“You shouldn’t ever have to change who you are for the sake of pleasing someone else. You don’t owe comfort or conformity or being attractive to anyone. If someone has an issue with who you are or the way you present yourself, that’s their problem, not yours. You don’t have to internalize other people’s judgement. It isn’t easy. In fact, it’s probably one of the most difficult things any of us will try to do. But it’s so important. You don’t live your life for other people. You need to do what feels right to you. And more than anything, you need to make your happiness a priority. ”—Daniell Koepke
“Do not ever, ever, ever think of asking people what you're not already trying to do yourself. You can blog and preach and soapbox about whatever you want, but legit historical figures actually rolled up their sleeves and lived it out and let their life do the talking for them. It doesn't matter how sloppy you pursue it: just do something. We don't need another basement blogger or pretentious preacher. We need game-changers. Words about love sound pretty; actually loving people is messy. Be part of the mess.”—
“If you are queer, or trans, or have mental illness, or all of the above, you probably know something about the perils of presenting yourself as you really are. Dan-Savage-style coming-out narratives notwithstanding, many of us who are placed socially in these ways find that we cannot be completely authentic in all aspects of our lives. I definitely want to express myself, but I have to balance that against other needs, like being able to make a living in a capitalist society. If I dressed the way I’d prefer to, if I talked more openly about the times when my depression and anxiety prevent me from getting work done, I might find it harder to fit in, to stay attached to a professional group, to stay employed, than I already do. So instead, I wear T-shirts and cargo pants, and I let people think (at times) that I’m merely disorganized or not that committed to what I do. In my opinion, it takes a lot of privilege to assume either that greater authenticity leads to greater happiness, or that the only reason you would leave who you are at the door when you step or roll into work is the formal, organizational structure of the place where you work.”—Structure and Justice | Geek Feminism Blog
“To have genuine sincerity is absolutely necessary in the spiritual life. Sincerity encompasses the qualities of honesty, genuineness, and integrity. To be sincere does not mean to be perfect. In fact, the very effort to be perfect is itself insincere, because it is a way of avoiding seeing yourself as you are right now. To be able and willing to see yourself as you are, with all of your imperfections and illusions, requires genuine sincerity and courage. If we are constantly trying to hide from ourselves, we will never be able to awaken from our illusion of self. ”—Adyashanti
“Connection is the energy that is created between people when they feel seen, heard and valued, when they can give and receive without judgement. Belonging is the innate human desire to be part of something larger than us. Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and by seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it. Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world. Our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”—Brene Brown
More love, more hugs: follow-up on What's Happening and B1A4's first music show win
Throughout these promotions, B1A4 have continued to make it clear that what they care about is using their truth to bring joy to their fans and to anyone willing to listen. The members repeatedly link truth and love in their discussions of artist-audience relationships.
From this interview with OSEN:
The fans have waited for a long time. So we worked even harder to show a better and newer look to us. During this comeback, I felt like we united with the fans. We also felt more fond (of the fans). This comeback feels very different, because we gave more thought about our musical color. -Jinyoung
Here Jinyoung discusses the importance of the group’s bond with their fans and their attempts to present themselves with integrity (“our musical color”) in order to please fans. The thesis about the relationship between truth and love, presented in What’s Happening, is thus mirrored in the group’s actions. For Jinyoung and B1A4, the strength of their relationship with fans depends on the integrity of their “musical color,” their uniquely B1A4 performance.
We are really close with our fans. Even today, we can recognize a considerable number of the fans’ face who came to the pre-recording. We’re also pretty good at memorizing their nicknames. I think the fans like such friendly sides to us. They’re also accepting of our enthusiasm for music. -Sandeul
Sandeul again emphasizes the importance of truth and reciprocity - the group knows the fans, the fans know and accept the group as they are (in other words, they will wait six months for a comeback because they know B1A4 wants to present quality music). Knowing fans’ names and faces is the beginning of B1A4 knowing and understanding fans’ truths and lived realities. Below, Baro touches on why understanding those lived realities is critical:
It’ll be nice if many people listened to our music and liked it, no matter who you are. We worked hard to make use of our experiences so that the listeners can identify with the music. Just like we have discussed this amongst ourselves, we will continue to stand in front of the fans without change. We want to share our music with more people. -Baro
Thus, the comeback itself is not just about fans - it is an attempt to bring more people in by telling stories of lived and shared realities. It begins with B1A4’s relationships with each other (“just like we have discussed this amongst ourselves”) and with their fans, and ripples out to affect anyone who will listen. When people share a reality - whether it is the story a song tells, or simply enjoyment of the song itself - they have a base from which to begin to understand each other, to work together, and to spread love to others. This is B1A4’s moral guidepost.
From this article on Kpop Starz:
Our fans had a lot of hopes and anticipation for the new album, so we worked very hard to show them something new and different… We decided to give up expectations and empty our minds. We are actually honored to share the stage with legends who have paved the way for us. Maybe they will like us if they see us doing our best to do our music.
B1A4’s ultimate goal is “For a lot of people to listen to our songs and love them. We are trying our best to build a connection between our experiences and those of the majority of the public. We hope to share our songs with more and more people out there.”
B1A4 refuses to be cowed by the comebacks of more popular and longstanding kpop acts, including Lee Hyori, 2PM, and 4minute. In fact, they hope to spread the love to these other artists as well - they are entirely gracious even as they attempt to include everyone in their “more love, more hugs” model. (See also this wonderful signed album sent to 2PM’s Chansung.)
And from this article:
We worried a lot about all songs. We wanted to create an album that people will like listening to all our songs and not only our title track. I wish our fans would like all tracks. -Sandeul
Sandeul is concerned here with the artist-fan relationship specifically, pointing out that the title track is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of what the group hopes to share.
I only want to let our fans listen to our music soon. We really tried hard to return for the fans who have waited for us. I still feel that we haven’t fulfilled the things that we want to do. I want to work together with our fans fast and fill in the remaining. -Jinyoung
For leader Jinyoung, B1A4’s work remains incomplete. Yet that incompleteness is an opportunity to continue to build relationships; ultimately, Jinyoung recognizes that whatever B1A4 accomplishes in terms of spreading love is a co-creative effort with fans.
The Music Core win, then, is significant not because it says anything in particular about the quality of the song, or even the popularity of the group in sheer numbers. What is significant about the win is that for the first time audiences made their love for the group publicly recognizable, via physical sales, digital sales, Youtube plays, Twitter mentions, and so on. So when we see the members completely lose composure (bless CNU’s heart), it in is the realization that the love they have been spreading for two years is finally coming back to them in a way that the industry recognizes as being worthy. (And watching the members celebrate with each other - Sandeul holding Jinyoung as the leader sobs into his shirt, Baro choking back his own tears as he accepts the trophy and places CNU’s hat back on his head - the dividends of teamwork don’t get much better than this.)
Apparently, this accomplishment is controversial: no sooner had B1A4’s tears dried than netizens were complaining that the win was undeserved, that Music Core’s ranking system is unfair, and that B1A4 continue to be virtual unknowns. For example:
5. [+202, -82] The most ridiculous #1 in music program history! Can someone please explain to me how these kids are #1?
6. [+28, -6] Just like the title of their song, ‘what is going on?’ A program that gives you #1 as long as your stupid fangirls vote for you
Apparently these netizens have missed the point: B1A4’s work is about those “stupid fangirls” and honoring their truths, their desires, their imaginations, and their listenership. After two years of refining this model of artist-audience reciprocity, it makes sense that the most loyal of audience members, the fans, have helped to bring B1A4 this recognition by the industry. Netizens may continue to complain that they have never heard the song, that B1A4 are nugus, and so forth, but they cannot diminish the love between artists and fans. Some people bought more than one album. Some people loop-played the music video. Fans did what they could to make it possible for B1A4 to feel this loved. The artists and the fans literally worked together for the shared moment of the win. And the win itself is only the latest in a series of unlikely events, including B1A4’s debut, Jinyoung writing title tracks, the group’s successful solo concert, and so on, that show how B1A4 thrives in defiance of an industry that is constructed to crush spirits and confine hopes and desires.
The takeaway is this: the “more love, more hugs” model works. In spite of the industry’s restrictive and oppressive structures, in spite of netizen vitriol, what matters to B1A4 is loving each other and loving their audiences. And it does make a difference - the Music Core win demonstrates the power of the artist-fan relationship for the world to see and respect.