Here a quick post about k-pop visual concepts, for your education and entertainment!
If one were to take the word of the average k-pop following idiot, one may be led to believe that there are only three female concepts in k-pop:
- whatever the fuck it is Orange Caramel and Crayon Pop do
This view always baffles me, as girly idol pop has more varied visual concepts than any style of music globally, and it’s amazing to me how this is not appreciated. Most music styles have only one visual concept. Heavy metal is almost always “angry and foreboding guys in a place wearing black things” and the only thing that changes is the makeup level. Rap is either “we’re rich criminals” or “we’re broke criminals“. Disco is always “we’re at a disco“. Grunge is “we wear op-shop clothes and look like junkies“. Commercial pop is “look at me I wear designer clothes and the opposite sex likes me a lot“. Apart from Madonna (the original pop concept queen who birthed the idea of the ever-changing concept for each song that k-pop has since adopted) and Michael Jackson (who had ridiculous amounts of money to throw around and so just did whatever) western music is generic as fuck, conceptually. In the west, every musical style has a strict uniform and visual idea, and oh boy do the hate levels escalate when anyone ever dares to break the rules.
Enter k-pop, where people are so used to the constant unending variety of visual presentations that nobody even seems to notice that it’s happening at all. Male groups have a decent collection of concepts (maybe half a dozen) but the female end is simply off the chart. To list them all individually would be impossible, so let’s break it down into some useful categories for discussion purposes. We’ll start with the basic ones everyone knows and move onto more obscure ones as the list progresses.
Sex concepts by stealth. I’ve written a lot before about how putting the underage girls from April into German milkmaid outfits, hot red lipstick and signing-in-bed scenes is basically dog-whistle pandering to pedophilia. DSP Media’s CEO really needs to take a seat over there.
Not quite the same thing as the innocent concept, swapping out the babydoll dresses and super-coyness for strict uniform, but has a similar dog-whistle effect as everybody had (or was) a high-school crush.
Actually identifiably sexy concepts are more honest. The difference between a “sexy” concept and any other concept isn’t how sexy it is, but in how much the producers of the video acknowledge the sexiness that is present, and Stellar’s concepts since “Marionette” have always been of the self-aware “we know that you know exactly what this is, please keep a firm grip on your genitals” variety.
As the video description from LOEN says, the song just describes “the feelings that everyone feels once in a while”, and all classy-sexy k-pop videos are in fact BDSM sneaking in under Korea’s censorship rules that struggle to allow honest BDSM to exist. Music videos that “raise questions” are generally an attempt to distract Big Brother from the people who are fapping to the answers.
Baggy hip-hop clothes, stupid jewelry and lots of high-fiving and other weird skinship with “pals” who are probably just jealous trainees from the same agency.
A very popular concept right now, somewhere between normal baggy yolotard style and more traditional girl group attire. Initially popularised by 2NE1 who have since moved onto…
THE JEREMY SCOTT EYE-GOUGE
Thanks 2NE1 for ruining colours for everyone.
Perfected by Orange Caramel and Crayon Pop. Anything very self-consciously different and “wacky”.
Remember when miss A actually had songs people cared about? Those were the days. Ultra-heavy makeup and styling here, it’s not glam if the performers don’t have a bukkake-load of makeup and mood lighting in every single shot.
Try and make a glam look happen solely with what you can find in an op-shop for under $10 and you have de-glam, deliberately picked here to fit the “haves and the have nots” theme of the song.
The casual style isn’t really casual but is just a slightly flashier version of what Asian girls will actually wear on the street where I live.
Definitely not “sexy” because anyone who thinks gym gear is sexy has never been inside an actual gym full of sweaty gross sacks of flesh trapped inside mouldy saturated cotton and polyester, grunting and heaving disgustingly… stop fapping, you fucking freak.
Not really random, always carefully co-ordinated with both the other members and the backdrops, but to give the effect of the group members raiding a massive closet and being told they can wear whatever they fucking like (this never happens in reality).
Tomboy concepts are usually just yolo-lite with shorter haircuts, and are rare because they don’t translate that well into lucrative endorsement activity.
Robert Palmer’s plasticy bored-looking backing band of dull model girls wasn’t a good idea in the 80s and it’s not a good idea now. Fuck that guy. “Oh, but how can you call this fake, Wonder Girls can really play their inst…” hahahahahaha
Even back in the band days AOA videos were still about 30% band shots to 70% rump-shaking and cosplay. How the fuck that Lara Croft outfit didn’t propel them to fame back in the day I have no idea.
TRIBAL LYCRA SPACESUIT
A hot favourite among k-pop boy groups, females utilise this concept less often but most high-profile girl groups will eventually have at least one concept like this.
I’m sure that pajama parties that my teenage crushes had were totally like this. I thank k-pop every day for recreating them in exacting detail.
Styles and design of the 1960s and prior.
Specifically emulating the look of The Supremes and other manufactured American girl groups of this era.
Styles and design specifically related to the 1950s rock and roll/doo-wop movement. This video is extremely authentic and even has a “milk bar“, a fixture of 1950s Australian youth culture. Going to the local milk bar with your friends for a malted milkshake was a common activity in the 1950s before shopping complexes gradually replaced milk bars as the youth hangout venue of choice.
South Korea might be very developed and high-tech in the big cities, but the same kind of development hasn’t happened to the same extent in rural areas. Gaze in wonderment at the above cutting-edge ultra realistic depiction of farm life.
K-pop thrives on being culturally aware and inclusive, so naturally indigenous peoples (or T-ara pretending to be indigenous peoples – close enough for me) feature prominently where possible.
Satanism is a fun religion about playing role-playing games like Pokemon while staring enigmatically, which automatically makes it less boring than 99% of religions, why not give it a try like AOA’s Choa.
Dull washed-out filtered colours like a bad Instagram, plus plain fashions and general dullness, it’s a concept as boring as life itself on a Monday morning. Don’t forget out-of-focus shots and more tilted camera angles than Battlefield Earth.
Anyone who watched the above video and saw only an innocent or schoolgirl concept missed the point, and nobody should be surprised because if k-pop fans can misinterpret IU’s “Twenty-three” they can misinterpret anything. Surrealism involves reconciling reality and the world of dreams and the subconscious mind.
Kpopalypse will cover gamification more thoroughly in a future post. For now, enjoy finding Raina.
Crayon Pop are caped crusaders here to save you from yourself. You’re probably beyond help, but good on them for at least trying.
April got a free pass for their pedo concept while everyone hosed down IU instead. Why? Because IU was actually calling out the dog-whistle pedophile concepts her and other idols were/are forced into instead of just going along with the game, and having a mirror shoved up to your faces made all you people secretly jacking it to underage girls feel real fucking uncomfortable.
Not a sexy concept because standing around in the sun getting dehydration, skin cancer and ugly cleavage tan lines isn’t sexy at all unless you’re a dickhead.
Koreans showing off that they have snow while it’s 44 degrees celsius where I live, fucking assholes. Sexy iljin Northface jackets help complete the look.
As in “lets go on a LARP” fantasy, not “let’s jerk off while dreaming about being titwanked by Yooa” fantasy. Although you could do that too if you wanted, I guess.
If you haven’t seen the two-part Day By Day/Sexy Love post-apocalyptic drama videos by T-ara, shoot yourself now for sucking at life. Or, see them quickly before you can find a gun.
The concept that dare not speak its name on Kpopalypse blog, for Kpopalypse is against all things sport in k-pop, yet regrettably the two do continue to mix occasionally.
“ENTER THE DRAGON” MOTHERFUCKERS
Seriously why haven’t JJCC done this yet? Fuck, come on Jackie Chan get the fucking lead out.
Of course this isn’t even a complete list – just the start! My point being, of course, that the next time you see someone complain about how all k-pop concepts are either innocent, sexy or weird, why not show them this list? Then gloat mischievously and pat yourself on the back for winning yet another all-important Internet argument about k-pop! A winner is you!