Category Archives: Music

Real Talk: Kpop and Self-Image

Kpop is a lot of fun. The catchy songs, the expression of emotion that isn’t stopped by language barriers and the charismatic and beautiful artists are just a few of the appeals of Kpop.

When I first got into kpop and kdramas, I was astonished at how seemingly naturally beautiful the men and women were – even the ones considered to be ugly! It all seemed fine for a while, but soon it started to affect me. I felt insecure how artists younger than me were so much more beautiful (and I’m only 19). And I started to hate my own appearance. I got so caught up in the ideals of beauty in Korea and almost obsessed with the idea of fitting in with those demands.
This is an issue that many people have faced. To outsiders of Korea, like myself, it looks to us like idols are born totally stunning and were always wearing minimal makeup (with exception of perhaps some eyeliner for effect). It was frankly depressing and I found my desire to live up to those ideas and my inability to do so actually made me depressed and it almost ruined Kpop and Kdramas for me!
If you find yourself in the same position as I was in, there are a few things you need to know:

They are constantly modelling

Idols and stars aren’t just at work when they’re on set or in the studio, they are at work all the time. And that means that any time you see them, any time a camera is on them or they are getting attention, they will be wearing makeup, someone will have done their hair (and will be keeping it neat all day) and their outfits have been designed for them. They might be naturally swag people, but their entire appearance has been designed for the public to look at them and go ‘wow’.

Someone is always thinking about how they look

They don’t just get their clothes from a store like normal people or just put on any mix of clothes in the morning. They, or someone else, always has to think about their appearance and looking their best and modelling the products they have to.
Even if they are wearing a store-bought item, the chances are that it’s been altered to perfectly compliment them or chosen specifically to look perfect. They have tailored outfits and everything is coordinated. All. The. Time.
I personally feel bad that they can’t just go out or take a flight without having to be put in some outfit. It must get really uncomfortable and it probably makes it very hard to relax, but it’s part of their job.

Chances are they’ve had cosmetic surgery

Cosmetic surgery is a huge deal in Korea and these days it’s even become normal for surgery to be given as a gift for birthdays, graduations, weddings, etc. It isn’t healthy and only feeds into the beliefs that the beautiful faces our genes gave us aren’t good enough. While I’m at times tempted by the idea of fixing up things I’d like to change about my appearance, I don’t understand the obsession.
But if even the normal person on the street is getting surgery, then celebrities definitely are as, just like everywhere else, they have to be the epitome of beauty and style. Just a few seconds of Googling with find you hundreds of ‘Before/After surgery’ pictures of celebrities and interviews where artists let slip the procedures they’ve had done.
Ever wonder why the members of some kpop groups look scarily similar? It’s the Gangnam face, baby!

Everything is tailored

Do the poorest kids in Korea really have the best phones and clothes all the time? Is everyone in a Korean school really as gorgeous and rich as Lee Min Ho? Can women seriously stay a size 0 while guzzling down ramen 6 times a day? If a guy is in love with you, will he really be constantly yelling at you and insulting you? Are Korean parents really all terrifying evil people who want to control you or send your boyfriend/girlfriend out of the country? No.

Kdramas are fantasies. I know many people who will be upset to hear that, but it’s true. And it doesn’t make them any less enjoyable to accept that and it’s better for you if you do. Dramas, no matter what country you are in, are fantasy, because people like to escape from reality.
The clothes, makeup, characters, technology, lighting, sets – even the actor’s heights (!)- are manipulated to show you an industry crafted ideal that you are supposed to crave and invest a lot of money in pursuing. It’s the same in media everywhere.

You can’t assume their feelings

Just because you see an idol smiling and having a good time on camera, doesn’t mean they are happy. Their lives are controlled by their contracts, managers, schedules, paycheques and diets. They have little to no freedom to do, dress, date, spend, eat or speak as they want.

The life of an idol in Korea is very difficult and sometimes they are treated very poorly by the companies they work for, but they still have to be able to hide it all and perform for the camera as if they are the happiest person in the world, especially within performing groups, who have to give the appearance of being best buddies with each other (just look at the falling out in T-ARA as an example).
The life of an idol is hard and they have to be the appearance of perfection at the same time, so don’t just take their smiles as truth. They’ve got a tough lot.

So remember that no-one is perfect and being the industry standard of beautiful isn’t as wonderful as it may seem. The artists that you look at have had to suffer a lot, from dieting to fit their tiny outfits to cosmetic surgery that changes their faces permanently. It isn’t easy and the more you work to fit the criteria, the more work and pressure it becomes.

The world would be a happier and more confident place if we accepted and were accepted for our natural beauty. So love yourself, love each other and know that your beauty isn’t determined by your makeup or clothes. As G-Dragon said, “It isn’t about having the money for the expensive clothes, it is about how you wear them.”

 

Find your style (Part 1)- Kpop 101

Not all kpop styles are for everyone. Sometimes there may be styles you just don’t like, even if you try.

Even if you have an open mind and a wide taste in music, not all kpop styles will work for you, you may need to listen around a bit before realising where your interest lies.

But we’ve put together a quick list of songs that could help you find what kpop styles you like and dislike:

Gangnam style – Psy

 

 

(If you haven’t heard this at least once, you may want to check the news to see if there’s been any other phenomena in the last couple years you’ve missed. )

This track, realeased on July 15th 2012, was so popular that on December 21st 2012 – the day the Mayan calendar expired and the supposed date of the apocalypse – the music video reached 1 billion views on YouTube and became it’s most played video ever. (And, while this song was such a huge hit internationally, the song was not actually that popular in Korea!!)

Personally, I don’t think this song is a fantastic introduction to kpop as it blurs the boundaries between the bizarre, comical and real-world in a way that a lot of people find too much. People’s problems with the video can range from the strange meaning of the lyrics (trust me, by kpop standards, I don’t see the weirdness), the sexualisation and the plain weirdness of it all. But still, I think it’s a fun song to listen to and teaches you a very important word in the world of Korean entertainment – Oppa!

Fantastic Baby – BIGBANG

 

 

This song was my first real introduction to the world of kpop. My sister was a fan of kpop before me and one day showed me this video:

This song embodies the slightly crazy but meaningful and undeniably awesome world that is kpop and Bigbang. I’ll be honest, when I first saw this my thoughts were ‘What the hell did I just watch?’, ‘Why’ve they all got crazy hair?’, ‘Why’s the little one surrounded by kitty women?’, ‘Who’s the blue-haired guy?’, ‘Can I get blue-guy’s number?’, ‘Are those tattoos real?!’, ‘Wow, blue eyebrows too!’ and so on. And I also thought that G-Dragon was four different people. It’s a crazy video but it’s really interesting, so catchy and I was really impressed that each of the members designed their own segments for the video!

Spy – Super Junior

 

 

With a very recognizably smooth and sexy style, with a James Bond style and Michael Jackson-esque choreography, Spy is a very easy song to love

With style, cool dances and catchy songs, Super Junior are a very good group to begin with.

One of a Kind – G Dragon

 

 

This is a very cool song with a taste of G-Dragon’s hiphop routes. It’s a fantastic song with awesome dances (that verge of hilarious) that has a lot of fun and character in it. It’s a fun and fast song and the music video is timed to really fit with the song!

Crooked – G Dragon

 

 

This one is a big contrast to the wild and fun songs like One of a Kind. Crooked shows the more deep and emotional side of G-Dragon and lets us in on some of the pain and difficulty of the artist’s life. It’s a sad song, but it doesn’t lack in energy or appeal to the pop audiences.

Very Good- Block B

 

 

This song is nothing short of bizarre. The wacky costumes and styles of the members really fit the high energy and hiphop genre of the song. Every member has their own identity within the group and all only add to the awesomeness of their songs. (and, if you liked that, check out their new song Jackpot:   )

And we’ll be back with more ‘Find Your Style’ pieces to help you figure out

What did you think of the songs? Were there any you particularly loved or hated or do you have any recommendations for songs to add to the list? Please share in the comments! xx

Who are the ‘Big 3’? – Kpop 101

Okay, the big 3 is something I discovered a few months after getting into Kpop. In the beginning it was all about discovering new groups and songs and just sitting happily by and enjoying them. Then I started getting people asking me “So which of the 3 are you?” and I had no idea what they meant. After asking further, they clarified “Are you a YG, SM or JYPE?”

This didn’t help at all.

I’d heard of the YG family but none of those random accronyms meant a thing to me. I did my homework and realised that there was more to kpop than I thought.

There are many entertainment companies in Korea, but “The Big 3” referrs to the three top companies in Korea and they are the main ones you should know about. They are:

JYPE

JYP Entertainment was founded by Park Jin-Young (Hangul: 박진영) in 1997. JYPE also made idol hunk Rain famous, who worked under the company from his debut in 2002 until 2007. Their groups include 2PM, 2AM, Wonder Girls, JJ Project and Miss A. The company’s owner and namesake is also an artist as well, well known for his songs “Don’t leave me”, “Honey” and “Your house”

Official Youtube

Official Website

SM Media

SM Media is one of the largest of the three companies with their incredibly popular groups like Super Junior, Girl’s Generation, Shinee and, biggest of all, EXO. SME first started producing artists in the mid 90s with its first artists, the boy group H.O.T and girl group S.E.S, who were very popular until they disbanded in 2001 and 2002. SM Entertainment has had a number of controversies and legal disputes over the years, which we’ll cover another time!

Official Youtube

Official Website

YG Entertainment

YG entertainment was founded in 1996 by Yang Hyun Suk (Hangul : 앙현석), a former member of the 90s group Seo Taiji & boys. Known as Papa YG by fans, he’s the head of the company with huge traction in the entertainment business, both in Asia and internationally. YG’s artists include BIGBANG (whose members all have successful solo careers), 2ne1, Se7en, new rookie group Winner and, the internet sensation with the most Youtube hits ever, Psy. YG is a very cooperative company, with the different groups and artists regularly collaborating with each other.

Official Youtube

Official Website