MY GRADUAL DISSOCIATION TOWARDS KOREAN POP MUSIC
Updated: Oct 1
I am finally back on here after a very long time! With Fall semester coming to an end, my program has been squeezing the life out of me with assignments. Running back and forth from my placements and working in between my classes plus, other personal situations. I am back though so, allons-y!
Disclaimer:This is an opinion piece on my journey with this music genre and with that, I am expressing my personal feelings. This is not an article; you may not agree with the ideas presented but that is completely fine. It’s one of the many joys that comes with having an opinion. I am speaking from my heart and my discomfort. This is merely a reflection of that.
Flashback to May 2015. Due to the ongoing strike of Ontario teachers, I was at home bored out of my mind with nothing to do. One fateful day, I was scrolling through Twitter and discovered a tweet about a new song from BoA. For those who may not know (which I would assume is many), BoA is a Korean pop singer, actress and dancer, who is insanely popular all over East Asia. Being the geek that I am for anime, my knowledge of her was very limited. Regardless of that, I decided to check it out. The song’s high-pitched melodies and catchy tune filled my ears. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it and continued to several times. That one song opened up a portal of an unknown music from a country I really did not know existed. Looking back at it now, I was not ready for whirlpool of emotions and feelings this genre of music was going to bring me.
From TVXQ to BTS I became deeply obsessed with K-Pop and all of the attention it required. The dancing, comebacks, concepts, I was enthralled with the whole process. The industry is calculative, precise with each group created and perfected. I fell in love with the whole aspect then you know it became my life.
Korean Pop music, the genre takes upon many elements and styles of music including but not limited to: Pop, EDM, House Music, R&B and the notorious genre everyone has come to enjoy (and appropriate) Hip-Hop. I would even argue that the very beginnings of K-pop were heavily influenced by Hip-Hop and Rap. With pioneer groups such as Seo Taiji and Boys, it would be nearly impossible to separate Hip-Hop from their music. It is inevitable that the popularity of Hip-Hop will subside in the future and in K-pop, with a lot of current idol groups (BTS, NCT, Big Bang etc.) basing their whole concept and sound off of the genre.
Now where am I going with this? Why I am I rambling aimlessly about this subject and its effects on me? Throughout my journey listening to Korean music, while subconsciously immersing myself in the culture, I was turning my eye many times to the constant discrimination, racism and appropriation of black culture and people and as Ms. Juicy once said,“I’ve had it”! I am done. Over it. It is truly astonishing the amount of times there has been a news report of a celebrity or idol being racist or ignorant towards black people. It has been repeated too many times for my liking. For how long can this blatant ignorance be excused?
"Imitating AAVE (African American Vernacular English) and how black people act does not equate into being a talent, it is just flat-out racist and embarrassing to all parties."
Drawing back from what I said earlier, the voice of Hip-hop is truly influential in K-pop. From the sound of the music to the image, K-pop groups have loosely embodied this genre into “concepts”. Now by all means, I am not an expert on hip-hop or rap. My knowledge is very limited to the confines of my brother, a university course I took last year, and the documentary called“Hip-Hop Evolution”on Netflix. However, with that, I do believe that it is born from something so pure, so raw to Black people and is something that cannot be reproduced into a gimmick. Many groups in K-pop have taken Hip-hop and have poorly imitated it to stereotypes such as, wearing cornrows, big chains, terrible flow, and even twerking to top it all off. Taking these elements from what is shown from Western mainstream media, looking cringe while appropriating one’s culture was something that really bothered me.
"To invalidate my feelings as a black person where, everyone bites from our culture, our slang, our entire beings, until we’re left with nothing, but crumbs insults me."
To add on, since hip-hop is embedded in the very core of Black culture, it would be ironic of me not to mention said black culture and people. And, being used as a novelty for entertainment has gotten redundant. For those who actually listen to K-pop and have invested some time in pop culture in Korea, you have most likely come across an idol or musician showcasing their “talent” at the expense of black people. Particularly, K-pop idols who grew up for some time in North America but, have completely forgotten how to act since moving to East Asia. Imitating AAVE (African American Vernacular English) and how black people act does not equate into being a talent, it is just flat-out racist and embarrassing to all parties. K-pop artists such as Jooheon of Monsta X,Wendy from Red Velvet, Zico of Block Band even RM of worldwide known boy band of BTShave all mocked AAVE and used it at some point in time to showcase “personality”. How that is even acceptable, I do not understand. To shamelessly impersonate the people where most of your inspiration for music comes from, I found disturbing.
The last concern, I was not going to touch upon because for myself, I have mixed emotions. When it comes to the N-word, I struggle with the idea of using it as a form of reclamation. However, I also feel that it doesn’t negate the known fact that if you’re not Black, do not use that word. It is not difficult to go on about your life and NOT use a word that is not intended for you. In K-pop, whenever there are controversies involving the n-word, primarily affecting black fans, the majority of the fandom community is so quick to defend the actions. This act of coddling silences us fans who are offended and reduce our complaints as “overreacting”. To invalidate my feelings as a black person where, everyone bites from our culture, our slang, our entire beings, until we’re left with nothing, but crumbs insults me. I have to deal with it enough already however, I refuse to deal with it when it comes to the music I choose to listen to.
In spite of all the racism I’ve dealt with K-Pop music, in a twisted sense, I am somewhat grateful for it . I have met some of the best of friends through it and it has helped gone through one of the most traumatic moments of life, losing a loved one. Girl group 2NE1’s catchy ballads "아파 (Slow)" and “If I Were You 살아봤으면해” were songs that I played during this tough time in my life and I am thankful for that but for now, it’s a no for me. I refuse to continue to support something that vehemently disrespects black culture and chooses to be ignorant on our issues. I am not doing myself a disservice anymore. This black woman cannot afford to.
I hope y'all gained anything from this post. Let me know your thoughts.
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RENEE SHIAN xx