I live in South Korea right now, and therefore I am constantly barraged with K-pop. For those of you who are not familiar with this fun, goofy music, it is truly awesome. I am a foreigner here, and so I am part of a kind-of foreigner community, and let me tell you, all foreigners hate K-pop. I actually have no idea why. I mean I have heard people say that they don’t like pop music, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that they’re lying. Pop music is designed to be easy to listen to, catchy and fun. Maybe it’s not your favorite, or it doesn’t move you, but you don’t like it? That’s virtually impossible! And saying you don’t like any “genre” of music is a pretty wild over-generalization. And K-pop is just like, 80’s pop music. It’s catchy, its fun, and it’s really easy to listen to. Yes it can be silly and some is bad, but 95% of anything is crap, and pop music isn’t designed to push boundaries or be extreme. It’s there for pure visceral enjoyment and aural pleasure. And it’s actually relatively complex in comparison to a lot of Western pop music. A lot of snobs or whatever will complain that pop music, especially K-pop is vapid and shallow, and just repetitive. And while some songs use 2 chords, a 3 note melody repeated over and over again, and a bunch of crazy sound effects, most do not. We’ve got catchy and inventive melodies, some great harmony a lot of the time, and chord progressions ranging from relatively simple to surprisingly complex. Modulations, polyphony, polyrhythms, and more! Even the typical pop song structure takes the occasional creative leap. Sure it’s usually in common time, the subjects have all been done before, and it is all wrapped up in a nice shiny bubbly package. But that doesn’t make it shallow! (to be quite honest, many pop songs all over the world fit this description too). And throwing Konglish in there is so cool, and creates such a neat effect. Having so much that you don’t need to try to understanding is really refreshing (that is, the Korean), and when the English makes a little cameo, you’re like, “hey i know you! awesome, rock on!”.
It makes you really notice that the individual words are not so important as the sounds, the phonemes, and that is a startlingly exciting thing to listen to. When you don’t worry about the words, you begin to really hear the poetry in the sound, and it is a whole different listening experience. If you listen to lieder art songs in other languages, you get the same effect, but not really in opera where you can follow along the libretto for the English translation.
Everyone in Korea is encouraged to become good at something, so there are way more people that are brilliant singers, pianists, cellists, guitar players etc. than in Canada anyways. That creates a huge pool of amazing talent to choose from. So all of these pop stars are supremely talented, no autotune and dubstep and other distractions. Yes they are all super hot too, but that doesn’t take away from anything at all, especially if you are just listening to it. And because music education is an actual thing here, pop musicians are drawing their inspirations from a much wider array of music than say, Justin Bieber is. So not only are they influenced by Western pop music, Japanese pop music, and European pop music, they also get the benefit of Bach and Mozart and Tchaikovsky (etc…). And on top of that, Korean traditional music and instruments play a part (albeit a small one).
It’s easy to ignore K-pop as being silly just because it is fun, but it’s really worth listening to. Here are a few of my faves. 🙂