Saturday, May 20, 2017

K-Pop is Not a Genre

[Before we begin, a quick note. TK is so happy to be finished with writing about Korean politics for now. Let's talk about more interesting things, like music! TK might just stick with writing about music for the next several months. Stay tuned...]

Poster from K-pop Night Out showcase
from SXSW 2014. Now hanging on my office wall.

The point of this post is simple: "K-pop" is neither a genre nor a style. If you think otherwise, you are wrong. The rest of this post will discuss why you're wrong.

To be fair to you who think otherwise, I'll say this: a lot of people think like you. Jaden Smith, for example, seems to think K-pop is a genre or a style.

But you are still wrong. "K-pop" is a generic term that means absolutely nothing more than "popular music of Korea." If you ever thought about the term "K-pop" rigorously, and thought hard about the kinds of music and the kinds of artists the term covers, you will find that it cannot possibly denote a genre or a style.

To start, the simplest overview of musical styles that fall under the label "K-pop" should make clear that "K-pop" does not refer to a musical genre. No one disputes that IU, BTS and FT Island are "K-pop artists," but musically, they share nothing in common. IU sings mostly standard pop, BTS performs mostly hip hop numbers, and FT Island, light rock. The commonality among IU, BTS and FT Island is not, and cannot be, music. Their only commonality is that they all perform popular music of Korea.

Is "K-pop" a style then? A common alternative definition of K-pop goes roughly like this: "highly processed but easy-to-listen music, composed and choreographed by professional management companies, performed by beautiful young men or women groomed to become pop stars by the said management companies." But this definition is also wrong.

Again, just a few moments of thought are all you need to see why this definition is wrong. First of all, the alternative definition does not actually define anything that did not exist previously. Identifying young talents and fastidiously grooming them to become pop stars have been one of the basic business strategies in pop music as long as there was such a thing as pop music. Motown in the 1960s was famous for it. The only possible distinction between the "K-pop" mode of production and "Motown" mode of production is... K-pop is from Korea. Once again, we return to the plain truth: the heart of the term "K-pop" is the fact that it is music of Korea.

(More after the jump.)

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.




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In our current, "post-truth" world, it is more important than ever to insist that words must mean what they say. "K-pop" plainly means "pop music of Korea," because "K" obviously stands for "Korea," and "pop" obviously stands for "pop music." Q.E.D. And in fact, that is exactly how the term was used when it first entered the English language. Most English speakers--i.e., non-Koreans--encountered pop music from Korea for the first time in the early 2000s, and called such music "K-pop." The term was essentially the equivalent of gayo [가요], the word Koreans use to denote popular music generally, without reference to any genre, style or era.

In the early 2000s, virtually all Korean pop music that was available internationally were highly processed music performed by beautiful young men and women--which is why the alternate, and wrong, definition lives on to this day. But it is important to understand that the term "K-pop" was never used with any rigor. We know "K-pop" cannot mean "idol pop"--which is the correct term for describing highly processed music performed by beautiful young people--because there has been absolutely no effort to police the boundaries and actually enforce the definition. Instead, each successive wave of pop music that came out of Korea was called "K-pop," without any attempt to assess its musical style, or even production value.

Take, for example, the manner in which the history of K-pop is recited. The common narrative usually goes up to Seo Taiji and Boys who debuted in 1992. This is not the worst starting point in the world, given Seo Taiji's massive influence over Korea's pop music scene. But... Seo Taiji and Boys was self-produced. Seo Taiji, Yang Hyeon-seok and Lee Juno composed their own music, choreographed their own dances, and directed their own music videos.

If "K-pop" means "idol pop," why would the standard history of K-pop trace up to Seo Taiji? Why wouldn't it trace up to Kim Wan-seon, a super-duper star of the late 1980s (only female solo artist who sold more than a million copies of a single album) who was groomed to be a pop star since she was 14 years old? Why not Kim Jeong-mi, who joined the studio of the legendary Shin Jung-hyeon at age 17, and became one of the defining pop stars of the 1970s? Why not explore the popular music production system of the 1930s, which also identified young talents and nurtured them into stardom? Answer is simple: because the term "K-pop" has never been about the mode of production. "K-pop" was always about "popular music of Korea"--which is why Seo Taiji usually is the fountainhead figure.

(Aside: The real reason why the standard narrative of K-pop traces up to Seo Taiji is because, in the English speaking world, the history of K-pop is generally told by Korean Americans in their 20s whose memories of Korean pop culture trace only up to early 1990s. Overall, there are few English-speaking consumers of Korean pop culture who can remember the times beyond around 30 years ago and be bothered to tell the stories of the earlier times. This blog's series on 50 Most Influential K-Pop Artists is my attempt to rectify that situation, and I have more coming--so stay tuned.)

For another example: observe the manner in which new pop music from Korea is received. Without fail, every popular music coming out of Korea is treated as "K-pop," with no reference to genre or style or mode of production. This is why "K-pop" does not even mean "pop music of Korea," in which "pop" refers to the genre of standard pop. Again, when people use the word "K-pop," they make no attempt to actually identify the genre of the music they are listening to. Words like "K-rock" or "K-rap" do not exist. (And fortunately so.) The only thing that matters is that the music is of Korea.

The ultimate test, of course, was PSY's Gangnam Style--the greatest K-pop hit of all time. Gangnam Style and PSY were nothing like the music and the performers that international fans of Korean pop music have seen before. PSY is a chubby man in his 30s, not a sleek and beautiful group of teenage boys. Although PSY formally belonged to YG Entertainment label, he produced his own music. Gangnam Style was funny and weird, rather than hip and sexy. And no one of any significance stepped up to claim Gangnam Style was not K-pop. No fan of Korean pop music expended any meaningful effort to separate Gangnam Style from the Korean pop music that they have been previously enjoying. Gangnam Style slipped seamlessly into the existing universe of K-pop music, and that was that.

Since Gangnam Style in 2012, even greater variety of Korean pop music became available internationally--and to date, there has not been a meaningful attempt to set the edges of the term "K-pop," such that at least some popular music of Korea would fall outside of the scope of the term. For a quick example, check out the yearly lineup of "K-pop Night Out" showcase at SXSW since 2013 and the types of music each act played:

2013

f(x) - idol band
Galaxy Express - rock band
The Geeks - rock band
Gukkasten - rock band
Jeong Cha-sik - rock band
Yi Seung-yeol - light rock/fluxus
No Brain - rock band

2014

HyunA - solo idol, resulting from an idol band
Jay Park - solo idol, resulting from an idol band
Nell - light rock band
Crying Nut - rock band
Idiotape - electronic dance music band
Hollow Jan - rock/metal band
Jambinai - fusion rock/metal band

2015

Crayon Pop - idol band
Epik High - rap group
Asian Chairshot - rock band
EE - light rock band
Eastern Sidekick - rock band
Hitchhiker - rapper
The Barberettes - light rock band

2016

Zion.T - rapper
Mamamoo - idol band
Love X Stereo - rock band
Dean - R&B
Haihm - rock/electronica
Bye Bye Badman - light rock band
Victim Mentality - heavy metal band

2017

Big Phony - R&B
Galaxy Express - rock band
No Brain - rock band
MFBTY - rap group
Hyolyn - solo idol, resulting from an idol band
Red Velvet - idol band

You can see that each showcase usually features around six or seven acts. You can also see that, each of the showcases called "K-pop Night Out," held in one of the foremost music festivals in the United States, has featured the maximum of two acts that could be considered idol band-related. Did anyone complain? Did SXSW ever say the showcase was incorrectly named, or the showcase needed more idol band acts? Did K-pop fans at SXSW claim they were misled into watching rock bands when they came for their oppas? The answer is no.

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Just a little bit of reflection is enough to reveal that K-pop is neither a genre nor a style. Instead, "K-pop" means exactly what it says: popular music of Korea. Like all definitions, this definition would have its bleeding edges. What does "of Korea" mean exactly? This was an easy question when all of Korean pop music was created by Korean composers and performed by Korean artists. But the question will become trickier as K-pop becomes more global, and more and more international talents stream into Korea to find their place in the K-pop industry. Soon, there will come a day where an artist or a group of artists emerges, and challenges the boundaries of how we understand the words "of Korea."

But that day is not today, and that discussion is not the one we're having here.

If you think of idol bands when you hear the term "K-pop," it only means you don't know enough about the popular music of Korea. Because popular music of Korea is not just this...


But includes this.


This too.


And this. It's my personal favorite lately.


And you can't miss this. Have you heard this one?


And this too. Yes, I'm serious.


And while facing all this great popular music of Korea, you restrict to mindless idol band music by continuing to insist that "K-pop" refers only to a single genre or style, you're not just wrong--you are ignorant.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.

36 comments:

  1. Been a long time fan but I have to disagree. Maybe K Pop started that way but as meanings of words change over time so did this term.
    K-Pop IS acknowledged as pop music. Dance, hip hip , idols and all the other highly processed stuff that ppl love nowadays. Not that there's anything wrong with that.
    I think you're confusing K-Pop as Korean Music, which I think are two different things. KPop is part of korean music. Just a part. And thus a genre. Yes FT is KPop but... I'm sorry if I come off as some music snob but I cringe at the thought of calling Kim Hyun Sik a "KPop " artist.

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    1. Name one Korean pop music number from the 2010s that is not K-pop, and explain why it is not K-pop.

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    2. Yes Koreans can't define their own music as they've enjoyed it for generations. We need white people to tell us what Kpop is and that it didn't exist until few years ago. LOL

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    3. Isn't Busker Busker kpop? They aren't "Dance, hip hop, idols".
      Their music was just popular in Korea not so much international fans.

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  2. Hi there! K-Pop is a genre according to iTunes and I'm glad of it because it means I can find Korean music on my iTunes. Of course it's all different kinds of music but to be able to find it in the first place it's fantastic that it's all in one basket complete with charts for singles and CD's. You can look at any of their baskets and further define the music as clearly different genres. Hit the Jazz section and you know there tons of different kinds of Jazz and so on. I can buy my OST for Secret Garden the fabulous KDrama as well as most of the Big Bang catalog now, the great Block B rap subgroup Bastardz, BTS, EXO, f(x), AOA, and everything else I find wonderful and pleasing. I can buy most of them on Amazon now too. I saw a great Concert on DramaFever that was in a stadium and had young boy and girl groups as well as 'Senior' groups like BTS and I think VIXX. They had a big rap sing along with some Rap artists I didn't recognize as well as a song by an 'elder' I didn't recognize on piano that everyone knew, everyone including the audience and performers coming out for the big sing along. All kinds of music all under the 'K-pop' label.

    Now if we could discuss how hard it is to find Blu-Ray copies of some of the shows. Of any of the shows. I can see 'The Legend of the Blue Sea' with Lee Min-Hon available now and running like 330 dollars and not even in a US view-able version. When there is something that does come out you gotta pounce quickly because otherwise you're left with only the Malaysian version in DVD9 and sad quality. Now that's an outrage right there. :)

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  3. When I was really into K-Pop (and Korean culture and language in general), I had some Korean music apps downloaded and leaned that what I knew as K-pop was called 인기가요. Popular music. The music show Inkigayo suddenly made sense. K-Pop is more equivalent to the West's "Top 40." The Top 40 isn't always pop music, but it often is. In the same vein, K-pop are Korea's most popular songs. Often songs of idols or idol groups, but not always. Just like Top 40, you get some light rock, some R&B (Korea's ballads), and some rap as well.

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  4. This was a good read. I'm old, so this type of pop music is not my thing (from any country). I do however appreciate all types of music and performing. I agree with Mike C that the Term Kpop has evolved over time, but not through evolution of the artists or music. I think the fact that the singers, and groups we see on TV in Korea are almost exclusively produced by the same top 5 or 6 entertainment agencies, it has turned Kpop from just Korean Pop Music into a specific visual and auditory style that is known to sell. I agree that KPop should just mean Korean Popular Music, but I don't think this is the case anymore. It's a very specific product that is easily packaged and sold. And it sells very well. In response to your question, I nominate the song 얼마나 좋을까 by Kang San Ae. It was featured in a Korean Drama a couple of years ago. Even though it was the theme song for a Kdrama (next post??) I do not consider this Kpop. If anything I would consider it Pop, or Folk/Pop. Being "Korean" isn't important to this song. It could be sung by anyone, anywhere, the same for most Kiha and the Faces songs, as well as No Brain songs, the Barberettes and many more. I don't think the same can be said for the majority of releases by the big entertainment companies. While musically there are differences between groups like BTS, EXO, Big Bang, etc... being Korean is vital their success. In my opinion there is a difference between Kpop and Korean music and entertainment companies are the ones who have created this separation.

    Love reading your blog!

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  5. I'm no music expert but I do know a bit about words. I agree that K-pop is not one genre and not one style of music and that being "of Korea" is a defining feature but I don't agree with some of the argumentation in the article.
    "In our current, "post-truth" world, it is more important than ever to insist that words must mean what they say."
    From a linguists perspective that is a fundamental misunderstanding. Who decides what words mean and how they are used? Words don't have inherent meaning and very few words point to exactly one thing in the real world (like proper names e.g. "the Eiffel tower"). What does a word "say"? When an Argentinian person says "tea" they might think of a mate gourd, a Chinese person might mean a small cup of green tea and a British person might refer to a light meal in the late afternoon. Words get their meaning when a big enough group of people implicitly or explicitly agrees that this is what the word means and that is how we are using it. This shared use of a word may then become conventionalised and is eventually written down in dictionaries or encyclopedias but its collective use may change again.

    ""K-pop" plainly means "pop music of Korea," because "K" obviously stands for "Korea," and "pop" obviously stands for "pop music." Q.E.D."
    Deriving the meaning of a compound noun by checking the meaning of its parts is a good strategy but that doesn't necessarily make it the "true" meaning of a word. A snowball is a ball of snow but a pineapple is not an apple from a pine tree.
    Language is fluid. Words can mean one thing thirty years ago and another thing to day. They can mean different things to different people in different contexts. Ask any dictionarian and they will tell you just that. If you want to argue for a specific meaning of a word, you need to collect enough evidence of people using that word to mean exactly that. The Oxford Dictionary defines K-pop as "Korean pop music" but not because that is somehow by law of nature and for all eternity the true meaning of the term.
    The argumentation as to why K-pop doesn't mean "idol pop" goes in the right direction because it lists prominent examples of people using the term to mean more than idol pop. Still, if there are large speech communities using the word to mean "idol pop", then that is what it means in that context.
    This is a popular blog written by an author taken to be an authority on all things Korean by many readers, so this post may well tip the scales of the discourse a little towards the meaning that the author is arguing for. And that's how words get their meaning.

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    1. How do you feel about George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language"? http://www.orwell.ru/library/essays/politics/english/e_polit/

      "In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness."

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    2. This was Linguistics 101 for me back in college. Many words we use today don't quite follow the etymology of how they used to be used or what they literally mean. "Hopefully" is a great example--It's supposed to mean "in a hopeful way", but most people have concluded that it means "I hope". Use determines meaning, so if you can convince enough people to agree with you, then you're right, but if enough people use it a different way, then it can concurrently mean the same thing and you will have to clarify what you are talking about.

      Of course there's a musicological reason why "K-pop" means both "Korean popular music" and "Korean pop music", which have two separate meanings at least for music professionals and academics and while I'm not a linguist, I did get a degree in musicology long ago and can say that "K-pop" absolutely can mean the genre "Korean pop music", although the use that TK outlines in his examples falls more in "Korean popular music" than "Korean pop music".

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  6. By this logic, One Direction are Britpop, because they're British, and they're pop.

    But Britpop was music of the '90s by the likes of Suede, Pulp and Oasis. One Direction are a very, *very* long way away from what I remember Britpop being. R'n'B is very different to its rhythm 'n blues origins; not all indie is independent; and so on. However a genre gains its name can have very little bearing on how it subsequently evolves.

    Of course there are going to be those who blur lines, or use different lines altogether. K-Pop is music, and music is business, so who on earth wouldn't attach attach to something if it allowed the opportunity of more success?

    When I first got into K-Pop many years ago, it was just before Psy's 'Right Now'. It was rather popular, and I'm sure I remember him performing with Girls' Generation as dancers on stage, but he was still regarded as being on the Korean Pop side of things rather than K-Pop. One year later, 'Gangnam Style' becomes a global hit, and of course K-Pop collectively wants to attach to that. The beast's nature is always going to crave success and attention.

    The same is true of all music when it's also a business. Jaden Smith and those bands attending SXSW you mention have the same outlook, they may not be K-Pop as its followers think of it, but if their attachment offers opportunities for success then it's good for business, and if the beast isn't harmed then it's not going to object.

    I've read your blog for a few years now, it's been clear you have your own definition of K-Pop (which is 'all pop that is Korean') and I've no intention if dissuading you from that. I just feel compelled to point out that for most K-Pop fans that's not the case, it is inextricably intertwined with idol music and the whole process around it. And if a genre's own consumers cannot define it, then who can?

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    1. I just feel compelled to point out that for most K-Pop fans that's not the case, it is inextricably intertwined with idol music and the whole process around it.

      You mean most international K-pop fans, whose history of listening to Korean pop music extends at most ~10 years. That's not a measure of anything. It's like an American lecturing a Chinese that General Tso's Chicken is Chinese food while mapo tofu is not.

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    2. I'm pretty sure that it's primarily international "K-pop" fans that use the very word "K-pop" and so how they use it sort of defines it, whether we like it or not. The proper analogy would be like a Brit telling an American that they use the word "loo" to describe what the American would call a "bathroom".

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    3. If your point was that, from a Korean perspective, there's no distinction between Korean pop and K-pop then that wasn't at all clear from the article. Even then, I would contend that 케이팝 is not an unknown term in Korea (... and I know this is going off on a tangent, but if you'll indulge me I'd be interested to know why it's transliterated as 케이팝 and not 케이폽) and one with a very meaning similar to its English counterpart. Either way, it's a specific phenomenon in its own right, one that is part of, but not fully interchangable with, Korean pop.

      And if we're all having fun with similies, the article's point is like saying all Korean sporting leagues can be classified as K-League, rather than the K-League being a very specific thing.

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    4. I'm pretty sure that it's primarily international "K-pop" fans that use the very word "K-pop" and so how they use it sort of defines it, whether we like it or not.

      No. Words have definition and you cannot change the definition just because you want to, regardless of how you use it.

      I'd be interested to know why it's transliterated as 케이팝 and not 케이폽

      Transliteration follows the closest sound. 팝 is closer to pop than 폽.

      the article's point is like saying all Korean sporting leagues can be classified as K-League, rather than the K-League being a very specific thing.

      This doesn't work, because K-League is a specific thing. It is a proper noun given to Korea's soccer league.

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    5. If your point was that, from a Korean perspective, there's no distinction between Korean pop and K-pop then that wasn't at all clear from the article.

      My point is that there is no distinction between Korean pop and K-pop from any perspective, because K-pop is no more than a shorthand for Korean pop. There can be no other meaning, because that's what the constituent words in "K-pop" say, and there has been no meaningful attempt to define the boundaries of the term as a genre or a style.

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    6. What do you think the producers of SBS's "K-Pop Star" think K-Pop means?

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    7. T.K., by your logic then "bathroom" should only mean a room where there is a bath, which is not how we use the word now. We've collectively changed the meaning of the word over time. We collectively change meanings of many words over time and old definitions die as new ones arise. You look through any dictionary's etymologies sections and you won't be able to track the number of words that don't mean what they used to or what they appear to be on the surface.

      Loan words in languages often live on the idea that you take a word from another language and use it the way that your collective society has decided that it fits you. This is certainly true of Korean use of terms like "overeat" and the doubly borrowed "arubaiteu", which have connections to the original meanings but don't mean what the source word means. Are you saying that these words don't have their new meanings either?

      Similarly, slang and vernacular speech in general also live on this idea that you take words and assign them new meanings. And these new uses, if popular enough in usage can override original meanings and even take root as the only remaining meaning of that word. Are you suggesting that we run around that strike down every word use that has ever deviated from original or surface meaning because a large enough mass of people have decided to use a word in that way?

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  7. Maybe Jaden Smith will do a Trot song!

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  9. Hrrmmmmm I really think the whole concept of a "genre" is pretty loosy-goosy, so I'm not sure I'd make such a big deal of the fact that "K-pop" is fraught just like other genre. The landscape of "musical genre" is a big mess of hierarchical and overlapping ways of classifying music. Any given piece of music can be classified under multiple genre, and of course every genre can be further broken into sub-genre. Consequentially, for any given genre, you can pretty much always say "Hey, but this includes lots of really different types of music!!!" OR "Hey, but this song could also go in these OTHER genre!!!" This is just the nature of musical genre, which are an incredibly unscientific way of classifying music. Genres can be defined based on style (e.g., bluegrass, heavy metal), topic or intended audience (e.g., Christian, children, holiday), time period (e.g., oldies, 80s), purpose of the music (e.g., soundtrack, dance, comedy), in opposition to other kinds of music (e.g., alternative rock), and yes, geographic/ethnic/national origin (e.g., country, latin, J-pop, K-pop). I even have a genre in my iTunes library called "World", which embarrassingly includes African and Celtic artists among others (even classifying music as "African" is absurd since Africa is a continent that includes 1500-2000 different languages- how do you think THEY feel?).

    I am sympathetic to the frustration that Korean music isn't treated by western audiences with the level of nuance that they treat their own music. But I don't think that is a problem specific to Korean music- as I mentioned above, iTunes literally has a category called "World" that is essentially a wastebasket genre for "foreign" music that doesn't fit in an existing category (at least K-pop gets its own thing). While I can understand that this lack of nuance is irritating to someone who appreciates that nuance, I also don't think it is something to get snarky about or try to make people feel bad (which could actually discourage people from getting into it). It is just a matter of perspective. We live in a world with thousands of cultures and you can't expect people to appreciate the nuances of music from all of them. While living in Korea, I spent a few hours driving in a car with a Korean guy who let me play DJ with his phone. He had all of his "English music" in one playlist, and it included everything from Eminem to Celine Dion Christmas (as it turns out, he did not realize it was Christmas music). We talked about music the entire time, and it was clear that he lacked a basic understanding the landscape of American/Canadian music, but that is totally understandable because he didn't grow up with it and it wasn't a serious hobby of his. I just thought it was cool that he had some North American music and was interested to learn more. He wanted recommendations and I was happy to share some more "English" music with him. I was also interested to learn more about Korean music, and I still am! The best part of this post is the introduction to some awesome new Korean songs- I absolutely loved the Lang Lee one. I'm looking forward to more posts about Korean music, and its a big cherry on top if I end up adding more Korean stuff to my library. :-)

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  10. Love the term "post-truth"! As always, YOU ROCK, TK!!

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  11. It's a soft power economic movement.

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  12. I have been waiting for this post and you did not disappoint. I am very glad that I am not a lawyer and will never have to face you in court! The problem here is, of course, semantics. Words rarely mean the same thing to any several people, and when international concepts with translations get mixed in, it's not really possible to know what we are each meaning without extensive explication. It's especially difficult with music, since there are not really agreed upon definitions for a lot of things. We end up with "I'll quote Wikipedia" "I'll see your Wikipedia and raise you i-Tunes." "I see your i-Tunes and raise you Groves . . ." Well, this could on one forever. As one example, I don't like classical music. I was involved with stating the Lute Society of America, worked with musicologists and performers on Medieval and Renaissance music, built a clavichord and worked on harpsichords, held season tickets to the opera. All these are commonly called classical music, but properly there is a classical period for music - Mozart, for example - and I don't like it. Early music, romantic, modern - it's all fine with me, except for the classical period. But this is a very fine grained analysis of musical periods and most people don't get it. And so, back to K-pop.
    If I tell people that I'm into K-pop, they assume that I am crazy about Crayon Pop (ugh!) and Got7. Well, Got 7 has made some fun tracks that I can listen to a few times - but after that, a lot of these groups are almost indistinguishable to me. I like individual tracks, but I'm not much of a fan girl. But by your definition, I am a passionate K-pop fan. So what I actually tell people is that I listen to Korean Indie Rock. This confuses them, but I'm OK with that and I don't have to get sucked into discussions about how great Gangnam style is. (Speaking of which - Gangnam Style is not the greatest K-pop hit of all time - the biggest, maybe, but not the greatest.)
    To take a cladistics approach to this, I'd probably go with Popular Music>Korean pop>dance pop, where dance pop could be replaced by trot, ballads, rockabilly, R&B, rock, metal, etc. Or maybe it's Korean Pop>trot>dance pop. I think Japanese pop comes in there somewhere, but I don't now where. You probably do. Even the botanists can't untangle stuff like this, and they have DNA on their side.

    Today's playlist is Phonebooth, Street Guns and Fling. Maybe Idiotape and Kim Chang Wan band later. But if you insist that I'm listening to K-pop, I guess I will have to squeeze some B1A4 in there somewhere. Whatever you call it, there's something about Korean music that reaches me like nothing else. Maybe it's han. ;)

    I'm looking forward to the next music history lesson!

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. "But if you insist that I'm listening to K-pop, I guess I will have to squeeze some B1A4 in there somewhere."
      You sank my battleship!

      This is one reason we should all oppose grouping all Korean music under one big K-tent.

      Also, there is very little han in K-pop, unless it's one of those songs about unrequited love or a music video where an unrequited lover dies tragically. Which is like han but totally a digression from it.

      (Note: this post was removed and reposted just so I could add that Battleship reference)

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  14. Excellent points, all. One quibble K-rock is a term I've seen used. I've found some good songs on a few K-rock lists, only reason I discovered Chosun Punk actually. Which leads me to my other quibble, promoters miscategorizing music does not make their definitions correct. Nowhere else have I seen Crying Nut categorized as kpop. I like my kpop idol groups, my k-indie, my k-hiphop (it's a real term, I promise), and my glorious Korean punk so I'm not making any judgements,just being a mild nitpicker.

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  15. A lot of the artists that you mentioned are never called kpop (nobrain, idiotape, a lot of the artists that performed at SXSW) by ifans, but are instead almost always called k-rock, k-indie, k-hip hop. Also IDK if you noticed when looking up info, but a lot of the indie performers for SXSW are scheduled at a smaller venue on another day....because it's known that there's less draw for them, they're not actually korean'pop', i.e. they're not POPular lol. And 95% of the people that go to that event are there for the idol performer...even if the indie performers turn out to be a nice surprise. Even though kpop is a fusion genre with a lot of different kinds of artists, there's def a consensus about what's kpop and what's not if you go on any forum where ifans discuss kpop. Do they go on music shows(not counting those individuals who have had falling-outs with their old labels and and are forbidden from promoting that way)? Do they release teaser pics? Do they have a fanclub that has a name, instead of just, 'people who like x artist'? Do they go on variety shows? Do they have other kinds of 'fannish' culture surrounding them? Do they tend to focus on flashy, high production quality music videos with a lot of focus on the face? Then they are kpop, because even Psy and IU have all those things. But bands like Clazziquai or Kiha and the faces don't really do those things, and even Seo Taiji doesn't really qualify anymore.

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  16. Glad to know my question had propelled you to write this piece. Awesome material. Thanks!

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  17. I am a big fan of Korean singer, 프롬. I have liked her for a very long time, when she was still independent. However, now she's a lot more popular in Korea and has her music videos posted on major label YouTube channels. This now qualifies her as K-Pop, correct?

    I think TK is 100% right, but generally when I say "I don't like K-Pop" to Koreans, they understand what I mean. What I really mean is that I don't like the idol bands or any music that sounds too "perfect" or sounds too "polished". When a major music label and high-end producers get their hands on an artist's work, I stop liking it. Happened with Beenzino and Zion.T for me as well. It's hard for me to put into words, but it's like their music loses their 'flaws' that help me relate to them as humans. To help make it seem more 'authentic' to me.

    Great post, and I'm interested in hearing more about it.

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  18. Hi Larissa .. I made 19 decorations from the first six patterns you made and handed them out to my Church Mice quilting group for Christmas. They hung on silver trees I made with a star attached and sitting in decorated pots. The girls loved them. One day I'll make the 12 for myself. Thanks Larissa.
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  19. I've been waiting YEARS for the conclusion of the Top 50 list. GET HYPE!

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  20. Glad to know my question had propelled you to write this piece. Awesome material. Thanks!



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