Quarantine Consumption: Crazy for K-Pop

So, this year has been weird. In the last seven months, many of us have spent more time alone than ever before, and as much as arts and entertainment can be a great way to bond in-person, they are just as important when we are stuck in our rooms. This term, I am going to be asking Lawrentians what piece of art or media has gotten them through quarantine, what captured their imagination and what made them feel less alone during these hard times. From the silly reasons to the serious ones, why is it important to them?

This week, I am taking over and will talk your ear off about something that I am sure my friends are sick of by now. Earlier this year, Lady Gaga released an album called Chromatica. If you have not heard it, go give it a listen. It is great, but that is not what I am here to talk about. Chromatica happened to have a highly anticipated feature, a song called “Sour Candy” featuring Korean girl group Blackpink. Blackpink had sort of floated around my pop music circles for a while at that point, but I had never taken the dive in until this Gaga song rocked the day of Chromatica’s release. Anyway, long story short, I am a K-pop stan now, and I am going to tell you why.

K-pop is Korean pop music. In many ways, it is like pop music in the west, but in many ways it is not. K-pop groups are grown and manufactured products with trainees learning their trade for many years before debuting as a member of a group. Every song or album released is considered a “comeback” and is celebrated with fanfare unlike anything I have seen as a pop music fan in the U.S. Every release is centered around a concept — is it quirky, sexy, cute or does it make you want to be the idols who are performing? It is highly produced and focus grouped, but here is the thing … I kind of love that.

I like knowing what I am getting when it comes to K-pop. I enjoy the predictable chords and structure of a pop song. I find comfort in the formula and presentation. I like the new outfits that come with every performance or stage of a new single. Pop music is such a love of mine that when an entire industry treats every song as an unmissable event, releasing music video teasers and catering everything specifically to fans, I feel like someone sees how important a simple, synth-y banger is to me.

Now, I would be remiss if I did not mention how toxic the industry can be. Trainees do not receive proper treatment and are worked to the bone while hoping for a debut that may never happen. The K-pop industry is a capitalist machine and a tool of South Korean soft power. But hey! Let me have a little fun. What is living in a capitalist hellscape if not being a consumer in the machine looking for her next hit of serotonin? The world sucks, so let me get psyched about the first Blackpink album or the fact that Irene and Seulgi keep putting out some of the most gay content in pop music — queer women, Google “Monster Irene and Seulgi” and thank me later. 

Now, some people may be frustrated with the language barrier, and I get that, either you find lyrics to be an important part of music or you are a xenophobe. To this, I would implore you to give it a chance and get a life, respectively. I find that, just like with any music, it is the feeling and flair of the singing and production that can prop up the emotions of lyrics that you may not understand, and that is where I urge you to take a listen if you have not before. This huge and diverse genre of music gave me something to explore and enjoy during quarantine, and with this next paragraph of a few recommendations, I hope that maybe it can be the same for you.

Now, forgive me because my wheelhouse is girl groups, so those are the recommendations I will be giving. If you like big electro pop songs, check out Blackpink or Everglow. Songs like “Du Du Du Du” and “Dun Dun” are good places to start. For you lovers of good vocals and raw talent, I would point you to Red Velvet, my favorite, or Mamamoo. The songs that show them off the best for a new listener are “Psycho” and “Starry Night,” respectively. Then, if you want some big girl power energy in your life, take a listen to “not shy” by Itzy or “So What” by Loona. If you are a pop music lover and choose any of these songs, I promise you will not be disappointed.