QRIMOLE Episode 4: dirty deals done dirt cheap

Kpopalypse is back with episode four of QRIMOLE!  Let’s get stuck into some more questions from Kpopalypse readers!


In the T-ARA articles with statistics, most of the people leaving comments are men in their 20s and 30s (this is also the case for other girl groups). So why is there a misconception that fangirls are the most hateful ones? And why do grown men feel the need to hate on girl idols?

Spheres of attention in the pop realm can change very quickly.  Your average crazy fangirl these days actually doesn’t give much of a fuck about T-ara either positively or negatively, they’re too busy stanning BTS or Seventeen or whoever is new, hot and male enough to draw their attention.  Four years after the second-most relevant scandal in k-pop (Tablo built the coffin for the relevance of netizens, T-ara just nailed it shut), the haters who are still clinging onto the false rumours are all ex-fans who were so emotionally invested in T-ara that when some articles came along that suggested that their angels were anything less than perfection, they got swept up in the emotional tide and bought right into it.  The extreme emotional investment that k-pop encourages also generates extreme reactions on both sides, and once someone is heavily emotionally invested in an untruth, they cling to it much more readily, even in the face of conflicting evidence.  KKS got it oh-so-right (like he always does) when he said once that “I consider T-ara antis to also be T-ara fans”, I can’t find the link for that quote at the moment but it was said by him at the height of the T-ara feeding frenzy and it’s out there if you search.  Every T-ara hater is a T-ara fan, so the haters fit the same demographic as the fans.

Would companies save money by putting trainees in music videos? Would they say that it’s a part of their ‘training’ so they could skimp on actual extras?

Apparently it’s quite rare, and this was addressed by the SM trainee that I interviewed.  Remember that trainees are still in training, so unless they’re astonishingly exceptional it would be silly to put them in a video.  The extras you see in k-pop music videos are more likely to be trainers than trainees – professional dancers, instructors and choreographers.  Remember that these people are also on the payroll of the company!

KNK was gonna release an MV for “U” but at the last minute they said the MV wasn’t “up to quality standards”. Which I think is bs. Any ideas what happened? I was thinking it might have been that they endorsed a product in the MV but the company that owns the product pulled out.

It’s probably not anything to do with endorsements, because it’s easy enough to edit out brands, logos and so forth, and you see this happening in videos all the time in cases where companies haven’t paid big money to be featured in a music video.  Based on my experiences in this end of the industry I’m going to take an educated guess and say that “not up to quality standards” is true, but also doesn’t mean quite what you think it means.

What k-pop fans probably think of when they hear “not up to quality standards”: the video team and the idol group slaved away all day making a video, then got down together with the CEO of the agency and all had a look at the video.  They all mutually decided “hmmm… okay, this isn’t really good enough for our screaming fans who only deserve the best possible comeback, we want to BLOW THEM AWAY with the awesomeness of KNK and this doesn’t cut it, let’s just scrap this video and try again next comeback for something visually special”.

What I think of when I hear “not up to quality standards”: the agency contracts out a video director to make a kick-ass video.  The director says “yep I’ll make you that video for $X”.  $X is spent, but something happens – shooting goes over-budget due to some weirdness or disorganisation and the director wants more money to polish the product but the label says no.  Or maybe something else, perhaps the agency isn’t able to front up with the money and stiffs the director.  Either way, there’s a dispute about who is paying what within what timeframe for what kind of product and eventually the parties can’t agree so the video doesn’t get released.  Anything can happen when the people making a product aren’t being paid.

I’m especially curious about the soundtracks to Ghibli movies since they seem so uniquely melodic. I would think that these melodies would be distracting… is it the subdued arrangement that makes it work?

Most movie soundtrack music is actually designed to not be all that noticeable.  It’s there to match and complement the action on screen rather than dominate over it to the point where you remember the music rather than what scene the music was for.  However music can also change your perception of what a scene means, or heighten certain details over others.

I think the music that is the most effective for film is the music where the musical message and the visual message are the most in-sync.  It’s good to watch Quentin Tarantino films for both very very good and very very bad examples of this.  Kill Bill gets it right, with music that fits the action always.  Django Unchained and Inglorious Basterds both have scenes where music is shoehorned in in ways that don’t match the action at all, like the former where (don’t click if you hate spoilers) Django starts shooting people and then fourth-wall-destroying rap music starts playing, or the latter where a David Bowie song is stuck in because the lyrics kind of match the (forthcoming) action even though the music itself definitely does not.

Why some online Kpop stores make big events for some idols? To this specific boygroup they even gave away tickets for a trip to korea to meet them, had several massive discounts and daily deals. Idk I found that a lil bit too ‘supportive’ and far from the normal buy 2 and get a free postcard deal.

It’s all promotions, paid for by the companies.  In the sense that the online retailer will help facilitate it, if the agency uses them a lot, or makes use of certain partner services, or whatever.  Sometimes you can get a really good deal with one company if you spent a lot of money at another company.  Say just for example that a big online retailer and a travel agent are two branches of the same parent company.  If you use the travel agent consistently to book your group’s tours, you get a discount rate when selling your product through their online retail stores, or perhaps the other way around, the parent company springs for travel events for your craziest fans if you agree to consign a certain amount of stock through the e-shop.  The web of media companies and infrastructure is all quite interconnected so big events are probably subsidised “loyalty credit”.

How do contracts for shows such as Unpretty Rapstar work? For members of companies (idols/trainees) I see how it would work but what about underground artists? Some seem to be big names but others seem to be no one. Would they be included just to be fillers and knocked out eventually?

I’ve discussed this before, but anyone who followed Produce 101 would have noticed that every single girl that got anywhere near the final was already contracted to an agency, the rest of the girls were just “filler” to make up the numbers.  All those fillers would have got a simple “no mosh, no core, no money, no fun” contract which is the same type of contract that anybody who signs up to any reality TV show gets:

  • everything you say and do on camera is legal property of the show
  • the show can use your image in any way they see fit, to tell any narrative they want
  • you get paid either 4/5ths or 5/5ths of fuck all
  • the show accepts no liability for any bad shit that happens to you
  • fuck you

Unpretty Rapstar would be similar for anyone who didn’t already have a deal of some kind.  Competition TV show contracts are utter crap, worldwide.

Companies try to keep as tight of a grip over an idol’s image as possible, so when netizens get salty over shit like idols posting pictures of them dressed up on Halloween and say “s/he needs to be more aware of his/her surroundings..Korea is ending…don’t post on SNS when you should be mourning” then isn’t it highly possible that it wasn’t the idols decision to post said thing on SNS, but rather someone told them to post something… or just that the idol doesn’t manage their SNS account themselves at all?

I think it would vary, but then how possible really is it to keep a tight grip on such things in this day and age?  I’m sure that the companies have an “SNS strategy” and would want the members of the groups to post in line with that strategy, but what’s to stop someone from making another account etc or also posting other things… ask any parent with a teenage son or daughter how easy it is to control their SNS behaviour.

The Obama administration’s TPPA legislation that Australia is a part of might be over-turned by Trump. In NZ it has been heavily criticised since it makes corporations safe from govt regulation supposedly. How do you feel about it?

The link’s claims are completely correct.  The TPPA’s real function is to make sure that a whole bunch of countries who are in the Pacific area and that don’t get along that well with China won’t be completely fucked over if China one day decides to pull economic trade sanctions or gets into some kind of other biffo with the United States.  However the real issue for most people is that the TPPA also gives a ton of power to corporate interests, to the point where corporations can actually override a nation’s laws and regulations.  I always felt that the TPPA was shady as fuck so I’m glad that Trump is killing it, although what politicians say and what they actually do don’t always coincide…

hi, do you have plans to write about k-soundtrack industry? i’m fascinated by k-drama/movie instrumental tracks and find that there’s not a lot of coverage about that part of the industry. i want to know more about it but i dunno where to start??? oppa lead me plz

I could write about movie sound because I know a fair but about that, but as far as anything specific to Korea I really can’t help.

Well actually I was at a Korean indie panel at Kcon and I asked the editor of [name of website removed – lol] if it was good exposure for an artist and he said he could answer but not in front of everyone, so my friend and I went up to him after and he said that drama producers fuck them over and force them to give up their songs and threaten to basically blacklist them if they don’t. I had to leave after he told me that but could you add anything?

Hahahaha, sounds to me like you’d be better off asking him a few more questions!  Maybe he’d like to do a Kpopalypse Interview?  He should probably get in touch with me if he’s got the nuts.  Whenever I reach out to people like this it’s always the usual pissweak deal where everyone clams up as soon as they realise my interviews aren’t “what’s your favourite colour?” type questions and they become way too scared of k-pop’s vast organised crime network to actually reveal anything of insight.

You mentioned before you’re more inclined to like “purist” raps that are hard-hitting and profane, rather than the mixed ones with political shit or whatever, what are you’re favorite rap songs with these particular characteristics?

The first rapper that I really liked was Ice-T.  Sure he had political content, but it wasn’t soft, weak “everyone let’s all love each other” crap.  Politics doesn’t have to be boring and stupid, because everything is political really, and Ice-T’s lyrics always had political subtext because he’d always put his talk about gangs and violence into a larger social context.  Also the beats were HARD, no soft shitty R&B crap with crappy warbly vocals, as a metalhead I could appreciate his approach as both the heavier end of metal and the heavier end of rap music had a similar focus on hard rhythm as the primary element.

One of the most amazing things that happened in the course of pop music history is that for a brief period in the late 80s Public Enemy became the biggest rap group on the planet.  Fuck knows how the fuck that happened, but the result mutated all other pop music forever – Public Enemy changed what was possible with commercial music backing tracks as surely as Jimi Hendrix changed what was possible on the electric guitar.  Another great example of making politics not-boring-pussy-shit, Public Enemy at their peak had the most extreme music AND politics of any rap group to this day.  They were actually far more political than Ice-T but even when I didn’t agree with their message their huge almost-industrial walls of noise redeemed their lyrics every time… at least until about 1994 when they lost their form musically.  Rap music globally has been on a downward spiral in terms of “harshness” ever since.  Listen to the below song and scratch your head in bewilderment as you realise that this was actually a chart hit by a massively popular group that were being discussed on TV sitcoms and had New Kids On The Block wearing their T-shirts.

The best rap album of all time for me is Mobb Deep’s “Hell On Earth” from 1997.  To me, “Hell On Earth” is to rap music what Slayer’s “Reign In Blood” is to metal – although the two albums sound very different, the similarity is one of focus: every track is completely uncompromising and musically complementary to the package with no let-up in the suffocating atmosphere anywhere.  The music of “Hell On Earth” marries various classical-era backing instruments (strings, piano, organ, etc) with constant deep bass and booming ambient rhythm tracks, I don’t even know half of what the fuck they’re saying and they don’t even seem to rhyme half the time either (often lazily just rhyming a word with itself because fuck it) but I don’t care.  The track below is not only a savage diss of 2pac that they released about a week AFTER he was shot (basically saying to him “lucky for you you’re dead now because we would have killed you eventually” – what caonimas!), but it’s also actually musically and lyrically the softest thing on the whole album.  Such a shame that Mobb Deep never recorded anything this good ever again, and also such a shame that most of their fans prefer their “The Infamous” album from a couple years prior to this one, which is also excellent but slightly inferior due to a less consistent sound and the odd addition of limp R&B elements.

These days my favourite rapper is Necro because he’s just a complete cunt, but with good enough music to back it up.  I interviewed him over the phone for my radio station once and he was great, he did the entire interview while he was in a barn in Wisconsin or somewhere taking a shit.  His golden personality isn’t the only reason to love him – he makes beats that are self-consciously a bit retro and harking back to the peak Mobb Deep mid-90s era when rap music was pretty keen to go hard musically with actual beats and also trigger your safe spaces lyrically.  Also his heavy metal heritage and general caonima cuntiness means that we’re kind of on the same page culturally, and being able to relate to someone always helps the appreciation along.

Recently some friends of mine told me that in KPop there is differentiation between a singer and an idol, for example even though Taeyeon has a good voice technique and stuff (I don’t really know what they mean, just in general they said she sings better than others) but she is still idol. I don’t really get the logic since they sings songs anyway. probably some of them like IU did participate in creating the song like writing the lyrics (even some 1 or 2 words) but why did they differentiate that? Did it also happens in other music industry as well? As my friends said “the singer focus on making music, releasing album, while idols focus more on being visually attractive”. But in the end, don’t both of them have to rely on endorsement? Especially in K-Pop where selling music cannot make you a fortune.

The reason why you don’t get the logic to this is that the logic is severely lacking.  All singers in the pop realm focus on being attractive, simply because they’re in the public eye.  It doesn’t matter if they’re in idol groups or singing opera, even Susan Boyle puts on makeup before a performance for what it’s worth.  All singers also focus on delivering the song to the best of their ability, and sometimes that ability might be a bit wanting but a lack of singing ability is not something that is universal to idol groups.  These days endorsements are king because there’s fuck-all other money to be made in the business for the really commercial artists, the artists who get anywhere are the ones who can find a niche to work that can connect to brands, this may or may not include being able to sing, look pretty, or whatever, but looking pretty is probably more useful to advertisers.

Some fans are complaining about those kiss scenes in Mamamoo’s MV, saying that they should be considered as sexual assaults and it’s all because of K-dramas/Korean culture. Do you think that they are right?

If you want to point to specific media that promotes the idea of men forcing themselves on women, the #1 culprit is easily Hollywood films.  Watch the following clip which is from 1939, before modern Korea culture even existed, let alone k-drama:

Was it a sign of those backward times?  This clip from post-sensible-feminism but pre-stupid-feminism 1982 doesn’t play out very much different:

There’s thousands of other scenes just like these in Hollywood films of all eras… but why?  The unpalatable fact that triggers many people is that a lot of folks of all genders and sexualities just enjoy watching this sort of thing.  That doesn’t mean that people actually want to be raped (as rape is by definition something that you do not want to have happen to you) or to be rapists (we don’t really have a “rape culture” in western society, if you don’t believe me try telling people you’re a rapist and then seeing how many friends you still have) but what it does mean is that there are people who fantasise about either exerting or losing control in a sexual context.  If people have these fantasties and can’t fulfill them with a roleplay buddy or whatever, at least there are other people who will always show up with material that caters to those fantasies.  There’s obviously a demand for this type of material and that’s why Gain keeps making it.

Hi hyung. I got my first part time job 3 months ago and I’ve been saving money little by little since. I am still unsure what to choose, but my intention is to invest the money I’m saving up in either a sound system or high quality headphones; my laptop’s built-in speakers and my phone’s ear-buds are no longer doing it for me. I feel like I’m missing out on the actual quality of my favorite songs. If I’m gonna spend money, I might as well get something good, right? But I can’t trust random people’s comments on amazon (especially when the rating is relatively high but the reviews themselves are polarizing)As a sound engineer and music lover, I trust your qualified opinion, so whether it’s here or in a post in the future, could you please recommend a sound system and/or pair of headphones that you believe are worth purchasing in order to get the best auditory experience out of my daily playlist? And if you don’t want to name any brands, then maybe share what specs I should look for that would translate into better quality? Whatever you deem fit. I’m sure you’re working on other articles right now. Thanks!

Well, decent headphones will be cheaper, although if you can afford it a sound system will probably give you less hearing damage over time.  I get asked this question constantly and the main thing I can say about it is that there’s a lot of bullshit marketing about this stuff.  Completely ignore stupid claims by companies that say that you’re only hearing “half the music” if you don’t use their headphones or whatever, that’s crap.  All you need is a modest sized system that’s better than laptop speakers, or a decent set of headphones that can reproduce enough bass, and you’re fine.  My radio station uses the AKG K-55 and K-77 headphones and they’re decent and pretty cheap, they’ll do just fine for listening.  Most stores also will let you try out headphones and sound systems of you ask them, so you can try before you buy, but you don’t need the “best” – like with most products, there’s a curve where for the more extra money you spend you receive exponentially smaller amounts of improvement.  Once you go over $100 in Australian dollars for listening headphones you’re really just paying for “bling”, a status brand name and marketing bullshit.

Why are there designations like “main/lead dancer”, “leader”, “visual” and especially “maknae” in a kpop group when they seem to be mostly meaningless &/ interchangeable? Are those roles even given by the companies through stuff like profiles or are they self classified by fans?

I really like how honest k-pop is with these things.  For instance “visual” sort of means “the pretty member who gets no lines in the actual song but is there to pick up the modelling work”, that’s kind of a cool thing to just be open about and freely admit.  It beats tiresome western pop marketing where they’re always trying to sell everyone as amazing talents or whatever.  Obviously “maknae” is fairly objective (the youngest member doesn’t change unless the group itself changes members) whereas the other categories can float around a bit depending on perception but my understanding is that the companies do designate these roles, if not officially to the fans, then at least to the point through “practical application” where fans can tell who is who anyway.

Are groups like Sechskies and SES having comebacks for some extra $$$ or is there some other reason?

Imagine being in their shoes, seeing the exploding “hallyu wave” (or whatever) and thinking “fuck – we were 15 years too early”.  Arguably those early groups really didn’t get their due the first time around, what with the crappy backing tracks and bad productions around back then.

If charts don’t matter, then why would a company do “sajaegi” or whatever? What would that do to help their group? Or is the negative attention something that could somehow be beneficial?

Korea has a real “keeping up with the Joneses” culture and I think that people really like the “appearance of doing well” over there.  It’s not something that I can really relate to, I’m Australian where failure is seen as a higher cultural value than success and people battle for the “underdog” but whatever floats their boat I guess.  Of course these people don’t plan on getting caught, so it’s silly to assess their reasoning in terms of the negative attention they might receive because they weren’t planning to receive any.  They just wanted to put “chart-topping artist” as words on a resume and have it not be a lie.

From an idol’s view, since singing can be corrected with auto tune and such, songwriting can have a have a whole team of ghost writers with few credited, someone will always make them look pretty one way or the other, and they can just read a script to look good at variety, is dancing the only thing an idol has to put actual effort into?

It’s certainly what most of them put the most effort into, that and physical appearance which is all-important.  Sarah Wolfgang talked about constant gym every single day, she didn’t talk about constant singing lessons.  Unless they were specifically training you to be a solo singer or whatever, they wouldn’t be ramming singing lessons down your throat.

oppar, I’m in year 12, and there’s this class I’m and I’m doing pretty well in. Like for my last test I got 94% which was 20% above 2nd place. I’m really interested in this class, so I’m always trying to answer questions and hand in work to get feedback. My problem is that my teacher always likes to showcase me in front of the class and call out my marks to everyone else in the class. Also when I go to answer questions she’ll always say ‘I’ll see if someone else knows the answer this time” She’s a very nice teacher and I know she doesn’t mean bad, but I feel like such an insufferable twat whenever I’m in that class because it seems like I’m purposefully trying to show off when I’m really just interested in the class. I don’t think people really care, but I always feel so annoying. Any advice?

I had the same problem in school because when I was about 10 years old or thereabouts I became suddenly really interested in geography.  I did class assignments perfectly so the teacher made me run around and help everyone else so I wouldn’t get bored and others could learn something, but several other students didn’t give a fuck though and since I was bullied a lot in class anyway being the “teacher’s pet” just gave them another reason to make me a target in the schoolyard later.  Fortunately for you in year 12 people are slightly more mature on average so you’ll probably just get shunned a bit, but I wouldn’t worry about it.  Just tell anyone you care about the friendship of what you’ve told me – “I’m not trying to make you look like a stupid cunt, I just really like this class”.  Anyone who shuns you because you do better in a class than them is a dickhead anyway so if people don’t buy that explanation fuck ’em.  You probably ARE annoying to these assholes, which is great and you should keep that up.

That’s it for this episode of QRIMOLE!  Note that I’ve picked a lot of recent questions out for future blog material too, so if your question was really good but isn’t here, it may be being saved as blog inspiration!  Kpopalypse will return with more stuff and things!


3 thoughts on “QRIMOLE Episode 4: dirty deals done dirt cheap

  1. Thanks for publishing this on Thanksgiving…I really needed a hit of intelligent honesty.

    And now back to the turkey.

  2. That last question was cute ( cute in term of…. a 12 yo asking advice about a topic that’s so common (in term of «how much it can happen») and posted on such a random site (not “random” in a bad way, just.. Kpopalypse isn’t the first place I would ask for advice on that topic, that’s all) that surprised me.

    And after reading my comment, i swear i’m better than this in english actually, but not today –_(0__0)_–

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