idols have been trained to sing, dance, or rap prior their debut as Idols. Some even perform as back-up dancers or act as extras in the music videos of their sunbaes (seniors) before they become famous. It’s an intensive process. It’s a craft. That’s how dedicated these Kpop idols are. It’s no joke. People can’t simply say, “oh, we’re forming a group and we’re gonna sing songs in Korean” and call themselves a Kpop group. It’s so much more than that.

Note: I initially posted this on my OverlieFangirlie blog based off my YouTube comment in EXP’s Luv/Wrong music video using my fan account. I wanted to explain why Kpop is a distinguished genre and what makes it so different from other pop music scenes. Kpop isn’t just music, it has culture of its own and it’s a completely different fangirl experience.

I’m lost.

Help! Can anyone here interpret for me what’s going on in this music video?

I love the song so much and I’ve had it on repeat for weeks now since release. But the music video still confuses me. It’s like a mini-dystopian movie of some sort but I don’t know what exactly is going on. You might find it weird, I don’t know. I sure do love the subtle hints of a possible romantic angle here though. I have my theories (I’m not gonna talk about it here ’cause that might influence your thoughts on the video) and lots of fans have theirs too that are yet to be confirmed. But I want an outsider’s opinion. What’s happening here? I want the story!

If anyone’s wondering who the artists are, they are called Monsta X, a seven-member Kpop idol boy group. Their songs are heavy on rap (hip-hop?) and dance. They debuted last year and I’m so far loving all of their songs. They are complete hotties too with a soft dorky heart. How much of that screams boyfriend material, right?

A nice song to listen to on a lonely summer day…

Currently Playing:

Without You by NCT U

Just so you know, I have memorized the lyrics of this song in full Korean! Yup, and I’m proud of that. HAHA! This song is so nice to jam to. It’s giving me alternative rock vibes although NCT U is not a band. Far from it. They are a boy group with an indefinite number of members and units, and their only other song so far is a slow, almost psychedelic, dance hip-hop. I could imagine listening to this on a country side road trip. I don’t get the music video though. The members said it’s about living together in harmony but oh well. The song is what’s important.

The Kind of Song People Don’t Expect me to Enjoy

Warning: If you’re not into noisy music, then I don’t think you’ll enjoy this one. It’s pretty loud and there’s lowkey screaming involved.

Alone by My First Story

The surprised look in people’s faces when I tell them that I listen to the post-hardcore genre never gets old. Judging by my appearance, you wouldn’t expect that I listen to bands like Sleeping with Sirens or Pierce the Veil. I’m not really the biggest fan but I do like and enjoy their music. They are my companion whenever I do school projects. They just pump me up and keep me motivated. When I listen to their songs, I feel like I can do anything.

However, most of the post-hardcore bands that I listen to are Japanese. Their rock scene is probably the most alive and passionate that I’ve seen. One band that I like is My First Story. If anyone of you knows ONE OK ROCK (another Japanese band that I’m a huge fan of), then you’d know that the band’s vocalist is the brother of this band’s vocalist. I love them both so much and they both perform awesome songs. It’s my dream to go to at least one concert of theirs.

Most people judge others by their music taste. I do too all the time. But music is not something that we should deny other people. If they want to listen to One Direction, let them be. If I want to listen to noisy bands such as My First Story, no one can stop me. Let people enjoy their choice of music. It’s the one thing that makes the world a better place.

‘Cause no one is perfect and holy, right?

I think everyone can relate to this song but I dedicate it more to all of the politicians campaigning right now. (This will be my first time voting so I’m paying close attention to them.) Most of them pretend to be almighty, perfect, can-do-no-wrong holy. But, please. We are not stupid. They think we are but we all know after the elections, they will all go back to their old, slimy ways. #thirdworldproblems #corruptgoverment

Holy by PVRIS

Before we get to the real part, let me just say that I love PVRIS. I love their songs. I love their White Noise album. All of their songs have this soothing effect on me. If you like the electronic, psychedelic rock genre, I highly recommend them.

Now, here are the lyrics. It’s simple but it strikes a real chord. Most people of religion think that being religious makes them better than other people (I’m Catholic, by the way) but then it’s not anyone’s God that makes a good person but rather the heart inside. Their actions, motives, and intentions are what reveals the genuine kindness of their heart, not their belief.

Holy (Lyrics)

Yeah, you’ve got it all,
But you’ve got it all wrong.
No, you don’t know
You’re a poor unfortunate soul.
Oh I know,
You make it seem that you feel whole,
So they don’t know
You’re a poor unfortunate soul.

Yeah you put on a faith facade,
Think you’re holy when you’re not.
I hate to break it to you baby,
But you’re simply lost.
You can right all the wrongs just to feel you belong,
But simply calling out sins don’t bring you closer to God.
You’re just a ghost at most,
A set of empty bones,
Searching for anything and everything to make you feel whole,
When it gets cold, oh oh oh.

You don’t know.
No you don’t know.
Oh you’re all alone,
You poor unfortunate soul.
You can’t control where your body lets you go.
Oh you’re all alone,
You poor unfortunate soul.

And you say that I’ve got it all wrong.
‘Cause you just know I’m a poor unfortunate soul.

But there’s no way that there’s weight in the words that you preach,
When you’re claiming your faith and you contradict your speech.
So I sit here and listen to your tongue and cheek,
I know that when you sit and pray you’re only praying for keeps.
Cause you’re a ghost at most,
A set of empty bones,
Searching for anything and everything to make you feel whole,
When it gets cold, oh oh oh.

You don’t know.
No you don’t know.
Oh you’re all alone,
You poor unfortunate soul.
You can’t control where your body lets you go.
Oh you’re all alone,
You poor unfortunate soul.

You’re shallow and empty and filled with regret.
I think that chest must be heavy from that cross on your neck
You only wear ’cause you’re wary of what comes next after your death.
Don’t think I didn’t notice.

Don’t think I didn’t notice.

Don’t think I didn’t know you’re just a po-oh-oh-oh
Poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul
Poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul
Poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul
Poor unfortunate

And you’ve got it all (poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul)
You’ve got it all wrong (poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul)
No you’ll never know, never know, never know (poor unfortunate so-o-o-oul)
You’re a poor unfortunate soul.

Don’t think I didn’t notice.

Sorry if I keep putting lyrics but when the song has a good message, I really don’t want you to miss it. I’m going to keep emphasizing it for you. I hope you liked the song!

This song gives me chills!

PEOPLE! STOP WHATEVER YOU’RE DOING AND LISTEN TO THIS SONG RIGHT NOW! I SAID, RIGHT NOW! DON’T IGNORE ME! STOP SCROLLING DOWN!

Melted by AKMU

You know a song is good when it gives you THE chills. The music video also twists your heart a bit. Usually, people think of Kpop as this trendy, catchy, weird genre but you have to look for the artists and musicians that actually make meaningful songs such as this one. The language barrier might put you off but you need to listen to the melody to feel the bittersweet beauty and realness of the song. But in case you’re wondering what this song means, here’s the translation. Read it as a poem. It matches the sentiments of the story of the music video and that might help you understand and appreciate the song more. I actually thought that the music video was either a trailer or a tribute for an indie film.

Melted (English Translation)

The blue ocean that the red sun used to wash its face turns black
The white sky that had clouds and rain and the wind turns gray
I leave the darkness that finds my heart
Even the cold shadow that covers the night starts to harden

If the ice melts, a warmer song would have come out
But why is the ice so cold? Why is it so cold?
Why are they so cold
Why are they so cold

The blue ocean that the red sun used to wash its face
I look at the past warmth that is deeply buried (too late get it out)
I wish the cold in the world of adults would be gone too
I wish the frozen love will melt away now

I leave the darkness that finds my heart
Even the cold shadow that covers the night starts to harden

If the ice melts, a warmer song would have come out
But why is the ice so cold? Why is it so cold?

If the ice melts, a warmer song would have come out
But why is the ice so cold? Why is it so cold?
Why are they so cold
Why are they so cold

I do hope you listened to the song because it’s rare that we get to hear songs such as this one since nowadays, the most popular songs are all about boobies and ex-boyfriends and partying and the woop-woop-woop sounds, forgetting the lyrics altogether, and that’s kind of…sad. Don’t forget to share your thoughts on the song…and the video!

If you’re wondering who AKMU is, they’re a duo of siblings,  Lee Suhyun the younger girl, and her brother, Chanhyuk. Their last album, Play, is also their first one and it’s really, really good. I recommend it to anyone who loves the folk-pop and acoustic genre. They’re going to have a new album next month on the 4th so I’m really looking forward to it.