QRIMOLE Episode 8: a lesson in aegyo you won’t soon forget

It’s the return of QRIMOLE!  Read on as Kpopalypse answers more tricky and long-form questions from readers about anything and everything!

The QRIMOLE question box has proven to be a huge success!  Several readers have taken advantage of this facility, dropping (mostly) articulate long-form questions without having to bear the brunt of ask.fm’s character limit and occasional quirky random censorship.  A few of these came from ask.fm too which you’re still welcome to use for short questions, but really folks, using the QRIMOLE question box (it’s at the end of this post and also on the sidebar) is so much easier – there’s no need to use ask.fm for anything long!  Anyway, the results are below!

Hello! You’ve probably recognized me as that vocal major girl who loves your posts. Because you’ve been so helpful in answering so many of my questions, I thought it would be okay to ask another (I’m sorry for bothering you with questions all the time though)! So, this question centers on my vocal major-ness. I’ve read alot of your posts about vocal fakery, I love reading them, and I’ve learned a lot, and the posts have inspired me to try to take a music tech related class if I get the chance in college. However, I’ve also felt unmotivated to practice my craft. I’ve always loved singing, and I have no intention to do it professionally. But I wonder what I and my other peers have been practicing for night and day when it doesn’t really matter on a performance level. I worked really hard to improve my range and become a decent singer, and I look up to my seniors who have natural talent and work twice as hard as me to cultivate that talent and find their sound as a vocalist. But I wonder if us vocalists are wasting our time practicing and working, when an audio engineer can easily recreate our hard work. I love to sing, and I don’t ever want to stop practicing, but sometimes I’ll be singing a Davichi song or whatever for fun, and I’ll stop and think about your posts and wonder what the point is. I show you vocal fakery posts to my friends who are into kpop, but at the thought of taking away the motivation of my dedicated peers, I can’t bring myself to show them, and I silently wonder to myself if it’s okay to love to sing this much when as a performer it’s no longer necessary. But it makes me happy… So I’m not really sure what to do or how to feel. What do you think? Are the vocalists of the world wasting their time? Should I just stop? Thanks for reading this super long posts aja aja go kpopalypse oppar or whatever lol

Computers are really good at simulating some aspects of vocal performance, and really bad at simulating other aspects.  The type of things that computers do really well, are the aspects of vocal performance that are very “mathematical” and therefore are easily quantified by a machine, such as pitch and vibrato which are exceptionally easy for a computer to replicate, they’re also really good at “fixing” and “smoothing” sound.  What computers don’t do very well at all is adding any sort of personality to a performance, and in fact if anything using the computer tends to have the reverse effect of homogenising the performance a little even when this effect isn’t wanted.  Computers can “tidy up” a vocal performance quite well but what they really can’t do well at all is “rough up” a vocal performance.  Powerful software could make Tom Waits sound a little like Justin Bieber, but no software package on earth can make Justin Bieber sound anything like Tom Waits.

What I would say to anyone learning to sing or learning any musical instrument is that there are three phases to learning:

  1. Functionality – you’re learning simply how to do something at all.  Can I hit that note?
  2. Fluency – you’re learning how to do something technically well.  Can I hit that note reliably and always make it sound nice?
  3. Personality – you’re learning how to do something your own way.  Can I hit that note in a way that makes an audience feel something?  That makes me feel something?  That conveys emotion, or a greater part of myself than just someone who is “getting it right”?

Vocal analysis websites are all about phases one and two – functionality and technique.  Machines are also very good at phases one and two – they can fix up your bad pitching, hide your crappy breathing with noise gates, thicken up weak vocal lines, etc.  Neither are very much interested in phase three.  There’s definitely a place for learning and appreciating technique, but technique isn’t the most important thing for singers or musicians.  Just look at Bom, she has horrible technique and she is was one of k-pop’s most-loved singers.  Kurt Cobain was another example of someone who was more about the personality he brought to a performance than whether he hit the note or not – nobody ever walked away from a Nirvana show saying “wow, what amazing high notes and pitch accuracy” but they might have walked away saying “I was really carried away with the emotion of what he was conveying”.  He’s certain proof that you don’t need outstanding technique to convey emotion, he was still able to put his personality into the performance and deliver a result that resonated with the audience.  So my advice to all singers, whether they have professional aspirations or not – is to get good at what the machine can’t do, which is to learn how to put “yourself” into what you do.

Why didn’t you answer any of my FUCKING questions OPPA i sent in LIKE HEAPS – i think LIKE 2, and i was waiting, so MATE ( YOUR AUSTRALIAN RIGHT) CUNT where is my answers. like who cares if jisoo likes scissoring chicks and hwayoung likes to scratch basic bitches faces out, and i want MORE FUNNY FAP articles. CHEERS 🙂 😀 … oppa 😉

I do this to annoy you.  Glad it’s working.  I think you asked another question too but I deleted it for lulz.  More fap articles coming soon!

Hey, Kpopalypse.

I have this friend and I’ve known her for several years. We’re both dancers and attend classes, etc. However, I’m worried that she’s a bit too much of a ‘dreamer’. We’re both fast approaching the end of secondary school (year 11 in the UK) and being swamped with exams. Our main priority should be college, however, I think she’s holding on to the thought of being a trainee. When she mentions us auditioning together I always inadvertently encourage her since I don’t want to upset her. She also suffers from depression due to a tough home life; her dad is a shit and her mum is unsympathetic. Should I encourage her in case she succeeds or shatter her dreams?

Being a trainee doesn’t sound like a healthy option for your friend, it’s definitely NOT a career path I’d ever recommend for anyone suffering depression, which the harshness of trainee life would only exacerbate.  If she thinks home life is tough, just wait until she gets behind closed doors at a k-pop agency – ouch!  At least strict parents do care about you underneath the surface, a k-pop agency only cares about you as a monetary investment, nothing more or less.  If she’s made up her mind to do something you’re not going to be able to “shatter her dreams” and I wouldn’t advise it, just be supportive but without blowing smoke up her ass, and let her know that you’re there for her if anything bad happens (spoiler alert: it will).  Oh and link her this.

What are your views on privacy in the digital world? Have you ever been harassed, and what do you think is an acceptable balance between paranoia and being too open with information online?

In the old, old days, people mostly lived in small communities, word-of-mouth was common and everyone knew each other’s business.  Then the industrial revolution happened – people start getting jobs in factories and that type of work became a big employer of many.  Now you didn’t have to talk to that many people in order to go about your daily business, you could go to work, sit in your chair and sew clothes or put spindles in boxes, and go home after eight hours without even needing to have a conversation.  You could sustain a living without anybody really knowing much about you at all – this is where the modern idea of “privacy” comes from, there wasn’t much privacy before this.  Then another thing happened to change the world called the Internet which basically turned the whole “connected” world back into a big village and now we’re all in each others’ business again.  Privacy in the traditional sense that our grandparents knew is dead.  That doesn’t mean that there aren’t things that you can’t or shouldn’t keep secret, but as a general rule it’s never going back to the way it was.

I’ve been harrassed online plenty of times including by an obsessed ex-partner who stalked me using false identities many years ago (hi if you’re reading, yes I know it’s you, I can see your IP address with the GUI I wrote in visual basic).  I don’t go out of my way to tell people who I am but I don’t go out of my way to hide it either.  All of my personal information is out there and easy to get, I don’t have a secret identity, whenever I get “doxxed” I just laugh because all these people are doing is inadvertently promoting me.  I think being open about who I am is important to lend a bit of credibility to what I’m saying – anybody can anonymously rant online.  However for people unlike myself who aren’t “public figures” I think that being more careful about your personal information (to the extent that the technology allows) makes sense.  This is why while I’m never anonymous, I do allow and encourage anonymous questioning from readers.

Many K-pop songs have some crazy, complicated chord progressions (Ah-Choo comes to mind). You would be hard pressed to find progressions like these in the West outside of jazz or orchestral/ensemble music. While K-pop seems to be essentially a survey of Western pop music in general, I wonder why many Korean producers have decided to exclude any chord below a seventh chord in their compositions. It sure makes listening to music theory-wise more interesting. Is this meant to be some sort of “showing-off” by the songwriters? Should the West also strive to incorporate complex chords in regular pop music?

It’s not as universal as it seems – for every “Ah-choo” there’s a “Roly Poly” – but it’s certainly more common.  I’m not sure why k-pop has evolved this way, but what I’ve definitely noticed is that it’s a fairly recent “golden age” evolution, before 2008 you’d be hard-pressed to find any (upbeat) k-pop with complex chords too.  It might just be the influences of certain songwriters over others, as chord usage tends to vary with the songwriter, and once something gets big and becomes a trend then of course others seek to emulate the success by emulating the sound.

What are your thoughts now on Makestar, since it’s been around for a bit and we’re seeing more completed projects? What effect do you think crowdfunding will have on the nugu market? Do pre-orders through Makestar help smaller groups monetarily, through advertising their activities, or prestige from successful campaigns? Will very nugu groups like OhBliss really find those $5,000 dollars useful (since they now have to pony up the cost of making physical albums)?

Do you think I can convince Dorothy to make a Makestar (if they haven’t disbanded yet)?

Makestar definitely doesn’t hurt the artists, but the amount of money that goes through Makestar isn’t massive.  It probably would make more difference to a nugu group, but as you’ve pointed out the costs of making the product and of providing all those extra items and services that form the rewards tier are often of an equal or greater cost than the actual money raised.  Groups like Stellar and LaBoum that are hitting close to 10 times their target are probably doing well off it, but one high-production music video can cost more than all of their Makestar money put together!  It’s definitely a help, but the real benefit for these groups is the building of a core audience that the service provides, it’s another very clever way to connect the artist with their fans, so it’s fostering customer loyalty.  I don’t see Dorothy listed on the projects page so maybe someone should alert them!

For someone who already has a basic understanding of music theory, between guitar and piano, which do you think would be more useful/practical for a person who is self-teaching to learn how to play?

In regards to myself personally, I did keyboard a while ago and currently do tenor drumming so my music theory is decent. I already have access to a keyboard, acoustic guitar, and electric guitar so this is aside from a purchasing standpoint and more focused on a purely musical standpoint/learning and instrument standpoint. Any insight appreciated!

Piano/keyboard is definitely the most useful instrument of all, as it has the widest variety of applications and you can get almost any sound out of a keyboard these days.  A bit of rudimentary guitar skill is also really useful for keyboard players as it will give you a new perspective, certain things that are very easy on keyboard are quite difficult on guitar and vice versa.  If you can play both keys and guitar to a reasonable degree, most other instruments are really easy to pick up without any tuition as they mostly tend to have a bit in common with one or the other.  I guess it depends on what your goal is.  If you’re desiring to be in a band I’d say prioritise guitar and bass guitar, whereas if you’re more interested in studio production I’d prioritise keyboard – but learn both, as both are useful and they complement each other.

I checked out some H.O.T. For the first time, because you haven’t made a list saying which of their songs sucks the most (yet) so I had to find out myself. One thing I noticed is the singing is god awful. VAV can’t compare. Here’s two questions; 1. H.O.T. remains one of the most successful boy groups in Kpop and didn’t need to pretend they’re good singers to get fans. Now we live in an age with MR removed videos and vocal analyses that would probably shamelessly drag the group’s vocals if they debuted today. How did vocal obsession get to where it is now? 2. When did Korean audio engineers figure out how to make singers sound good? They clearly didn’t know how with H.O.T., but you can’t hear anyone sing like them today (they probably do in real life.)

I never followed k-pop vocal analysis bullshit until it became the cancer that it is today, but I suspect that vocal analysis as a popular culture obsession started with TV shows like American Idol, X-Factor, etc.  These shows are reasonably focused on the singer’s voices and also often showed people NOT singing very well, so this probably generated a lot of popular interest in singing technique and being able to tell who can and can’t sing without needing the help of the judges.  Singers have always been on TV but such specific judging of singers was new, as a result singing in popular culture transformed a little from a cool creative art into a depressing armchair spectator sport for OCD nerds.  When these shows were really at their peak in Australia I noticed quite a large influx of singing students where I work (that’s right all you vocalfaggots who said I wasn’t qualified to tear you all down, I work in a studio that teaches singing) and also a really big increase in the amount of people who wouldn’t dare grace a stage even though they had quite functional voices.  I think that the popular obsession with “vocal quality” or whatever actively prevented a lot of singers from getting out there and giving it a go when they really should have, definitely a negative step for music and musicians.

You can rest assured that most groups in k-pop pitch about as well as H.O.T and VAV once you take away the Autotune.  Something like VAV’s “Under The Moonlight” is k-pop with the Autotune removed, but that’s the only thing wrong with it – H.O.T is missing a lot more than that, it’s not just the lack of Autotune that you’re noticing.  H.O.T’s material also has shocking level balancing and compression, these are the things that really stick out to me about SM’s late 90s productions.  Volume is up and down all over the place, singers aren’t balanced with each other or with the backing track correctly, and some sections are nearly inaudible due to being buried in the mix unintentionally.  It’s actually laughably bad to the point where it interferes greatly with the listening experience, when I first heard the above H.O.T video I found someone with a download of the song just to check that it was actually recorded that way on purpose and wasn’t just a shitty quality YouTube video transfer because I couldn’t believe how bad it was.  Korea imported their production knowledge from the west but took a while to get good at it, however with k-pop being so fiercely competitive, producers learned how to get good quickly and now it’s at the point where the most adept, most technically fastidious pop productions are  coming out of k-pop.

What’s the idea behind releasing full albums instead of mini albums? I mean it’s probably cheaper to produce a mini album with 6 songs, than a full album with 10-12 songs. Physical copies cost the same and fans will buy albums regardless. So if you have 12 songs you could technically release two mini albums and theoretically double the profit. And yet some groups release full albums anyway. Sometimes they release a full album and a mini album in the same year. So I wonder maybe companies need those full albums for something else than money or exposure.

Actually on a per-song basis it’s cheaper to release the full album rather than two mini albums because you don’t have to worry about two completely separate packages, separate photoshoots, separate costumes etc etc.  (Then of course they often “repackage” it anyway so you get the best/worst of both worlds.)  But albums/mini-albums is a very overemphasised issue with k-pop fans in general.  These things don’t cost OR make anywhere near the amount of money that k-pop fans think they do.  Think of them as a business card that happens to have a bonus CD in it.  Obviously the music is needed to build the audience etc but the music isn’t the “endgame” here and neither is the album.  Read more here and here.

When an idol is lipsyncing to a pre-recorded version of a song that is supposed to sound like live singing (not the straight up album version), at what point in time does the idol record this version? You’ve talked about how renting recording studios is expensive and can take a lot of time, so I assume companies would want to get as much bang per buck as they can while they are there. Do producers take the vocal recordings that were deemed worthy of the album and edit them to give them a live feel for the idol to lipsync to during performances? Do companies ask the producers for a set number of live sounding recordings?

My understanding is that if a TV show has idol performances, they’ll also have their own in-house studio where the k-pop singers will go earlier that day or the day before to actually record the real vocal parts, and this pre-record is part of the overall “package” that the TV station provides to the agency.  Then the recording gets the typical studio polish and is added to the backing track for the performers to then “sing” over later.  This fools most people in the audience, and it also fools MR Removed software.  I’m sure this method varies a little between different groups and songs.

Dear Kpopalypse,

I’m in a rut, nothing brings me joy anymore. And you know what really sucks, my boss Blake; the condescending asshole. I’m the only other female at this plant. I am a chemical lab technician and I hate my job. Nobody takes me seriously, because I look like a little girl despite being in my mid twenty. Any advice?

Thank You
And sorry for ranting
you probably don’t care

If I knew you personally I’d introduce you to a friend of mine who sounds like she has a similar job to you, is perceived similarly to you by her co-workers, and she gets through from day to day by relentlessly making the lives of her dickhead co-workers hell.  I actually had to double-check where this question came from because I thought for a second that perhaps she WAS you and that you weren’t enjoying life all of a sudden.  Anyway she enjoys pulling various pranks on her co-workers which is great.  I’d highly recommend that you start fucking with people, searching the Internet for ideas will yield some great results.  Just have a backup plan in case you get sacked.

As a musician yourself, do you think I can learn playing drums w/out a tutor or will it be hard to learn by myself? Also, from what you observe, are there any KPOP songs for a beginner drummer to play?

If you’ve never played an instrument before, get a tutor.  If you can already play piano, you can probably pick up drums on your own (a tutor won’t hurt though).  Most k-pop songs have dead simple drums, because most k-pop drumming is actually drum machines, and most people who program drum machines usually don’t bother to program them with anywhere near the complexity of a real drummer (there are exceptions though).  Any upbeat dance song is a piece of piss.  If you listen to someone like S.white make note of the fact that she’s adding a lot of extra showoff stuff that she doesn’t need to and that the actual drumming in the backing tracks isn’t anywhere near as complex as what she’s doing.

Recently, someone on a kpop forum asked me personally if I’d ever been truly positive or excited in my life. On this forum, I’ve gained kind of a notoriety in our small community for being a No Fucks Given Non Fandom Bitch – people like me and they like what I write, but they think I’m also extremely negative. I feel like this relates to you, because you also get called pessimistic etc. etc. I thought about this for a little bit, and I wondered if I really was getting too caught up in my cynical “character,” and then I realized that overall the message I send is overwhelmingly positive. For example: the “useless visual” isn’t useless because singing and “talent” doesn’t matter at all. Or, the “bitch of the group” is impossible to judge because the fan’s idea of “knowing and connecting with” an idol is a total fallacy. Or maybe the song that I call a pile of trap-infested garbage isn’t really garbage because “fuck MY opinion, music is subjective you idiots.” While I’m very cynical about the industry and fandoms in general, in the end I believe I am very positive about kpop/the actual music, yet people overlook that because I also constantly undermine what they believe is “important.” Do you think that you’ve developed a “hyper-negativity” image? And if so, do you think that your messages in blogging are actually positive despite this?

I feel like we’re in a similar situation.  A lot of people who are turned off by Kpopalypse blog simply misread the language and tone.  Underneath the superficial jokey (and very Australian) negativity of the site is a great deal of positivity, after all I continue to check out new stuff every week, continue on with Nugu Alert even though it’s barely read etc.  If I didn’t love it I wouldn’t do it, as nobody is forcing me to do this stuff, and I’m actually doing it in spite of a lot of peer pressure from others not to do it!  My messages are hugely positive – think deeper, explore what you enjoy, disregard scandal and fandom ranting, be realistic and pragmatic while putting your own interests and quality of life first, and approach everything with good humour and a “nothing’s sacred” attitude.  I don’t think that any of this is a radical position, or at least it shouldn’t be.

Dear Kpopalypse, I wasn’t planning of asking this through Qrimole but it’s really too long to write on Ask.fm and I wanted your advice. I’m in a bind (well, you probably wouldn’t call it a bind at all).

The story is this: I was on a bus with only 3 people on it, the driver, a guy and me. We started all talking together and the guy said that the previous month he moved from the other part of the country for work so both me and the driver felt really bad for him, all alone in this strange and foreign land, and we tried to give him some advice etc. Before getting out he asked for my number, and even if I’m usually against it, he seemed very polite and I thought “poor soul, he probably only wants someone to talk to”, so I gave it to him. The next day he sent a message asking to see each other, with minimum introduction, super straightforward. I was busy the first time he asked but when he proposed the next day I said to myself, how bad can it be, it’s just a coffee and I said yes. We met, and it was all well and dandy (no, that’s a stretch, he’s a nice guy but a bit of a snob, and that’s from a person who sometimes think she’s a snob) but eventually it came out that he wasn’t from the other part of the country, he was only working there! Also, he isn’t technically from my city but he has relatives (grand-mother, uncles, cousins) here and he also took a master degree at a university very close by! wtf? But I though “oook, fine, I misunderstood, and even if he just tried to get some sympathy, no biggie”. That very day we had left my cat at the veterinarian for a very ugly wound, so while trying to be nice and friendly I related the story and confessed my concerns. After that, he waited 1 day, then asked to meet again. I said it was impossible because I was extremely busy with the cat (now at home) and later, on the same day, when he suggested another date I said “listen, it’s not a good time, I’m the only one taking care of the cat, let’s talk trough texts if you want”. Besides I was super stressed and anxious and even if I had had time I really wouldn’t have gone to sit and smile with a fucking stranger (I’m really not sure about this 3rd conditional, sorry). We talked a bit, I really tried to have a conversation with him, but he has this weird flirty way of talking that I really find disconcerting. Can’t we just talk like normal people, do you have to point out every second that you want to date me? I have known you a week and we saw each other one time! today, again, he said some phrases that may work for people in movies but not in real life when you barely know the other person. After I said I was fine, an hour later he wrote “I hope your answer now will be “wonderfully well”, it’s a beautiful day, I wish I could take a walk together with you”. Hello? Nothing of what I said stuck with you? My cat is in very bad shape I cannot be “wonderfully well”! But is not like he said something bad or rude so trying to be civil, I said indeed it was a fine morning, but he decided to double down asking when (oh when) will he see me again. I replied (again) that now it was a bit difficult but when I was going to be less busy and more cheerful maybe we could see each other and have a chat. At that he wrote “Great! your cat must be super super beautiful if you prefer him over me [stuck out tongue closed eyes emoji] (btw a favourite of his)”. I didn’t answer. I really have no words . Actually I have some: “No, even if he was super super ugly I would prefer my cat over you/I know my cat, you are a fucking stranger/my cat is sick!!!!!”.

So, after all this, what should I do? he seems like a nice guy and we do have some interests in common but is this normal? I hate to be rude to people but should I just tell him to piss off? Am I overreacting? But I really don’t like his approach, and I don’t know how to convey this feeling politely.

This guy sounds like a fuckwit to me really.  He’s gotten to know you with false pretences so that’s a massive red flag right there, actually good guys don’t pull that shit.  Also he knows that your cat is sick but the conversation seems to be all about him and his wanting to date you, which shows to me that he really doesn’t give much of a shit about you really beyond his own needs.  This question was asked a while ago, so hopefully you’re okay and haven’t been stabbed or something.  If you’re still alive and healthy and he hasn’t whisked you off to some weird country to be a sex slave, I’d be cutting ties with this guy as fast as humanly possible.  Accept a date offer, make sure it’s in a public place, and reject him over coffee, just be honest and tell him that he creeps you the fuck out, and don’t let him persuade you back into this life (because he will try to edge in any way he can!).  Then change your phone number.  Do this all quickly, before he finds out more about you.  You don’t want this guy knowing where you live or work.

Hey Kp오빠lypse,

Can you please check whether I’m being stupid or not? I know you don’t follow Twice much at all, but I’ve been reading a lot of netizen comments, and I need your help…

A lot of comments about Twice are about how they are uncle fan baiters / have pretty poor “stage presence” / are poor singers / the usual stuff. Even though I quite like Twice – well, enough to know all of their names and singles, at least – I find these observations pretty unobjectionable. (I mean, it’s not like any of it matters, but they’re not wrong.) However, it’s at this point some of their Sone statuses come out, and they start writing about how poor Twice is compared to the previously accepted ‘national girl group’ – Girl’s Generation. (That’s for the commenters who can bare to say that GG isn’t a thing anymore and therefore no longer has that title, of course.)

Now, I would never claim to be an SNSD expert or anything, but I’ve seen more stuff from them than I have from Twice, and… I just can’t see why SNSD could really be considered in a different league from Twice (especially in terms of intention). I see each criticism, and think I can pick it out in SNSD, too. Even though they did have a couple of great singers, many of them clearly don’t sing on the tracks, and can barely even hold the tune when in a “live” performance. Whilst Kpop stages don’t ever really have any ‘presence’ anyway, 2NE1 could work the stage better, despite having fewer than half the members. They were well known for their aegyo, too – which is just used by female idols as a censor friendly way of making men want to fuck them, let’s be honest. Twice is just a recycling of the same format, but by a different company: maybe a few of the sliders on the ‘talent’ mixer have been slightly tweaked upwards or downwards, but same difference.

Please help me out: am I wrong? Am I missing something? Or are Twice just so similar to Girl’s Generation that the latter’s fans can’t recognise a group doing the same thing that they fell for a decade earlier?

Yes, you’re wrong – Girls’ Generation has the apostrophe after the “s”.  Thank me later.  🙂

As for the other stuff, I’m only very dimly aware of this “conversation” through an Asian Junkie article and although I’m sure he’s correct, I really don’t give a fuck about any of it anyway so I’m happy to just take his word for it in this instance.  The way I see it, all idol groups are pretty much the same in this regard.  Twice, DIA, Pristin, Oh My Girl, Lovelyz etc are really no different to SNSD, 4Minute, T-ara, Wonder Girls, 2NE1, etc.  The details may change but the overall objective, market positioning and mode of delivery aren’t significantly different.  That’s why I consider k-pop its own genre, it’s this unique Motown-esque mode of production where the individual talents of members aren’t really as relevant as the overall audiovisual package and how its presented.  Sure, if you stare enough at any of these groups, cracks will form, but this is missing the point of why this sort of music and product exists.

Hi Kpopalypse Oppar,
this isn’t a question but a praise to your insight.

Once you wrote that most artists in the music industry behave differently on stage than they would in their ordinary life to compensate for their character shortcomings (or something like that).
I thought that was pretty interesting but didn’t have the means to check that theory.
Well guess what: Today I randomly listened to a radio interview of Austrian pop band Wanda and the lead singer said, roughly translated: “what I like about being on stage is, that I can be good to people – because I’m unable to be good / nice to people who are close to me in my private life”

I bow down to you.

(Btw until today I didn’t know that Austria has it’s own almost-successful pop band and apparently they’re named after an infamous Viennese prostitute. Their hit song is this:

(sung in Viennese dialect; the first line is “I can’t sleep with my cousin, although I’d like to, but I don’t dare” – the end of the mv suggests otherwise. Caonima mindset?))

QRIMOLE also accepts praise – thank you!

Some people say that I’m cruel and heartless just because I don’t show any love for animals. I mean, I don’t hate them at all, but I just don’t rave about them like those cringe PETA supporters. Same goes for the children: I don’t mind them but I can’t stand any baby talk, it’s just gross. Should I be more um…emotional?

Nah fuck it.  You do you.

As someone who is not a Beatles fan (which is a rare thing, congrats) what do you think about Yoko Ono? I mean, you’re probably not a fan of her music, she sucks terribly but isn’t it so admirable that she pissed off so many fans till this date w/o giving af (we all know that JL was a grown up man who can make his own decisions just like Kim Hyun Joong does) and yet she’s pretty much successful? I don’t know, what do you think?

I always liked Bill Burr’s take on Yoko Ono, because even though I completely disagree with all of his opinions on music, his observations on the relationship friction between everyone depicted in the below video are spot-on and hilarious.

Having said that, I like Yoko Ono.  She killed the Beatles off which did the world a great favour because that band certainly were already musically dead by the time she met John Lennon so it was just like mercy-killing a wounded calf really, it would be more inhumane to let it live.  She continues to make everyone associated with The Beatles really miserable so she’s hard not to love, despite any character faults that she may have.  Also, “Walking On Thin Ice” will always be a great song!

Hey, just a small note on that post about Ladies Code: I was a fan of theirs from the beginning, and I remember how sad it was when the accident happened. To be honest, I was a huge fan of Rise and it just really broke my heart knowing I could not feel 1/100000 of what her family must have been feeling. But then you had all these people posting videos in funeral clothing crying about the deaths of EunB and Rise and it was actually really gross to see. The support was a nice gesture, but I was like why are these people posting videos of themselves crying like they cared? They didn’t even know them. I felt like the members might appreciate the newfound support, but if any of them were to see those videos, they would be disgusted. I’m glad someone pointed it out. I’m certain half those ppl who posted videos left comments about their nugu status before they trended for the deaths of their friends. Kinda shitty right?

Right.

I just want to ask this, what do you think about Mamamoo Blackface/Brownface issue? I am an Indonesian, I actually just found the fact that the “brown people” that many people refers to are from SEA communities? But, as a “brown” myself I actually never feel any offence when someone paint their skin brown or anything like that. Is it wrong to feel like this? Is this what other people describe as “ignorant”? Since when this mentality of hating someone because of their lack of knowledge started? Why is it so wrong to not knowing something that I actually never any situation I never encountered anyway? And why those judging people always expect everyone and their mother should know their history while they refuse to know other country’s history? These things actually pissed me off and it’s not even about Mamamoo anymore. Sorry if this rant is too long anyway. And sorry for the bad english.

American k-pop fans expecting Koreans to adhere to American ideas about what constitutes “blackface” reeks of Amerocentricism, which is a form of cultural ignorance of its own which is oh-so-common from Americans both within America and outside, and deeply offensive to people from almost every other country in the world.  If we’re going to talk about cultural offence and ignorance, we could start with the massive reputation that Americans have for extreme cultural arrogance when travelling abroad, and the consistent assumption from Americans that everyone who interacts with them online is also an American who shares their American values.  Strange as it may seem to some American readers, other countries do exist, and the whims of American culture are not at the forefront of the minds of people in these other countries at all times.  You can’t just transfer the guilt that black Americans lay on white Americans within America over to some other countries’ population and expect them to continue the same narrative, it just doesn’t work like that.  Koreans in Korea don’t feel any guilt over how black people were oppressed in the USA – why would they?  These Asian countries have their own racially-charged fish to fry, mostly with their immediate neighbours, America’s problems are simply not on their radar.  A bunch of Americans complaining on the Internet about how some event that happened entirely within another country and wasn’t even primarily designed for American consumption didn’t adhere to their cultural rulebook… sorry but folks from other countries simply have no fucks to give about this, that’s the reality of it.  Sure, you’ll get your “oops” apology if you make a big enough noise about it, but inside they’re all rolling their eyes and saying to themselves “these fucking Americans… they want the entire world to be their way, don’t they?”.  It’s a bit like asking other countries to celebrate Thanksgiving, a holiday which has no meaning in most countries whatsoever, and which American readers always ask me how I’m celebrating each year on my ask.fm!

Having said that, if k-pop agencies do want to break into the markets of other countries, it does make sense that they should try and be a little sensitive to the culture that they’re trying to tap into, purely from a marketing perspective (more on that below), but then it’s not every single k-pop group’s goal to crack the American market anyway (and once again, it’s sheer Amerocentric arrogance for k-pop fans to assume that American success is a hot issue on every group’s agenda).  Furthermore, there isn’t a broad consensus within America of what constitutes “blackface” anyway, when it is or isn’t offensive, and what should be done about it when it happens – just check out all the crazily heated Internet debate from Americans on this issue whenever this topic crops up anywhere.  Maybe before Americans start throwing around their cultural rulebook and expecting everyone else to follow it, they could at least make up their mind about what should be in that book.

I was yesterday watching a popular show in my country on TV called ”your face sounds familiar”. the point of the show is that contestants look like carbon copies of original artists and this recent mamamoo controversy got me thinking is this considered blackface.  These are videos only from last nights episode:

Show is already on it’s fourth season and POC and black artists are a common occurance and I wonder is this considered blackface? I don’t think that the show intended to be racist but just to make people look the same as artists including their skin color. Your thoughts? Is this offensive towards black people?

In America I think a lot of people would be offended by this!  Of course this isn’t a show for American consumption that Americans know about so nobody cares and I’m sure it’s going strong in your country with no controversy whatsoever.  Eventually the Amerocentric Internet thought police will probably find out about this show and demand that these people conform to the cultural values of a country in which they do not live.  Until then, enjoy the show (or not).

Do you think the era of SJW is destroying creativity? It seems a lot of movies, games and music worry too much about pandering to every single race and sex. rather than unifying how it connects to the story? Ex: Ppl complain about Iron Fist hiring a white actor when in the comics he is white.  Also it seems Blizzard has been making statements to incl. every race and gender imaginable whenever complaints arise how their identity isn’t in the game. Of course they pander 100% And doesn’t add one bit to the story. I think i’m in the idea that the author is the writer, not the netizens.

With Blizzard I assume you’re referring to Overwatch.  Who gives any fucks about Overwatch’s “story”, really.  Those sort of MOBA games always have stupid, stupid, stupid lore anyway, because there is no way to make the lore work, because the fucking games make no logical sense.  There’s no logical reason known why five people of completely varying character traits, backgrounds and personalities would face off in a random area against five other people of completely different character traits, backgrounds and personalities, and then die and respawn, just to blow up some weird building or whatever the fuck it is you do in these games, and then do it all over and over again in different combinations millions of times per month.  The entire setup that makes these games work is completely incompatible with any type of storytelling whatsoever!  So therefore, you might as well make the characters as diverse as you can, because there’s no intelligible “story” to break, and having a whole bunch of characters look the same is dull, but having really weird and wacky combinations is what makes playing a game like that interesting – to see how certain combinations of characters synergise to complete a goal.  The tubby ice-blasting girl Mei is actually really fucking cute to me and makes me want to play Overwatch just so I can main her, but I’d probably suck at the game heavily because it seems to involve fast reflexes like Team Fortress and I’m always bad at that sort of thing when it’s in 3D.  I guess that’s why she’s there – “diversity” here might seem like it’s about social justice on the surface (and maybe there’s an element of this), but what it’s really about is marketing – if you’ve got a diverse range of characters to choose from then there’s more chance that a particular character will resonate really well with more people.  That’s why these games keep adding characters and why each time they try and go for something new that they don’t have in the game yet.  I have money that I’m considering spending on Overwatch now because Blizzard put a character like this in the game that appeals to my chubby-chasing tendencies – that’s the bottom line for me, and it’s probably also the bottom line for Blizzard.

As for Iron Fist, let me make this clear that I give no fucks about some TV show based on some comic book or whatever.  I don’t watch TV or read comics so I have no horse in this race.  I get the argument that Iron Fist was white in the original whatever so he should be white in the new whatever to keep it true to the original.  I also get the argument that he should never have been white in the first place as he was clearly based on Asian culture and was only white back then because in the mean old, bad old 1970s people didn’t really care about “whitewashing” and a white guy playing an Asian as much as they do now.  Neither argument is completely incorrect in my opinion, and you can bet that whichever way they went with it a ton of people were going to complain.  Maybe this represented a great opportunity for an Asian actor wasted, or maybe several Asian actors DID audition for the part but weren’t good enough, or maybe more likely they wanted a big name that will put bums on seats and they couldn’t think up an Asian who had the same draw potential as whatever white guy they used.  These companies aren’t racist just for shits and giggles, there’s not some Bond-esque villain in a big leather chair in the head office stroking a white fluffy cat while chomping a cigar and saying “hahaha let’s get a white person in there because I hate slopes and chinks”, they just see what the audience has been proven to spend money on, and their data probably shows that unknown Asian guys don’t pay the bills as much as known white guys so they didn’t feel a need to change things up.  They know that their demographic is lots of white guys and are worried about casting a character that the audience might not be able to connect with.  Once again it all comes down to marketing, except that in the case of the TV series role, diversity is a marketing weakness, whereas in the computer game it’s a marketing strength.

I need some advice on talking to my dad. He recently tried talking to me about waiting until marriage to have sex (he’s a Muslim) and I disagree a lot with it. My mom says it’s silly (she believes in a God just not tied to any religion) because she knows that he nor his wife were virgins when they got married and that most guys these days don’t care if a girl has had sex or not, and she’s right. How do I explain this to my dad exactly? I’m an agnostic so I don’t follow any “moral guidelines” laid out by any religion at all.

“You’re a hypocrite dad, stfu” would be my recommended approach.  But why even explain it anyway?  You could say to your dad “yes sir” but ultimately it’s not up to him, his projection of his moral values onto you is probably more just his wishful thinking.  It’s not like he can stop you.

I went to a concert yesterday and sat behind the sound engineer. I was really interested by whatever he was doing, except I was really, really confused because it seemed like he was always fixing up settings and shit. Don’t they have sound checks, then just keep the settings as is? I don’t get it.

A crap sound engineer is one who sets up all the levels and then goes and drinks at the bar for the rest of the night, and if he hears a stray bit of feedback he rushes back to the mixing console in a panic (or even worse, not in a panic), spills half his drink into it and fixes up the squealing eventually.  Mediocre sound engineers stay at their desk and constantly manage the stray squeals that they weren’t knowledgeable enough to fix up before the band started playing.  Really good sound engineers are different, they manage levels carefully, and the really good ones are also doing things like triggering vocal and sound effects, they play their desk almost like an instrument of its own.

Given the recent news about small agencies sexually harassing trainees, I wish to ask 1.How prevalent do you think it is? Is it avoidable in any way? 2.How likely is it that members of my bias groups already went through this? 3.If you were a trainee whose only chance to debut was agreeing to sex, would you?

  1. Exceptionally common, music industry-wide.  Very hard to avoid completely.  Good luck.
  2. Likely.
  3. Depends what was at stake, but probably not.  Just because someone won’t debut if you don’t sleep with them doesn’t mean that they will keep their promise to debut you if you do.

Why most (though I dont actually have facts to back this up) kpop acts having their US debuts usually fail? I like to think it’s bc of language. But some acts attempted to make english kpop songs, or at least an english version of their songs but still failed anyway. I want to think it’s because of them acting all supreme but that doesnt seem the case since there were english versions of some spanish songs which were hits in US. Or maybe it’s bc like what I always hear about the branding of kpop being “too candy-ish”, such made them repulsive to kpop.

There’s a real cultural difference between the USA and Korea in terms of perceptions of idol artists.  What seems “just right” for the Korean market is often way too fairly-floss for the USA market, where by-the-book performances, a squeaky clean controversy-free image and carefully staged dance routines are all considered signs of “inauthenticity” rather than something to be appreciated.  The average American who isn’t into k-pop generally has a reaction of “what is this stupid pop shit, this isn’t real music” when they encounter it.  K-pop’s challenge is to somehow bridge that divide but they’ll have to get a lot smarter to be able to do it well.  If they can’t even figure out the whole “painting your face black, maybe not such a good idea if we want to go over well with young politically-correct American fans” thing, then you know they’ve got a long way to go in terms of navigating the cultural obstacles, may of which they’re probably not even aware of yet.  Maybe an isolated group or two might have a hit in the US, but like PSY, they won’t have an “opening the floodgates” effect – it’ll be just for them, then it’ll die off.  K-pop exists in Korea precisely because it can’t exist in America.

Do you think the US music industry will eventually become similar to the korean music industry or vice versa? For instance.. I could be wrong, but I feel like it makes much more sense for (pop) artists to release music on a fast schedule (every few months) like in Korea? Again, I could be wrong but I get the feeling it will speed up in Korea too. I noticed there are a few kpop groups this year releasing music each month.. idk lol. I’m just curious what you think will happen to the music industry in the future in Korea and the US (and if theres any relation)

Not really related in this way.  Korea’s approach works for Korea because of certain market conditions that exist there, that don’t exist to the same level in the USA.  Don’t expect any convergence beyond a few isolated cases of Chad Future-ish types wanting to “be more Korean” just because they fall in love with k-pop.

Why does people on your ask.fm seems to hate AJ so much? Ive been reading AJ for years and him editing the fuck out of your articles seem pretty normal to me. And why do they say AJ is getting worse?  I mean, his outlook on scandals are pretty much the same and his no apologies fanboying are also the same. Sorry if I sound like an “oppalogist”, it just confuses me why I see so many people complaining about AJ on your ask.fm lol

I give AJ lots of shit (lots) because he totally deserves it, but I love him really.  It’s a very Australian thing to give your friends lots of abuse and make their lives miserable.  If I start being really nice to him all the time, that’s when he should be worried (because it means I’m planning something).  Myself and AJ are mostly on the same page, with many things, certainly the key points of music being important and fandoms being stupid, we see eye to eye there.  I do like to highlight the situations where we differ, mainly just for fun times, but disagreements are healthy anyway and I don’t expect all people to see the world the way that I do, any more than I would expect to “convert” others to my way of thinking, that’s not really why I write.  I do enjoy reading most of his articles even if I don’t necessarily agree with his content and I’m sure he occasionally enjoys reading my crap too even if some of it makes him shake his head in disdain plus triggers his editing anxiety.  I haven’t really noticed any change in AJ’s mode of operation of his site, I’ve noticed the community change a little as he’s become more popular but that just means he’s doing something well that a lot of people enjoy and what dickheads access his site and leave shitty comments isn’t entirely something within his control anyway.  My readers should support Asian Junkie when they can because he’s shitloads better than the alternatives.

When you have group choruses these days (ik in songs like bb’s haru haru you could hear individual voices) do they make the whole group sing, the main vocalists, or do they just synthesise one voice/get a sample voice/someone outside the group?

In a candid response to queries about T-ara’s choruses that could only ever come from the disarmingly honest MBK (and that I can’t find, but someone will have it I’m sure), they actually referred to the “vocal soup” which is a very accurate description of what happens in a k-pop chorus.  Think about how you make a soup – you throw in what seems like a good idea, leave out the rest and then mix it all up.  Most of today’s heavily layered k-pops choruses have all sorts of stuff in there, a combination of the singers in the group, other singers not in the group and several vocal effects, plus maybe even instruments doubling up the vocal line, all mixed until it’s “just right”.  The big chorus for T-ara’s “Sugar Free” is a classic example of this kind of production.

what’s it with the current “line distribution videos” trend and people using it to bash companies?

People are morons, I guess?  Fucked if I know.


That’s all for this episode of QRIMOLE!  If you have a question that you’d like to see in the next episode, please use the question box below or in the sidebar!  Kpopalypse will return soon!

10 thoughts on “QRIMOLE Episode 8: a lesson in aegyo you won’t soon forget

  1. I took a WWII history class a couple years back. We were watching a Hiroshima/Nagasaki documentary that had a part discussing an episode of “This Is Your Life” about a Hiroshima survivor, A pilot that flew the plane dropping the first A-bomb was a special guest and he expressed regret and such about dropping the bomb in front of the survivor. Teacher paused the documentary and told us that pilot gained a lot of criticism, and asked if we could guess for what reason.
    This girl who’s a typical millennial SJW went into rant mode, saying, “Because saying you’re sorry isn’t enough for what happened to innocent people!” and stuff like that. Midway through her rant, I knew that doesn’t sound right, given the fact this was the 1950’s. Teacher confirmed what I was thought; The people upset over the episode were US veterans, proclaiming the pilot was a traitor to his country.
    I swear I learned about segregation and US slavery for at least half a dozen grade years, and Asian history/affairs for less than three semesters combined. Including the WWII class that was my own choice to take. Americans can care just as much about Korea’s history and struggles as Koreans do about our history and struggles.

    • I mean, the Korean War is also known as the Forgotten War. Despite majoring in Asian Studies in college with a focus on Korea, before I went to boarding school and met Korean students, any thought of the country hadn’t even crossed my mind. And that’s coming from a family where many people have lived in Japan and China!

      I love my home country, but the US is remarkably insular and uninterested in the outside world. The prevailing attitude can be explained in part because of our size, and relative isolation (we only border two countries, while China borders 14), but it’s not an excuse for ignorance when it comes to other cultures.

      I’m living in China now, and while I definitely encounter stereotypes and false ideas about foreign countries, most people are still interested! I live in a small, rural city, and coming from a rural part of the US, I rarely found people with any curiosity about other states, let alone other countries.

      At the same time, I must play devil’s advocate. To an average American, what does it matter that they speak any language other than English, understand the history of any other country, or even travel abroad? There’s little to no economic or cultural motivation for most of them to understand the outside world. Just as Korean groups need to have an interest in American money in order to avoid American social taboos, so do most Americans need a reason to care about other countries before they further their education.

  2. To be honest one of the main reasons I read your blog is because of your views, wich tend to resonate with mine a lot. On your answer regarding the Asian Junkie question, up till a little while ago I would have agreed with you, if not for his Yesung article.

    I posted my opinion there about why i don’t find it offensive and couldnt hold myself back not to include typing libtard (because fairs fair that’s what most of the commenters where acting like) and surely enough I got some really inteligent responses, one from IATFB himself. His comment and the one above it is gone, I acidently deleted mine when i was trying to edite it (i’m a moron when it commes to using Disqus my apologies).

    That said I still like his blog, (a good alternative for AKF, he is sorely missed) I just didn’t peg him for a SJW libtard, atleast when it comes to this blackface nonsense.

  3. Makestar also offers the possibility to find out where your international fans are concentrated. Stellar held concerts in some countries based on the info.

  4. As an American who’s always had an interest in other cultures, it pains me to see Americans that completely reject/criticize any cultural norms outside of their own (I was also raised as a conservative Protestant Christian, so I got a large dose of this same attitude in a religious context, besides cultural.) I’ve found that the more rural the area, the worse this attitude tends to be, and given that there are only two somewhat-decently-sized cities in my entire state, that attitude is rampant around here. In cases such as the Mamamoo issue, I tend to not really know how to feel (especially since I’m a Caucasian American, to boot, so wtf do I know about all that), so my strategy is just more to take a back seat and listen, since, as someone who’s not actually directly affected, I don’t feel like it’s my place to go throwing around opinions and accusations. Similarly, when visiting other countries, my strategy is often to simply admit to those around me that idk wtf I’m doing, pls help, which people usually react to very graciously, haha. Unfortunately, sitting back and just listening to others’ opinions is not a very highly valued trait in America.

    Also, the Thanksgiving thing is your loss, really. It’s literally a holiday dedicated to eating; it’s fantastic. Provided that you completely ignore the actual history behind it, which we’re great at.

    • Wow, crazy relate with what you’ve said here. Growing up in Wyoming, the attitude was incredibly self-centered around the state, not just the US.

  5. The preference for more complex music theory in K-Pop actually has its roots in J-Pop influences. J-Pop had been doing it for most of the latter half of the 20th Century, often incorporating lots of jazz music theory into their mainstream pop songs (the Japanese love jazz, jazz fusion, smooth jazz, acid jazz, etc. There’s even a genre that specifically combines jazz influence with pop, called “City Pop.”) So many K-Pop historians seem to focus solely on American/western music’s influence on K-Pop’s stylistic development, but they rarely, if ever, acknowledge the very heavy J-Pop influences. The American/western influences are mainly R&B, Hip-Hop, rock/metal, EDM, etc., but the saccharine cutesy concepts, the jazz-influenced music theory, the distinctive Asian pop melodic contours–a lot of it was directly influenced by 80’s and 90’s J-Pop. Anyone who’s well-versed in J-Pop from that era will see the clear lineage/influence.

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