QRIMOLE Episode 11: can Kpopalypse teach a caonima to fish?

It’s the return of QRIMOLE!  Let’s look at more questions and answers from Kpopalypse!

As usual, lots of questions!  I’ll do my best to answer all of them, but I may skip a couple.  Some of the ones I’ve skipped are because they’re relevant to upcoming articles, so if your question isn’t here, it could be because it was really crap, or it may be that it was so good that it will turn up elsewhere…

What is your opinion about those autistic international kpop fans that use proxys to get their favorite group to highest clicks in 24 hours on youtube like they did with BlackPinks shitty comeback?

That wouldn’t work as well as you (or they) might think.  Proxies give you a different IP address to tunnel through, but the same proxy provider gives the same set of addresses to all its clients, because they only have so many proxy servers.  Anyone who has ever tried to download a large file through a proxy only to be told “you’ve reached your download limit for the day” before you’ve even started downloading knows this.  So the only way you could multiply your votes properly is by yourself switching between several different IPs.  However if another fan also had the same proxy provider they’d have the same IP address list so YouTube would see it all as “the same people”.  The more fans who do this, the less effective it is, as there’s a greater chance that two different fans have the same proxy service and are cancelling out each other’s traffic.  You might as well just not even bother and use your own computer’s IP address.  I don’t even know for sure if YouTube doesn’t count repeated clicks from the same viewer (there’s tons of fan theories about this but I’ve seen no hard confirmation), but if fans were using proxies as a general rule and YouTube was engaging in some sort of destination filtering, the result would be less views registered, not more.  Add to the fact that YouTube would be well aware of the different scams people run to boost viewership and would probably know the main proxy providers (as they would appear in a list), it would be a snap for them to filter out this traffic if they could be bothered.  Sorry to break it to you, but the groups that you hate with really annoying fandoms who gain a lot of fast popularity on YouTube are just really popular groups.

With all the annual gnashing of teeth when girl groups disband, it seems that picking up the pieces and forming new *All-Star* groups with idols who actually like each other would be a viable business. It”s worked for Western Groups for years. Whaddah think?

If someone could pull something like this off, it would probably be a smart idea to capitalise on each member’s invested “fan capital”, and we’ve already seem it with Unnies and some of the SM Station collaborations.  However actually doing this well in practice is trickier than it seems.

The first thing you have to consider about this is that groups usually disband because certain members (or even quite a few members) are sick of it and want to leave.  Starting a new group or musical venture in some cases would be their worst nightmare.  After I posted my interview with Melanie from ChoColat, I received offers from people wanting to pass on requests for musical collaborations to her.  I couldn’t bring myself to be the middle-man, it seemed disrespectful to me, I had to ignore them.  Did they not read the interview where Melanie quite clearly states that she’s on a new page of her life now?  Surely if she wanted to do more music she would have said so in the interview (however if she asks about this I will pass the offers on).

The other thing that may be preventing more “supergroups” from forming is the contractual side.  As the ChoColat interview also demonstrated, just because someone leaves a group doesn’t mean that they’re not still in contractual bondage.  ChoColat had broken up many years ago in spirit but couldn’t “officially” say it was over until this year, because they had contracts that stated that their group was to run until 2017.  During a contract time period, artists often have rules in the contract about who they can or cannot collaborate with or form new musical ventures with, and it’s exceptionally common for this type of activity to be forbidden unless directed by the agency themselves.  This is often the case with western contracts too – signing a deal with one party often prevents you from recording with other parties.  That doesn’t mean that a “supergroup” is impossible, but what it does mean is that not only all the members but all the companies behind those members have to agree on terms and conditions, and that can be a very long and drawn-out process.  With competition in k-pop for the limelight being red hot, and group shelf life being limited to however long the members can stay young, attractive and healthy, k-pop business doesn’t favour long drawn-out anything.  It’s easier for k-pop to go the other way, and have the supergroup at the start of an idol’s career already built into the contract structure, such as with Produce 101 groups.

Pristin’s Xiyeon recently talked about having to deal with periods. It’s something that, while I’m all too intimately familiar with the experience, caught me off guard. I mean, of course idols have periods. I know that, but it’s a little startling to actually think about. While this could just be a me thing, I have a feeling there’s something more behind this. Perhaps something along the lines of infantilization? Possibly more along the lines of dehumanization? Are they one in the same?

I’m not even sure what you’re asking.  I don’t think periods are all that startling personally, but I guess thinking about the fact that all female idols have vaginas that bleed on a regular basis probably runs contrary to what the agencies would like you to think about when imagining idol life.  If we want to talk about k-pop being a dehumanising soul-crushing production line, you don’t have to look that far to see it, but it’s more common for k-pop to try to sell children as adults, not the other way around.  I think this issue is a lot more mundane than you’re imagining.

Have you ever been to the kpop threads on 4chan’s music board and if so, what do you think of us?

I don’t visit 4chan much just because it seems like a site where the rabbit-hole is really deep and I just don’t have the time or inclination to explore that.  Sometimes I see 4chan discussions about my own articles because readers will link them to me or they’ll come up in my traffic summaries, but they never seem to be that in-depth.  4chan doesn’t seem to be like Reddit where people actually try to have a conversation (albeit usually an inane, virtue-signalling one), it seems to be more about posting random shit and making jokes.  Which is fine really, a bunch of silly shitposting just for fun is actually better than Reddit/kpop users trying to “win a discussion” and to be seen as “morally/intellectually better” so they can get points or votes or sleep at night or whatever the fuck.  4chan also doesn’t have the snobby attitude that Reddit/kpop does when it comes to people from outside discovering their content.  I wouldn’t really know much about the collective opinion of 4chan on anything in particular though, let alone what the k-pop community there is like.

Is it possible that song writing credits to group members can be lies told by agencies to bait fangirls who like their oppars labelled as artists?

Anything is possible, but the most likely scenario is that the group members were given control over one tiny insignificant aspect of the entire package (a few words of lyrics) and then credited as a “co-writer”.  Happens with western pop idols too.  I wrote more about “co-writers” in this post.

Oppar, you often laughing at f(x) stans(MeU) for complaining too much about SM’s treatments towards f(x). You said that f(x) was meant to be this middle level success group. Tbh, I used to agree with you since imo, it’s good for f(x) to have less schedule since they wouldn’t be as tired as let’s say Exo members. But then, Amber started to shades SM a lot, and finally let her frustrations out in 2 ig posts about her being ignored and such by SM. And we also have that famous Melanie interview that you did, stated that her group failed because of their company decisions. I started to doubt that SM really know what they were going to do with f(x). And btw, what kind of agency that want their group not achieving as much as possible of successes? Imo, that just doesn’t make sense. And maybe it just me, but, I kinda think that f(x) that never been dubbed as the next SNSD like Red Velvet did, actually achieved more successes than Red Velvet. Even when f(x) received much worse treatments than Red Velvet.

SM’s marketing strategy with f(x) has always been pretty obvious.  When f(x) debuted, Girls’ Generation were riding high, they were THE breakout female group in k-pop that nobody could touch, there was never a #2 group that got anywhere close (although at various points Wonder Girls, T-ara, 2NE1 and Sistar were all hyped as this).  When you’ve got a group that is that huge, starting up a second group with exactly the same type of songs and marketing focus would be pointless – the two groups would eat into each others’ market share.  Think about how huge BTS is right now, it would make literally no sense at all for their agency to debut another identical boy group tomorrow.  Why compete with your own brand?  It would make more sense for them to compete with someone else’s brand.  Maybe if their agency released a guitar-rock group tomorrow, or a girl group tomorrow, that would make more sense.  So back to SM and there was no way that they would want to disturb the ride that Girls’ Generation were on, so they thought “let’s go for something different and hopefully we can expand out core business and get into untapped markets” and debuted a group with five very different (from each other) girls, slightly more unusual music and with an image that highlighted the girls’ individuality, as opposed to dressing them all up in the same sailor costumes or whatever.  The strategy worked and f(x) became huge – not huge in the same way as Girls’ Generation (as that was never the intention) but huge in a different way.

To help you understand better, I will explain with images.

The bar on the left represents the potential market share of the people who like ultra-commercial idol girl groups like Girls’ Generation, and would be willing to throw away money on stuff, whether that be the music itself, merchandise, or through buying products that idols endorse.  This is the market that most k-pop agencies are after, because it’s a big market, and capturing it means more income from the real money-earner which is advertisers.  The bar on the right represents a smaller market, the kind of people who might crave a slightly different idol group that is a bit less commercially-geared, but still would spend money in the same ways if such a group surfaced that appealed to them.  The important thing to understand here is that these market share values are finite – people only have a certain amount of time, money and attention to give, before they run out.

If whining pathetic f(x) fans who don’t understand the first thing about anything concerning k-pop agency business decisions had their way, both Girls’ Generation and f(x) would get equal promotion, equal time on TV in the same sort of shows, equal everything, and this is what SM’s overall market share between these two groups would look like.

The green is all the Girls’ Generation fans’ market share.  The Pink is all the f(x) fans’ market share.  The blue is the untapped market share of the fans that would probably like f(x) if f(x) were geared more towards them, this is market value that SM are not getting.  Note that the total market share of the bar on the left isn’t any bigger than in the first diagram, because potential market share is finite – people only have so much time/money/attention to spend on what they like, it doesn’t grow bigger if you add more groups in.

Now this is what SM’s marketing strategy actually results in:

Girls’ Generation are maximising market share to their full capacity without anything else getting in the way.  Meanwhile f(x) scoops up a new bunch of different fans who appreciate the group’s different focus.  Overall potential income and market dominance for SM is therefore larger, because more of the different type of fans on the right means even more opportunity to sell their group to people and advertisers etc in different ways.  From a business perspective this second model makes a lot more sense.  Hopefully I never have to explain this shit to anyone else ever again.

Of course, in the last year the above model has become irrelevant as f(x) are no longer a serious going concern for SM with other projects now in the picture and the girls have been more or less cut loose from doing more f(x) stuff BUT they still have contractual obligations (as mentioned in the second question in this post above) which means they can’t go and just do whatever the fuck they want, anything they do that is creative has to be green-lit by SM first.  In Amber’s case, SM doesn’t want to take on all of her many creative projects, but she’s not allowed to put them out herself either, so she’s effectively contractually silenced until the contract expires, unless SM say “yes, go ahead, you can release that”.  So with a creative fire burning and no other option available, Amber is spamming SM with tons of stuff and they are saying “yes” to some of it and “no” to most of it, for whatever reason (there could be several).  This is what Amber has been complaining about.  I’d go into more detail if I could, but that will have to wait for the tell-all interview that Amber will hopefully give Kpopalypse after her contract expires.

(This answer dedicated to Asian Junkie, or Mr. “I love it when Kpopalypse explains things twice”.)

From the US Edition of Forbes: “The reason the Weeknds of the world and the Drakes of the world are exploding is a combination of a global audience that’s consuming them freely at a young age [and that] they just keep dropping music,” Live Nation chief Michael Rapino says. “They’re delivering an ongoing, engaged dialogue with their fan base.”

So, would it be a viable model for K-Pop artists to hold back on the album, put out a mini once a year with all the nice packaging and TV comebacks, and then keep the streaming pipeline stuffed with monthly songs? Same amount of music, but broader impact?

What say you, Oh Swami!

JYP’s new rock group DAY6 are actually already doing something similar to this, releasing a new mini or single every month of 2017.  However each one has a feature track, a video, etc.  Sugardonut also tried the same thing for the whole of 2016, and Loona are also throwing out a song per month with different member configurations for each.  Calling it “an ongoing, engaged dialogue with their fan base” is probably sliding a bit too deep into music journo jerk-off territory for my liking, but there’s no denying that frequent releases certainly help your audience to remember that you exist.

Hello, sexy oppar. So I was listening to WJSN’s new song “Happy“, which certainly did not make me feel happy while listening to the song. However, another song on their (mini?) album caught my attention: “Miracle.”

The song is most literally an even more disco-fied version of “Secret.” “Secret”‘s structure, chord progression, basic melody, and previous disco strings appear in this song. Really, the only things that changed is the speed and the added brass. What’s the point? How often do producers create multiple different versions of the same song? And why release these different versions one after another within the same group and try to market them as different songs? I’m willing to bet that “Miracle” is the definitive track that e.one wanted to put out, but I guess Starship couldn’t decide which track to buy and just got both of them.

They are different songs however.  Certainly somewhat similar, yes, but absolutely NOT “exactly the same but with a different speed and more brass”.  The melody lines are different, the chords are somewhat different, the string elements are similar but not the same, importantly the lyrics are different, the rhythmic feel isn’t the same… it’s a different song in every important aspect.  Commercial pop music of this type is just a fairly generic form in any case and do tend to mimic identical structures so things do tend to sound similar the more you listen and it tricks the ear.  That’s why all those stupid “copycat” YouTube channels exist, created by idiots and trolls, that link together things that are similar in style but have nothing to fucking do with each other really.  Those channels fool a lot of people, because a lot of people lack the language to detect and discuss the musical differences deeply and realise for themselves that it’s all bullshit.

Do you think your first time having sex should be with someone special? I lost my virginity to a great guy in a friends-with-benefits type situation (not dating material for various reasons), and I feel… Well, good, even great, even though most sources I’ve read say I should feel horrible or like I made a mistake. If it helps, my boyfriend also recently broke up with me, but I got over it pretty quickly (and we’re back to being good friends again).

Honestly, if you lost your virginity and it was a generally good-but-not-mindblowing experience, you got lucky.  The first time for most people is usually pretty clumsy and awkward at best, just because of the amount of nerves and social pressure involved.  Sex isn’t that big of a deal though, and like any other human activity is something that people get better at with time and practice.  I think it’s fine to do your “training runs” with someone who didn’t mean that much to you emotionally, that way when you finally do meet that special someone you’ll be a lot more practiced and better at it, which will make life easier for everyone concerned.  Of course if first-time sex IS with someone you really love, then great, but there’s no reason why it has to be, and just because that experience exists for some, doesn’t mean that all other sexual experiences are bad by default.

Hi, hyung. It’s been years since I noticed a trend in K-pop. Unlike in the Western music scene, S. Korean artists and/or companies don’t release singles from an EP or album that has already circulated publicly for a considerable period of time. They’d rather push forward with newly written material from then on. For instance, JYP had never bothered releasing miss A’s “Lips” as a follow-up feature track to “Touch”, but if it were a Western label handling a Western group back then, officially promoting “Lips” after “Touch” could have been a real possibility. Why is that? If it’s good enough to work for labels in the West, why wouldn’t it be commercially viable for their K-pop counterparts to do that?

In k-pop it’s usually the case that one track is the feature and the rest is just padding.  Sometimes there’ll be two feature tracks, often with the company releasing the same album again with the extra track on it.  The reason why k-pop does this and the west doesn’t is because on western releases every track is expected to be good, whereas in k-pop they’re literally just shifting the perceived failures out with the successes most of the time.  More on why k-pop albums generally suck here.

My best friend committed suicide a couple months ago and I’m still having trouble dealing with it. He had been my best friend since the beginning of high school (I’m just ending year 2) and I still think about him every day. I am losing my other friend who was close to him, so I have very few other people to talk to. I feel like when I bring him up, even as a joke or in a lighthearted way, people get uncomfortable. He was a lot of my emotional support, and there’s no one who fills that anymore so I’ve felt so lonely and emotionally cooped up since then. Sometimes I think it was inevitable and couldn’t have been saved – he was on many medications and had been hospitalized a few times after suicide attempts, sometimes he would try once every couple days. But sometimes I feel like I could have done better. I tried to be there for him when he was feeling horrible (including destroying my own health at points staying up with him until 3AM to make sure he wasn’t going to die), but towards the end we were more distant as he had started hanging out with other people I dislike. I think he was scared I would really call a number if he was about to kill himself, so he stopped confiding in me. I can’t watch movies or media that have things about suicide in it. They make me too upset. I guess my question is, how do I move forward? Could I have saved him? Are some people going to be depressed and kill themselves no matter what? And if so, what does that mean about the way we should act?

I’ve known several people who have taken their own lives including close friends and a previous partner, which was incredibly difficult to cope with and will probably influence the rest of my behaviour in some way forever.  What I learned from my relationship with her and with people in general over time is that you can’t stop anyone from doing anything that they really want to do, whether it be going to the shops, taking up smoking and drinking, climbing a mountain, killing themselves, or anything else.  If people really want to do something then they’re going to do it and that’s the bottom line.  You can try to encourage other choices and let them know that you’re there for them, but the more you try and influence someone’s behaviour directly, often the more resolute they’ll become in following whatever path they feel destined to go down anyway.  This doesn’t mean you should blame yourself however.  Ultimately it’s their own choice how to live their lives (or not) and you can neither justifiably take the credit nor shoulder the blame.

Do you have advice how to deal with escapism?
I use K-pop to distract myself from the uneventful life I lead by immersing myself in Korean videos. Now I’ve decided to do Korean Studies at uni (I’ve already been an exchange student in Korea for a year, which I did to escape boring high-school life) with no other reason than it might be more interesting than real life. What keeps me lured in is the big WTF that I often encounter with things Korean, as in, most things don’t make sense and I want to understand why Koreans think how they think / how the music industry works / … but all of this will inevitably be useless. I’m not sure if I’m turning my escapism into something positive or if I’m incredibly stupid.

There’s nothing wrong with being really into something and there’s nothing wrong with escapism in general – otherwise I probably wouldn’t even have this blog.  However it’s always important to keep one foot grounded in reality to support your escapist habit.  Being into something an pursuing your interest = cool.  Leaving yourself with no backup plan as a result or no way to support yourself financially = less cool.  Keep in mind that things that seem new and fascinating can get old and stale once you’ve gotten to know them.  By all means follow your dreams because it’s what makes life worthwhile, but always have a plan – “if I lose interest in this tomorrow, or something weird/bad happens, will I be okay?  How will I support myself to find a new direction?”.  It’s okay to go a step backward if it means that later you can take two steps forward.

That beat from the DJ Premier video (worst kpop songs of 2016) is so good. Does it have a name/where can I find more about this type of rap/song?

The lost art of hip-hop beat creation!  If you want to investigate further, DJ Premier was one half of rap duo Gang Starr (the other half being rapper Guru, now deceased) and DJ Premier produced all the tracks for this group so you would probably like all of their albums.  He has also worked with a ton of other old-school rappers, too many to list, almost every well-known veteran rapper has rapped over a DJ Premier beat at some stage in their career.  He’s widely regarded to be one of the best beat-creators in hip-hop, especially in Australia where his style has been even more influential than in the US, which is why the “trap” trend is almost universally despised by Australian hip-hop fans.

I know you have already talked about the loudness wars, but my low determination levels can’t seem to find you discuss analog vs. digital recording. Do you record and mix completely “in the box” now? Do you still hold on to any of your outboard stuff at all?

Also, I wondered about a lot of the marketing about digital plug-ins. It seems every brand coming out these days is hyping some new plug-in as having that “old analog” sound or adding “vibe” and “warmth” (seriously, just watch any new product vid from Slate or any other big brand name). What the fuck does that even mean? My (admittedly weak) caonima instincts are telling me the Edward Bernays-esque marketing is overhyped. Is all of this stuff bullshit? If so, are the standard ones that come with any DAW sufficient, provided you know have most recording/mixing fundamentals down? If not, are there any Kpopalypse tested and approved plug-ins that you would recommend?

I genuinely hope this leads you to starting your own audio plug-in company, The Way of the Caonima. Sign me the fuck up. I presume inserts on any Fender Rhodes VI instrument wouldn’t work, right?

As someone who learned by working in analog studios just before digital came and took everything over, digital beats analog hands down in the areas that matter – convenience, speed, durability, automation.  Working with reels is a true pain in the ass, and don’t even get me started on splicing tape.  There is only one analog studio that I know of that still operates in my city and it’s run by a complete cunt who is notoriously difficult to get along with, so I’ve refused to send bands there including bands who really wanted to work in that studio because I just know that they would start fights with the dude.  I don’t have any outboard gear anymore except an old cassette 4-track, and I don’t miss any of it.

I’m not a huge fan of the type of plugins you’re talking about, although to be honest it probably depends a bit on the style of music.  The mastering studio that I’ve used would get similar results to those plugins with outboard valve gear and honestly I think that’s the way to go – add that “warmth” shit to the final mix in the mastering stage, if needed.  However some things shouldn’t be “warm” anyway.  It mystifies me why extreme metal bands who presumably want their music to be as ear-shredding as possible go in for all this pretend-analog shit which is designed to get the exact opposite result from what they supposedly want.  Maybe they don’t really know what they want.

There is a fuckton of different plugins and I’m probably not even aware of 2% of them.  Honestly the shit that comes with ProTools or other equivalents is just fine to get the job done.  All I’d say is this – plugins are definitely not a case of “you get what you pay for” so don’t spend money on plugins, there’s tons of free shit out there that is in some cases just as good so do your research.  The DAW itself costs enough!

I would like to know, do you have a plan to make another fan fiction about BTS?

Any group that is really successful and in the media a lot has a reasonable chance of getting its own fanfic one day.  There are already more than one about Girls’ Generation, EXO, f(x) and T-ara so there’s no reason why there couldn’t be another BTS one.  BTS’ kooky fanbase only adds to the temptation to write more about BTS so I wouldn’t be surprised if I do more in future, although I couldn’t say exactly when, or what they would be about.

1. Why YG Entertainment always have drug scandals?  Is the korean media trying to imply something?

2. You have said before that SM most likely to experiment different market positionings to their groups. Since oppar mentioned this in a question concerning girl groups, my mind has automatically thought about the male ones and I could clearly see those differences between DBSK, Super Junior, SHINee, EXO and NCT (127 and Dream).
But when analysing such boy groups I have observed another strange correlation: the emphasis given in masculine body traits in boy groups seems to be drastically reducing. Almost all boy groups debuted since 2013 have been adopting the skinny model type rather than the buffed-up style that made Rain and Taeyang so famous years ago.
At first I assumed that it was just to appeal more for the younger audiences (early teens), but the big popularity of groups like BTS even with late tweens these days only confused me.
Do you believe that the kpop agencies are actually doing this trying to appeal to a possible new standard of male beauty, or something else?

3. I am a avid sci-fi reader/consumer and sometimes I caught myself thinking about improbable things that would happen in our future. I remember one anime from years ago that have shown people in the future rooting for robots competing in some sport. We already have fake artificial idols like Hatsune Miku that actually uses at least one ghost singer. Do you believe that, somewhere in the future, people could be able to massively go to music shows where idols would be androids with, let’s say, strenuous dance routines, completely artificial voices and pre-determined and well designed personalities that could put real menace to the already difficult idol career over the globe?

4. Aerosmith is coming to my town. I just know hits from 90’s and 00’s. You have some album to recommend from them so I can broaden my perspectives?

1 – They do more drugs, I guess.  Or perhaps they just get caught more.  I think it’s fine for people to do drugs so I don’t really care.  It’s a personal rights issue – it’s your body, nobody should be able to tell you what to do with it.  I also don’t really care what Korean media writes about, because it would be silly to care about that.

2 – There probably is a constantly evolving and ever-shifting standard of male beauty that currently favours skinnier guys, yes.  However that’s just within Korea, standards in other countries are different.  If you look at the results of the abs/torso poll, the twinks didn’t do so well, whereas buff guys like BM and Shownu put in a strong showing.  I bet those built-like-a-tank guys wouldn’t rate anywhere near as highly if my poll was given to Korean readers only.

3 – I think that part of the appeal of idols to their fans is that they are human, and when you think about fan dialogues it’s those “human” qualities that fans tend to make a fuss over the most.  “Oppar noticed me”, “I think he really liked me at the fanmeet”, “I like how cute and awkward he looks when he does thing x” etc.  I don’t think that the pop idol phenomenon is ever going to vanish unless the mass media that promotes them also vanishes.  It may however mutate somewhat, I could see a future where there is a crossover between pop idols and e-sports gamers or something similar.

4 – I never really liked Aerosmith much, and apart from a couple big 90s hits they were actually never that big in Australia.  The best thing Aerosmith gave the world was Liv Tyler.

legit question: i’m guessing that k-pop idols dating their own members is quite a rare thing (because even if both of them are gay/bi and interested its risky as shit) but lets say that x member and y member started dating because they’re young and retarded and they lasted a decent amount of time (unlikely i know) and broke up in a very shitty way. what the fuck happens to the group dynamic then? wouldn’t it be awkward as hell, fuck, maybe even lead to disbanding? what happens if one of the members turn out to be a massive dickheaded homophobe? what happens if the company finds out? i know it’s a rather odd question but i need answers, even if they aren’t %100 certain.

You’ve hit on the main reason why internal group dating between two members of the group is probably quite rare (although I’m sure it does happen in isolated cases).  Being in a position where you are dating someone but you hardly ever get to see them is tough, but it’s actually even harder to date someone if you have to be with them ALL the time.  Relationships always benefit if the two people can have some distance from each other, and in an idol group you just don’t get much distance at all.  I’m sure it does happen however.  I’m sure if someone is homophobic they just have to suck it up (pardon the pun) and deal with it, not for any politically-correct reason but just for the sake of keeping the team together and functioning.  Maybe Siwon’s statements about gays are there precisely because there are two other guys in the group who are fucking and that bothers him because he can’t sleep at night with all that banging going on but he’s contractually obliged to keep quiet about it and not make a fuss so he just limits himself to generic statements about how he doesn’t approve of homosexuality when what he really wants to say is “Kyuhyun get your dick out of Eunhyuk’s ass I’m trying to sleep here”.

Dating between members of two different groups in the same agency, however – common as fuck.

Would there be any other reason why Sistar would disband, aside from their contracts expiring or them not being into the idol thing anymore? They’re digital monsters and consistently put up hits, along with members having successful solos and collabs. Throughout their career, they were just some group who performed excellently when it came to getting their songs known, hence the “Digital Queens” title. Is there even any real money from just having hit songs? Even though Sistar was a “top group”, they didn’t fare that well in the CF department compared to SNSD, Apink, or even AOA. They really weren’t the type to grab endorsements left and right, which is probably the main source of real money in the industry. They didn’t even have that one Suzy in the group. They didn’t even have that many fans to earn money through concerts. But despite that, it seems that number one singles and successful collabs without any significant success in endorsements and touring are enough to fund a company to create two more groups and still leave the girls swimming in cash. Is there any reason behind this?

Sistar did alright with endorsements etc, sure they weren’t IU or Suzy but they still would have made the money back no problem.  However the girls are getting older and with so many new groups on the scene, there’s probably a feeling of “let’s get out while we’re still in a good position to benefit”.  Also they’re probably sick of that shit.  Seven years is a long run for an idol group, and idol life is hard, and recontracting might mean buckling down for even more years and the girls may want to move on with their lives.  When you’re in an idol group you can’t really have proper relationships where you get to see people a reasonable amount, or get pregnant and have children, or even eat decent meals on a regular basis without having to be paranoid about where the kilojoules are going, and those are all things that many women like to do.  Sure, money is important, but it’s also important to live the life that you want, and the life of an idol isn’t the life for everybody at least not over the long term.

How long do you think it will be before one of the drivers for a girl group abducts them?

I can’t see this happening, at least not in the way you’re imagining it.  The logistics alone make it an almost-impossibility, plus what would be the benefit.  Even from a serial killer perspective it would make no sense because being caught would be a certainty, you would be the #1 suspect even if you didn’t abduct them.

Hey Kpopalypse,

I have a question about the whole “idols who write their own music” schtick. When looking at the album details, you get three categories: lyrics, music, arrangement. Usually (and by usually I mean nearly 100% of the time) the idol is only listed under lyrics and music. Disregarding the lyrics, what does an idol actually need to do to be credited for the music, and how much of it really factors in to the final product?

And on a side note, what’s your favorite X Japan song?

See my “co-writing” answer above.  The short answer – not much.

X Japan, I’m not sure, but definitely a ballad!  Or maybe one of those songs that goes between ballad and heavy, like “Dahlia”.  X Japan do that type of transition really well, without changing the appeal of the core material, this is an art that k-pop definitely hasn’t learned.

So I can’t remember which blog post it was, I just specifically remember AOA and Juniel and something about not singing into mics correctly and them looking stupid as a result and then me suddenly realizing just how many videos there are with them “singing” into the mics like what you pointed out (incorrectly).

So my question is then, in this video, are they singing into the mics correctly?

Also another random question, so when you were talking about Gfriend’s Rough and then talking about a good guitar solo (or something like that, I can’t remember), is there a lack of that type of stuff in kpop and if so, why?

You should be able to answer the microphone question yourself by checking my Shure Super 55 post.  The purpose of my posts isn’t to position myself as an authority that people can ask these questions, they’re so YOU can read them and answer these questions on your own!  “Teach a caonima to fish“, as it were.

Idol pop music traditionally doesn’t tend to favour guitar solos, for the same reason that pop music in general right now doesn’t favour them – guitar solos are a bit out of fashion in music these days.  Of course all things go in cycles and I would expect that they might come back into fashion at some point, as they rightly should because guitar solos sound cool.  You can do your part to help by learning guitar.

Hello! I saw the sulli question, and I think the person misphrased what they were trying to say. Sulli has gone rogue FOR AN IDOL so why hasn’t SM done something about it? Tbh I’m kind of curious about this too. I’m a Sulli supporter, so I’m happy she has freedom to post and say whatever, but from your interviews with retired idols, it’s obvious that their social network activitied are heavily monitored, and anything that doesn’t align with the image making the company has in mind is usually taken down. While Sulli is pretty late into her career, I don’t know if that means she has more control over what she does or not (I don’t know if she has re signed with SM since her initial contract with SM which could explain newfound freedom), but most actors are heavily managed by their companies because in Korea actors are normally marketed in a more mysterious ambiguous way, whereas idols are marketing with a specific personality in mind. Considering Sulli is going the actress path, I find it fascinating that her team isn’t trying to control or manage her image in the usual way. Is SM just trying to see if her personality works well for marketing purposes? Or maybe they don’t care because her doing what she wants keeps her relevant? Will SM re sign with Sulli if she keeps this up? Thanks for all your posts oppar!

Sulli still makes a ton of money as a celebrity and at this point she’s probably untouchable and can do whatever because she shits gold.  If the press continue to write about every uninteresting little thing she puts up on Instagram, all the better, it’s just proof of her continued relevance.  Imagine if she posted something on Instagram where she’s holding a product of some kind, everybody would see that, right?  It would get shared everywhere by these idiot media agencies, and worthless netizens would start talking about it, that’s real marketing power.  What people need to understand about Sulli is that behaviour that is seen as “weird” or “problematic” or whatever to Korean idol fans is just fucking normal shit in the real world of these people.  Goofy Instagram pics?  My friends do tons of those a day.  Getting their tits out for a movie?  Some of my friends have done that, too!  The only thing that’s fascinating about Sulli’s behaviour is how people don’t realise how normal it is.

A couple of questions:
1. How do you reckon it works, with kpop companies purchasing new songs? Do they specifically commission stuff, or does the songwriter just offer them what they’ve already written e.g. the company asked for a cutesy song and the songwriter dusts off one they wrote earlier and makes adjustments as needed?
2. Are feature tracks priced differently to album tracks/b-sides? Also, some album tracks are blatant fillers, while others are actually good enough that they could have been feature tracks – would they still be priced the same?
3. How much variation do you think there is between what a nugu-tastic songwriter and an a-list songwriter would get paid for the same track?

1 – Both, depending on the situation.

2 – When songwriters sell to labels they are hoping that their song will be the feature, so the price may be similar but the price is also dependent on other factors, with that songwriter’s track record of past hits being the biggest one.

3 – A fuckton.  The sky is the limit.

So regardless of the relevance of the Billboard award itself, what do you think of the chances of BTS finally being the Kpop group that breaks into the American mainstream?

As you haven’t really been following, here’s a summary of some of their recent press in the US:

Time, People, Vogue, Good Morning America (live on air discussing them), Entertainment Tonight, E! Fashion Police, Rolling Stone, Elle, Seventeen, Cosmopolitan, GQ, NY Times Sunday Magazine, Chicago Tribune, Baltimore Sun, KIIS FM (I’ve missed a lot), but you get the idea…

They’re being played in every Walmart store in the US and have strongly hinted at collaborations with the Chainsmokers, Halsey and Steve Aoki.

Is this a sign of things to come or a temporary blip on Americas pop culture radar?

You mean, what are the chances of BTS becoming PSY?  I’m not sure why people even want Korean pop to break through into America (again), were you really happy with how it played out last time that happened?  BTS might have some marginal success for sure in the same way that other acts have, and they might even build on that and do a little better, but they’re not going to become fucking Drake or something, and they definitely are lacking anything musically or image-wise noteworthy enough to really punch through.  Think about your friends at school, work or college, the ones who don’t like k-pop, the ones who make fun of you (or would if they knew what you listen to) and think about what they would say about the latest BTS song.  What would it take to “convert” them?  BTS is going to have to win over those people in order to have a shot at the kind of success you’re talking about, and until they can find a way to do that,  it really doesn’t matter how much press they do.  PSY cut through the natural cultural resistance by taking the piss out of himself, and laughing with the people who were laughing at him, although “Gangnam Style” also had a deeper satirical subtext that didn’t translate as well as the more obvious crotch-bouncing humour.  BTS doesn’t have anything like that, and I don’t think American values are really very much in-sync with what BTS have to offer.  Most Americans think k-pop is a joke, so for k-pop to become big over there, as big as BTS fans wish it was, k-pop has to say “yes, we know you think this is a joke, we get the joke”.  I don’t see that happening, at least not in this case.  A gradual creep forward is probably the best you can hope for.

“The Rule of One states that each entertainment company may only house one prevalent girl group at a time.” Do you agree? I thought this article was interesting, but not sure it’s trufax: http://seoulbeats.com/2017/06/the-rule-of-one-or-how-sistars-disbandment-was-written-in-the-cosmos/

He does poke a hole in his own argument with SM and there are other exceptions too (T-ara and Davichi on MBK were broadly successful at the same time, as were miss A and Wonder Girls on JYP). Also I think that boy groups are different for slightly different reasons to what’s been stated. Overall I was just astonished that I read a Seoulbeats article that was quite well-written and stuck to facts without tedious moralisation and boring SJWing.

can you elaborate on why you think boy groups are different?

I think the main reason why it’s more viable to run multiple male groups concurrently is that the fangirl culture is larger.  I think it’s more “acceptable” to be a “fangirl” than a “fanboy”, because boys being fans of super-smooth pop girl groups isn’t considered very “boyish” and I bet there are plenty of people who get bullied for being into k-pop idol groups, whereas for girls it’s more of a socially accepted practice to swoon over the guys or whatever.  (The reverse taboo would be girls into extreme metal or something.)  A girl who loves the guy groups, people look at that like “that’s cute – but she’ll grow out of it one day” but with the guys the reaction from others is like “what a faggot, why are you wasting your time with this faggot music” even if the groups have female members.  This makes no sense of course, but societal roles rarely do.  Ask any guy who is into k-pop if he has been called names because of his interest in the style and the answer is always “yes”.  Now imagine what people would say if they knew that person who was into k-pop that they were already bullying bought a specific product because of an idol, and how much social shaming might commence there, and there’s your answer to why multiple boy groups can thrive when girl groups struggle.  Not saying it happens in all cases, just that there’s pressure which exists which molds behaviour to some degree, and as a result the really big powerful players in k-pop are the male groups because they have bigger fandom weight behind them that can buy more stuff, whether it be idol stuff or other stuff that they are endorsing or whatever.


That’s all for another QRIMOLE!  Do you have a question for next month’s episode?  If so, leave it in the box below, or if the box doesn’t work, use the QRIMOLE link on the sidebar!  Kpopalypse will return soon!

One thought on “QRIMOLE Episode 11: can Kpopalypse teach a caonima to fish?

  1. Thanks for your answer about drivers abducting kpop girl groups; I’ve read a lot of sci-fi, so I can imagine a world in which it could happen, driver A gets the girls to recipient B, who sends them to whoever masterminded the whole operation, while A gets the fuck away to Tasmania (or is shot in the head, a la some James Bond book.) Inevitably caught? Let’s hope so, I see that as the main deterrent.
    And thanks for your answer about Sulli! I confess I was worried about her, but your answer makes total sense; yes, no question, her behavior is so normal! 🙂 We can all relate, except stupid moralizing dipshits.
    And on a more sobering note: men liking girl groups is shaming, while women liking boy groups is more OK. I’m a 63-yr old American guy fan of Gfriend, I love them like my own daughters (more even, but I won’t explain why.) These 6 girls have a chemistry that continually delights me in my old age, and I live alone, so fuck that shaming shit.

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