a discussion of things brown….
So what is this? What to make of this?
We’re in the 21st century, aren’t we.
Not the first K-pop song feat. Western artists! Loona x Grimes, BTS x Halsey, BTS x Nicki Minaj, JYJ x Kanye West (10 years ago!…)
The song ‘Ice Cream’ is by Blackpink, a popular Korean pop (or Kpop) group, which has broken into the US Billboard Hot 100. The song features vocals from a White/Hispanic-American woman, and the lyrics are mostly in English. The group itself is composed of four women: two Koreans, one New Zealander of Korean descent, and one Thai. Their songs have been able to break into the Western market, and they are famous internationally, from Southeast Asia to Europe, to Latin America and (parts of) the Arab World. The featured song ‘Ice Cream’ has also been made viral on TikTok (ultimately a Chinese app), appearing in various videos including one featuring a Filipino-American woman lip-syncing to the song. It’s a catchy song inspired by American pop sensibilities.
Globalization created Kpop, and then Kpop created a globalized community of fans and consumers.
An even better example is BTS, who just released their first track in English (not Korean) and saw it go to #1 on the Billboard (US) Hot 100. But I guess if you prefer cute girls Blackpink will do 🙂
Kpop started out internationally as an Asian substitute for Jpop, because a lot of Asians had bad feelings toward Japan dating back to WW2 and before. And also because Japanese culture in general was just too damn quirky and weird to naturally appeal to a developing world and conservative Asian market. Over time, Jpop like Japanese culture in general has faded, lost its mojo almost completely at this point. Kpop then moved past its Japan-substitute phase and now from what I’ve heard (but I’m no expert) has actually been hoovering up American pop music professionals as the American market has gone all in on hip hop and away from pop and rock.
Kpop is still Korean despite conscious efforts to turn it international, and for the life of me I don’t get why so much of it is just so cheesy. You picked maybe the cheesiest music video I’ve seen in a while though. Generally speaking kpop is getting better in that regard. The other thing about S Korea (like Japan) is no hang-ups about borrowing from and being very inspired by Western and especially American culture. To this day America is the big brother and it’s perfectly fine to take whatever references you want from it. But because the borrowing is from a very foreign culture, they don’t get a lot of nuances and combine it together in all kinds of crazy ways. Another good example of this was Japanese street fashion circa 2000.
My general impression is that Japanese pop culture’s niche in the West has been nerds, while Korean pop culture’s niche has been dorks. If you’ve ever seen that venn diagram illustrating the difference between geeks, dorks, nerds, and dweebs.
“Over time, Jpop like Japanese culture in general has faded, lost its mojo almost completely at this point.”
Jpop may have faded but Japanese culture is still very much alive and kicking all over the world thanks to anime and video games
jpop was always niche. someone blew up once a decade in the usa. kpop seems to be lejit as a broader cultural force.
20th century vs 21st? the international aspect of kpop (thai, chinese, etc. ppl in these groups)
I remember the New Yorker deep dive writeup on Kpop a few years back, and how the industry executives who run kpop consider it a product of a “cultural technology” formula. They screen hundreds of teens for specific ‘look’ and appearances, add beats, add some suggestive dance and lyrics, and out comes another boy or girl band. Exoticism sells in any era, especially with a generous dash of sexuality.
298 million views. Wow. Never seen something with a *million* downvotes before (but it has 13 million ups so it’s OK). Thanks? for introducing us to this. I can’t be the only one of your readers who wouldn’t otherwise see this.
While we are on the subject of Kpop, an awesome serial that I recently watched is:
Hotel Del Luna
I have also read scores of translated Chinese, Korean, Japanese manga, animes, Light novels, etc. for at least a decade. At this point, I can even tell how authors of different SEA cultures write their stories. +? for being a pro in wasting time.
i’m at an age where i’m losing touch with the pulse of the culture, so i’m getting more interested…
There is a reason why I — and a lot of people — started disliking Japanese literature. The biggest reason is:
Beta male personality of Japanese MC
You can only read so much of MC being a doormat for everyone. The minority literature that has a normal MC are gems.
Also, the reason Jpop is not so popular is that it is centered more towards Karaoke. That is why it is mostly limited to Japan. Do watch Hotel Del Luna; its storyline is amazing — a serial worth seeing again and again. I watched it on English subtitles.
Kpop is bigger in the US and internationally than Jpop ever was, but I think it’s still pretty niche in the USA. I’m not looking for them, but I rarely meet non-Asian Kpop fans in my neck of the woods, and even among Asian-Americans it seems to be mostly a teenage girl thing. I think it would be embarrassing for a non-Korean Asian-American guy to be into Kpop at age 30 for example.
Kpop came of age during a time of absolutely rampant music piracy in S Korea and Asia, so they used music videos truly as promotional videos, to get hype around the artist and get people to buy concert tickets, which is where they made their money. And so the production companies and even the fans got really good at gaming billboard and youtube rankings, more so than even American artists do. I mean there are definitely Kpop fans in America, and the fans that exist are really into it, but I think just looking at billboard rankings or youtube views will exaggerate the popularity.
There was an “artist” called Takeshi69 who I never heard of until a NYT writeup a few weeks ago. A Dominican-American rapper from NYC popular with high school students I think. Went to jail for 2 years and just came out. The youtube video I saw had 1.5 billion views or something like that. And I live in NYC and never heard of him.
@timepass: Jpop isn’t nearly as popular as Kpop for 2 main reasons, I’d hazard.
1 reason is that back in the early 2000s when Kpop was getting started internationally, the domestic Korean music market was quite small, while the Japanese market was absolutely enormous. People still bought CDs in large numbers in Japan, and I think there were a few years when the Japanese market was actually larger than the US market. So while Koreans were making a push overseas into the rest of Asia, Japanese made no effort whatsoever. Why go after Thailand if the Japanese market is like 100 times bigger? Well now the Japanese market is not so big anymore, and shrinking every year, and it’s too little too late to try to beat Kpop especially in Asia.
The other main reason is beauty standards. Japanese like a “cute” girl/boy next door look, while Koreans go for impossible cosmetic surgery assisted good looks. It turns out the Korean way is more popular, to an extent even in Japan. Also, Jpop has kind of an amateurish feel to it compared to Kpop. There’s a production company oligopoly in Japan that’s been sitting on their huge market and making no effort for decades now. Meanwhile Koreans worked hard, got good at making slick music videos on the cheap, and the artists trained (especially at dancing) like crazy.
True. Korean girls look better than Japanese girls; could be because of plastic surgery. The other reason is that Koreans are like chameleons; they start following any dominant culture that they encounter; Indian, Chinese, Japanese to American culture, their society has changed its culture countless times. Furthermore, Koreans are extremely money and status minded — probably the topmost in this regard in the whole world. Their aping American culture and subsequent success in Kpop is due to this — as I understand.
In addition, Japanese beauty standards are very different as they have a rampant teen fetish due to rapidly aging society.
@timepass: if you actually go to S Korea you may be surprised how most Koreans really look! There are a minority that have a Kpop idol appearance, but most look pretty plain to my eye. Just like your average Americans walking around inside a Walmart aren’t going to look much like Brad Pitt.
Japanese have been into young female singers for ages, before they had a rapidly aging society and very low birthrates. It’s not about that. And it’s not like Kpop idols are much older. In fact the birth rate in Japan is considerably higher than in S Korea now, and you literally have people extolling Japanese for their high birth rates compared to the rest of developed Asia. S Korea is the lowest in the world, a TFR lower than 1.0 for 2 years running. Whatever happened in Japan in terms of a stagnant economy and culture is going to hit S Korea like a ton of bricks in about 10 years, without Japan’s enormous accumulated wealth circa 2000 to cushion the blow.
True. There are various things to like about Japanese. Their literature — including Chinese, Korean — gives you a different philosophical and life perspective. However, the thing that I dislike about Japanese is the sexualization of young girls — whom they call “lolis” — and condoning of perverts. I hope they reform their literature; otherwise, their society is fascinating with their blending of Shinto and Buddhism. They appear to me to be practically Hindus (even have Hindu origin gods and Sanskrit based scriptures) with a desire to be meritocratic.