This is a quick post about why I am happy that JYP exists. You should be happy, too.
Jin Young Park, CEO of JYP Entertainment has come under much criticism as well as much praise over the years. Make no mistake, Kpopalypse stands firmly on the PRAISE side of the equation and here’s why.
REASON TO BE THANKFUL FOR JYP #1 – The San E dungeon
San E used to be signed to JYP. During that time, San E released very little music. Here is some of it.
This song isn’t too bad I suppose.
This song is poo but it has Sohee, k-pop’s first true feminist in the video and she’s dressed as a nurse so I’m okay with it existing.
This song is also poo but it has Nayeon in the video and she’s clearly been dressed by a nurse so I’m also okay with it existing.
Clearly, San E had a contractual agreement with JYP that he was only allowed to ever release songs if they were either A. not complete shit or B. had an attractive girl in the accompanying music video. All was well in the world.
Then one day San E left JYP. San E was happy, and so was everyone else, at first. “Gosh, glad he’s out from the yoke of that restricting idol contract!” everyone said at the time. Of course, with no more restrictions, San E could now release whatever the fuck he wanted, whenever the fuck he wanted. Unfortunately this has meant 28 songs from him each week which are all shitty R&B/yolo crap.
Oh and San E is probably banging the shit out of Raina right now as I type this. Look at their undeniable on-screen chemistry in the 0.002 seconds that Raina and San E are in the same camera shot.
Having San E stuck in JYP’s holding cell indefinitely was clearly the best situation for JYP, k-pop music fans, and Kpopalypse. Oh well, it was good while it lasted.
REASON TO BE THANKFUL FOR JYP #2 – he pissed off all you k-pop businessfags
One of the smartest and most misunderstood business moves that JYP ever did was try out The Wonder Girls in America. Sure, we all knew he was probably going to not get anywhere, but who cares? You gotta be in it to win it, and who better to try? Also, we got to see Sohee impersonate Shodan.
Stop this video at 0:49 and put on something like the new Arch Enemy or Fear Factory instead because the music fits somewhat better, but seeing Sohee snap her bionic neck around is an iconic moment in k-pop visuals that we wouldn’t have had at all without JYP’s crazy schemes.
However JYP went one better than this – just at the height of the “why didn’t you keep them in Koreeeeeeea because I love Korreeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaa so very very much” whiny self-appointed business expert fuckwits, he proved them all wrong, by bouncing his company back in the black without any effort at all right when people were writing JYP off as “over”. JYP knows what the fuck is up and always did, that’s why he’s being interviewed in the below video and not you.
If you’ve got a spare few minutes, listen to JYP talk and confirm everything about the k-pop industry business model that Kpopalypse ever told you.
REASON TO BE THANKFUL FOR JYP #3 – JYP is pro-music and anti-vocalfaggotry
It’s no secret. K-pop right now has some serious song quality issues. You’ve noticed, right? Sure you have. Anyone who regularly reads the Kpopalypse roundup series (which is most of you, according to my website stats) and has any form of agreement with the reviews there, knows that k-pop in 2017 is struggling to come up with decent songs.
A large part of the problem is the obsession over “technical perfection”. It’s a quirk of Asian culture that “technique” is prized more highly than “creativity”, and the evidence of this is everywhere. To take just one solitary example of potentially thousands, there’s plenty of guitar-shredders with astounding technique who can play anything like a computer but almost none who can write their own songs worth a damn.
You don’t have to go far in k-pop to see evidence of this either. Everyone in k-pop is perfectly skinny, perfectly choreographed, and perfectly adorkable. Most of all however, any singing performances are smoothed to boring, lame perfection. All singers sound essentially the same, with only the most minor of variations permissible. Everyone has Autotune, all the big “money notes” have exact vibrato at the appropriate moments (generated 9 times out of 10 by a machine – don’t kid yourself otherwise), every k-pop team has some permutation of “that” person with the “amazing” voice.
Then we have this recording of Twice:
Listen to the girls singing their hit song “Knock Knock” with a solo piano for a radio program. Twice could have pre-recorded their radio vocals, like so many other groups do, but they didn’t. Instead they busted it out truly live, not caring too much about if they hit the notes right, just HAVING FUN with it. This is the sound of playful youthful exuberance that k-pop forgot all about when it married itself to the machines of high-production and the desire of immature fans for “technical perfection”. This is more than just great. This is essential listening. This is the most culturally necessary audio recording of any k-pop performer to have been released publicly over the last ten years.
Of course, we’ve been here before. Many older readers will remember my essay on CRAYON PUNK, but the difference with Twice is twofold. Firstly, Twice have the market penetration that Crayon Pop (sadly) lack – Twice are in a strong market position to make more of an impact on how k-pop is shaped. Secondly, Twice is helmed by someone who knows exactly what he is doing with this, and why.
Here’s a video of previous POSITIVE post recipient Shannon Williams, about to perform on some shitty TV show. Like any teenager getting ready to perform on shit TV, she is shitting herself completely. That’s understandable. I just wanted to show you this video because Shannon looks really good in this outfit, but also because I can’t find a video of the actual performance that she did, or the aftermath where JYP serves her some extreme reality of a type that you don’t see in the sugar-coated world of mindless k-pop vocal adulation (credit to this OneHallyu thread for the translation):
JYP: Two judges just gave you constructive criticism about your singing but you don’t seem surprised about it.
JYP: Why aren’t you surprised by the criticism/advice?
Shannon: Because it’s problem that I already know.
JYP: That’s what I’m worried about. Let’s say if we gave you advice and you didn’t know about it and were surprised about it, then your chance of fixing it would be high, but two other judges gave you advice which I totally agree with but you aren’t surprised by it so I’m thinking, “she already knows what the problem is but why does she keep singing like it doesn’t fit her age.” I kept thinking this.
Shannon starts crying at this point. JYP continues like a boss because he probably makes girls cry every day in their dorms and it’s no big thing.
JYP: At your age, i don’t think I have met anyone who can sing as well as you. It’s amazing. I thought you were singing machine but that’s the problem, you are like a singing machine. Okay, so two judges gave you a pass already which means you are through to the next round so I’m going to give you a technical advice. When you are singing, you pick a word, you open mouth and you send out vibrato. You have to stop this vibrato. When we talk, we don’t do that so if you do that, you can’t sell the story you are trying sell by singing. You have to be able to sell the story to your audience. The reason why you can’t sell the story through your singing is because it doesn’t look like you are talking. Because you are such a good singer, you don’t need to do that to try to show that you are a good singer. Also, you need to get rid of the trying to sing in loud volume, because you have a mic.
Shannon: Yes you are right.
JYP: I just want to tell you these two things even though I have much more. You should focus on fixing these two issues for the next round.
Of course not many people understood JYP. “Why would he tell her to sing worse?”, people wondered. However at least three people definitely knew what this was all about, and approved:
JYP knows what the fuck is up, as usual. He knows that vibrato is pointless bullshit – if he really wants it in his song, he’ll fucking synthesise it in himself, he doesn’t need you to do the “wavey voice thing” you fucking gay fuck – there are machines for that now. He also knows that modern vocal projection techniques are pointless fucking wank when you have a microphone right in front of your mouth that makes it all redundant. When you can whisper into a microphone and be heard across a 10,000 seat venue thanks to the sexy magic of electronic amplification systems, “correct vocal technique” no longer has any meaning or relevance.
Shannon knows this too. During the feedback session she tells JYP that he is right and cries a lot. Sure, she has to be humble anyway because in Korea humility is like air, especially if you’re a moderately famous person that everyone hates because they are secretly jealous of you, but in her heart of hearts, she agrees with him. She knows that she has had years of worthless vocalfag training. She’s trying to kick the bad habit for the TV show but it’s hard to break any habit that is so deeply ingrained.
Also, I know it. The amount of times that I’ve seen a singer kicked out of a group solely because they had poor singing technique – zero. The amount of times that I’ve seen singers instructed to forget their rudiments and “loosen up” to get into the correct feel of a song – more than I can count. Training is only useful until you can do something. Once you can do the thing, you can forget the training and find your own path forward, this is what musicians refer to as “style” and it’s the #1 quality that makes musicians and their music memorable. It’s why Jimi Hendrix doesn’t sound like Eddie Van Halen, but it’s also why you can recognise both of them on a recording instantly.
JYP is trying to save k-pop from its own worst tendencies, and Twice is his vehicle. You may or may not like the songs themselves – that doesn’t really matter. What matters is that he’s championing an approach which makes vocalfaggotry take a back seat (for fucking once). Technique should be a means to an end in music, not the end in itself. JYP won’t let you forget this, nor will I.
REASON TO BE THANKFUL FOR JYP #4 – plastic pants
JYP wore these sexy leg-condoms in the 1990s not to horrify you (although no doubt he did) but to rebel against Korea’s stupid broadcasting regulations of the time. This makes these pants the most relevant political statement in all of k-pop. How he didn’t top the best legs survey this year I don’t know, but surely he’s got the competition for “best scrote sack” sewn up.
That’s all for this post! Kpopalypse will return! Until then, enjoy this bonus video of Shannon Williams eating, having fun and not singing!