Introducing: Gaon Chart Commentaries

Now that I’m back in full-swing here, I really do want to keep it up and go back to my blogger roots! That means a couple of things -- a slightly more personal angle to some posts (though my “formal” reviews will stay the same!), and more weekly content that’s easier to write and read. One of the reasons why I hadn’t been writing much was because I was more focused on long form reviews, and they take a lot of time and brain power that I don’t usually have during the school year. University has proven to be very different from high school, and slacking off in favor of blogging is just not an option anymore. Of course shorter personal posts won’t mean compromising the quality of writing that I’ve been continuously improving -- it just means that on top of the more theoretical pieces, I’ll also apply what I’ve learned over the years to more “real-life,” aspects of the music industry. It’s time I put theory to practice.

Now is the right time to step back into the blogger role and start exploring content other than the traditional single and album review, to delve deeper, and better, into how K-Pop works. I’m at that point where I think I can balance views on artistry and industry -- my First Impressions pieces were good practice, and right now I’m more sure of my preferences and where I stand as a blogger.

I’ve been looking through what I used to do here on Pop Reviews Now, as well as memorable content from other blogs during my time as a Western pop blogger, to find ideas I can give a fresh and slightly more mature twist on. I used to have weekly countdowns, short run-throughs of new releases, but I never seemed to be able to sustain them. The most stable and most successful series I’ve had on Pop Reviews Now were my music show recaps -- but three posts a week that are heavy on both commentary and formatting are time-consuming and will take over my entire weekend. Now though, I think I’ve found the perfect new column.

One of the things that has always been on my mind since I made the shift from western pop to K-Pop is the fact that “official” chart statistics aren’t as prominently featured among fans and listeners. Charts are only usually mentioned when a group hits #1, spends an unusually long amount of time at a certain position, or achieves an “all-kill” on multiple online charts. One reason for this is because there are several charts measuring commercial success in K-Pop -- MeLon, Bugs, Hanteo, Gaon, and until several months ago Billboard K-pop, plus Music Shows on MBC, KBS and SBS. This was a feature of K-pop that took some time for me to get used to, but until recently I never really paid attention to charts either. I guess you could say it was one of those instances where I’ve been more of a follower than a content-creator and influencer. But that's going to change.

My Gaon Chart Commentary will be a weekly series, published every Sunday, where I’ll look through the top ten entries of the Gaon digital chart for that specific week -- reviews of the songs themselves, maybe commentary on chart trends and sales figures, as well as hypotheses on why certain songs succeed or fail.

Charts as a measure of music industry achievement has always interested me for a number of reasons. It's impossible to impose "scientific," objective means of measuring the quality of music as a work of art, but because pop music is an art industry the purpose of a chart is to display trends in this industry. This is an issue because the balance between commercial and musical success is very fragile, and pop music in general is infamous for favoring commercial success while compromising a strong musical front. Many consumers also mistakenly look to these charts as definitive rankings not only of quantity, but also of quality and taste -- but quality cannot be adequately measured by sales figures alone. Labels and agencies assume that only a certain, most often mindless, kind of music will sell and since they control the industry's production that alone is what audiences will receive. But what I find especially interesting is when a song that is musically outstanding also excels commercially. Charts are not only a way of analyzing trends in consumption and what people are listening to, but can also provide insight into the production side, and what labels supply to the mass market. Remember that listeners will only hear what people in power will let them hear, and that's a side of pop music that I haven't quite elaborated on. These trends and peculiarities of a chart system such as Gaon are what I hope to further look into, because there's a lot of material to work with and many issues to discuss.

So with my Weekly Playlist on Saturdays, Gaon Chart Commentaries on Sundays, and formal reviews in between, I think we’re all set for Pop Reviews Now's next big step as a blog. I've said it many times, but it really is great to be back -- I’m excited to hear what you guys think about this improved direction and all the amazing music I’ll be featuring!


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