Craig Branch on K-Pop
pre-packed, ready-to-order, souless, laboured work
The French writer and philosopher Voltaire once said that 'anything that
is too stupid to be spoken is sung'. He was of course refering to music
in the 18th Century but what he said can still be applied to today's music
industry, and Korea in particular. Korea does do a lot of things extremely
well, but Pop Music I'm afraid, isn't one of them.
The industry is going through a torrid time at the moment, plagued with
alledged corrupt malpractices involving TV producers, management companies,
journalists, and record company executives, but this is more to do with
money and greed. I'm more interested in the artistic perspective, and
what they actually sound like.
It could be argued that pop music in the West is also a rather dreary
affair, and to a certain extent this is true. It's pre-packed, ready-to-order,
souless, laboured work that's marketed directly at teenage girls and gullable
parents who keep forking out big bucks for the new releases.
However, In-ki ga-yo (as K-Pop is commonly called) has gone to new levels
As well as using all the modern-day techniques that have made Western
pop music so successful (production, packaging, marketing, videos, etc),
Korean producers have taken things one step further.
No, it's not the lip-synching. Nor the frenetic dancing. Nor is it the
conveyer belt of fresh-faced youngsters enticing us with their tales of
love lost. Sadly, it's none of these.
You may be asking what can be worse than any of the above? Well let me
tell you. It's the ridiculous insistance on mixing both Korean and English
lyrics, resulting in something that Dr Frankenstein would have been proud
Recently, we've been bombarded with titles such as 'Movie Star' (Lucy),
'I'll be There' (S.W.I.T), 'Summer Vacation' (SM Town), and 'Seasons In
The Sun' (Jeong Jae Wook), but the songs are not entirely sung in English.
What is the point of having a smattering of foreign words scattered here
and there? Is it fashionable, or does it actually have a purpose?
Now, I've got no problem with Korean artists singing in English. In fact,
I openly encourage more artists to sing in English for a number of reasons.
Firstly, it will give the artist an opportunity to explore new dimensions
of their craft. If they're worth their salt, they'll be able to convey
the same kind of feelings and emotions in another language. On his last
CD, Im Jae-Beum did this to great effect.
Next, it may open up the Western market for the artists, and not just
have them pigeon-holed in Asia. This would be an excellent marketing opportunity,
and certainly one they could exploit. SES and Boa are huge in Japan, so
why not have someone doing the same in English?
However, it's yet to be seen how long this fad will continue, but if it
does, K-Pop will still be seen as purely style over substance.
© Craig Branch -who has been living in Kroea for three years now
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