[August 17-23, 2014] Gaon Chart Commentary

I started these commentaries to delve deeper not only on the Gaon chart, but also the industry and the flow of music -- just one month in and I've already learned so much. One of the main things I've come to realize is that chart longevity just doesn't happen. It can be for numerous reasons -- audiences are too small, fickle, and/or too divided in terms of tastes, agencies don't have strong enough marketing models, or that there's just so much music, too much for certain artists to dominate. Of course there are two sides to that argument of domination as well. On one hand, it's good for artists to know that their popularity can and should be sustained, because it shows the depth of their appeal and that there is depth/sustenance to their marketing models. But on the other, it can make the charts elitist (even more than they already are in favor of idols), where only certain groups have a monopoly (or oligopoly if you want to be accurate ;P) on them.

Four new songs entered last week's Gaon Digital Chart, including Taemin's solo single "Danger" and three entries from Busker Busker's Jang Beom June, including this week's #1. Davichi's "It's Okay, That's Love" OST is the only gainer this week, moving up one place from last week's #10 position -- all other singles sink several places down to make way for new entries.

#10 WINNER - "Color Ring" (-7)
It's like WINNER came in with guns blazing, but after that first round they weren't able to sustain it. And I don't mean in terms of staying at #1, but it terms of a more gradual sinking on the chart. Last week they were chart darlings but now "Color Ring" is this week's biggest loser, sinking seven places. I don't know much about business -- models and marketing and whatnot -- but I know enough about the music industry to know that there's something off with a promotional model that only allows for a week's worth of success. In a sense this is the flip side of a chart that allows for very abrupt, dynamic shifts -- while variety is always welcome, it comes at the cost of short-term effectivity in terms of promotions. Why bother trying to sustain popularity when you'll only stay at #1 for a week, right?

#9 Davichi - "It's Okay, That's Love" (+1)
While everyone basically made way for Jang Beom June and Taemin this week, Davichi went up one spot. There is a strong correlation between the success of this single and the success of the drama it's promoting -- I hear that this is the top-rating drama in its time slot. Which only reinforces what I've been saying about this for the past few weeks -- it's free, consistent promotion. But at the same time, it's also not so much about the actual music than it is about the song being associated with another form of popular culture, which is another problem of the industry. If you need to depend on other aspects of popular culture to sell a song, and sell it consistently, then that's clearly another flawed promotional strategy.

#8 SISTAR - "Touch My Body" (-3)
I really hope "Touch My Body" holds on for just a bit more because like I said last week, I'm really curious to see what happens to it when "I Swear" enters the top ten. And also because all this talk of a lack of chart longevity in entries clearly doesn't apply to SISTAR as much as it does to other groups -- two weeks at number one and it's still around. It's easy to pull the "sexy sells" card to explain SISTAR's success, but a lot of other groups use that -- the more SISTAR stick around, the more material I have to get to the bottom of what makes them so popular.

#7 Block B - "Her" (-1)

#6 Jang Beom June - "낙엽 엔딩" (new)
I've heard of Busker Busker's chart power in the past, which says a lot about their influence because I wasn't paying attention to charts much and if I did, it was only for idols. So the fact that I heard about Busker Busker means that they were leaps and bounds ahead of everyone else -- they still are, if Jang Beom June's solo release is any indication. I would've never listened to the LP if I didn't have to write about these three songs, but I'm glad I did -- like I said on this week's playlist I'm actually really open to non-idol Korean music, it's just that I'm lost at where to begin because there's so much and the structure of that side of the industry isn't as systematic as idol releases. It's awfully mainstream of me to start with chart-toppers but I gotta start somewhere, right?

#5 Taemin - "Danger" (new)
I'm glad "Danger" is doing relatively well, but I can't help but think -- is SM and SHINee's clout not enough to bring Taemin to #1? Is "Danger" not proficient enough a song to be a hit? Or is it a slow burn? I'm pretty lost as to how SM releases fare on charts apart from release day all-kills and music show wins, and there haven't been any high-profile SM releases yet since I started these commentaries (SuJu should make an appearance soon though!) so I can't really make a judgement on whether it's really the song/release itself or SM that affects Taemin's chart performance. We'll see -- hopefully this stays on the chart for a bit longer!

#4 Jang Beom June - "사랑이란 말이 어울리는 사람(사말어사)" (new)

#3 Park Bo Ram - "Beautiful" (feat. Zico of Block B) (-1)

#2 Winner - "Empty" (-1)
This isn't as bad a descent as "Color Ring," which is good. You could say that the only reason "Empty" went down a place is because of Jang Beom June -- if he wasn't on the chart WINNER would still be #1. But that's the thing, Jang Beom June is on the chart so there's no use blaming factors you can't control. That said, this single is still pretty close to the #1 spot. Gaon doesn't supply exact sales figures/scoring, but you never know -- given the fickleness of the chart it's possible that WINNER might just bounce back to number one with a little nudge in promotions.

#1 Jang Beom June - "Difficult Woman" (new)
I liked "Difficult Woman" when I first heard it, I think out of the three tracks that charted this week it's the most "mainstream" and marketable. The guitar line is ridiculously catchy, the melody is playful and captures the motif of the rest of the LP. And the production is spot-on -- it brings out the conviction and dynamics of the individual instruments but is also able to turn them into a cohesive arrangement. It's easy to see why this is a hit -- it appeals to a much wider demographic than K-Pop (similar to OSTs) and also appeals to demographics who aren't as fast-paced in terms of musical tastes and "flavor of the months."


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