Five Years of K-pop in Review
First off, let me just say right now that this post has nothing to do with an update or a new profile being made. Actually, it has nothing to do with the site in general. This is just a post solely based on personal thoughts and reflections, and some conclusions that I’ve come to about K-pop and its transformation in the past few years.
Okay, so to get started, here’s a couple of things that have been on my mind recently — in regards to K-pop, of course — that I feel needs to be shared with all of you Mandu-ers out there that even so much as care in the slightest way about my two cents. In a nutshell, I’m gonna talk about…
- The concept of “idols” vs. “celebrities”
- Dating amongst stars nowadays
- The “rookie group”
- The growth of the veteran idol
Now, these topics might seem confusing — and it’s probably because I worded them quite awkwardly — but in all actuality they make sense, I promise you. Just bare with me.
What I mean by saying “the concept of ‘idols’ vs. ‘celebrities'” is how I find the roles and responsibilities of a Korean (for the lack of a better word) “star” to be entirely and wholeheartedly different from our usual idea of what a celebrity is. I daresay this because if we all just take a second to pause and sincerely ponder the notion of the word “K-pop”, in and of itself we would all come to this common understanding that, truthfully, being a celebrity in Korea is not the same as being a celebrity in another country. Of course, there are celebrity athletes, celebrity models, celebrity fashion designers and what not that continue to exist within Korea’s celebrity bubble, but what I’m focusing on here is the celebrity idol – AKA somebody or someone who appeals to a mass audience consisting of young teens through a combination of stylistic musicality, good looks, and overall marketability.
In America (and maybe elsewhere, though I’m not too sure of this so don’t quote me on it), the “celebrity” seems to have less restrictions placed on their style of living. In other words, here you can find stars living their lives however they like, for as long as they like, and not give two flipping ducks about who is watching them. Yet, to me, I find that in South Korea the “celebrity” takes on a whole new concept, therefore rightfully labeling them as “idols”. You see, when you are thrown into the spotlight after years of rigorous training, you automatically carry this invisible weight on your shoulders that you feel a need to consistently manage, and you can’t help it because you’ve just been intensely refined of epic proportions to serve our needs of entertaining us.
We call Korean pop stars “idols” for a reason. We basically place them on a pedestal to be watched and honored. But that’s exactly it. They know we’re watching them. They know we’re judging them. They know that we expect much of them, and news flash, they care that we do so.
In the end, I guess I just wanted to write about this real quick to serve as a reminder for all of us K-poppers out there. A reminder that at the end of the day, we shouldn’t forget about all the roles and the responsibilities that the idols we love so deeply have to maintain second after second. The truth is, the “idol” exists contrary to its name; they seemingly hold the power in their right hand, but the fans and the followers are the ones who really hold dominion over this pop culture industry.
The question now is, where does the line of equilibrium get drawn?
Here’s some food for thought: is it just me or are a bunch, a buuuunch, of K-pop stars seemingly dating a lot nowadays? Maybe it’s just me because I haven’t been quite in-the-know (and definitely not up-to-date) with all the latest news and yada yada yada…but for real, it’s getting to the point where the new, fresh, and cool K-pop stars of today are actually of yesterday. And this sort of ties in with topics #3 and #4, but I’ll touch down on those in a bit. As for right now, I just think that I’m stuck in a world – as maybe the rest of you are – where the once young 20-somethings of Girls’ Generation, Super Junior, SS501, SHINee, and all the rest of them that debuted back in the 2005 to 2009 era are still those same young 20-somethings…BUT I’M SO WRONG. I’m forgetting that, hello, this is 2o-freaking-14. That transition from rookie K-pop star to a legitimate veteran is being made as we speak. They’re dating. They’re engaged. They’re getting married. They’re having kids. This “they’re” that we’re talking about are the stars we grew up with, and it’s time to acknowledge the fact that a new Hallyu wave is making its way to shore.
Speaking of it being the year 2014, I have a great premonition that this is the year. The year where K-pop makes its revival and restoration.
This is that year.
2011 to 2013 seemed to be the fallout years for K-pop. So many new groups came out at once, it was like a tactical nuke in the form of attractive-yet-eerily-similar-looking-pubescent-boys-and-girls took over the world. Now don’t get me wrong! Some groups actually came out of the rubble to flourish into something greater and better, and that’s fabulous, but I think I started to give up hope on K-pop in this three year span because I felt like all the companies — major conglomerates and smaller rundowns alike — were trying so hard to create the next big thing that all they managed to build was a forced and desperate attack.
But pan-zoom to the year 2014.
Rookie groups are so in right now, and fans are taking them seriously. There is so much unlocked potential in the rookie groups that have debuted in the last seven months. I swear…it’s like everyone came together, had a meeting, and agreed to debut the best of the best that they had all at the same time (and that time is now). So yes, there are major flops every now and then, but K-poppers are taking rookie groups to a whole new level. Our love for the classics will continue to stay, but we’re hunting for fresh meat, and LU:KAS, AlphaBAT, SPEED, C-CLOWN, LC9, TINY-G, GP BASIC, etc. etc. etc. are just waiting to be swallowed up whole.
I think we should all go out and buy large rafts, because the Hallyu Wave is seriously about to make some huge tides.
Tying in with the previous two topics is this one: the growth of the “veteran idol”. What does that mean, you ask? It means this: back in 2008, SHINHWA, g.o.d, 1TYM, Se7en, SNSD, SS501, DBSK, Big Bang, Wonder Girls, KARA, and Super Junior (I’m missing a lot but you get the drift) were the “in” groups, but now they’ve earned their medals and have taken a huge leap over the finish line, and are slowly making their way towards bigger and better endeavors. It’s heartbreaking to admit that a few members have left, some groups have divided, and others are broken up, but the forever-feeling of having loved these groups remain. The only thing that has changed in the relationship between the veteran idol and the fan is the simple fact that the veteran idol is making history in ways we never thought possible before. And fans are eager.
In the same way we are anticipating the amazing-ness of new groups like Got7, EXO, BTS, 100% and what not, we are even more so anticipating the epic-ness of what older groups are bringing to the table.
Boundaries are disappearing and walls are falling down – new collaborations are underway, sub-units are making progress, songs are testing vocal limits like crazy, dances are vigorously intense, live performances are off the chain, variety show appearances are gold, and the list goes on and on.
K-pop is moving from just having been an addiction to a musical style with tasteful attributes.
SO. That’s that. Lengthy in all of its essence, I know. But I had to get this out there. I tried to make it all sound as logical and non-biased as possible, but I am human and I do err. Hopefully you stuck through it until the end, and hopefully you have some insight to add onto mine.It’d be cool to have some in-depth conversations about this.
Alrightey, I’m done with this for now. I enjoyed writing something a little different from the norm. If you guys don’t mind it, I can continue to do things like this more often.
Anyways, leave a comment below if you feel the need to! I got to get back to working on profiles.