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'As Voltaire said...'
Craig Branch on K-Pop

It's pre-packed, ready-to-order, souless, laboured work

Choijinsil and SES

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 of frippery.
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 of.

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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