I thought I would have been safe from the black hole of kpop. Let’s just say I was wrong.
Last semester, I was taking a media and culture class that discusses the relationship between pop culture, technology, and society. I selected the presentation topic of economy and fandoms as well as queer spectatorship in kpop. This, I should have known, would have been the beginning of the end. I was working on the later presentation, and I concluded that I wanted to include a music video at the end. I quickly went to YouTube and searched ‘kpop.’ The first video that appeared was BTS’ “DNA,” or, also known as, the beginning of my slow, enjoyable death.
In each of my presentations, I talked about the passion fans have for artists that they stand behind. This act of obsessive fanship can also be referred to as the act of stanning an artist. Stanning, coming from the word ‘stan,’ in pop culture is a mix between fan and stalker. Although there may not be any stalking going on with where I am, there is this innate obsession that cannot be explained.
When I tell people I listen to kpop, I think I am usually given the response “but you don’t know Korean. How can you understand what they are saying?” Although there is the obvious ability to use subtitles, I also have something else to say. Music does not have any barriers. The stream of lyric, tone, and music have the ability to transcend cultural and language barriers. I think that this fantastic ability in why we are seeing groups like BTS do so well outside of Korea.
I think what fans like the most about kpop groups is their ability to relate to and interact with their audiences. They are heavily engaged on social media and are frequently on live videos on an app called Vlive. In addition, kpop groups are able to have such duality: they can be serious and in ‘character’ on stage but completely silly and ridiculous when interacting with their fans. This personality switch allow audiences to see different sides of their idols. I also think audiences, Western audiences specifically, appreciate the lack of staunch gender stereotypes, especially in the male kpop groups. Many of the popular male kpop groups often wear makeup— a practice that is often seen as taboo in Western culture.
These are practices we see in the popular group, BTS. BTS consists of seven members: Namjoon, “RM;” Jin; Jimin; Taehyung, “V;” Jungkook; Hoseok, “J-Hope;” and Yoongi, “Suga.” Some members of the group are singers while some are rappers, but all of them dance with talent and passion. Over the past few years, BTS has grown in popularity, especially overseas. Recently, they have one two awards for Favorite Social Artist. They were also the first kpop group to perform on the AMA’s.
My dark hole of kpop stanning started with the “DNA” music video. It spread to the songs “Dope” and “Blood, Sweat, Tears,” and then it spread to full albums like Wings and Love Yourself: Her. This hole expanding immensely by coming into contact with other kpop groups. I think I have a problem— whatever YouTube recommends to me, I watch. Maybe it is not a problem. I mean, it has gotten me into amazing groups that I did not hear of previously. I started listening to iKon, Monsta X, Blackpink, Seventeen, and more recently, EXO.
I feel like kpop is good music for everyone. Within it, there are genres for everyone like hip hop, rap, pop, literally everything.