K-Pop Music Culture: One Final Look

Image Source: beyondhallyu.com

Image Source: beyondhallyu.com

Reflecting on my previous accounts on the K-Pop culture, I have experienced a lot! I feel so engaged and in tune with K-Pop, that I kind of want to be the love interest in Super Junior’s new song. Looking back on my experience, I feel that I engaged with the notion of K-Pop music culture rather than just with the phenomenon itself. It has been so enjoyable, and its like I have been of a different world, that is so amazing.

As mentioned before, I am quite the music lover. I was only open to any genre, as long as it was danceable and had a decent beat. The idea of K-Pop becoming part of my iTune playlist, was never something I considered, prior to now. In fact, I didn’t even know K-Pop existed until starting this subject. I am constantly looking into the latest music (although I must admit its been predominantly Western music) and I’m always searching for something new and so good that it makes your ears melt, that many people may not be aware of at the time, which is EXACTLY what K-Pop encompasses. Even though K-Pop isn’t really a mainstream thing in Australia, I believe that enough people hear about, they may begin to appreciate and get involved with the excitement and vivaciousness of the genre. This was definitely the case with Psy’s 2012 SMASH ‘Gangnam Style’ which literally took over the world. Everybody, everywhere was singing ‘heeeeeeeeeey sexy lady’ and couldn’t get enough of the catchy dance moves. This happening can lead to so much potential for K-Pop to become a mainstream, global genre, and its really exciting.

After reflecting on the music I was exposed to (predominantly K-Pop boybands) along with the subcultures I have witnessed, I feel appreciative of this foreign culture and the influence that some parts of Western lifestyle (like the English language) play in the genre. Coming from a Macedonian background, I can somewhat connect to the differences in culture, which creates a deeper connection than I thought was possible. I have experienced an entirely new level of cultural identity and understanding, of which I am pretty thankful. This in turn, has created almost an epiphany within myself. It was so foreign, so strange, but it was right in front of me the whole time, even during the screening of Godzilla a few weeks. My instant connection with the Asian culture, and K-Pop in general, stems from my own background as a Macedonian living in Australia. I can connect with the differences and appreciate them more, because I am living it here in Australia, with my own cultural differences. I probably won’t partake in the K-Pop lifestyle myself, however it is so liberating seeing this in a world that is constricted in following the rules and social normalities.

The international bridges that K-Pop is trying to build is way too cool for words, and I really feel that it is such an important part of one society’s identity and cultural experience. I loved discovering every aspect of the phenomena, and maybe one day, it won’t seem so foreign for the Western world.

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K-Pop Music Culture: Going A Little Further

Image Source: pinterest.com

Image Source: pinterest.com

In my previous blog post, I wrote a autoethnographic account of my experience watching a 2 hour special of the program, PopAsia, showcasing the classic and latest pop music hits around Korea. I was a bag full of emotions. Intrigued, shocked, interested and curious. My mind was trying to wrap itself around what my eyes were seeing, so it was a little hard to take it all in and consume and analyse at the same time. It was so foreign and new to me, that I completely forget to really break down the experience.

Instead of delving into what KPop means, as Ellis, Adams and Bochner (2011) discuss, autoethnography is not just describing but analysing your personal experience.

Since watching the program, I have officially fallen in love with the idea of KPop. It is so unique and interesting, that is impossible not to appreciate it. So, in order to make sense of it all, I have delved a little deeper into the many angles surrounding this funky musical genre, specifically looking into boy bands and how it all contributes to not only my experience, but also Korea as a culture/fandom.

Looking back on my PopAsia experience, I noticed a few things that can be categorised as subcultures within the KPop boy band genre.

Firstly, there was so much Fashion. For both male and female artists, their fashion sense and style was not only a reflection of their “performer” status, but a symbol of the Korean fashion scene. It was risky, futuristic, vivid and over the top. Something we are not used to seeing in a Western society.

Secondly, the stereotype of Masculinity. Typically, in a Western culture, we relate masculinity to strength, bravery and toughness. This is basically the opposite in the KPop scene, predominantly in the boy band world. The male performers sported long, colourful hair, a significant amount of eye and face makeup, feminine clothing and tons of jewellery. This was both bizarre and awesome coming from someone who up until now has been clueless to Korean music.

And thirdly, the cartoon form of anime. Anime is not as obvious as the other two, yet it is still present. Anime is such a huge part of not only the Korean culture, but Asia as a whole. There were two examples of this. 1. The singers were physically, almost cartoon like. The facial features were not stereotypically Asian, with double eyelids and large eyes, with all other facial features dainty.  2. The live programs consisted of the integration of anime cartoons of the singers, as part of the performance. Their human movements mimicked those of the anime, which in turn, was mimicked by the fandom.

It was obvious to me that these forms of subcultures play a significant role in the popularity, lifestyle and realm of Korean pop culture. Without them, I don’t think KPop would be, what it is.

To further investigate, I went a little crazy on YouTube searching for KPop boy bands, subscribing to as many channels as I could possibly find. Once again, I almost forgot about the autoethnographic experience, which is a side effect of what YouTube does to you. Boy bands including Super Junior, Big Bang and EXO, which proved to be the most popular regarding the fandom culture.

Also, following on from the PopAsia program, I went online to research other KPop music programs. One of Korea’s most loved is Music Bank. Music Bank is a live broadcast of KPop music performers and artists, along with a countdown of the top Korean songs of the week. After watching five episodes, the eccentric and bubbly lifestyle is evident each time. Anime, kawaii culture, karaoke and international focus, all contribute to the KPop genre, which I feel has given a new insight into how to make sense of KPop and adding to my viewing experience. The program is almost a reflection of past Australia music programs such as Rage and Countdown. This kind of took me back to a simpler music time, and it was really easy to connect and appreciate.

I also decided to follow the PopAsia and MusicBank pages on Facebook, to gather some perspective on KPop and make sense of what it truly means. Through reading and watching the feeds, I saw an entirely new side to not only Korean culture, but KPop in general (and what makes it so special). The connection of these news feeds to their fandom is the most important element. You can see there is a lot of mutual respect between producers and consumers. What I have always known about music just being about music, is greatly changing, given the subcultures that are present in KPop. I’m REALLY looking forward to researching even more into KPop music sensation and the effects this has on fandom culture.

K-Pop Music Culture: My Autoethnographic Experience

Image Source:

Image Source:

I have always been a huge music buff, and I’m open to any genre of music (as long as it has a danceable beat). Considering this, I have decided to investigate the music channel of K-Pop. Up until this point, I have only ever been exposed to K-Pop music in the form of the ever so popular, 2012 smash hit ‘Gangnam Style’. This was such a phenomenon, and I became quite intrigued with the whole ordeal. I wanted to know more, and hear more, from a style of music that was so foreign to me.

The likes of MTV and Channel V are the Western world’s go-to television programs for 24/7 popular music videos, so I thought to myself that surely there is something out there for Korean music.

Researching into Asian music television programs, the name that constantly kept popping up online was ‘PopAsia’. I thought to myself, clearly this is a winner, simply given the name of the program! The SBS PopAsia Show is an Australian music television show which broadcasts Asian pop hits from around South Korea, Japan and the Republic of China. I began my autoethnographic experience by tuning in Sunday morning, 9am, for two hours of non-stop K-Pop special.

The first song on the playlist was ‘Fantastic Baby’ by the Korean boy band, Big Bang. I am not going to lie, I really enjoyed every aspect of the video.

My initial reaction was laughter. I recall saying to myself “What the heck am I watching? What is this?” The eccentric costumes, the loud hairstyles, the random scenarios, the repetition of the word ‘boom-shacka-lacka” the cheesy dance music and the dramatic dance sequences were pretty overwhelming. My first impression wasn’t something I was expecting. I think my laughter came both from nervousness and culture shock. It didn’t take long to start dancing along to the catchy tune, and before I knew it I was submerged into the entirety of the K-Pop experience.

As the song went on, I also noticed a few references to the English language as an ideology of Western culture. This was a small shock, and I felt somewhat of a connection to the song (despite not speaking/understanding a word of Korean). This was evident in the songs that followed, with one to five English words, repeated over and over again. It was interesting as this gave a new perspective on the consumption of K-Pop music, as a Western viewer.

Also as the music videos went on, you can’t help but notice a sub-culture intertwined within the genre. The use of fashion and issue of masculinity is heavily present. The futuristic outfits, the men wearing makeup, with long hair and tons of bling (typically female things to do) were obvious from the get go, and made me rethink the meaning of masculinity and how it clearly differs to how Australians define a masculine man.

I believe it is important to look into more detail of these subcultures, and determine how they affect each other, along with identifying how this makes up the K-Pop culture.

Image Source: sbs.com.au

Image Source: sbs.com.au

The K-Pop genre is so unique and out-of-the-box that is hard not love, even if you are foreign to the language. As a starting point in my autoethnographic research into the channel of K-Pop, in an Australian context, I feel that I have gained new insight into a genre that is widely popular and I plan to further investigate into this rich culture.