Kpopalypse Defence League: 3 rounds with k-pop’s haters

A lot of people seem to think I blog about Korean pop because I’m some kind of hater.  Strange as it may seem, I actually like Korean pop music, and that’s why I write about it.   Of course this obvious fact escapes many fuckheaded people and I have to bear the slings and arrows of those who think I’m only here to knock k-pop down a peg, just because I didn’t write a glowing review of the latest written-while-waiting-in-the-urinal-queue trashy k-ballad from their fave.  However there’s another type of hater that I also come across, less-often discussed on k-pop blogs – the people who already hate k-pop on a more general level and say that “I shouldn’t be listening to that”.  You all know the type, because you’ve all had the same conversation with these music snobs that I’ve had:

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In this blog I’m going to collect some of the most often-heard objections to k-pop and come up with some sensible, rational non-fangirly replies that you can use at your leisure to win arguments, influence people, or just make everyone who is giving you problems shut the fuck up for a change!  Welcome to the Kpopalypse Defence League!

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Rather than invent arguments against k-pop and then tear them down, I’m going to bring the fight directly to the most influential haters that I can find by linking the three most articulate, well-written, thoughtful posts that I can locate (in under 30 seconds of searching ahem) lamenting the alleged shittiness of k-pop – and then I’m going to take their arguments apart.


 

Round 1: “Top 5 Reasons Why I Loathe K-pop And You Should Too”.

I really like this guy’s snarky tone and humourous writing – he’s almost as much of a worthless cunt as I am!  We’d probably get along well in person, and his blog has a nice design with writing that’s clearly had some decent effort put into it.  Pity he didn’t put the same amount of effort into backing up his arguments or knowing what the fuck he’s talking about where k-pop is concerned, but then that’s pretty typical of anybody who goes out to shit on an entire musical genre, generally speaking.  I honestly doubt the sincerity of his “loathing”, he’s probably just taking the piss for a laugh and a few website clicks, but let’s look at his top 5 “reasons” to loathe k-pop anyway, because they touch on some fairly familiar territory .

1. It makes other Asians hate themselves

Short answer: lol racist stereotyping

Long answer: ….because he met one girl at a ferry terminal with seemingly zero fucking self-esteem who wanted to look like a k-pop idol, and thought he’d stereotype an entire race of people’s reactions based on his impressions of that one girl (and maybe a few others he’s met too, that perhaps he’s not telling us about).  I guess he thought that Asian listeners of k-pop who enjoy the music but are rational enough to see the image-making side of it as pure fantasy couldn’t possibly exist… or at least they didn’t fit with his argument, so he just left those people out.  Then he covers his racial stereotyping tracks by accusing k-pop of racism generally and goes on to call out k-pop songwriter Jenny Hyun as racist.  Well, the bit about Jenny is actually correct… I guess pot, meet kettle.  Also, it’s a separate issue from the music.

2. The lyrics are stupider than 1000 glue-sniffing retards

Short answer: no shit – it’s pop music

Long answer: this sort of objection ties into a larger argument that popular music has become infected with stupidity lately.  Not true – pop music in all countries of the world has always been stupid.  Truly insightful lyrics are rare, and the reason why is obvious – most people don’t actually listen to music specifically for the lyrics (the sole exception being rap and even that’s debatable given the roughly equal stupidity of a lot of rap lyrics).

Everyone’s seen lyrical comparisons like this:

It’s easy to take the most repetitive part of song A and contrast it with the least repetitive part of song B and shake our heads and use it to back up any argument that we want about who is better and why, look:

Queen – Bohemian Rhapsody

Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?
Bismillah! No, we will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let him go!)
Bismillah! We will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Will not let you go. (Let me go!)
Never, never let you go
Never let me go, oh.
No, no, no, no, no, no, no.

Beyonce – Run The World (Girls)

To other men that respect what I do
Please accept my shine
Boy I know you love it
How we’re smart enough to make these millions
Strong enough to bear the children
Then get back to business

That wasn’t difficult to do.  Oh wow, suddenly Beyonce’s song has the insightful thought-provoking lyrics and Queen’s lyrics are so lazy, boring and repetitive.  Well gosh.  I guess by “lyric comparison meme logic” that must mean Beyonce is better.  Uh-huh.

Anyone who thinks that modern music k-pop or otherwise has the monopoly on shit repetitive lyrics has obviously never heard “Surfin’ Bird”:

The Trashmen – Surfin’ Bird

A-well-a everybody’s heard about the bird
B-b-b-bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, the bird is the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word
A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A-well-a bird, bird, bird, well the bird is the word
A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A-well-a don’t you know about the bird?
Well, everybody knows that the bird is the word!
A-well-a bird, bird, b-bird’s the word
A-well-a…

You get the idea… and unlike Beyonce’s song, or Queen’s song, or Super Junior’s “Sorry Sorry” or T-ara’s “Bo Peep Bo Peep” (two popular targets within Korea of similar “look how dumb these lyrics are” comparison memes) the WHOLE FUCKING SONG is like this…. and it’s from 1963.  So much for “lyrics are going down the tube compared to the good old days”.  Even the absolute worst lyrics in k-pop are easily matched by the equally tragic and disposable gems of western pop from the 1960s.  Also, it’s a separate issue from the music, which is usually what people are really interested in, rather than words.  Let’s move on.

3. All boys look like hyper-faggy aliens

Short answer: Gee, I wonder where they learned that from.

Long answer: not required.  Also, it’s a separate issue from the music.

4. It’s more corporate than Bank Of America or Haliburton

Short answer: Yeah nah, go back to business school.

Long answer: Okay then, let’s look at the figures.  The big three labels in k-pop made combined sales of $155 million in 2013, which sounds impressive but once you take away expenses, each label only made a few million dollars profit each, and JYP Entertainment even posted a loss. Still big business though, right?  Well, contrast that with the biggest labels in western pop – let’s start with Universal Music who made over $4 billion in revenue for 2010 with an operating profit of $470 million.  In other words, Universal’s net profit after expenses was three times what every “big” label in Korea made, put together, before their expenses were taken out (important, because k-pop labels have a fuckton of expenses, what with managing the lives of all those stars so closely).  Sony Music (home of the author’s faves, Judas Priest) had similar figures in 2012, positing revenue of $5.5 billion and a net profit after expenses of $463 million.  And yes the k-pop labels are smaller arms of bigger corporate conglomerates but don’t even get me started about how much money the western parent companies make.  Believe it or not, by western business standards every single k-pop music label, including SM Entertainment, would probably only qualify as a reasonably large independent record label.  Also, it’s a separate issue from the music.

Oh but you didn’t mean “corporate” in terms of money made, but in terms of the inner workings of the music machine?  Well then, let’s move on to…

5. It’s not even art, but rather the opposite: anti-art.

Short answer: I’m sorry but I think you mean “art that you don’t happen to like”.

Long answer: it’s worth looking at the first few sentences of his argument to demonstrate the problem with it:

K-pop is never artist generated.  It’s dreamed up in board rooms full of dudes in suits who reek of garlic and soju.  The songwriting is farmed out to people whose job it is to shit sugary gold.

Let’s fix it:

K-pop is artist generated.  It’s dreamed up in board rooms full of artists who reek of garlic and soju.  The songwriting is farmed out to other artists whose job it is to shit sugary gold.

People who create art are artists (even if you don’t happen to like the art it’s still art, objectively speaking), and someone still had to create those k-pop songs.  So what if it’s not the same person as the guy or girl who is singing it?  In k-pop, the performer isn’t usually the artist, it’s more accurate to say that they are a crafter, and their job is to help craft the artist’s vision, the artist being “those evil nasty people in the boardroom putting food on their tables by conceptualising entertainment for me to enjoy how dare they” or “that guy being the mixing board in the studio what an asshole how dare he genuinely like pop music enough to want to devote his life and livelihood to making it”.  It’s the difference between an architect and a builder.  Who would refuse to buy a house just because the architect wasn’t also the person who laid the bricks?  People who purchase property accept that those are two very different jobs and not everybody can do both effectively.  Why should it be any different for music?

The problem is that people attach a qualitative definition to the term “art”.  They throw the term “art” around like it’s a compliment, and if something doesn’t meet their personal standard they’ll say “that’s not art” but that’s incorrect.  All music is art by definition.  Just because you think some art is bad doesn’t mean that it stops becoming art… it’s just “bad art” (to you – it might be good art to someone else).  Like it or not, even “The Baddest Female” is still art.  Yes, I went there.

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Also, it’s a separate issue from the music.


 

Round 2:  “K-pop sucks. Cheap, tacky, corrupt, evil”.

This forum post on a social anxiety forum of all places (can’t imagine why a place like that would attract k-pop haters gosh no ahem) hits on some good points and I basically don’t disagree with much of it.  However, if the author thinks that it’s only Koreans who do this stuff, think again.  Let’s hone down on some key points:

1.  JYP snuck Wonder Girls into the US on student visas and put them up in the dodgiest accomodation known to man.

Short answer: I’m sorry but I can only admire JYP for this.  Someone buy him a beer!

Long answer: Sleeping in shitty falling-apart dives sounds just like a punk tour, and brings back memories of some of the tin sheds and concrete floors I slept on back in my touring days.  No singer or musician worth a damn is afraid of shitty accommodation!  JYP might have even learned the visa trick from the Australian punk scene as I can think of countless punk groups who have been snuck into my country on holiday and student visas to do tours.  I can’t name names obviously, but if you’ve ever read about how some D-list band’s tour got cancelled or postponed due to “visa problems” it’s because they tried to cross borders on a holiday or student visa, the cluey customs staff eyed their road-weary musical gear with suspicion, ran their names through a Google search, found their tour announcement entries, and said “you’re a professional band on tour, you need a working visa, wtf is this shit”.  (Also sometimes naive groups from foreign countries slip up and give themselves away – especially easy to do if there’s also a language barrier.)  This type of shit happens all the time, and it happens because holiday and student visas are easier to get.  And who knows, maybe JYPs explanation is legit anyway.  I highly doubt it, but you never know.  Also, it’s a separate issue from the music.

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2. Korean performers must sleep with executives etc. to get into groups. 

Short answer: Yeah and that never happens in the West ahem.

Long answer: I can’t give you examples because I have no proof, but certain names in western pop were apparently quite skilled in the art of blowing the right person at the right time, and it had quite a lot to do with their career advancement.  That’s all I’m gonna say so don’t bother asking for more details.  Also, it’s a separate issue from the music.

3.  Slave contracts suck monkey cock.

Short answer: Yes they do.  So maybe don’t sign one, how about that.

Long answer: I’ve discussed the unfairness of k-pop contracts a lot in my marketing post, and it’s also been well documented elsewhere just how shitty things can be.  I think it’s very important to raise awareness about things like contractual obligations in the music business, which is why I made that post.  I hope that people continue to be aware of the pitfalls and the industry can reform one day.  However, if someone understands the terms and conditions of such a contract, chooses to sign it anyway, ends up in a group like EXO and enjoys the experience, who am I to tell them that their decision was wrong?  Also, western contracts aren’t much better sometimes, and occasionally, they are worse.  Also, it’s a separate issue from the music.

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Round 3: “Why K-pop Sucks”.

Boldly, this blogger has decided to focus somewhat on the actual musical content.  Wow!  Most people who write about music tend to sidestep talking about the music itself, usually because they don’t possess the specific language to talk about musical ideas coherently.  Not that he’s always talking about musical ideas coherently either (“uninspired melodies” sounds cool but what does it actually mean in real terms, for instance), but at least he’s making it clear that if we’re assessing the quality of a musical genre, the music itself is of primary concern, not bullshit like what visa the group fucking flew in on or how many 15-minute breaks they get for milk and cookies during dance rehearsals.  The comments he makes about shitty segues are certainly fair and I agree with that 100%.  He also acknowledges that any deficits in k-pop also appear in western pop and that the two genres are basically the same, saving me the trouble of pointing it out, also admits that some k-pop artists do have good songs, and best of all he even has a crack at k-pop’s irrational fans who dive under an Internet bus for their favourite groups!  Bravo for this guy, he’s pretty good!  So why wasn’t this blog post called “why pop in general sometimes sucks” then, why is he even bothering to single out k-pop in particular if he readily acknowledges that it’s basically the same anyway?  Well, as he says near the end:

K-pop is the mainstream trendy thing right now, so it gets the most attention.

He’s done it for the web traffic, I guess.  Well played.


 

I hope this post has been useful to you and given you some ammunition for when someone comes up to you and says “why do you listen to k-pop, that shit sucks, man” and you ask them why and they list off a bunch of shitty not-very-well-thought-out reasons.  If I can deconstruct the above arguments, you should be able to do pretty well against some random douchebag.  If nothing else, remember the following:

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Good luck out there in real life and in cyberspace.  Kpopalypse Defence League is looking out for all kpop fans!  (Except those extreme fangirl crazies, you lot need to chill the fuck out, you’re making the rest of us look stupid by association, thanks for understanding.)  Feel free to share stories of your victories against haters in the comments below!

10 thoughts on “Kpopalypse Defence League: 3 rounds with k-pop’s haters

  1. I don’t know if I said this before but I love you. This is beautiful.

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