So, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about Psy and kpop in general, trying to figure out exactly why it is that I don’t really have much love for Gangnam Style when the whole bloody world has gone crazy for it.
I’m not usually one for over-thinking things, and generally prefer to live by the rule of ‘I like it because I like it’.
But lately I’ve found myself jealous of my sister who always has well thought-out replies to any questions regarding what she likes, and with the amount of people I get commenting on Gangnam Style to me, I decided that I needed to get to the bottom of why it makes me uncomfortable that Gangnam Style has gotten to be a worldwide phenomenon.
It’s not like I don’t enjoy the song, it’s just something makes me feel irritated the second I hear it on the radio or my neighbour has it really loud on repeat.
It crossed my mind that I could just be being incredibly immature in that I don’t want other people liking what I like, but I had hoped that I was a little better than that. So, after much contemplation, I think I finally came to the conclusion that I have two main issues with Psy’s rise to infamy.
- Defining kpop
- Fandom culture
They sound a little vague, so allow me to elaborate.
What tends to get me the most is that thanks to Psy, people don’t take kpop seriously; they see a funny man doing a funny dance while singing a funny song, and they think that that is what defines kpop. That Gangnam Style is the best that kpop has to offer.
I won’t deny that Gangnam Style contains some elements of what has made kpop so popular (iconic dance moves, memorable English lyrics, and crazy outfits), but Psy has made a name for himself by purposefully setting himself apart from idol groups and other solo artists by maintaining a comedic concept for himself in order to be able to compete in the Korean market. By this token, it’s pretty fair to say that Psy is not typical in kpop, and that is one of the main things that bothers me about it all; he can’t be the best kpop has to offer when he’s pretty much an anomaly in the market.
This makes it sound like I’m not pleased that Psy is doing well, because I really am. He’s a great entertainer and he deserves all of his success, it’s just that I wish other people could see more of what makes kpop great! There are so many amazing bands in kpop, and this leads me to the second point which is something that undeniably goes hand-in-hand with getting to know a group – their fandom.
The significance of getting to the point where you become a Cassie, or an ELF, a BBC, A+ or whichever fandoms you identify with is something I have often found to be one of the most difficult things to explain to the people around me.
It might seem sad to some people that I genuinely don’t really remember what it was that I spent my time doing before I found kpop three years ago, but when I look back at who I was at that time I’m so grateful and relieved that I stumbled across TVXQ’s Mirotic on YouTube that day.
I had spent most of my teen years trying to be someone that I wasn’t, and was constantly insecure and unhappy with myself because I still wasn’t the person that I thought I should be. When I starting getting into kpop, it was like my entire world opened up and I wasn’t alone, stuck in a dingy little corner of England anymore. My own little world became so much bigger.
Over the years since then I’ve found friends all over the world who genuinely have the same interests as me, I’ve been introduced to an entirely new culture that I had never even given any thought to, and I even found myself getting more and more comfortable in my own skin. Kpop taught me so many things about understanding and accepting differences between cultures, and so many of the members of the bands are people that I find myself looking up to, no matter what age they are. These bands have taught me that music has no language barriers, and that there probably isn’t anything I can’t do if I throw myself into it. Kpop even gave the courage to start learning another language, because if idols can learn to sing and promote in other languages, what’s stopping me from learning too?
Kpop is a huge part of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and isn’t it an amazing feeling when you find someone who’s into the same band as you? For example, you find another person who’s a Blackjack and you suddenly have so much to talk about! And sometimes it feels like being into kpop is like being part of some secret society, like when you see a stranger walk past you in the street with a band t-shirt on and some sort of knowing look passes between you. That’s pretty awesome, and it’s kind of thrilling knowing that you have something in common with a perfect stranger.
Even though this may seem as if I’ve gone off topic, the love I have for the fandom culture that comes with kpop (the fan club names, fan chants, inside jokes about members, etc) is what makes me so disappointed when I realise that Gangnam Style might well be the only kpop some people ever care to know. I have made friends in these fandoms so easily in a way that I could never replicate in real life, and the bands and members themselves do so much fan service and the like that it’s so easy to become attached to them.
The kpop groups that I’m into have come to mean more to me than I can often express well to people because for me, friends, happiness and a sense of belonging came hand-in-hand with kpop.
I guess, honestly, that’s why I get frustrated when people assume Psy = Kpop.
I’m interested to know, am I the only one who feels like this? What are your real thoughts on kpop? Let me know!