THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN AMERICAN AND KOREAN K-POP

 Photo Credit: Big Hit Entertainment

Photo Credit: Big Hit Entertainment

Korean K-pop? So, Korean Korean pop music? 'Is that what she meant to write?' you might be thinking, and I absolutely did mean to write it! Why? Well, because as with any music style, particularly one in a foreign language, the personal tastes, and styles of that country can differ from your own. So, this can be interpreted as a Korean individuals' mindset of Korean pop music vs. an American individuals' mindset of Korean pop music! Simple, right?

Repeat this motto: Korean pop music is not meant to be seen or treated as American music. Phew, glad we got that out of the way! With the rise of BTS and K-pop (or just added views for desperate YouTubers), many new fans can be confused by some of the aesthetic and vocal choices in this diverse music style! Well, no need to be confused because I'll give you a general overview of why exactly Korean pop music is just so damn...different? 

THE BASIC QUESTION: “WHY IS EVERYTHING SO CUTE?!”

 Photo credit: JYP entertainment

Photo credit: JYP entertainment

Yes, whether you’re a newbie to K-pop or been a K-pop fan for years, “cute” is something ever-present in K-pop music videos. It’s an eclectic taste, which refuses to go out of style. Other adjectives which can describe a lot of K-pop music:

  • Bright
  • Cheery
  • Pastel
  • …cute
  • …CUTE

Wow, did you see the commonalities of some of these adjectives (note heavy sarcasm)? While there is nothing wrong with any of them, it can be a bit confusing to a new fan. There are many differences in music styles between eastern and western cultures, which is what makes K-pop so great, but, also, a little frustrating. As an American, I find myself craving more “hard-core” concepts amongst the cutesy frills in K-pop girl groups, or the “darker” rapping styles of K-pop boy groups, instead of pastels. Below, I’ll lay out a perfect example of the juxtaposition between these two styles!

“TOUCH” – NCT 127

Pretty cute, right? Okay, onward to next one!

“LIMITLESS” – NCT 127

Notice the, uh, difference? Mind you, perhaps NCT 127, a constantly experimenting group, isn’t the best example, but it’s the one that sparked my interest in this topic! Other groups such as VIXX, BTS, EXO, BLACKPINK, and even BIG BANG, have these different styles which constantly contradict themselves.

Cute sells in Korea, and with NCT 127 killing it internationally, the group's numbers in Korea are nowhere near the same level. As a result, SM Entertainment made the decision to switch out the boys' red tracksuits and swagalicious rap styles to appeal to a more teenage, fangirl audience. Hey, kudos to the company, because "TOUCH" is a brilliant culmination of the group's usual fast flow mixed in with Easter pastels. 

Could anything else be purer than this? I think not!

Here's another example which made me always stop and go, 'huh?' If I were to be honest, coming from a small company can definitely make the transition from 'badass' to 'cute' a bit off-putting. What SM Entertainment can do in advertising and marketing, very few companies can compete, including CUBE Entertainment. 

"어디야?(Where are you?)" - CLC

Probably one of the most retro songs of the 21st Century. I feel like I'm trapped in a 80's flick and I'm loving it...or, well, kind of.

"Black Dress" - CLC

Again another major difference with almost no commonality. While, yes, the majority of time cute does sell in K-pop it also enables itself to experiment. There is no one set "sound" in K-pop music, but just different trends and aesthetics that never seem to fade. Like the weird emergence of mullets (why JB why?!) and tropical house beats pounding in our ears. But, at the end, this is what makes K-pop great, because every old is new again and every fades and goes. In a culture where the history is rich and prideful, K-pop holds itself to the same standard and constantly takes pride in its chameleon-like sound. Where else can you get retro 80's track one month to then women dancing on poles the next? 

Regardless of this, some things just DO sell, and these K-pop artists are trying to appeal to, well, Koreans! This might be a shocker to many Westerners, but in order to make REAL money, I mean the money to EAT, these artists need to appeal to their main demographic. 

So, bring on the cute pastels and frills and tracks about 'first loves' because that's just what makes K-pop...K-pop

Stay Kurrent. Stay K-pop.

Note: None of the images are owned by me and the cover page images are from CUBE Entertainment