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.


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