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Why Don't Idol Groups Work In America?
In Japan and Korea, idols are a huge deal. The fandoms surrounding idols and idol groups are massive, with a ton of merch, lingo, events, etc surrounding the entertainers. So why isn't that happening in America? The UK tried it out with One Direction and we have a few girl groups like Fifth Harmony and Little Mix, but for the most part the classic pop group ensemble faded away in the early 2000s. Here are a few reasons why it might not work: I'm not saying either opinion is correct - just stating how the general public views celebrities in America vs Korea/Japan. I'm not an expert on either so please share your opinions as well! 1. The Concept of Being An Idol Sure, celebrities in the US know that they are role models, but do they really take this as their job?! In Japan and Korea, a single slip up can mean public humiliation (such as when an AKB48 member had a boyfriend - she had to shave her head as an apology) while in America celebrities insist on their personal rights to do whatever they want. In their opinion, just because you're a celebrity doesn't mean you aren't allowed a personal life. They should be able to be in the lime light but also have a lot of personal life that shouldn't be judged by the public, In Japan/Korea, every aspect of an entertainers life is analyzed and people know that is just part of the job. You must be a model citizen at all times and any bad behaviour (whether its on or off camera) is bad for your company, your career, and your fans. 2. Company Loyalty In America, we know the big companies like Warner, Sony, etc, but we rarely pay attention to what label each artist is on. And even if they're on the same label they don't really work together so its hard for fans to be loyal to one company. The closest I think we can get to that is waaay back with Motown Records or more recently the bands that came out on Fueled By Ramen. Smaller hip hop labels still keep this group style too! We could actually see the connection the artists had on those labels and could support the label as well as the artists. Now in Korea, we all know that companies are a big deal. YG Family, JYP, Cube, SM, etc. They do things together like concerts, Christmas songs, etc. We are able to anticipate the company's new project or collaboration. It's easier for the fans to get hyped over multiple groups at once. 3. Pre-Packaged In America, bands are usually put together by the band members. Whether they start in a garage or they put up flyers to find members, it is the band that forms first, then the label that signs them. In Korea and Japan however, we have a TON of trainees all hoping to be perfectly placed in a group. Think of the show Produce! Perfect example of prepackaging :) One Direction is an example of that happening where the boys were somewhat put together by a label, but musical and personality differences got in the way :/ 4. Training Idols train a LOT. Sure, in America entertainers practice, train, get vocal lessons, learn new instruments, get prepped for interviews etc but they are not forced to practice for 12 hours a day. Living in dorms without cell phones or internet, being forced to learn languages, dances, public speaking, etc - its totally normal in the idol world. Because of this, idols should be pretty prepared for anything. I'm not so sure American entertainers would be up for this style of training. Can you think of other reasons why the "idol" style of the music industry doesn't work in America?
Kpop is Actually Born from Korean Protest Songs
Alright so I'm a total history nerd, I majored in East Asian Studies and eat stuff like this up. Read the full (long!) article here - I will try to explain it basically, but its really worth the read. Here we go: It all started with Japan. As you might know, Japan colonized Korea eventually trying to erase Korean culture all together on the peninsula. In the very beginning though, that wasn't the case. Japan was willing to share Korean and Japanese culture, and the Japanese and Korean elite often spoke together and traded pop culture. Japanese elite brought over Western-influenced music because of their connections with the Western world (which Korea didn't interact with other than missionaries at the time) The Korean elite wanted to be modern and successful like Japan, so they adopted this music (called Changga) as their new favorite genre. (You can hear a lot of European influences in early Korean music...) This is where it gets interesting. The Korean elite wanted to be independent of Japan. They wanted Korea to stand alone as a strong nation, not pushed around by China or Japan anymore. They stared the pro-independence movement. Now, most revolutions like this would turn to traditional music, traditional culture to strengthen the country (for example, Korea would use ancient Korean songs to protest the Japanese occupation) but the Korean elite didn't! They wanted Korea to be strong, and to be strong they felt like they needed to modernize - ie be like the West. They used this Changga music (ironically brought to them by Japan) to protest Japanese rule! To this day Korea is always trying to "keep up with" the Western world so that they can be considered modern and powerful. Most things that they do is to modernize and stay trendy because that is how the country has always defined strength. But then, Japan decided to make money off of that... Japan had seen its first real pop music hit in 1914. People were buying records, following tabloids, and really getting into pop culture. That was really the birth of the Japanese music industry. In 1926, Korea had a similar experience. A song called the "Death Song" appeared, sung by Yun Shim-Deok. The singer committed suicide with her lover right after the song was released and the story made HUGE headlines. It was chilling, 'romantic,' and dramatic. Korea ate it up. Japanese record companies came in and started selling the record, selling over 50,000 copies! (In 1926 that number is totally insane!) You can listen to the death song here: The record industry after that was run mainly by the Japanese yakuza and their partnered Korean gangsters. The industry was set up very similar to how it is now, with entertainment industries doing everything in-house (SM has specific song writers that only work for SM, and their artists are actors, singers, models, etc) This is also why so many Kpop artists become actors...because even back in the 1920s musicians couldn't make enough money so the real way to make a living was through acting. That still stands today. So, today's Kpop is based off of this first "Korean pop" hit (the death song) AND protest songs against Japan. So when people say that Kpop is just a copy of Western music, they're sort of right but not in the way that they're thinking. Yes, its a reflection of Western culture, but the reason behind it is that Korea has been fighting to be recognized as a modern, powerful force to be reckoned with since the early 1900s. They want people to know Korea is strong, modern, and a country to look up to, not look down upon. So the next time someone tells you Kpop is a lame copy of American pop - give them this little history lesson. Again, PLEASE read the full article - its so interesting! HERE it is!
BTS Fire and WTF Is Tropical House?
Alright y'all, we're going to talk about a topic that affects each and every one of us: TROPICAL HOUSE. It's a subgenre of house music that is influenced by instruments such as steel drums usually used in Jamaican, Cuban, etc music. It's been getting more and more popularity these days but I was still surprised to hear it in at BTS song! It is most noticeable in Rap Mon's part at 2:15. That awesome sound in the back? That's classic Tropical House music! Here are some more examples if you dig that sound: Jeremih - Don't Tell 'Em Thanks to @Lizzeh for reminding me about this awesome example!!!! Justin Bieber - Sorry & What Do You Mean Beibs made his comeback completely backed by this music. It sounds fresh, fun, and you CAN'T STOP LISTENING TO IT. Kygo - Stay Often referenced as the king of the rebirth of TropHouse, Kygo is your go-to DJ if you want nothing but Tropical House in your ears. Skrillex and Diplo - Where Are Ü Now This was the song that really brought the sound to mainstream recently. Those "dolphin sounds" or however you choose to describe it...yup, TropHouse. Fifth Harmony - Worth It & Work It's leaking into the girl group pop scene too with Fifth Harmony using an almost 8-bit take on Trop-Pop. Still groovy. Jamie XX - Loud Places And then we have Jamie XX that combines his smooth sleepy sounds from the XX with the catchy pop of Tropical House. Needless to say, it was love at first listen. Even though it has existed for a long time (and the influences that inspired existed looooooooooong before) I'm glad to hear more of it now in mainstream music! Enjoy!