Thursday, July 30, 2015

So You Haven't Listened to Kpop Yet?

For many Kdrama fans, Kpop is a natural companion to Korean dramas, considering many dramas star Kpop idols or feature Kpop singers as part of their OST (soundtrack). But for others, they are two separate entities. Some binge-watch Kdramas but swear off Kpop, and others listen to Kpop nonstop but avoid Kdramas like the plague. Today, I will address those who are on the Kdrama-only side and offer some advice since I was once in their shoes. I'll have some words for you Kpop-only people in a later post :)

There's no question that I'm a Kpop fangirl now, but I wasn't always this way. For most of my life I'd have never entertained listening to music that wasn't sung in English. Even when I discovered the bliss that is Kdramas, I stuck exclusively with English-only lyrics. It wasn't a two-for-one package for me. I wasn't worshipping Korean culture and devoting my whole life to it- I just liked watching the dramas. To me Kpop had a couple factors that kept me from it. The first was that while Kdramas had subtitles to translate for me, I had no idea what they were saying in Kpop songs. The second was that I didn't listen to very much American 'pop' to begin with, so why would I like Korean 'pop'. Because of these factors, I never went searching for Kpop and because it is in a foreign language, Kpop isn't a genre of music I was exposed to in America. If you want to listen to Kpop, you have to go looking for it. So truthfully I didn't think much about listening to it at all.

I first started opening up to the idea of Korean music through the Kdramas I watched. I started downloading songs from the OSTs when I couldn't get them out of my head. Mary Stayed Out All Night, in particular, had several songs I loved. But I didn't think of them as pop music, I thought of them as rock and I already knew I liked rock. Right around the time I started thinking about checking out Kpop, my sister beat me to it. She LOVED SHINee and made me listen to some. I didn't care for them at all and since that was the only Kpop I had heard, I assumed I didn't like any Kpop. It took a few months of me running away every time I heard the sound of Kpop before my sister got me to listen to a couple songs that I actually liked. She showed me a Super Junior song that I thought was catchy and 2NE1's I Am The Best. And then I was interested. I went on a YouTube Kpop sampling frenzy, looking up all the Kpop groups I had heard of to see which ones I like. I soon found BIGBANG's Fantastic Baby and my life was forever changed. This music was super catchy, the video was the most awesome one I had ever seen, and the band members themselves were cool incarnate. I wasn't going to avoid Kpop anymore; I was going to embrace it.

This was only a couple weeks prior to Gangnam Style becoming a worldwide phenomenon so the timing was uncanny and only fueled my passion for Kpop (although in retrospect Gangnam Style is a horrible representation of Kpop). It didn't take long before my listening palette was exclusively Korean and has been ever since. I now listen to a huge variety of different Kpop artists as different as they come. While, I'm still a VIP (fan of BIGBANG), I've embraced great love for countless groups. It turns out all of my hesitations about Kpop were completely unfounded. Thankfully, this has also made me more open to listening to music in other languages as well, though Korean is still my preference. So for those who, similar to me, love Kdramas but aren't sure about Kpop there are a few things I'd like to say to you.

1). Kpop isn't like American pop. I learned that while American pop means music only incorporates a certain 'pop' sound usually consisting of catchy but meaningless club tunes and most often sung by women, Kpop is more inclusive; it incorporates all of we would consider Top 40 and popular music, which makes sense because pop is meant to mean popular music. So Korean pop, hip-hop, r&b, and electronica can all be considered Kpop in addition to other genres that I can't even give a name to. There are so many different sounds that are all considered Kpop. There are sub-genres within Kpop that I don't have any interest and others that turn me into a Kpop crazy lunatic. To me, American pop music all sounds very similar.

2). Kpop videos are the best. Colorful. Random. Creative concepts. Awesome Dance Moves. Great Outfits. Even my American ahjumma, over-logical mother will admit that they are much better than American music videos. And that's saying a lot because she hates Kpop and Korean dramas.

3). They can DANCE! Never, ever have I seen dance moves that rival those of the best Kpop groups. I watch EXO's videos with my jaw-dropped. One amazing solo dancer is one thing, but when you have 12 (Now 9, maybe 10 *sniff*) in sync and amazing dancers, it's completely exhilirating to watch.

4). They win the singing/rapping combination game. I like rap, but don't like listening to 5 minutes of nothing but rapping so I have always been a fan of songs that smoothly combine a great rap hook and great singing hooks. It's becoming more popular and better executed in American pop these days, but Kpop really knocks it out of the park in this area. They don't just feature a rapper in their songs, they have rappers as part of the band. TOP from BIGBANG is an obvious perfect example of this. He's just as much a part of the group as anyone else. In fact, he's possibly the fan favorite member. And on the female group front, LE from EXID is a rapping machine. Almost every Kpop group has a rapper that can lay it down.

5). You can enjoy the song without knowing what they're saying. Koreans convey so much emotion through their voice without even using words. Just like how in Kdramas, the expressions are more important than the words, in Kpop the emotions are more important than the words. You can get the gist of what they're saying without understanding a word of the language. Now if you do want to know what they're saying, you can always find the translation online, which a lot of Kpop fans do. Personally, I've always enjoyed the beat and music of a song more than the lyrics, so I don't find it necessary.

6). There's nothing like having an Idol bias who acts. Idols who act help bridge the world between the Kpop and Kdrama fandom, but you can't experience the full excitement until you love an idol for his/her singing AND his/her acting. In my opinion there's nothing like it. Getting to see them in two different universes: one where they're serenading you and the other where they're giving you feels is like doubling the fandom experience.

Not everyone is going to love Kpop, I get it. It's okay to like different genres of music. Even in Kpop, it's okay to not like certain groups. I certainly don't love all Kpop groups. But for those of you who've been avoiding Kpop, for one reason or another, I'm urging you to give it a chance. There are so many different groups out there with different sounds that there's bound to be one that piques your interest. So even if you've heard Kpop before, give it another try. Don't just stop at Girl's Generation and Super Junior if they're not you're thing- there's so much more to Kpop than boy bands with a dozen members. If you're new to the genre altogether, check out my post on 10Kpop songs for beginners! If you give Kpop a good college try and still don't like it, I swear I'll never bother you about it again. But I'm speaking from perspective of someone who once thought they wouldn't like Kpop; if I had continued to be so stubborn I would have missed out on something I really loved. You don't want to be in the same position, do you?

Thanks for reading friends and Kpop on!


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