[September 9-20, 2014] Gaon Chart Commentary

I missed last week's chart mainly because I was (still) overwhelmed with schoolwork, but also because there was little movement and not that many idol releases. While the purpose of these commentaries are to show the other aspects of Korean music, my focus as a writer is on idols. But when I develop a solid enough handle on these other aspects that I'm in the process of learning about (as I write this series), rest assured I won't be skipping any more weeks!

The Gaon Digital Top 10 for the week of September 9 to 20 features five new entries. Three enter the chart in the top 10 -- Teen Top's "Missing" at #8, 2PM's "Go Crazy" at #5, and TTS' "Holler" the highest new entry at #3. TTS enter the top 10 with a second entry, "Whisper," which jumps 7 places from #11 last week to #4. Adam Levine's "No One Else Like You" also enters the top 10 from #12 last week, while "Lost Stars" jumps to #2. Postmen's ballad "신촌을 못가" stays at #1 for a second week.

#10 SISTAR - "I Swear" (-5)
"I Swear" has been descending slowly over the past few weeks and while that logically points to their exit from the top 10 next week, it's hard to predict. Who knows, they can very well hold on to this spot next week like other #10 tracks in the past, or something big could happen in the next few weeks that brings them back into the top 10 after they drop. What's a given though is that SISTAR have a very, very strong influence on the charts -- there hasn't been a week that they haven't been in the top 10, since "Touch My Body" entered.

#9 Adam Levine - "No One Else Like You" (-5)
Either I've caught the Gaon chart at a good time or Adam Levine/Maroon 5 really commands this much chart power in Korea. K-pop critics and writers, and everyone with an opinion on K-pop basically, always mention how everything is so "western" and little of it is actually "Korean." But honestly, it's wrong to assert that without an understanding of how exactly Korea consumes and responds to Western influence. We assume that what's popular in the US will be what Korea copies, but Korean consumers actually have their own taste -- as shown by the appearance of so many tracks from Adam Levine's "Begin Again." The soundtrack didn't exactly flop in the US, it was #1 on the Billboard soundtrack chart, but it wasn't a HUGE hit either, it peaked at #22 on the Billboard albums chart. The movie itself also performed so-so in the box office. So the fact that it's such a big hit in Korea says a lot about how Korea consumes Western products. It's important that we consider this as an example of their taste which is, in a sense, what could provide the Korean element in all of this.

#8 Teen Top - "Missing" (new)
I forget if I mentioned this elsewhere before, but personally its weird seeing Teen Top on the charts because I always thought they were the less successful next to Infinite. They are, to a certain extent, but I never really thought about the actual size of the disparity between the two is -- and it looks as if it's not as big as I thought it was. Which I should have realized -- how can Teen Top last this long and stay more or less relevant as an act, without some kind of chart power.

#7 Iron - "독기" (-5)
I mentioned in previous weeks how "Show Me The Money" is powerful enough to bring a song into the top 10, then how powerful they are to bring more tracks -- and now it seems as if they also have enough pull to make their entries stay and launch their winners' careers. With this hit under his belt and a guest spot in Kim Bum Soo's upcoming concert, it looks as if Iron's all set. (And he didn't even win!)

#6 Yoon Mi Rae - "너를 사랑해" (-3)

#5 2PM - "Go Crazy" (new)
2PM enter the Top 10 at a comfortable position. They're literally right in the middle of everything, which gives them a sense of mobility -- there's just a big a potential to rise as there is to fall (within the top 10, at least). And "Go Crazy" is the best they've done since 2011's "Hands Up," which actually comes as a surprise to me because I thought "A.D.T.O.Y." was a huge hit. (It's actually their second-lowest ranking single) It's also the best JYP has done recently -- HA:TFELT didn't enter the top 10 (which I'm still mourning over). What I'm curious to see in the following weeks though is if it'll actually rise any higher of it 2PM are the type to lay low on the charts, but stay for months.

#4 TTS - "Whisper" (+7)
"Whisper" was actually on last Week's Gaon chart, but outside of the top 10 -- this week it enters at #4. It's interesting because in theory pre-release singles such as "Whisper" are supposed to push the album up, whereas what this case looks like is that the release of "Holler" pushed "Whisper" up. Which is actually the usual case with idol releases, mainly because pre-release tracks aren't that common unless they're for big acts -- either the pre-release track is already in the top 10 when the rest of the album comes out, or all the songs are releases at the same time and enter simultaneously, like WINNER's triple entry.

#3 TTS - "Holler" (new)
TTS are this week's semi-chart darlings because of their multiple entries, a common occurrence for first-week idol releases. Which probably makes up for them being held off the top spot? The usual idol trajectory is start big and work your way down, so its understandable that people see this as a failure. After all, first-week sales for big acts are always rake in the most because of pre-orders. But honestly, like 2PM I won't completely close off the possibility of TTS hitting #1, especially with SM's aggressive marketing tactics and SNSD's strong fan base. If they can at least maintain first week figures and then step up their marketing -- TTS already won a music show, so it won't be that difficult I think.

#2 Adam Levine - "Lost Stars" (+5)

#1 Postmen - "신촌을 못가" (-)
This is another very interesting case because it was released back in January but only hit #1 now. I did some research and I can think of two possible explanations for this that probably worked together in favor of Postmen. First was that EXO's Baekhyun mentioned recently that he listens to this a lot. It may not seem like a lot, but I've learned to never doubt EXO's fan base -- they're literally as ferocious as DBSK's Cassiopeia at their peak, with even better technology. The fangirl culture extends not only to consuming products of the object of fangirling, but also products that these celebrities themselves consume -- you see the extremity of it in cases like the YSL lipstick that was sold out for months because Jeon Ji Hyun wore it, or even previously-unknown products selling like hotcakes after a celebrity is seen using it. Put this many rabid fans into this kind of culture, and it's easy to see why this Postmen track hit #1. A second, supporting, reason is that it was covered by a contestant on Superstar K 6. While not as obvious in its clout compared to something like EXO's fan base, the appearance of countless tracks from "Show Me The Money" has kept me open to the high possibility of reality shows amassing enough influence to send a song to the top of the charts.


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