QRIMOLE Episode 13: hugging the elephant in the room of k-pop

It’s time again for Kpopalypse to answer more pertinent QRIries from readers!  Welcome to another episode of QRIMOLE!

As usual the QRIries have been coming in thick and fast!

Hello, Oppar. I just wanna ask, do you think there’s gonna be the next T-ara? Not in the music context, since T-ara is unbeatable (at least for me) but, more in the sense of unnecessary scandal or issue being dragged for so long. Am I delusional for thinking there’s a similar pattern on T-ara’s scandal receptions with Mamamoo’s? Of course I hope I’m wrong but, somehow I kinda sense it already started since people already making a lot of baseless rumors. From the recent Mamamoo article on NB, I already saw people went hard on Mamamoo based on 6 or 7 fake rumors and several exaggerated issues. Based on what I analyzed, no Mamamoo member allowed to say the word “black” and “dark” anymore, even tho there’s Hwasa who indeed has a darker skin tone than the rest members and proudly admitted it. I can’t help but to notice the differences on people reactions about non-issue scandal that’s being done by Mamamoo vs other groups. Am I just imagining things? I’m just being too biased right? I hope I am. I just need someone else to tell me to snap out of it.

I’m sure that there’ll be another group that gets into a situation like T-ara’s, but I’m not sure it Mamamoo is it, as I can’t really see most people in Korea caring about the issues surrounding Mamamoo that consume the thoughts of international k-pop fans.  Most k-pop scandals on the Internet just don’t translate to the real world.  When IU was being called a pedophile or whatever she was still all-killing music charts and making money hand-over-fist.  People say that T-ara’s scandal sunk them but it actually didn’t – “Sexy Love” was released right at the absolute peak of the hate for them and it was a massive hit, the only thing that was affected were the things that nutty fandoms directly control, like award show wins, which is shit that is just for show and doesn’t actually matter for the career of a long-term active group.  These children who follow k-pop and think that everything someone says on the Internet in a comments section matters are so stupid, they expect everyone to care about what’s on some dumb comments section and that is the weirdest thing to me.  As for Mamamoo themselves the only real issue for me is that they consistently seem to get given crappy songs to sing, I think if we’re real music fans rather than fans of stupid shitrag gossip and chit-chat we should start a protest about their music before anything else.

Why do you think that so much of the fan service from male kpop groups is homoerotic/gay in nature? From what I’ve seen, there’s a larger volume of it in the guy groups than in the girl groups. Could it just be a means of showcasing them in a sexual or romantic manner for fan girls without creating the competition of having them interested in another girl, or do you think there’s another explanation? And on a related note, do you think the same principles apply for kpop fanfic writers who pair guys together? In that case, wouldn’t they just write themselves into fanfic instead?

I think it’s because a guy being with another guy is less threatening to fangirls than a guy being with a girl (who isn’t them).  Also I’m sure some girls like to watch guys get it on for the same reason that some hetero guys like watching lesbian porn.  I don’t think there’s much more to it than that.  Same applies for fanfic writers although the “self-insert” fanfic is also quite common too!

In light of the recent SNSD mess, do you think that companies (especially big ones) take into account the docile/rebellious character of someone when deciding who to include in an upcoming group? After all, the very nature of Kpop will make this nobody into someone who makes a lot of money and therefore has a lot of leverage when is the time to sign a new contract, so it is better if it is someone who can easily be convinced to sign with the conditions the company wants.

When selecting anybody for any type of position anywhere, a person’s character and willingness to perform the role is always considered.  Obviously a label would try to select the best people for the job in all aspects, but of course they’re limited to whatever people they have trained and available.  Sometimes the cost of debuting someone already trained who may or may not become an issue needs to be weighed against the expense and time of training someone else from scratch.  Also, some people are also quite good at hiding their true colours!  You can’t always predict how people will turn out.  There’s the people who might have an attitude but then “come good” later, or people who might be initially happy with the deal but dislike how things progress.  There’s simply too many factors for anyone to make all the right decisions, all the time.  Netizen trash are great at making everything seem so simple and making themselves seem like “experts” at judging people’s character, but character is actually a really hard thing to judge even when you do know someone well, let alone when you know someone only via media and SNS.

As far as being “easily convinced to sign with the conditions the company wants”, well that’s a given anyway, because trainees signing to an agency have zero barganing power.  If you don’t sign up to their deal, they won’t negotiate – they’ll just forget about you and sign up one of the other thousands of hopefuls.

Is bad mixing on K-pop songs really obvious? My friend swears there is a real difference between groups but as someone who is musically deaf I can’t tell unless it’s an extreme case.

It’s exceptionally rare for k-pop songs to be mixed poorly, at least these days.  Mixes might sometimes be eclectic or whatever, but that’s a conscious choice on the part of the engineer to experiment and it’s subjective whether you like the result.  There’s a difference between “doing something differently, just because” and “not knowing what you are doing”, and the latter is extremely unusual in k-pop from 2008 onward.  Your friend is probably confusing the two.  You really have to go to the ultra-nugu groups to see examples of technically bad mixing.  More info here.

So what would be your thoughts on bands like Protest The Hero.  I feel technically they’re proficient but that that doesn’t resonate with just about anyone. Although does it fit into the it doesn’t matter how good your music is if you make crap it’s crap.

Technique in music is a means to an end.  In k-pop technique of execution isn’t required because the systems of delivery are so sophisticated enough now that it really doesn’t matter, you can get the same result from just about anybody, and the things that people find “catchy” in pop songs aren’t technically difficult to execute.  There’s a really basic reason for this – people like to be able to sing along to their favourite songs, either out loud or at least in their own head, that’s part of what makes music enjoyable to people, and the more complicated the melodies are, the harder this is to do.  That’s why very repetitious songs often make the best pop music – people criticise pop music for being repetitive all the time but it’s that very quality which often makes the songs work so well.  In this type of music, the technique to play or sing complicated passages is more or less redundant.

In the case of Protest The Hero and similar groups in this metalcore/post-screamo/whatever the fuck you call it genre,  the complicated guitar and drum lines are not just there just for showing-off purposes, it’s supposed to sound “chaotic” and add to the feel of “controlled chaos” within the greater musical context of the songs.  Whether it works for you or not is another matter of course.  Personally I find that these type of groups do definitely convey that chaotic feeling but really sacrifice catchy elements to their music for the most part.

Good Day Sir,
I have a few questions; so pick and choose how you see fit, and Thanks in advance.

1. The YouTube comment section is toxic cancer…
Some of these “fans” are batshit crazy; and I think to myself, did I use to act that delusional when I was 12yrs.
2. These fangirls/boys are always auguring about their bias being treated unfairly.
3. My personal “favorite” battle quote
I’m a insert fandom name here to support insert fandom name.
Why do people do this!?
4. The new trend I notice a lot recently going on
Ex: CLC did a girl crush concept earlier this year, and was pretty successful with the international audience I’d say. However, their new comeback was soft, slow, and sweet; and a lot of international was highly upset by this. Then people come to the group defense by saying they need to be popular in Korea first before they can prosperous in other countries. I don’t see the logic behind that. I see many artistes/bands become fruitful, just by doing the touring route or just become famous in another country. I mean look at U-Kiss for example. Any thoughts?

As far as YouTube comments are concerned, you’re asking the wrong questions.  You should be asking yourself “why do I care?”.

The “you must get popular in Korea first” bullshit that k-pop fans do is just international fans copying the line of thinking that Korean netizens have demonstrated, because so many fans are trend-following fuckwits who can’t think for themselves and for some strange reason attribute massive levels of important to Korean netizen comments that really do not matter.  There’s no rational reason for an international fan to want a k-pop group to achieve Korean popularity before they go overseas.  It’s objectively much better for any artist in any genre to get out of their own country and spread their music to other corners of the world if they have the opportunity to do so.  In no other genre of music do fans ever say “please don’t tour – get popular in your home town first!”.

I see you’ve made a list of genres in K-pop and mention “soundalikes” for certain songs. Would you be interested in creating an open-source list of K-pop songs and their respective soundalikes? I know I have a mental list going, and I’m sure there are others who have recognized inspirations for other K-pop songs. Plus, it’ll give people a chance to branch out music-wise and hear old 70s, 80s, and 90s “versions” of K-pop songs that they like.

No, absolutely not.  The point of my posts about song soundalikes is to get people to realise how common this sort of thing is and to get them to STOP caring about it, not to get them to START caring.  Making such a list for its own sake would therefore have exactly the opposite effect to what I intended.  Listeners of k-pop should just calmly accept that every single k-pop song is a soundalike of something else and move on.

hi caonima oppar, first time QRIMOLE asker, long time ask.fm spammer. i recently saw a clip of Cao Lu in which she revealed that she’s made 0 won from Fiestar activities (which I’m sure is no surprise to you), and from there she talked about her plans to open her own business to support herself in the future, because she is very unlikely to receive a windfall from her kpop career at this point in time, on the cusp of her 30s. Cao Lu’s situation got me thinking though, how likely is it that an average, less-than-successful idol will find success in a second career as they wrap up their kpop activities? personally i’m not sure very many idols are primed to be successful business owners, especially those who get into idol training very early in life and become quite sheltered as a result. if they borrow money to start a business and it fails, then it will just add to their mounting debt. anyway i would love to hear your thoughts on idols’ financial planning and money management side of things for those who aren’t successful as entertainers. do they stand a chance to be financially independent without help from sugar daddys/mamas? if so, what does it take to pull it off? thanks for answering (if you do)!

I don’t think any idol’s chances of being self-sustaining after a k-pop career through business activity are necessarily any better or worse than anyone else’s chances.  Going into business for yourself is very difficult to do well, requires a lot of planning and forethought and is exceptionally time-consuming.  It’s a really easy thing to fuck up, too, whether you’re famous or not.  The people I know who run their own businesses work harder than anybody else I know, whether successful or not.  To answer this question in more detail I’d have to know exactly what sort of business she was getting involved in.  Hopefully Cao Lu gets into the business of pissing off netizens full-time instead of just as a hobby, she should be good to go with plenty of experience.

I know you’ve already talked about the advantages of putting out 2 MVs at once, and how it ups the chances of having one become very popular. My question is more about the promotion stuff – if, let’s say, the company wanted to release 2 songs at once, but they think that one of them sounds way better than the other, would they promote that one more? When AOA, Psy and Taeyang used this technique, I felt like every time they promoted the least interesting song MORE. Is it meant to be that way so that both songs make it big or is it just a coincidence?

I don’t follow promotions closely enough to notice whether this is actually true or not and really I couldn’t care less as long as both songs come out and I get to hear them both.  You should stop caring too.  It’s not absolutely essential that a group performs every song they have 57 times on all the different music shows.  Who cares what gets played more or what is popular.  If you’re going to continually worry about whether what companies do lines up with your personal taste, you’re in for a frustrating life.

I don’t know if this is eligible for V Files because surprisingly I don’t actually see it applied to K-pop all that often, only really just American R&B singers. But I’ve seen fans/critics praise singers (particularly those like Brandy and Beyonce) for their vocal arrangements, and how this makes them “”real artists”” in a way that supposedly makes up for them not writing their own material. What does this actually mean? When I asked the people discussing this, I only got some answer about ad libs that made little sense to me. I’d think that any form of song arrangement would be down to the producer of a song unless otherwise credited, right?

Most people who talk about “vocal arrangements” in the world of k-pop actually don’t know what the fuck they are talking about.  I’ll clarify more in a future post.

I’m worried about AI taking away jobs, and I’m also realistic about my intellectual shortcomings, especially relative to my peers, which makes me concerned about my future. What do you think are some non-tech job sectors that will never go away?

Right now machines can do basic factory work.  They’re gradually also starting to be able to do basic service jobs.  Eventually they will get smarter and be able to be more complicated jobs.  Machines are very good at doing exactly what they’re told, so they’re perfect for any task where you just need to be able to do a thing over and over.  Where machines struggle is when a situation comes along that is outside of the general pattern.  The types of human jobs that will survive AI are the ones that involve redefining processes themselves, or thinking outside existing processes.  An AI can currently do exacting tasks and even now evolve over time to do the task better, but what it can’t do is perceive its own limitations, something that humans do exceptionally well.  Nowadays a robot can work out how to climb a staircase, but what the robot can’t do is roll up to a staircase, say to itself “gosh, I’m a Dalek, I can’t climb that, I’d better build myself some legs” and then commission a factory to make itself body parts.  When it can – watch out.  Until then, you’re safe.

There is weird sample/sound clip (not sure how to accurately describe it) that I’ve been hearing a lot: it’s in the beginning of Heize’s Don’t You Know with a similar (albeit shorter) version in Fruity by Hyolyn. It’s sounds like someone saying “area” or in the longer version “groove it, area.” I’ve heard it before elsewhere, but I can’t think of where now. I don’t know why it’s bothering me, but it is. I also don’t know enough to figure out what it is, but I figured maybe you do? Also, on a related note, why does this one sound keep appearing? Is it a signature of a producer? Thanks!

It’s a signature of producers GroovyRoom, who throw the sound at the start of a lot of their tracks.  Here’s a couple more.

GroovyRoom are quite popular right now because they make that smooth boring shit sound that Korea loves to death so you’re going to hear this sample probably a lot more in your future, or at least until all those coffee beans Koreans have been drinking finally kick in and they want to hear something decent again.

Hey oppar!!!
Any tips on how to write anything with those shitload amount of words like what you usually do and still make it focused? Whenever i tried to do that, usually it looks like a complete nonsense to anyone who read it.
And have you ever stuck in writer block? How do you resolve it?

It’s hard to tell you how to improve your writing without actually seeing any of it.  Feel free to send me writing examples (via email please) and I will write you back with tips.  Writing is really just organising thoughts so someone else can understand them.  I never really get writer’s block, k-pop is stupid enough to always generate things to write about.

Hey, just wondering why don’t you put disqus on your blog?

  1. Fuck being able to “vote” comments up and down, it rewards hive-minded fucking bullshit thought and penalises people who think differently.
  2. Not having Dicksuck really annoys stupid people, and annoying stupid people is an important part of Kpopalypse blog.
  3. I’m not sure that WordPress supports Dicksuck properly anyway.
  4. I don’t consider blog comments to be that important.  Unlike every other cunt I don’t bow to the sacred altar of random comments.  That’s because I don’t care what other people think, in general.  Sure, if they like my stuff that’s nice and I love them, but I don’t give any fucks about “expanding my audience” or whatever dicksucking crap.  This blog will find people who appreciate it naturally.

Having said all that if WordPress bothers to ever do a smooth implementation of Dicksuck I’d consider it anyway just so it would annoy even more people and they can call me a hypocrite and ask “why do you have Dicksuck when you said you hated it so much”, that would be amusing to me.  However I don’t think WordPress are ever going to do this.  It’ll probably never happen.

Hi oppar!! I hope you’re fine!!

There is this guy whom i become close with, maybe closer than it should be. We used to be a simple college friend who happened to be in same class for years and he maybe only guy who become very close to me (i’m an awkward person and rarely talk to guys on personal stuff) and i really value our friendship even though he kinda annoying and sometimes depends on me for homework and money (well not that much but still very often). Our relationship was a platonic friend initially.

Started from last year, sometimes we watch movies together because we shared similar interest in movies (and most of my girl friends are either broke, horror fans, or not into watching movies in theater so i have no option other than watch alone or with him). Earlier this year, he started holding my hand when we’re ‘date’. Initially, i rejected it but didn’t say anything because i didn’t want to make him feel bad. On next ‘date’ he did it again but somehow i didn’t reject him and we finally going together more often and we become more intimate and he even came to my house whenever he know i’m alone, yet we decide to keep everything as secret and not tell anyone about our relationship (although some of our friend suspected it).

Maybe because i was very naive, when he came to my house to pick me for another movie date, i thought he really only do that. Instead, he started hugging me. When i asked him why he started doing all these things, he said we’ve become closer and it’s understandable that we’re in ‘friend with benefit’ stage. I never date anyone so i accepted it because i wanted to have a ‘boyfriend’. Then he groped, kissed, and even tried to have sex with me (well he only said he wanted to bring me to my bedroom because i was looked super tired at the time but i knew his intention) without my consent and really got angry and rejected him whenever he want to come to my house (he came anyway).

I realize that i don’t really want him as my boyfriend (he’s smoking, which i hate very much, a bit helpless (he’s pretty much a freeloader in whenever we have a group study), many people-include myself-don’t take him seriously, and i don’t even think my family will like him) and decide to avoid him as much as possible (incld not respond his chats) and never having a ‘movie date’ with him anymore for months. At the end of the year, we’ll graduated and i hope i won’t see him often. Yet i still can’t bring myself to outright tell him that i don’t want to be his ‘girlfriend’ anymore and sometimes i still think of him fondly and even dreamed having sex with him once.

What do you think about this? I never spoke to anyone about this and i thought, although we don’t even know each other, it’s not that bad idea to talk to you about this. I’m sorry that it’s too long and not even related to kpop or music. Thanks!

I’ll answer any questions, it’s fine!

Seriously though, how many things are you going to put up with from this creepy rapey dude because you “don’t want him to feel bad”?  Are you going to have his baby and buy a house with him because you “don’t want him to feel bad” too?  You have to draw the line somewhere, and I’d recommend drawing it as sharply and quickly as possible.   There’s nothing wrong with making people feel bad if it’s justified.  Sometimes people should feel bad.  He might still have a few good qualities or even be worthy of the odd fap but that doesn’t make him a good person overall if you don’t feel good about being with him.  The right person is someone who you won’t want to avoid, or hide away the fact that you’re seeing from everyone else.  Kick this loser back to the gutter fast, you can do better.

Imagine what my blog writing would be like if I “didn’t want people to feel bad”, it would be boring wishy-washy bullshit, like… almost every other k-pop blog site ever.

Hey kpopalypse oppar!!!
I’ve read your qrimole posts and it’s great. Thanks a lot!!
Now i want to ask for your thought about something that not really related to kpop, but it’s kinda related on blackface and PC stuffs like that.

In Indonesia, there is a popular comedy show that airs every weekdays and sometimes it’s even aired live. One of the cast usually plays a comic relief character who wear ridiculous costumes and makeups and acts in a very OTT manner and sometimes not even related to the plot of the episode.
Sometimes this guy plays harmless characters, but other times he plays drag queen, certain ethnic group (from indonesia and other country), retarded person (well this one is very rare), and uses blackface/other-color face, and potrays these characters with stereotypes too (over exaggerated accent, behaviour, etc).
I never hear any kind of backlash towards this guy about his characters and he’s a nice person IRL (humble and often do charities). But i think he’s lucky that unlike in Korea, our entertainment programs (especially like this one) rarely exported to another country so it’s unlikely that random PC western person even know this show. I only know about PC thing when i started following kpop and its international community (NB, AJ, etc) and i don’t consider myself as PC and progressive (well by western standard) and still find the whole western PC standard kinda strange.
OTOH, i also understand some people may offended by his characters (i’m sure he never intended that) and i sometimes raised my eyebrow whenever he appears on my screen and acts ridiculously.
Should i stop watching this (problematic) show or not? I like this show (one of few comedy shows that i like).

(Sorry for my bad english)

Your English is better than my Indonesian.  I only know “Weki Meki”.

I’ve had dozens of questions just like this, and they’re all from countries where English isn’t the first language.  The “blackface” thing keeps coming up because westerners can’t let it go, and westerners are culturally arrogant and believe that everyone else in the world should respect the culture that they’ve shoved down the throats of the entire world repeatedly.  They’re at least as disgusting as the religious zealots that try to control what everyone wears, eats, says and thinks.  Almost all of the “outrage” over blackface stuff is from the USA (and a few other countries that the USA culturally invaded nice and early) and almost all the confusion about it is from countries where western culture isn’t so dominant.  Sure, you could argue that we should all bow to American culture and respect their sensitivities (especially if we want pop careers over there), but you could also validly argue that Americans should fucking bow to the rest of the world for fucking once and loosen up their vaginas a little.  Just because America is an occasional hotbed of moronic and sad racial violence doesn’t mean the rest of the world cares.  Other countries have their own problems and racial issues, they don’t spend every second of every day thinking about how what they do is perceived by rich westerners with too much free Internet time.  As western culture continues to creep into absolutely everything everywhere (often at gunpoint), this issue will keep coming up, especially in countries that have a mixed relationship with western culture (i.e all of them).  It’s almost as if having illegal American-backed political interference in your home country tends to lead the local people into being disinterested in sensitivity to western cultural values, now imagine that.

Western fans online are so blinded by their own cultural bigotry that they have no sense of context about this.  Back in my school days I remember kids (of all races) painting their faces black as part of school art and drama projects where the theme was exposing and criticising racism.  The idea behind the project was “we’re all the same underneath, we’re all just people, therefore racism is bad”.  These days they’d be called racists because of the supposed similarity between this and some minstrel shows that nobody alive today has even seen, but they objectively couldn’t be more different.  That’s how it is now – you actually have anti-racist people these days witch-hunting other anti-racist people, because they’re not protesting against racism “correctly”, and putting those people in the same bracket as neo-Nazis.  Now that’s not to say that there also aren’t people online who jump on the barrow of defending blackface because they actually do have a racist agenda, and it’s also not to say that the TV show you’re watching is either deliberately racist or anti-racist – it’s far more likely that they just give no fucks.  My suggestion would be to take a leaf out of their book, ignore the online dickheads and watch what you want to watch.  Mind you the show does kinda sound like it sucks anyway, let’s not defend it too hard, I reckon if you really tried you could probably find something better on TV… I mean, you have Gfriend doing shows in Indonesia right now, why not watch those instead?

I don’t know why you seem to think minstrel shows only existed in the US; they were pretty popular across the Anglosphere. They were common in in Australia, for example. Australians not knowing about their past racism doesn’t seem to have helped with current race issues in Australia. You might want to read the New York Times op-ed “Why Isn’t Blackface Taboo For Australians” It’s an op-ed, so it isn’t the most stellar source, but it gets into Australia’s unique history and how that sets up current day casual racism.

But really, it’s because you don’t want to throw away your old golliwog doll that you keep weighing in on this constantly, isn’t it?

No, it’s actually because you cunts keep asking me about it, I’d be happy to leave this topic alone otherwise.  Really though, I had to double-check your IP address when I saw this question, I was like “how the FUCK did this person know I had a golliwog doll?”.  Of course, you’re American.  But of course we all had golliwog dolls, I actually made mine in school, in “home economics” class (a dog-whistle term for “women’s work”).  I don’t have it anymore because it fell apart because I made it so poorly, and if it makes you feel any better it didn’t meet required standards and I got a D for home economics that year.  Yes that’s right, I officially failed at racism.

Did Australia have minstrel shows?  Yes (the concept imported from other western countries, of course).  However I didn’t know this until about six months ago when someone from America pointed it out to me, which kind of says it all really.  Nobody alive today would have even seen a minstrel show.  If I was a neo-Nazi I probably would start one up though, I think all this obsession with the content of minstrel shows that don’t exist anymore pretty much guarantees that this will now happen, if it hasn’t already.

You’ve said before that kpop singers are trained to sound alike, and you’ve also said before that for certain groups (such as AOA) it is one person’s unique voice that makes their songs memorable/good. Setting aside the fact that music quality is a small aspect of what makes an idol group successful, do you think it’s standard practice to encourage/train one member of a group to sound different from everyone else on the market (not in the sense of designating someone as the one that belts in every song) or is it something that occurs a bit more serependitiously?

A “unique” voice is so incredibly rare in k-pop that I can guarantee you that nobody receives any training to be unique.  In fact the reverse is more likely to be true – if they receive any training at all, it’s to try and sound, look, act and think as much like everyone else as possible.  K-pop is like the 1950s “charm schooling”, where everyone is taught to do certain things “just so”.

If you’re wondering about the real reason why Rose sounds a bit like Bom, Teddy is probably just running them both through the same software.

Hey Kpopalypse, I’m a bit curious about Mnet’s new reality/survival series Idol School. You’ve briefly covered the results of reality shows in previous QRIMOLE segments and standalone pieces regarding how everything in reality television is scripted, but most of this seems (and correct me if I’m wrong) to come from the entertainment companies themselves. For example, on Produce 101, it’s likely that Jellyfish paid to have Nayoung, Mina, and Sejong on the series with the understanding of who would make it into I.O.I. so that they could later promote Gugudan. Same with Pledis and their eventual group Pristin, and most recently Fantagio with Weki Meki, both of which had former I.O.I. members and/or contestants that were featured prominently within the show.

It’s not that I think Idol School is in some way more “real” than Produce 101, I actually think it’s similarly scripted, but I’m confused as to where the return on investment is going and to whom. The gimmick of this show is that even more well-known contestants like former JYP trainee Natty, who was featured on Sixteen, aren’t currently with an agency or organization, so my question is who, if anyone, is paying for their screentime? Is Mnet just using the popularity of Produce 101 plus former trainees from prominent agencies plus a variety of fresh faces who may or may not turn out to be surprisingly popular with audiences (depending on editing, of course) to hopefully cash out on the temporary group that is likely already decided?

I called it ages ago with P101 – everyone who got through that show into any sort of good position was either already in a group that a label wanted to promote, or destined for one.  Idol School I’m sure is no different.  People don’t turn up on the TV station’s back doorstep with smelly underwear clutching a teddy bear and an empty food bowl, there’s an entire backend process happening where the people representing the artist are negotiating with the people running the TV show.  The TV show’s job is to fit the various entrants in various pre-ordained TV archetypes that work well for audiences, while at the same time promoting the entrants so the company behind them actually gets something out of it.  It’s a pretty complex area but the basic gist of it is – you’re getting fucked up the ass and treated like a moron while other people make money, once again.  That’s why I tend to not give any coverage to these sort of shows.  Don’t worry, it’ll all come out in the wash and then you’ll see.

Hi again! I don’t know if someone asked you this but…

Was there a KPop song that you liked at first listen then you hate the more you listen to and the other way around?

BTW…. i was shocked when my question got posted in your last QRIMOLE… like i have done something right for once… anyway thanks!

I wasn’t going to answer this one but seeing as how the answer to the other question meant so much for you, I thought I’d do you a good turn and let you know that I’ll answer this in tomorrow’s Roundup!

Thanks for all the education Kpopalypse! I definitely learned a lot about the inner workings of kpop from your posts!
You probably mentioned this before, but I was wondering, what music related things are you doing now besides the radio show?

I deliberately don’t discuss or promote my own musical activity here, because it’s not relevant to the blogging, and I don’t want to be one of those cunts who is like “here’s my great blog now buy my completely irrelevant musical output” (I’ve seen this bait-and-switch tactic on sites like Cracked a few times).  I’m not against people giving me money and in fact I strongly encourage you all to give me as much money as possible because I like money almost as much as I like boobs, but I don’t agree with the idea of baiting you to thing X by using irrelevant thing Y.  I talk about the radio show because it’s relevant, because it’s k-pop.  I don’t talk about the other stuff because it’s not relevant, as it’s not k-pop.  This is also the reason why I removed all advertising on Kpopalypse blog, and I will never put ads back up here no matter how many visitors I get.  Unlike almost every other k-pop website ever, I actually have moral values.

You’re probably aware that the members of Stellar have been hinting at discord between the group and the company. They’ve complained on SNS about album delays, made “SOS” hand signs at a music show, and reportedly told Chinese fans to stop supporting their Makestar. Two questions: 1. Should we accept these hints as trufax, or might they be part of the most cynical marketing strategy ever? (Or both?) 2. Assuming things really are as bad as they seem and the members are trapped in a contract they want to escape, how should a responsible fan support Stellar from now on?

Not much need for me to answer this one as Stellar walked the talk recently, but if you want some general advice for how to support idols, I’ll dedicate a future post to this.  In the meantime know that anything in the media that looks like k-pop idols are having a bad time is definitely NOT noise marketing.  They really are having a bad time.  More detail later.

Please debunk this whole “Dreamcatcher sounds like jpop / jrock / anime opening songs!!” notion that’s so prevalent in the comments to their MVs and such.

The only reason why Dreamcatcher sound like that crap, is because that crap is copying the same influences that Dreamcatcher are copying.  It’s a bit like saying that if you and a 5 year old child both try and paint the Mona Lisa at the same time, that your painting looks like the child’s painting.  Yeah on some level it does, but they’re not related to each other, only to the source material.

Do you think the members of Kard are sleeping with each other, and if so… who is with who?

They all sleep together, with each other, in really crowded and annoying dorms, like all k-pop groups.  If they’re really lucky sometimes the two guys get one room and the two girls get the other room, but that probably doesn’t happen as often as they wish it would.

what is your take on the park yoochun issue? I’m assuming that you saw shit like this a lot during your lifetime, do you think the case is real or fake? asking this because I used to be a big fan of the dude and I’m growing more and more nervous because of uncertainty… I don’t want to stan a sex offender but I also don’t want to blame an innocent man.

I’ve got to admit that I haven’t been following his case closely (I guess I should read Asian Junkie more diligently), but the nature of sexual assault cases is that it’s exceptionally difficult to prove that anything happened, combine that with the Korean courts being fairly lenient regarding any sort of sex offence and you can guarantee that most people get off with a slap on the wrist at most whether anything happened or not.  Having been in the industry for forever, sexual harassment and sexual assault is actually somewhat normalised in the entertainment business, but you still can’t assume people are guilty or innocent – unless someone admits to it, or both sides give a compelling and matching view of events, you’re simply not going to know the truth.  Don’t worry about “stanning a sex offender” – it’s okay to like someone’s music without necessarily having to like everything about the person, it should be easy to separate those two things.  Of course k-pop tries to “sell the star” and bring the music and the person together so they’re inseparable, but that’s actually just an illusion created by really savvy marketing.  Ignore the music machine’s trickery and whether Yoochun is an asshole or not should bother you less, but if you really can’t detach yourself emotionally and you’re still in doubt just remember Amy’s theory – you can’t fit five women in a bathroom.


I have a question about vocal production and audio quality.

The other day I was listening to top 40 radio in the car while driving at high speed. The engine and tires create high levels of noise, but the radio is loud enough that vocals and leading instruments are audible. Under these conditions all singers sounds exactly the same; all songs could be sung by exactly one person, except I recognize some and know that they are by different artists. When we later put on a commercial pop CD from 10-15 years back, the singer’s voice retains its individuality and never gains that “one voice of pop” sound, but he occasionally gets drowned out, and some of his consonants might as well not exist. Is this because of the change in format, or because the CD dates from an earlier period, or some mix of both? If the difference is because of the difference in production dates, have the production styles changed because of fashion or because modern producers prioritize audibility over personality when it comes to vocals?

An example of what kind of a quality actually survives in the background noise:

It’s the screech that plays during EXO’s KoKoBop breakdown. The one that goes down and up in pitch? Basically, if that sound was played in a car, it would sound exactly the same as anyone of Red Velvet during any part of Red Flavor.

If you’re listening to music on a reasonably good sound system of some kind, you ideally have full-spectrum audio, or something close to it.  This means that the entire frequency field is being reproduced accurately, with few peaks and troughs.  However a cheap car stereo, a portable stereo, laptop speakers, a telephone speaker – these are all examples of situations where the frequency field is altered due to the type of equipment.  Laptops and phones have tiny speakers that often don’t have high fidelity and aren’t capable of reproducing all frequencies more or less equally, so they sound like tinny garbage (but will then sound fine if you plug headphones in).  Car stereos are sometimes better, but sometimes not – if you’ve ever turned up a song really loud and you hear that farting noise when the bass drops, it’s because you car stereo speakers are just too crap to reproduce that noise properly.  Car stereos are also heavily compromised by the car itself, it’s hard to create an ideal acoustic listening environment when you’re welding speakers to a door frame which may or may not contribute negative elements to the sound, one loose panel or weird air cavity can be enough to change how you hear the music. Then add the fact that the car is moving, and you’ve got the noise of the engine and tyres cutting out some of the audio, this is called “audio masking”.  However those noises don’t cut out everything, they only cut out the frequencies which they operate at.  Engine and tyre nose tends to be “low-mid”, and so you’re mainly hearing the treble cut through on your k-pop recordings while everything else is drowned out.  In k-pop, large amounts of audio excitation and very present vocal mixing means that the vocals are front, center and very trebly, so they cut through just fine.  Take the k-pop CD out and put on something that is less-highly produced or where the vocals are in a completely different range and you probably won’t hear them at all.

This is no accident.  People who make pop music know that you’ll be listening to it in less-than-ideal settings, so they mix the songs deliberately to suit the maximum number of audio environments.  A perfect mix is one that sounds good on the best sound system ever, but also sounds good on shitty phone speakers, in your car stereo, on your laptop with no headphones plugged in etc, it’s the mark of a producer who knows what they are doing, and as covered before in this post almost all k-pop producers are exceptionally technically competent.

Hey kpopalypse oppar!!
I know most people have different taste in music but i’m wondering why you prefer upbeat songs like *insert any T-ara and Crayon Pop songs* more than *insert any ballad, vocal wankery, tropical house songs*. Is it because your background as musician and not speaking Korean or there are other factors??

I’m not a boring cunt like the average conservative Korean fuck, perhaps.  Imagine listening to music while you’re on hold with your telephone company and thinking to yourself “boy I wish more music was like this”.  That must be Koreans, every day.  Also I grew up on highly loud and offensive heavy metal and rap music (back when rap was good).  That might have had something to do with it.

Do you have any tips for beating stage fright? I do semi-regular performances at my school as part of a dance club and love the act of actually performing, but the entire day beforehand I am essentially incapacitated with awful anxiety. I can be anxiety prone to start with and am rather introverted, but consider myself generally confident. Pro-tips?

Some people say “imagine the audience naked” and I’ve tried that, but then I just get distracted by perving at them and I forget where I am in the song.

The very first band that I was in, in high school, boy we sucked.  We were actually the worst band ever.  We were worse than all the bands in the below video.

There’s no footage I can share because nobody with a camera would have dared to turn it on while we were performing, camera film was precious back then, you didn’t waste it on shit like us.  I can’t tell you the band name because I’m pretty sure we didn’t have one, we spent most of our rehearsals arguing with each other and as far as I remember nobody ever reached an agreement on what we should be called.  Because we fought so much we maybe got to play for 10 minutes for every hour that we were practicing, the rest of the time people would just make noises with their instruments while waiting for everyone else to do something.  When I heard “Bad News” (a parody rock band by the same people behind the TV show The Young Ones) and the way the people in that band talked to each other, I was blown away, it was just like staring into a mirror.

So as we were obviously complete utter shit, we were booed off stage often, we had objects thrown at us a lot, people turning the electricity off on us to try and get us to shut up, audience starting fights with us, etc.  We did of course deserve all of this treatment because we were absolute musical trash that should not have existed.  Being in this shitty band had a silver lining though, it completely robbed me of all stage fright forever, I was only afraid for my first show, after that never again.  At the first show after I was onstage for a few songs I asked myself “well what am I afraid of – what’s the worst that could happen?  People hate us and boo us off stage and want to kill us?  Well, that’s actually happening right now, and I’m still here, so what’s the big deal about it really?  Fuck it, who cares!”  I don’t recommend that you join a band as worthless as mine (although you could try and get into 88Rising’s crew if you really wanted) but maybe if you can mentally place yourself there for a while it might make life easier for you.  I went through the worst of it and I’m still here, so you’ll be just fine.

That’s all for another QRIMOLE!  There will be more QRIries answered in another month, until then if you have a question for QRIMOLE, please ask it below, or if the question box doesn’t appear, click Qri on the sidebar!  Until next time be a safe and happy caonima!

4 thoughts on “QRIMOLE Episode 13: hugging the elephant in the room of k-pop

  1. About question ehh… 69, stanning a sex offender. I know many people who comment are not children, but usually say something like: X did/said Y -> X cancelled, I’ll stop stanning, etc. WTF! Obviously this person doesn’t care about X music at all, just his/her appearance/public (fake) personality and wherever not related to music. Again, people who are not children saying this is… I don’t know, just say you didn’t care for the music and now that you know this person is “problematic” you’ll care even less, you never were a fan, you just liked the (what you wanted to see of that) person.
    Did anyone stop hearing, let’s say, Michael Jackson’s music, a known pedophile? Some metal bands even have had murderers, did anyone stopped listening to them? and they most likely make their music and play their instruments.
    Not to mention that almost every composer ever did/does some drug, will you stop listening to music?

  2. I wanted to annoy you and leave a shitty comment and that’s how I found out that I made a wordpress account back in 2011. Now that’s wild.

    Anyway, that question about blackface and #problematic TV shows made me realize that I have started to somewhat censor myself as to not be labeled as a racist. I don’t quite understand why people bash kpop stars who decide to go for dreads (it’s just a hairstyle???!! wtf is racist about that?) or why is it problematic to say “nigga” when covering a song, if it’s in the original lyrics? I thought the slur is the word that ends in -er? Why do I see ppl on the internet refer to each other as “my nigga” in a friendly manner? ..

    If I try to ask these questions, will it come off as ignorant? Could I educate myself somewhere or is this really just an example of Westerners’ idea that “everyone else in the world should respect the culture that they’ve shoved down the throats of the entire world repeatedly.” ?

  3. Thank you again for your delicious writing! Your brief account of belonging to “the worst band in the world” is highly entertaining, not least because it’s the polar opposite of everyone’s dreams of their hot band, you made me LOL… 🙂 And thanks again for promoting Gfriend, you’ll probly shudder at the thought of promoting such sweet, nice girls. 🙂 You know, it’s actually like 4chan promoting Yotsuba&, she’s the sweetest little girl and they’re the most awful website in the world, it’s just perfect. 🙂

  4. Pingback: The KPOPALYPSE article index | KPOPALYPSE

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