This article on KPop in the New Yorker has been going around lately and is an interesting read to me since, in the last few months, I’ve been paying attention to KPop more.
I had arranged to meet Toth because somewhere between my tenth viewing of the Girls’ video “Mr. Taxi” and my twentieth click on “Gee” it occurred to me that I might not know how much I loved these girls, either. “Listen, boy,” Tiffany coos at the outset of “Gee.” “It’s my first love story.” And then she tilts her head to the side and flashes her eye smile—the precise crinkle in the outer corner that texts her love straight 2U. Why was watching “Mr. Taxi” such pure audiovisual pleasure? Why did my body feel lighter in the chair? It wasn’t the music—bright, candy-cane-sweet sounds, like aural Day-Glo—and, while the dancing was wonderfully precise, the choreography had a schematic quality.
Based on what I’m aware of in the industry, it is a good summary of the issues (including exploitation etc) but I did find it a bit heavy on the tactics that the American music industry is using to incorporate KPop and Psy’s success into their roster. I’m a bit more skeptical about the likelihood that there will be any fusion between the American music industry and KPop than the author, and I think the angle that this article took only made sense because of Gangnam Style‘s huge, recent, success.
I see KPop as a genre of music that Asian culture (and some sub-cultures in America) will like, just like how Europe is fond of trance music but there isn’t a huge following in North America. When interviewed, I think the music executives have to say something to the respect that they’re looking at the opportunities that KPop provides, just like how a politician shouldn’t answer a question in a way that would sink his career; but in the back of their minds, they must know that American audiences won’t get behind 9-person or 12-person groups.
The first group to take the stage in Anaheim was SHINee, a boy band. The boys were fun to watch—heavily made-up and moussed male androgynes doing strenuous rhythmic dances. But I’m going to go out on a limb and say that there is no way that a K-pop boy group will make it big in the States. The degree of artistic styling is much more Lady Gaga than Justin Bieber. Perhaps there is an audience of ten-to-twelve-year-old girls who could relate to these guys, but there’s a yawning cultural divide between One Direction, say, and SHINee.
But, I do think that the American music industry can learn a lot from KPop groups on how to build and maintain a fanatic audience. That’s a better way of milking more money out of the few paying music fans, than bringing over established KPop stars.