Some observations on Korean Pop..

I put in all the non-review posts before I post any more reviews so those who aren't familiar with Kpop can get a feel for what the industry's like(It took me some time to get used to it and even now I'm confused..) and so you won't be totally lost when I start rambling on about stuff. So I'm obviously an outsider in the world of K pop and a lot of you guys might be as well so here are some of my observations over the past few weeks.

1. Companies, Talent Agencies
I'm quite confused as to how the business side of the industry works. From what I first looked up, Korean music isn't controlled by record companies who give you money to produce records and have their logo plastered all over your record then get you a manager and crew members, there are companies or talent agency-like things. You audition, they train you(I presume it's singing and dancing) and they can choose to put you in a band or let you debut as a solo singer, the decision is up to them (manufactured, much?) so I think they pretty much control you. You get a manager and you're tied to the company until you decide to leave(like Rain) but then if you don't make your own company(again, like Rain), you're stuck without a manager, distributor, mentor, producers, songwriters and the name of the company.
The companies I've heard of are SM Entertainment(Girls' Generation, BoA, DBSK, Super Junior), JYPE(Wonder Girls, formerly Rain, 2PM, 2AM), Daesung Entertainment(SS501, Kara, formerly Lee Hyori), MNET(it's also a music channel. Lee Hyori) and Nega-Network(Brown Eyed Girls).

But what confuses me is that some artists like Son Dambi are signed to Western 'Big Four' companies. So Son Dambi is signed to Sony BMG Korea and The Brown Eyed Girls are signed to Seoul Records but I haven't come across any other Korean act signed to a major label. hmm.

2. Dancing K pop puts a premium on dancing, I've noticed. Rain, Girls' Generation, BoA, JYP, Se7en(yes, there's a guy called Se7en in Korea. Reminds me too much of 5ive. Then there's 8Eight, but that's a completely different story..), Son Dambi, Big Bang, DBSK, SS501 and practically all of the gigantic Kpop stars make special adjustments to everything just so they can show off how well they dance(well there's Kim Jong Kook but there's only one of him and a mob of them..).

Dance breaks in the middle of songs, songs about dancing, dance versions of music videos(all the zoom-ins and special skits are taken out and it's just a full shot of the whole group dancing the whole song.. watch one here.) and dance battles - they're all really common. And it's not just the simple dance routines either, you see talent companies only taking really hard core dancers(Rain had to dance for five hours to get into JYPE. I don't think he even sang!) even if they're not the best singers in the world.

I think it's 'Dance or rot and die' for a lot of them.

3. Gimmick-y music videos.
That's probably one of the longest music videos I've seen - it's more or less double the length of the actual song and apparently, it was first made as a short film then edited to fit the song.

A lot of Korean music videos have short skits that most often require the acts to act or dance or whatever. It's kinda cool though if you're a huge fan of whoever and he/she gets double the airtime.

4. They don't have official singles charts.
They have official album sales charts but they're so hard to dig up and I'm pretty sure there's no such thing as a singles chart so there. It's kinda like here so thank God we're not alone in not having an official singles chart.
What they DO have are numerous TV show countdowns, the MNET M Countdown and I think the general TV stations have them as well.

5. Formats and Discographies can be quite confusing.
They have singles and albums but they also have a whole heap of mini-albums. Tantamount to EP's in UK and US music vocabulary, they're treated like how we treat full-length albums - with singles and music videos and special editions and they sell as much as albums do.
I don't know if it's really like that but I noticed that mostly girl groups have mini-albums. Like, The Brown Eyed Girls, Girls Generation and Kara all had mini-albums last year.(heck, Kara even had a repackaged version of theirs!) The Wonder Girls' debut material was a mini-album, they had one before a full-length release.

Then I noticed that unlike singles in the UK and US which have remixes and maybe one b-side, a lot of Korean singles have heaps of b-sides which confuses me a bit 'coz some singles have as many tracks as mini-albums do. Hmm, will have to figure that out.

6. A lot of them want to crack the US market(kinda like the UK..).
BoA, Rain, Se7en and tons more have been learning English(not very well, but a few are competent.), boasting that they've been working with big producers in the US and have attempted to break the US market - some successfully, some not.
(Just a side note: Does BoA really think that singing about eating up a guy will actually help break her into the territory?) Rain topped Time's online poll for 2006's most influential person which led him to sign with the William Morris Agency in the US, BoA already has a full-length English album out(but don't we all know that..) and SS501 and the Wonder Girls have been to the US on numerous occasions. Either the Wonder Girls seem to take cracking the US seriously because their English isn't that bad or JYP is forcing them to learn real quick.


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  2. About the Wonder Girls, I think it's because they got to tour with the Joneses...erm..Jonas Brothers.

    I don't think their English is really that better. In fact, when I heard their English version of Nobody, I though it was the Korean version but it didn't sound like Korean.

    I'm not sure how Koreans define fluency in English

  3. I’m glad you wrote this up. I live in America and have just started getting into Kpop (thanks to your blog, actually).

    Other things I’ve noticed are:

    1) that the groups recreate their routines -from their videos- ‘live’ to the point where it gets a bit ridiculous. After watching Brown Eyed Girls’ “Abracadabra” video I decided to check out some of their live performances only to find that it’s pretty much the video transcribed, with a million different costume changes (and even the costumes are just variations of what they wore in the video)

    2) a lot of the song's English titles are of popular American songs

    *[for example: SNSD’s ‘Oh!/American singer Ciara’s ‘Oh!’ from 2005 - Kara’s ‘Umbrella’/American singer Rihanna’s ‘Umbrella’ from 2007]

    3) What’s with everyone having a “comeback single” or a “comeback performance”? When I think comeback I image the artist flopped at one point and went into hiding; several of the Kpop artists had hits, supposedly, not even six months ago…yet they’re making a ‘comeback’

    Question: Why do so many acts mix English with Korean? I don’t speak Korean so I have no idea personally. I wasn’t sure if this had something to do with what you were saying about artists wanting to crack the US or if some words sound the same in different languages [I’m not ignorant; just curious]
    I thought it was just me who found the fact that they have no singles chart a bit weird and the mini albums a bit unnecessary (especially when they repackage them so soon after their original release date).

    But I must admit that even though I have no idea what’s being said 99.9% of the time…I think I’m addicted to Kpop!


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