Our generation’s teens and grown adults have been gripped on the new sensations of Korea’s multi-billionaire entertainment sensation: K-pop.
The stars of Korea’s entertainment industry, ‘idols’ are the celebrities that make up the hundreds and hundreds of kpop bands, consisting of at least four members, stretching to about fifteen members, that currently exist and continue to release their music. Music ranges from not only pop but to hip hop to ballads to electronic and so on, particularly including English phrases. The use of english phrases has attracted the hearts of many international fans, letting them sing along to the music.
On the whole, K-pop fans are incredibly supportive of the groups which have gained their interest, however when the first All-American K-pop group, EXP EDITION, came into the scene two years ago, controversy sparked.
EXP EDITION did not form just for fun, but rather as part of an experiment intended to explore gender, sexuality, business culture, fandom and cultural appropriation in K-pop. The project was started by Bora Kim, Karin Kuroda and Samantha Shao. The three wrote on their kickstarter page:
"EXP is the first New York based K-pop boy band. The name of EXP came from “experiment”, to emphasize the importance of innovation, risk taking and challenges. More specifically, EXP is influenced by talented K-pop idol groups like EXO, BIG BANG and BTS. K-pop definitely includes and is inspired by a wide range of genres, similar to any other pop music. However, what makes K-pop different is its emphasis on the idea of "visible music," characterized by its high production quality and charming ability to engage viewers."
She further wrote "IMMABB [I'm Making A Boy Band] brings issues such as cultural appropriation and gender performativity into the actual surface of the entertainment sector, beginning with the fact that none of the EXP members are Korean, which begins to deconstruct concepts of race and representation in media."
EXP recently released their new MV, 'FEEL LIKE THIS', in which they sing in Korean. Many K-pop fans are wary of the new group, and many claim that they should not have tried to enter the Korean entertainment marke. They mention that EXP had the potential to become successful anywhere else. Others are willing to accept the group, praising them for their hard work, especially in learning Korean.
The group released their MV Teaser, which is already a common pattern in pretty much all K-pop groups. YouTube comments are also contradicting:
Some say: "They don't deserve hate, these guys have a lot of confidence to put their music out for everyone. Especially with all the hate they are getting for their race. I will support this group. It takes so much courage to sing in another language and accept the negativity. Remember music should bring us together, no matter what genre or race."
Many support this comment, mentioning how much effort the group have put into their work, coming from a completely different culture. Many praise them for debuting from a small group, considering the financial costs of creating a K-pop group.
Others say: "A lot of people believe we are mad because they are a 'new Kpop group' that doesn't consist of 'cute Asian boys' and that we're just being downright racist. No, that is not the reason why EXP is getting so much hate at all. Its the fact that they believe putting the Korean before the word pop is going to automatically gain them recognition and popularity when the groups we stan [meaning 'support'] trained for YEARS just to debut. They believe that they can just hop in the K-pop group bandwagon and immediately be loved by many."
Many also claim that "they're basically copying everything". Many people have observed that EXP EDITION's concept looks very similar to the styles of other highly popular K-pop groups. “K-pop is supposed to be a safe space for Asians to have a platform for entertainment that they often times aren’t given in the west. Because of the narrative that white westerners have projected onto them, Asians are often portrayed as undesirable, anti-social, and nerdy. They are hardly ever given leading roles in movies, and are not really taken seriously or given opportunities in entertainment positions…we don’t need mediocre white boys trying to be idols in Korea when they are able to become successful in literally any other part of the world,” adds another K-pop fan.
Personally, as an avid K-pop fan, I cannot see this group becoming as successful as other groups who have been trained by large entertainment agencies. I understand that the group have gone through many hardships to take this opportunity, however I believe their style is too similar and generic. Additionally, hardships are nothing short of the thousands of trainees in South Korea. The music video for their latest single 'FEEL LIKE THIS' sounds as mainstream as American pop. From the title, it is not hard to guess the theme of the song at all. I tend to appreciate groups who experiment with their styles, have lyrics which don't always complain about love, and as a bonus for me, produce their own songs. I cannot see this in EXP EDITION so far. Many K-pop fans will have to wait and see how this group fares musically and in popularity.
Zarya Mekathotti, Newstead Wood School