Keep on keepin’ on
These past few days have been pretty emotionally exhausting for various reasons, and recent events have made me consider giving up K-pop blogging for good. The response from this post was, obviously, far more explosive than I could have ever imagined, and while I welcome the criticisms towards my opinion or even my writing style, I don’t think that anything I could have done is deserving of the amount of sheer vitriol and baseless personal hatred that’s been hurled at me as a result.
The comments posted directly on the article are pretty brutal already, but if you guys could see the number of private messages I’ve received via email and Formspring that not only attack my character as a human being, but contain numerous threats and personal attacks, you’d probably be able to understand why it’s so difficult for me to “screw the haters” and just move on. I’ve had someone tell me that I ought to commit suicide and that I don’t deserve to live. Others have taken shots at my family, particularly my parents. This whole ordeal has taken a great, great psychological and emotional toll on me, and while I’m not saying that I, as a writer and a blogger, am completely blameless and am not deserving of criticism, I don’t think that anything I could have written is deserving of someone to tell me to kill myself. One would think it easy to just shake it off and say “it’s only the internet,” but I’ve discovered that regardless of their method of transmission, these messages cut deep, letting the darkest parts of you seep out and consume you.
I’m thankful to the Seoulbeats team for being so supportive during this time, giving me the space to get away from the cacophony surrounding the post and just breathe. I think we, as Seoulbeats writers, take on a very dangerous role because the topics we cover are sensitive and there’s so much room to screw up (badly), and the consequences are dire — dire in the fact that the internet is a really horrible place where normal people turn into monsters and the comment fields of posts soon turn into angry mobs calling for the blood of a person they’ve never met…over something as inconsequential as a K-pop article.
I was planning on doing a whole spiel on the inherent paradox in K-pop blogging and the difficulties with writing for an audience that doesn’t really care what you have to say but is still more than willing to hurt and disrespect you. But the situation itself has been filled with way too much poison as is, and I don’t need to add to it any further. Nevertheless, I’m still going to keep writing because it’s what I love and I still have a lot more to say, even if no one will listen anymore. But I will do so with a sense of great caution from now on — because I don’t want to make the same mistakes again, yes, but also because I can’t risk getting hurt anymore.
And with that…public service announcement, 끝! Let’s get back to business — and that’s “Business” with a capital B…as in “B1A4.” :)
B1A4: “This Time is Over + Baby, I’m Sorry” (Music Bank, March 16th)
First of all, I thought Chance was going to be producing this mini-album, but I don’t see (or hear!) him anywhere in this. Of course, I can’t help but be a little disappointed. But hey — the song’s not bad, so there’s no real room for complainin’.
I like B1A4 a lot, but I think that there’s always going to be something about this group that makes my heart sink a little. These guys are awesome performers in every technical aspect (save for the fact that none of them can dance, but at this point, who really cares), but they’re just so stereotypically “K-poppy” that it’s difficult for their abilities to really shine.
There are some Korean artists and idol groups with names that stick (e.g. DBSK, SNSD, Big Bang, SHINee, Wonder Girls) — groups that have usually done a significant amount of product endorsements, overseas activities, or other things that have helped broaden their reputation. These groups are groups that we know are here to stay; groups that will have some sort of legacy. But then there are groups that seem to be stuck forever under the K-pop banner (e.g. Secret, Dalmatian, Sistar, Dal Shabet, Boyfriend). These groups tend to pop up out of nowhere under unknown companies and put out music that fit under the stereotypical K-pop “genre.” These are the groups that might be bad or might be great, but don’t really seem to hold much promise for a decade-long career or significant international recognition.
It’s as if there’s now a separation between 가요 (which is what most K-pop and other popular Korean music used to be known as) and this new “K팝” genre that is uniquely its own. Maybe a rookie group crosses the threshold between K-팝 and 가요 after a certain amount of years, but then how does one explain groups like 2PM, miss A and Beast, who have been around for a while and have the chops to compete with the 가요 folks but still seem firmly planted in the K팝 camp? Or how about EXO, which hasn’t even debuted yet but is practically guaranteed to have a long-term career in the 가요 camp simply because it’s an SM group?
Obviously, differentiating between the two divisions doesn’t require a set formula as much as it requires a sense of general intuition, and my intuition is telling me that B1A4 is going to be stuck in the K팝 camp for good. Everything about B1A4 is so produced, so K-poppified, so fantastic, so elastic. Their music is good, and their aesthetic is good, but there’s nothing special about it that sets them any higher than their peers. But with performing chops as good as theirs, one can’t help but wish more for them.
But, of course, we’re in that sad, sad predicament where the group is the sole breadwinner of a virtually unknown record company and hasn’t received much attention apart from the members of their fisticuff-prone fanclub. I personally like these guys a lot, but I have a hard time taking them seriously outside of weekly music shows and the occasional variety appearance. But I don’t see them going anywhere higher than that.
The group themselves have said that their biggest goal this promotional cycle was to win as many music show awards as possible, which sucks considering that they’re promoting at the same time as Big Bang and SHINee, which basically kills any chance they might have had at winning an award. But what I think is even more tragic is the fact that B1A4 has made music show awards the pinnacle of their promotional goals. It seems to me that most artists in the K팝 camp don’t have much exposure beyond their weekly appearances at MuBank or Inkigayo, and so the realm of their existences is thus restricted to a music show stage. In that sense, winning a weekly music show award practically becomes the highlight of a K팝 star’s career. But artists in the 가요 camp pick up these awards and use them for paperweights — or maybe they’re not that brusque with their glass MuBank trophies, but you know what I mean — cry over the first award of the season, and then throw the rest up on the shelf as they come while you perform in five countries a week or something to that effect.
I wish that WM Entertainment would let B1A4 assert themselves as capable of reaching past the K팝 realm, because they’re certainly capable of doing so. Yeah, they can’t dance, but they can sing — so why not give them something a little more vocally challenging? I think it’s great that Jinyoung and Baro composed “Baby, I’m Sorry,” but the song sounds so similar to everything else that B1A4 has released, and it’s a little hard to be impressed. B1A4 needs to take itself more seriously — not because they’re not working hard enough or anything, but because they ought to think of themselves as a group that’s capable of achieving more than a music show award. Shoot for the moon and land among the stars, or something like that.
On a related note, CNU needs more love. This kid is good enough to serve as the vocal anchor of the whole group and he only gets to pop out two or three times for the whole song. Injustice.