QRIMOLE – June 2018

It’s time for QRIMOLE – Kpopalypse’s monthly wrap-up of long and tricky questions from readers!

My question is about kpop celebrities persona’s. Obviously idols have a façade to put up for work; but how much of it is real and fake? Do they choose their image or does the company does it for them? Example: Heechul (Super Junior) thinks that variety shows are childish. But on the same variety shows, he says that he has to act childish.
I don’t know what I’m really asking here… but the thought jus
t pop into my head while reading this article http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20171018000840
When Seo Soo-kyung mentioned Hyoyeon wanted to dress in girly outfits at first, but it wasn’t recommended by her, and then a middle ground was found between them.
Thanks in advance Oppar~!

I guarantee you that in at least 99% of cases, the company chooses the image and the idol has no say in it whatsoever.  All ex-idols I’ve spoken to about this issue have made this abundantly clear.  I think that companies take a look at the people and think “okay, this one would work with this type of image” and just mold them to suit, and the idol has to go along with it or they’re out.  Maybe, maybe someone like Amber got to have some say in how she was presented, but even then, people at SM Entertainment would have had to agree with her that the presentation as a “tomboy” would actually work, for her to be allowed to do it.  It’s possible that she was forced into it, but it’s also possible that she fought for her tomboy appearance behind the scenes and refused to debut without it.  Or maybe the company had an idea and she went with it thinking “this works for me more than that girly shit”, who knows.  Maybe one day I’ll get the opportunity to ask her!

The whole Momoland cultural appropriation thing is pretty laughable. I still don’t get how Ikpop fans have the gumption to call out wrong doing but they can listen to a different cultures music.
Also, those leg polls are fixed, no way in hell does suga have better legs than the others beneath him. I know people have preference but i have to call out bs when i see. Fixed I tell you!
Now to the real question. Do you miss sexy concept? I miss them because they normally have above average music quality and the fancams.

Rococopropriation is no laughing matter!

Because I count votes in the Objectification Survey manually, I can detect vote-rigging in the yearly objectification polls very easily.  There was no vote rigging, just a lot of people with weird taste.  I didn’t rig the polls myself either.  If I had, Shindong would have won the male legs category.

I don’t really care that much about sexy concepts going away, because honestly most of them aren’t really that sexy.  It’ll come back anyway, these things go in cycles so you’ll see it return at some point, because agencies are always looking for a way to make their group stand out, and one way to do that is to go down a path nobody else is touching at that moment…

[a large amount of questions about why I’m not doing the “Kpopalypse Bootleg” that much anymore]

Actually, I never did Kpopalypse Bootleg in the first place!  The bootlegger isn’t me, but a loyal listener of the Kpopalypse radio show who has been bootlegging for years (trust me, I don’t have time to do bootlegs myself, plus there are legal issues which prevent me).  A long time ago someone asked me if the radio station was ever going to do a podcast, and when I told him that it wasn’t planned due to the logistic hassle of it, he set up the bootleg himself.  I guess he may have stopped because the recently released Three D Radio App allows listeners to listen to past shows now, however there’s no equivalent of the Three D App for desktop computers yet, so I hope he continues at least until then because not everybody wants to listen to radio shows on their phone.

any theories as to why is everyone doing that stupid “stu ttu ttu ttu” adlib these days in kpop? it makes me irrationally angry and i don’t know why. examples that come to mind are the bridges in dreamcatcher’s you and i, and minseo’s is who, and probably a bunch of gfriend songs

This is called “scat vocal” and young people mainly know it because of “The Scatman” but it existed long before then, it goes back to the birth of jazz.  Fuck knows why people like that crap.  It’s a minor miracle that Minseo’s “Is Who” is a great song anyway.

What are the best and the worst things about being a middle-aged man living in Australia?

Fuck knows why being a “middle-aged man” would make things any different at all, so let’s dump the lame and irrelevant identity-politics part of this question and edit it down to “What are the best and the worst things about living in Australia?” – that’s something I can work with.

Worst: weather, wildlife, slow-as-shit Internet, nanny-state government

Best: insane bragging rights from being able to survive the weather, wildlife, slow-as-shit Internet and nanny-state government

Not k-pop related but I’ve seen this video:

1. Could this music be considered jazz?
2. Did you get why he had run from the black dudes? It makes no sense to me.
3. What are your thoughts on the music?

Have a nice day!

P.S.: If you find the MV too boring, consider showing it to your cat. Mine had snoozed really effectively before the second chorus.

  1. No
  2. I was too bored to pay attention to what was going on, if there’s a reason for it I missed it
  3. Shit

I’ve got better things to do than make my cat watch this crap.

Hey oppar!
I know you like kpop based on its instrumental but do you like any kpop song based on its lyric (meaning of song, clever choice of words, etc)?
I’ve seen many songs recommendation based on how well written its lyric is but i can’t really enjoy it if it sounds boring (especially if it’s use super boring instrumental like your average k-ballad) because i don’t understand korean at all. Lyricism is the least i enjoy about kpop in general, but also good because i’m sure i won’t enjoy kpop this long if i understand the lyric. It’s cringy as hell. I’m okay with boring yet wonderfully written songs in language i understand but for kpop i mostly rely on how nice the song for my ears.
Sometimes i feel bad for missing many wonderful songs just because i don’t know korean but i don’t think i want to seriously learn korean just because i want to fully understand kpop songs.

It’s cool how you asked a question and then answered it for me, saving me the trouble.

I don’t really care.  Good lyrics can certainly improve a song, and bad lyrics can certainly make a song worse, but it’s never the “deal sealer/breaker” – the music has to be there first.  The only exception would be rap music, where the lyrics are the music in a slightly different way to with pop music, but even then, whether I like the song often still has a lot more to do with the choice of beat and backing track than whatever bullshit is coming out of the rapper’s mouth.

The best recent song with good lyrics would probably be Twice’s “Likey”, which is probably one of the most misunderstood songs in all of k-pop.

Hey oppar! I hope you’re doing well, I have 3 different topics about 3 very different subjects, and I’d like to hear your opinion!
1. Jazz music
So I was in my school’s middle school jazz band, and I want to know how you feel about Gordon Goodwin’s Jazz Band?? Like, their songs are generally really groovy, and actually?? a song. Here’s some of my favorites (1 2 3)
They’ve also won a few grammys, and been nominated for a bunch. Which leads into my next question.
2. Award shows
What’s the difference between western music award shows (Grammies, Billboard, iHeart) and Korean (MCountdown and whatever??) because I’m fairly sure that korean ones are purely for popularity and fan purposes. On the other hand, western ones such as the grammies seem to genuinely care about music– i’m not sure about billboard or iHeart. But that might just be good marketing. Are all music shows just purely for entertainment? If so, what’s even the point in watching them.
3. School
So right now I’m in high school, and worrying like heck over APs, the SATs, and the like. As such, I’ve also been panicking (immensely) over my future. My parents encourage me to choose what I want to pursue in life right now, so I can start specifying my volunteer activities and such to match the field, and thus gain an “edge” over other college applicants. Right now I’m leaning towards the medicinal field, mainly because of how lucrative it is. To clear things up, it’s not just my parents wanting me to make money, I also want to live comfortably lol. But I’m also really concerned that I’ll end up changing what I want to do halfway, or that I’ll just end up not having a “passion” at all for medicine. I enjoy doing other things like art and music, but honestly I wouldn’t pursue them as a career.
Thanks for reading this! I hope you have a wonderful day (or night, or whenever you’re reading this) :))

  1. I find jazz really boring.  Fine in context I suppose as backings for an appropriate part of a TV show or whatever, but not as something to listen and pay attention to.
  2. Western award ceremonies are more about industry people patting themselves on the back than anything else.  They’re also partially for fan consumption in the same way that k-pop awards shows are.  Most musicians of any worth don’t care, unless they have phenomenal egos or are exceptionally naive.
  3. It’s not important to have a “passion” for what you do, it’s more important to be able to tolerate actually doing it without going insane.  So rather than thinking “am I going to really enjoy this” I’d start thinking “is this something I could do for long enough to pay a mortgage”.  People who pursue their passions as work often find that they don’t feel that passionate about their passions any more when they’re forced to do them every day to make money – it’s the freedom to walk away and come back to your passions whenever you want to which is part of what keeps them interesting.

Has there ever been a case in K-Pop where pedal-point harmony doesn’t work in a positive favor, and actually makes it worse?

I’d put Lim Kim’s “Awoo” in this category.  The pedal-point harmony in that song is like cheese-graters across the ears.

do you think that chanmi is totally hot in bingle bangle? does she look different? did she “get prettier”?

I can’t even tell which one she is anymore!

As you’ve mentioned countless times on your blog, western pop music seems to favour simplicity more. Firstly, I don’t quite understand what is meant by simplicity other than UZA type of minimalist tracks. Could you please explain? For example, is music (their singles) that pop stars like Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande counted as simple? Why is that?

And secondly, what previous trend is that a reaction to? And what current factors influence this?


Probably the best way to explain this is to look at Mamamoo’s “Starry Night” and the song that it’s shamelessly ripping off inspired by:

If you listen to the song above, the vocal melody is kept very simple.  It’s the same “vocal meter” all the way through, which means that the melody is sung in the same timing.  The lyrics change (somewhat) but the melody doesn’t change much at all, for the most part it pretty much sticks to the same three notes in the same order and timing, the whole way through.  The backings behind it don’t change a great deal either, there’s certain parts which stop and so forth, but the general rhythmic feel is fairly consistent.  You’ll find this with most western pop, your Taylors, Gagas, etc.

At the 0:30 mark of the Mamamoo song, already more different notes have been sung than in the entirety of “Prayer In C”… and that’s just getting started.  at 0:41 the melody completely changes.  At 0:56, yet another completely new melody that has nothing to do with any of the previous melodies comes into play, plus the rhythm drops into half-time.  At 1:06 we have the big chorus, once again with a completely different melody and rhythmic feel.  This isn’t necessarily “better” or “worse”, but it’s a point of differentiation – k-pop favours a larger quantity and variety of melody overall, on average.  I think it’s probably why so many k-pop songs don’t work all that well – it’s harder to piece together a jigsaw with more pieces in it.  However when it works it’s also arguably more impressive.

If you want to listen to a k-pop song which is written much more like a western pop song, try Oh My Girl’s “Closer”.

It sounds like a western song because it is – an American songwriter wrote it, and it shows.  It’s the same few melodic motifs repeated all the way through, and the harmony is very simple.

Whereas Oh My Girl’s “Secret Garden”, although also written partly by western producers, is written more in the style that k-pop usually favours, with longer, winding melodies and more chord changes.

I’m not sure what trends inform this, but it’s actually something that I find fairly consistent with k-pop through the years.

Hello oppar 🙂 how do I convince my parents to take care of my dog while I’m away at uni? She’s literally the reason for my existence and I have anxiety so it’s really difficult for me to focus if I’m not sure she’s well taken care of
I got into a big argument with them today about her because I have a really specific schedule for her but my parents don’t want to do it
They’re threatening to stop me from going to uni and they just don’t understand how bad my anxiety is especially about my dog? They keep saying that if I’m so worried I shouldn’t go but like it’s my life’s dream, and I can’t take my dog with me Cos I’m flying away and she’s already 8 and easily stressed I don’t want her to die like that frenchie in that American airway

If your dog is the reason for your existence, I guess you’re gonna be pretty fucked soon as most dogs don’t have a huge life expectancy compared to humans.  Maybe there’s something you could do to make it worth your parents’ while (like pay them a dog-keeping allowance) – or maybe you could give your dog to someone else.  Either way you’re fucked when the dog dies if you keep your current mind-state so I reckon it’s time for you to toughen up.  We’re all animals really.  Your dog would eat you if it could.

I thought for a while about what my first K-pop song was and it took a while for me to remember that one K-pop song I never knew was actually K-pop (probably because it was in Japanese) but was technically the first K-pop song I ever heard

Thoughts on it? I think it’s really great and I feel sorry for not ever paying enough attention to it. (It’s from this anime I used to like lol)


(Sorry but you get what you deserve if you ask “thoughts?” questions.)

Thoughts on this music/person?

If I made music this shit I would have jumped off a balcony too.

Kpopalypse oppar.

Hey, here’s some songs that I really like:

[some songs]

Please shame me publicly for my shitty music taste.

No.  This is not what QRIMOLE (or this blog) is for.

For the heck of it, I went back through some of the older nugu alerts as well & found new links to a couple other broken songs! I don’t think many (if any) are official sources.

Ep8: APLUS – Again & Again
Ep17: Sever the Ear live – It seems like the girl left the band sometime after? This is the only video I could find from 2014. There’s one from 2015 and the bass player is a dude :/
Ep19: Oriental Showcus ft. Koonta – Puzzle
Ep23: The Seohyun Lee song has fallen off the face of the planet but I did find a different song by a Lee Seohyun that feels noteworthy to mention anyway
Ep25: Hashina – Fighting
Ep26: SuperBaby – Misook
Ep31: Impro9 – Tropical The video isn’t on youtube anymore so I hope this works instead

Also! The model in Freshboyz – Koala is Huh Kkotbunhong & her ig is @kkottt_ .

Thanks for this!  Kpopalypse Nugu Alerts have now been updated where applicable.  Note that I can’t embed Facebook videos unfortunately, so Impro9 will have to wait.

I know this is the Qrimole askbox, but I found new links to the trot songs you asked if anyone could find! Lim Sehoon
& Kim Keunsan

Thank you – updated!  Kpopalypse appreciates any caonimas who can fix broken embedded videos!  (The exception is the roundups, which are more designed to be consumed in that week only, so I don’t care about their maintenance.)

Hi oppar hope you’re doing wellz, summer is pretty fucking hot lol

Anyhow oppar I got the hots for a classmate from a class 2 semesters ago, obviously back then I didn’t act on it because I hoped it would go away, now I guess I probably should but it’s been a year and we don’t have similar class nor mutual friends what do?

If I ask dude out now it would def be creepy lol( i used classmate and not friend or aqquaintances for a good reason) , I even go out of my way to try to register for the same classes and shits but between my required units and sheer bad luck it never worked out lol. Is this the point where I wave my white flag ? I mean I technically already did 2 semesters ago but like why is dude is hanging around on my mind if dude’s not going to appear on a platter for me smh

Also oppar stray away from then musical content and make more lifestyle post plz, i want a hit people up/dating tips one, your uni post was useful even if it was all really very obvious shit lol sometimes written in certain ways they just absorb better idk , much love! (or not idk)

I’ll probably find an excuse to write more non k-pop related stuff (with the thinnest of k-pop veneers to justify it being included in my blog) at some point soon.  Not sure what though.  Open to suggestions, although a generic “dating advice” post from me I think would be truly terrifying.

As for your situation, I think if it was going to happen between you and this guy it would have by now.  Sometimes relationships are all about timing.

why are ARMYs so insistent that BTS have surpassed being labelled as “k-pop idols”? In your personal opinion, why are BTS so popular? Do they ‘deserve’ the fame they have? Is there such thing as ‘deserving’ fame/‘not deserving fame’? (Random aside question but if BTS came back to Australia, would you be willing to see them live for a review?)

No idea by BTS fans think how they do… but it’s pretty funny.

BTS must have really savvy marketing.  There’s definitely nothing all that different about their music to warrant so much attention.  I think that the marketing BTS did was similar (but smaller scale) to what Loona are trying, and that’s damn good marketing too.  So many people are now so emotionally invested in these twelve girls who haven’t even debuted yet.

Given that fame isn’t exactly a net positive in reality it’s hard to identify the true meaning of a phrase like “deserving fame”.

I would definitely consider going to see BTS live just to document it, given the amount of insanity that revolves around that group.  Seeing EXO was amazing not for the group itself but for the apeshit-crazy fans.  Maybe even interviewing some BTS fans would be fun, then I could ask them these questions!

I don’t know if this is stupid question with an obvious answer but how is it that the Western music industry does not even have half the amount of boy bands/ girl groups/ idols that K-pop has? K-pop produces so many idols despite revenue generation not being much. But I think in K-pop there are literally just 2 boy groups and one girl group. There are quite a few popstars like Ariana Grande, Katy Perry and Justin Beiber. I’m guessing popstar is the equivalent to idol. But even then, the number is incomparable to the volume of idols produced by music labels in Korea. Why is this the case?

Thanks for reading!

I don’t really know, I think it’s just the way the different scenes have evolved.  Probably Korea’s early adoption of the Internet made visual-centric forms more relevant, also the huge emphasis on school/work/army culture (and thus a need for escapism) may have made a difference, plus the dictatorship era of the 1970s and 1980s making emulation of rock music largely forbidden so Korea didn’t really have a “rock scene” to balance out the “pop scene” until more recently.  These are just my guesses, you’d probably have to ask someone actually living over there to get a definitive response to this.

In this article, the author talks about how BTS’ win from the BBMAs (albeit in 2017, though it is relevant to this year as well) is irrelevant. He mentions the obvious influences of American pop on kpop, but I noticed in the comments that ARMYs (those crazy bastards) were like “no they’re not!!1!1!1! You can’t say that, you’re not a fan!1!1!!1”. Just how accurate do you think this article is, just how inspired by American pop is “BTS-pop” and k-pop by extension and why do you think that the fans don’t recognise/acknowledge this in the music?

  • All awards for music are irrelevant, music is not sport
  • Hit the nail on the head insofar as fans wanting bragging rights
  • Agree about western influences in k-pop
  • BTS are no different to any other k-pop group musically so what applies to k-pop applies to BTS
  • BTS fans don’t want to admit this because they don’t want BTS to lose their perceived “specialness” or whatever
  • I don’t really care about the fetishisation part, as I don’t think fetishisation is inherently negative – it’s what happens around fetishisation which can (sometimes) be negative

usually when we say music was better before the usual explanation is that it’s a trick of our brain because we prefer familiar sound and we get more time to get familiar with old song. But i’ve recently stumble upon a video that say that we are probably right to think music was better back then he cite a scientific study that use 3 metrics to mesure the quality of music, the harmonic complexity the timbral diversity and the loudness. The video is a litle long so the interesting part start around 1:45 and he talk about the loudness around 11:00

so my questions are do you think the metric chosen are good to talk about the general quality of music over the years and what’s your opinion on the subject. is there more to say about loudness or compression that what is said in the video.

I’m familiar with this general argument.  There’s a lot of false equivalencies here and general bullshit.  Comparing The Beatles Sgt. Pepper to Justin Bieber is just pandering to “classic rock fan” cynicism (most of whom wouldn’t know a Bieber song if they heard one anyway).  The part where he talks about compression, he uses some of the ugliest-sounding compression that he possibly can to make his point.  When people use compression properly, you don’t even know it’s there, that’s the whole point of using it.  There’s compression on everything you listen to.  Yes it’s partly there to compete in the “war on loudness”, but that war has a finite limit – it’s impossible to breach digital zero without introducing ugly “clipping” distortion and that’s something that producers avoid at all costs (except the shitty ones Death Magnetic ahem).  The other more important reason why compression is there is because most pop music doesn’t actually sound very good when it’s not compressed.  It’s possible that this topic will get a full post at some point in the future, but most of these techniques which he’s saying are bad were actually refined during the “classic” period that he’s saying is so great.

The whole video falls apart because almost everything he’s saying about modern music can be applied equally to music from 50 years ago, and people were using these exact same arguments 50 years ago to criticise the “then-modern” 1960s and 1970s pop and rock.  The best example is the argument he brings in at the end of the video, about how people like to hear familiar sound, as a way to say that people are being brainwashed into liking shitty new “manufactured” songs, but surely that rule would apply even more to an older song, like the ones from the 60s and 70s that he seems to think are so great, because those songs have been around for even longer so more people have heard it more times.  That’s why classic rock radio keeps flogging the same old shit and doesn’t want to play newer music, they’re just as risk-averse – but in the other direction.  He can raise all the fucking eyebrows he wants, he doesn’t actually have an argument.

When are you going to do a post on Produce48!?

Probably never.  I don’t see why I should.  You could go to Asian Junkie who does quite extensive recaps of episodes of Produce 48, if you really wanted.  As for my take on what happens in these shows, it’s “I don’t care”, always.  It’s all just fake drama to manipulate you into getting emotionally invested in bullshit.  When original songs come out of these shows I will put them in Kpopalypse roundup if I remember, until then I will continue to ignore all these types of shows.

It’s hard for me to write about the show because what’s there to actually say about it that even matters, nothing really… except that reality TV is fake bullshit, but you guys already know this, yes?  I didn’t do any coverage about Produce 101 or Unpretty Rapstar either.  I don’t cover TV shows because they are boring and stupid and don’t really have anything to do with music (even when they’re superficially about music), but sometimes I do take time out to cover drama videos.

[a fucking lot of questions along the lines of “I know you hate j-pop, but…” followed by links to a bunch of shitty j-pop songs that I’m obviously going to hate]

I have referred all your j-pop links to Jpopalypse who may cover them at some point in the future, but I’m not sure where he is.  The last I heard from him he was still looking up skirts in a maid cafe somewhere and wasn’t going to emerge to review any songs until at least 2019.

I was poking around the Three D Radio site and was surprised to learn that they have a “quota system which ensures that our overall the station’s music content contains at least 40% Australian, 20% local and 25% female content.”

I guess your female % is pretty good which probably makes up for your near 0% Australian percentage lol

But anyway how do you feel about this quota system? I’m guessing you’re not a fan of it but sometimes your political opinions surprise me.

Disclaimer: note that the following is my opinion only and does not constitute that of Three D Radio as a whole, blah de blah.

The quota system that Three D Radio has, is something which needs to be put in the context of Australia’s radio history to be fully understood.  Three D Radio is (I believe) the third-oldest FM-band radio station in South Australia.  (In radio, FM band is dedicated to music, whereas AM is sport, talkback etc – this is because FM has stereo and better audio quality.)  When we first started, in 1979, there were three radio stations on the FM band playing music:

  • The shitty commercial pop radio station that played top 40 hits
  • The shitty commercial rock radio station that played “classic rock”
  • Three D Radio

Three D Radio was designed to be an “alternative” to the other two stations, so we would deliberately play a lot of what they wouldn’t.  One thing that commercial radio would never play is local South Australian music, so we had a quota to make sure that we played it a lot.  Also, especially in the case of the classic rock station, the musicians were 99% male (no exaggeration, an analysis of their playlist years ago had only ONE female performer in the top 100 most played/requested songs) so we decided on a female quota as well because women were vastly underrepresented at that time.

Fast-forward to today and the FM band is much more crowded with stations, also the music coming out all over the world is much more diverse now.  However commercial radio still rarely plays Australian artists apart from a token few (that they play constantly), still almost never plays anything South Australian, and women… well they’re probably doing the best of the three, they’re somewhat more well-represented.  Do I support a quota?  I support the idea of making Three D Radio somewhat different, and if the quota achieves that and gives artists a go that otherwise wouldn’t be heard, then I’m fine with it.  However the quota does have a few knock-on effects that I’m not that happy about, such as DJs repeatedly playing certain female musicians that suck just to get their quota levels up.  Like a female friend of mine in a punk band said to me a while back “I don’t want to be played because because a radio station has a quota to fulfill, I find that really condescending, I want to be played because my music is good”.  Also arguably the quota is less relevant these days – yes, commercial radio hasn’t changed much, but there are so many other alternatives now, do we even really need to self-consciously distance ourselves from commercial radio anymore, can we not stand on our own two feet.  It’s an ongoing debate at the station whether the quota should be maintained, increased, decreased or abolished, it’s something that I think is always under review as part of the conversation about whether we’re fulfilling our “promise of performance”, and I think that’s a good thing – debate is healthy.

As you might have guessed, I can’t really meet the Australian/South Australian quotas on my radio show.  However I often way exceed the female content quota, the average radio show that I play is usually about 60%-65% female.  This is because most songs that come out of Korean pop have women in them, and on top of that a lot of regular request-makers like the female groups.  If anything I find myself self-consciously inserting male groups to try and make the sound of the show more gender balanced, just to ease off the repetition a bit.

[a bunch of questions about mash-ups]

Don’t link me mash-ups.  I hate them.  This was covered in the previous QRIMOLE, I think.  Cheers.

I recently listened to a podcast episode of Switched on Pop interviewing a singer and writer that incorporated artificial intelligence into the songwriting process. Along with the advent of “smart” mixing plug-ins (e.g., Izotope Neutron) and automatic mastering services (e.g., LANDR, eMastered), do you see the k-pop industry being affected? Or do you still see people as too vital to the creation and production to make much of a dent?

AI is really good at doing certain things well, and really bad at doing certain other things.  Where AI performs great is in rudimentary surface-level tasks that require a lot of calculation.  An AI can now beat any human at chess and most popular computer games.  However, where AI completely falls apart is any type of deep understanding.  No AI currently known has the capacity to innately understand what a chair is for, why a kitten is cute, or why someone might want to get drunk, and despite the advances in computer technology, there’s no evidence yet that we’re even getting anywhere close to that level, or that we ever will.  AI intelligence will certainly eventually outpace the human brain for raw processing power in the near future, but computer AI will still be a very different kind of intelligence to human intelligence.

As a result, AI is great at recreating patterns that are well-established, but is horrible at any kind of innovation.  Something like applying basic compression to a snare drum to even out the sound is well within the scope of AI, because effective compression is easy to measure in raw numbers.  However, using compression creatively to make a completely new sound, that’s something that AI just can’t do.  Lower-tier K-pop producers probably already use tools like Izotope Neutron and LANDR just to save time (as time is money in the studio) but someone who really wants to create something a bit different is probably going to want to do it all themselves.  Automated IA tools tend to sound a bit samey, and while there’s a place in pop music for following trends (and always will be), there’s also a place for standing out.  IA can only really do one of those two things well.  People won’t replace machines in this field, probably not ever.  The songwriting/production process is just too difficult and taps into too many nebulous parts of the brain that are not fully understood or understandable by machines.

Hello oppar, do you have a post that talks about how charts work? I saw a piece of information that talks about the billboard chart (for album sales iirc) and that said that unless a group are signed to a distributor in the USA, their sales are not counted on the chart? (USA since billboard is an american chart).

How true is this and how do charts even work?

This is true.  With physical copies, it’s the sale of the album from the distributor to the retailer that is counted on the chart, not the sale from the retailer to the customer.  That’s why a long stay on the chart is more important than a #1 with a bullet.  Sometimes an album can be a complete flop and still get to #1 even if almost nobody buys it.  If an album goes to #1 straight away and then immediately shoots back down to nothing, it’s because the label hyped the fuck out of the album, tons of stores bought into the hype and bought copies to stock their shelves thinking “yeah this’ll sell”, and then they couldn’t actually sell those copies at retail price because nobody gave a fuck, so there were no re-orders.  Then the album goes in the “bargain bin” so the store can at least recover costs.

“If they were to break it all down into fragments with an accurate bell curve, what you would see is that the average return for the majority of lower tier “k-pop idols” is under $100 over an entire career. Out of all the nugus probably the ones that do make a bit of money are the ones who are on the “adult” end of the spectrum and go dance in strip clubs – that stuff pays better than being “cute”. Who knows how much of that money they’re allowed to keep, though.”

That’s (probably) not quite true…

An ex-idol from a Second Tier Kpop group said that there are three tiers:

First Tier: SM, YG, JYP
He said that idols from those companies get paid upon debut. They might might have a debt, but they also get paid Something starting when they debut.

Second Tier: Every other company that makes their artists sign long-term contracts.
The Second Tier is the worst because they have the slave contracts, but they don’t get paid until their debt is paid off. And they often don’t make enough money to pay off their debt.

Third Tier: Low-end Groups
This Tier is the best for nugus because they don’t have to sign a ‘term’ contract. Their agency isn’t going to pump anymore money into developing them, therefore they don’t need to sign them to a term contract to protect their investment.

This is the situation that HINT is in (you liked their debut, and hated their comeback).

One of the original members left the group during their comeback preparations, after they had filmed the music video. She can be seen in the ‘group’ shots in the their ‘Walkie-Talkie‘ music video. Her individual scenes were replaced. There was no contract preventing her from leaving.

In a talk show, two HINT members said that all the (7) members like lamb skewers, and one time they ate 300 lamb skewers in one sitting.

They also post Vlive videos (quite often) in which they eat a lot.

Those girls are not ‘starving artists.’

They make most of their money through performances (they’ve been performing a lot on military bases – where they’re one of the most popular groups) and they’ve been performing at events.

They all sing well, and I can hear each member’s voice when they sing together. They don’t have that ‘everyone sings exactly the same’ training that all the big groups seem to have.

Their company held vocal trainer auditions recently.

They’re running a Makestar campaign right now. They’re looking for $4,629 USD for their comeback.

Their Makestar campaign invites donors to make suggestions on what kind of music and concept they want to see in the comeback.

So they’re not in slave contracts and they eat well.

They’re not making huge amounts of money, but they’re making well enough to live on.

I get it – you like HINT.  So I’ll do you a favour – readers feel free to help them with their Makestar, they’re still 2.5k short at the time of writing, they could probably use a hand.

The reality is that anybody can leave any k-pop group at any time.  A contract can’t prevent someone physically walking out the door, even if penalties are applied.  It just means that the group either continues on without that person (who may or may not be sent a bill, depending on the contract terms), or the group is stuck in limbo and does nothing until everyone else’s contracts expire (i.e ChoColat).

As for making money from performances or whatever, there’s a big difference between “this group made $x from an event” and “this group actually received, as individuals, $x from an event”.  That doesn’t mean they starve however.  Money made from performances in any “360 deal” (which k-pop contracts generally resemble) typically goes straight to the company, who then support the idols by buying them chicken skewers or whatever the company wants them to eat, but the idols don’t actually get physically paid most of the time.  Most k-pop artists are not starving, they are being starved – difference.  If HINT are escaping that (even if it’s just while the cameras are rolling), good for them!

This is even true for western artists on some levels.  A group that one of my old bands played with, who were way bigger than us, openly told us that they didn’t see a cent from ticket sales or CDs but the company just takes it all to pay back debt.  The company gave them an allowance which they said was “pizza and cigarette money, and that’s about all”.  They told us to buy t-shirts instead of CDs because the shirts weren’t part of the contract deal.

You might have answered this before but just in case. I’m really interested in music and I’d like to learn an instrument, but I’m too poor to afford proper lessons. What would be the best place to start?

There’s almost nothing that YouTube can’t teach you how to do.  Proper lessons are definitely better without question (unless your teacher is suck), but if you’re on a budget I’d just check out all the free content online that you can, and don’t hesitate to get second and third opinions on everything, because the problem with online content is that much of it is wrong, or at least “suboptimal”.

I recently got into Amino and joined a kpop community in it. Since I don’t have any friends that enjoy kpop, it was nice to interact with other people who do. But, after some time, I started to feel a little out of place, because a lot of the posts were people saying depressing things and complaining about their life. Many seemed to have suicidal thoughts and think they were useless. They would say something like “If I’m gone from this world, no one will care” and, in the next day, the same person would post something like “I love (insert bias here), his/her smile means so much to me”. It left me worried as these were very young people who seemed to be giving more love to korean celebrities on the other side of the world than to themselves.

This got me thinking: aren’t these teenagers only using kpop to get away from reality or from some disappointment in their life? To distract their anxiety with the “beauty” and “perfection” that kpop offers?

What are your thoughts?

I think that any attachment to k-pop idols is emotionally unhealthy and that’s partly why I try to actively discourage this sort of emotional attachment in my writing.  You don’t actually know or love these people, the marketing is just really good at making you think that you do.  That’s not to say that your bias isn’t nice, or that there aren’t plenty of nice folks in k-pop, but it’s their job to be as emotionally relatable as possible, so someone you are falling in love with is generally just someone who is really good at fulfilling the emotional labour requirements of being an idol and projecting that personality designed to touch your emotional buttons.  Especially with veteran idols who have been doing it for years, they’re often really good at it because of all that practice.  IU knows how to be the “image of IU” extremely well by now, she can run emotional circles around her fanbase all day and play to exactly what they want to see.  That’s what “23” is really all about, in this song she’s doing her fanbase a great community service by telling them to get a fucking grip.

So naturally, a person giving all that love to someone so far away (not just distance-wise but more importantly, lifestyle/culture-wise) is going to make that person feel emotionally drained, because the love that they’re getting in return isn’t actually anything real, it’s just an image.  Sure, celebrities are grateful for their fans and do love them in some sense of the word, but it’s not quite the same type of love that fans are giving them back – it can’t be, because they can’t invest so much in one invidivual with so many fans that they have to cater to.  The art of being a k-pop idol is for them to make every fan feel equally “special”, so of course they have to spread their emotional labour pretty thinly across their fanbase.  It’s not like following an underground artist where you can actually really get to know them properly.  So over time that lack of reciprocation fans experience is going to wear them down.  Young people often have a hard time with life (because being young person sucks generally for many for a lot of reasons, and always has) and are often looking for some emotional comfort, the idol system redirects and exploits this to make money (when it succeeds).  Part of what my writing is trying to do is to get people to separate out the actual music from the system that creates it.  If you can do this successfully, the idol industry has no emotional power over you, and you’re free to redirect that love over to something or someone more worthy (I suggest start with self-love, then work outward).

That’s all for another QRIMOLE episode!

Do you have a question that you’d like to see answered in the next episode of QRIMOLE?  If so, use the question box below, or if no box appears, click the Qri on the sidebar to open the box as a separate webpage!  Kpopalypse will return!

15 thoughts on “QRIMOLE – June 2018

  1. To the person that was asking why more boy/girl groups in Korea. I think that is more related to Asia being a set of collectivist societies. The group is always more important than the individual.
    Or to put it another way:
    I went to highschool with most of the band No Doubt, right after their album “Tragic Kingdom” started to become popular I was talking to one of the members and he told me that it was awesome, because now the whole band got to fly first class not just Gwen.

    • At least in some cases it has to do with the fact that the so-called music labels that create the groups are actually all-purpose talent agencies. For example, idol groups have “visual” members because their agencies are trying to launch their careers as actors or models, not as musicians.

    • That is likely true. There are pictures of her before she even auditioned and she was very tomboyish then, short hair, skater kid, boys clothes etc. They probably encouraged her to keep it up as a gimmick though.

  2. Thanks for your western simplicity – kpop (relative) complexity example, you put into words part of why I was drawn to kpop (and that gorgeous Starry Night video doesn’t hurt either.) So kpop is relatively complex musically, and has high-quality, high production value MVs for title songs. And a more collectivist culture’s emphasis on beautiful idol groups’ singing and dancing skills. Sold! 🙂
    I remembered the first kpop video I saw, it was Sistar’s Alone. Besides being floored with the beautiful women and video, and the awesome catchy song, I wondered at the time “Why are these gorgeous women alone in Vegas? Pining for their Asian homeland? (So a little cultural adjustment was necessary.)

  3. i respect your decision to not write about p48, although right now i am defeating the purpose, reality shows such as these always annoy the fuck out of me because of how manipulative they are to their audience and just how much those audiences buy into it, creating an echochamber of useless “talent” debates over a trainee’s singing or dancing. however i do wonder just what makes those produce shows so popular and why do people care about them as much as they do…

  4. the last answer was very well written, reminded me why i read your blog in the first place, even if i have a wildly different music taste.

    although i personally agree with the thing about “work is not about passion but doing something you can do every day without going insane” i think it might depend on people’s personality after all. like most of these kids in kpop must be pretty fucking passionate about this job and want it A LOT to be able to put up with all the shit that it entails. but then again maybe they can do it since it;s not a profession one can have for 20 years.

  5. Wow. Reading through that question about the lyrics I started thinking of what KPop songs actually have good lyrics which I don’t ever consider usually since I don’t understand the language. But then I remembered watching TWICE videos on YouTube. I don’t know how it happens but whenever I’m on a JYPE video the closed captions come on automatically and I read the TWICE lyrics in between trying and hoping to catch a glimpse of Nayeon’s naval and the lyrics to the songs are always pretty neat, sometimes clever. The whole time I’ve been objectifying the members I had no idea their songs were ironically decent girl power anthems. I can’t speak for anything after ‘Likey’ but it’s unusually well produced for a JYP song unlike the singles before it and like the ones before it the lyrics aren’t bad. Then I see you nailed that one in your answer. Good shit

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