Korean Pop music brings bubbly back internationally

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Meghan Joyce

K-Pop Music Videos are generally very bright and bubbly. “Most K-Pop videos are...very poppy and visual—that’s what caught my eye,” Vega said.

Eva Perez-Greene, Editor-In-Chief

Since the rise of YouTube in the past few years, the entertainment industry has bought, literally and figuratively, into the notion of music videos as art. Gone are the days of relegating music videos to teenage MTV, and nowhere is this more evident than in South Korea, the Korean Pop industry’s epicenter. K-Pop, a modern form of South Korean pop music known for its unique audiovisual bent and dance-pop, electronic, and rock roots knows no limits.

The “Korean Wave” has hit the shores of every continent, its internet-based culture, elaborate music videos, and sugary, neon aesthetic captivating diverse and (mostly) young adult audiences. All of which makes sense in light of the fact that K-Pop is, at its core, a mixture of Eastern and Western influences, invented and marketed by the young, for the young.

Senior Jesus Vega was taken with K-Pop after watching a single music video in middle school. “It was 2NE1’s I Am The Best. If you’ve seen the video, it’s very catchy as most K-Pop videos are. It was very poppy and visual—that’s what caught my eye,” he said. “[K-Pop] was this cleaner, different take on a culture I was already used to, and that was very appealing.”

Vega’s appraisal is right on, as K-Pop really is all about the image. It’s understood that in this culture, first one watches K-Pop, then one listens to it. “The lyrics are usually very disappointing. But when it comes to K-Pop, the lyrics really aren’t the point. Because companies are really trying to make their products go international, the image ends up being much more important, and that’s when I tend to focus on,” Vega added.

Freshman Emilia Topp-Johnson started watching K-Pop videos in seventh grade, around the same time Vega did. “K-Pop is really fun. The music videos are interesting. They really make the songs. You can never really tell what’s going on [in them] and it’s really funny,” she said. Topp-Johnson’s favorite artist, or “idol” as they’re called in South Korean culture, is South Korean rapper, singer-songwriter, and record producer G-Dragon, a major inspiration to Vega as well.

“G-Dragon produces a lot of the music for his entire band and other bands, and he’s written music for fashion companies and directed fashioned shows. He has gone beyond K-Pop and become an international fashion icon. G-Dragon is also friends with a bunch of models. He’s one of the people I look up to in terms of working hard,” Vega said.

But K-Pop has a darker side. Since its surge in international popularity over the last two decades, K-Pop’s diverse fanbases have found each other through the establishment of numerous enormous online clubs, each worshipping a specific boy or girl band, idol, or sub-movement. The entire culture—everything from its music to its fashions—has so rapidly engendered a sense of zeal bordering on fanaticism, social scientists’ interests have been piqued.

“I think it’s kind of creepy that they make pillows with their [K-Pop stars’] faces on them,” junior Navodhya Samarakoon said.“Creepy” is an understatement. The most obsessed in South Korea have broken into idols’ home, stolen their valuables, photographed them in their sleep, and sent bloody love letters among other things, forcing South Korea’s fed to revisit its privacy and anti-harassment laws.

This is not hyperbole, as Vega, a former member of one of K-Pop’s notorious fan clubs, blackjack (for 2NE1), can attest: “[Fans] get competitive to a point where the idols… get uncomfortable with it and that, to me, felt like a form of disrespect. It was interesting, the online dealio with K-Pop. But after a while, I just got a little disturbed. Once you learn more about the culture, you realize how obsessed others are and distance yourself,” he said.

Ultimately, K-Pop is what the listener makes of it. Freshman Freddy Keillor thinks K-Pop “caters to those… trying to immerse themselves in another culture, another language.” This much is clear: bubbly is back and uniting people everywhere in the process.