NCT 127 Discuss the Group's Unique Concept, Breaking Into U.S. & More
In January 2016, SM Entertainment founder Lee Soo-Man announced the formation of Neo Culture Technology (NCT), the globalized band with an unlimited number of members divided into units, tasked with bringing K-pop beyond Korea’s borders. Months later came NCT U, the foundational alpha unit to which members from any of NCT’s local units can be added. Later in 2016, two more units made their debut: NCT Dream, the delightfully poppy unit featuring the bright-faced youngest members of NCT and KCON NY 2017 performers NCT 127. The nine members of NCT 127 sat down with Billboard before their Saturday night performance to discuss the possibility of smaller units, the boundary-defying nature of their concept and the potential for more shows in America.
Though NCT 127’s base is Seoul – the 127 represents Seoul’s longitudinal coordinate – the unit has enraptured American K-pop fans without so much as a concert in the States thanks to their Western-leaning sounds. They take direct cues from trap, drum ‘n bass and the latest chart-topping hip-hop, and have worked alongside producers The Stereotypes (Bruno Mars) and Dem Jointz (Janet Jackson, Anderson .Paak). They’ve even garnered support from Apple Music as the first K-Pop act featured on Ebro’s Beats 1 show with their debut song “Firetruck.”
The unit made their debut last year with Haechan, Taeil, Mark, Yuta, Taeyong, Jaehyun and Winwin; this year, they made two additions with Johnny and NCT U’s Doyoung. With the nine current members of NCT 127, each member possesses different talents, from traditional Chinese dance to DJing. As such, the possibilities for duos and subunits are endless, as the members explained. “There’s a limitless amount of units that could come out just with nine people,” Johnny says. “One day, maybe if I DJ and some people come out to sing, some people come out to rap – there’s a lot of things we could try out.”
“I don’t think you can expect which unit will come out next in the NCT team, it’s so unexpected,” Mark adds. “It’s just something we all have to look forward to.”
As part of the global initiative at the heart of NCT, NCT 127’s members are a mini United Nations, where Japan (Yuta), China (Winwin), Canada (Mark), South Korea (Doyoung, Jaehyun, Taeil, Haechan, Taeyong) and the U.S. (Johnny) are represented. NCT 127 stars alongside other unit members in NCT Life, a reality show where they travel and explore various cities, from NCT U member Ten’s hometown of Bangkok to Yuta’s hometown of Osaka. “We do come from various cultures, so we do have some times where we conflict with each other,” Yuta says. “But I feel like we go in with the mindset of trying to understand each [member] and respect each other.”
“The more we don’t understand each other, the more we try to understand each other and try to help each other out in navigating different things,” 127 unit leader Taeyong adds.
The language barriers and cultural differences have led to some sitcom-worthy situations in the dorms. “This guy here, Winwin, the way we talk to him, he picks [it] up really quickly,” Johnny says. “In Korean, there’s a way to raise your formality [based on age]. What happens is if we talk to him with formality, which the younger kids usually do, he’ll speak back to them with formality, because that’s what he hears. When the older guys [use informal speech, or banmal], he’ll speak back to us like that.”
One thing that manages to transcend linguistic barriers is their complex and powerful performances. They’ve worked with noted choreographers Kevin Maher and Tony Testa on “Limitless” and “Cherry Bomb,” respectively. The members have gone on record to note how exhausting their choreography is and how much effort the moves require – six members ripped their pants while doing the memorable split leg choreography from “Cherry Bomb.” “Because we’re singing in Korean, our fans abroad may not understand what we’re saying, but our strength is in performance,” Doyoung says. “I feel the way we see a performance is universal. If fans worldwide would see our performance, they would immediately catch what the essence of NCT is.”
NCT 127 flew in late Friday and had an Apple Store performance in Williamsburg the next morning at 10 a.m., giving them little time to explore New York City. Beyond their short and simple to-do list (Times Square, pizza and hot dogs – the members seem to love fast food), Johnny wanted his bandmates to get something more important out of the experience. “What I really want everyone to experience is the energy that New Yorkers can give us,” the Chicago native says. “We already can feel everyone looking at us with bright eyes. I wish everyone could get that energy and go back to Korea like, 'Whoa, we just came back from New York with good vibes.’”
When asked if there will be more American shows in the unit’s future, they didn’t hesitate to keep the possibility open. “If there’s an opportunity, yes!” Johnny says. “We really think this is the beginning.”
And if the lines of fans camped outside the Apple Store at 1 a.m. post-KCON were any indication, this is only the beginning of something huge.
I saw a lot of ARMYs becoming multifandom. That's really great, but the fact that they actually stated that they won't vote for BTS because they can't choose between them and the other groups leaves me like... what? Vote for everyone then. I think this fandom is confused right now, a lot of people are new and don't understand all the voting's dynamics in K-pop, a lot lost interest since the American hype, some fans are only active during comebacks... there's a strange mood around idek.
OK honesty/ rant hour. I think majority of BTS fans are fake (don’t hurt me pls). I think majority of them are all people who want to jump on the hype of the “next big thing” and now that the next big thing is settling down they have no interest in it. I get multifandoms like yes do you like whoever you like, hell I Stan like 20 different groups like they’re my life, but that doesn’t mean I neglect a group that’s up for an IMPORTANT award. if you’re multifandom that means you’re still apart of this fandom so you can still help them achieve success. This in turn doesn’t help BTS because unlike EXO fans, BTS fans don’t stay for the long haul. sure you say you “love your oppa’s!!1!!!” but that’s only because they’re becoming mainstream and people are starting to talk about them which makes them feel relevant. Them being mainstream also makes them loses OG fans because they don’t want to be a part of the “new” BTS (like fuck off pls I’m sure we’d LOVE going back to the “good old days” when BTS where living in a shitty dorm, questioning whether they’d ever debut or succeed and when Jimin starved himself and Tae and Jin had to pretend they were people they werent yup yUP YUP. ) . I think BTS is kinda like an opening ground for a lot of people into kpop and once they’re in they switch instantly. now that BTS is well known in western countries people are more fixed on helping them expand their music EVEN THOUGH THEYVE SAID THEY WANT TO BE KNOWN IN KOREA. It also doesn’t help that majority of other fandom’s hate BTS because of their success and purposefully try to fail them (ie voting against them in many awards. MANY.) idk its just sad and I hope people wake the fuck up and start supporting BTS for all their hard work before its too late.
So recently this has blown up especially in our Kpop community. And keep in mind that I’m trying my best to be nonbiased and I hope I can communicate with a clear head. This post is meant mostly explaining why many people are strongly hating on this Kpop group. I hope anyone reading this can understand how many people feel.
I’ll tell you about my first reaction. I first heard about this group as an ‘American Kpop group’ and that right away made me really confused. Because if a musical group is American how can their genre be Korean pop? Because they’re two different countries Kpop is specific to South Korea yet they’re American? I thought of ways how this could be possible maybe they’re a Kpop group that mostly performs in the west? Or all their members could be from the west? And then I saw their pictures… Token Asian dude… Oh no.
But I gave it the benefit of the doubt and assumed it was just a boy group with more diverse members. And I decided to watch their MV 'Feel like this’ and oh man. The MV itself was clearly imitating Kpop MVs, and the guys have pretty bad Korean pronunciation. I have to say it as someone who lives with Korean speaking people: Their Korean wasn’t good. That was my first reaction.
Now after some simple research I found out that this whole thing is just an experiment started by some Asian American women. But why they’re doing this experiment I couldn’t really understand. Really I don’t see the reason behind this. In an article from popcrush I found an interview from Bora Kim (one of the people behind this group) and I’m gonna break this down now so strap in, this article quotes, “I wanted to see what would happen if I made American boys into K-pop performers,” CUT! Alright any Kpop fan with a half a brain knows that this has already happened. There are plenty of successful Kpop celebrities who were raised in the west. So like wth?
Moving on she claims she did this by teaching these guys not only how to sing in Korean but how to “act like Korean boys” TF? There’s no specific way to act like a Korean boy. Sure you can educate the guys on Korean culture but that doesn’t make one act Korean which there is no such thing. I do believe that different countries do things differently obviously but I don’t believe there’s such a thing as acting Korean. I’ve met a lot of other Korean people in my time sure we can share similar mannerisms but we don’t all act the same way.
Aside from that this interview leaves some stuff unclear. Like how long were they taught? Do they have any musical experience? Or does anyone here have any knowledge about the Kpop or music industry in general? We don’t know. And this was the only interview from the people in charge I could find. So I don’t know why this experiment is happening.
I’m going to go into why people hate this group.
First off whether it’s intentional or not, they’re insulting. Part of my first reaction was that their Korean isn’t very good but I let it slide because I found out that they’re from New York and as far as I know none of them could speak Korean in the first place. But for a group that moved to Korea trying to make it in the Kpop industry it makes them look bad.
Secondly, they don’t seem to be serious. I don’t know if they’re aware of this but Kpop celebs have to train years for their career. It’s very difficult and many people work very hard. So for these guys who are just a part of an experiment to come to Korea and label themselves as a Kpop group just to see what happens it just puts a bad taste in people’s mouth.
Third the racial aspect, this is hard.
Don’t get this wrong there are Kpop stars who are African American and Caucasian. But here’s the thing, Asian people and this is inclusive of South Asian people often get the short end of the stick in the music world. But Kpop changes that. Kpop celebrates Asian culture and language through musical and artistic expression. So having these westerners who have no training or experience in the Kpop industry and assert themselves as a Kpop group makes people upset. A Kpop group shouldn’t be an experiment like this. So why?
K-Pop Boy Band SF9 Talk Ambition & Success of 'Easy Love' at KCON 2017 NY
Nine is a magical number for K-pop acts: Girls’ Generation, the most popular Korean girl group of this generation, had nine members for the majority of their career. EXO, an extremely popular boy band, currently has nine members. TWICE, the group of the moment, is also a nonet. And now there’s SF9.
One of four rookie boy bands at this year’s KCON 2017 NY – along with NCT 127, KNK and UP10TION – SF9 isn’t yet a household name in the K-pop world. But they are produced by FNC Entertainment, the home to popular acts like pop-rock bands FTISLAND and CNBLUE and girl group AOA. The first dance-oriented boy band under FNC, SF9 is made up of nine members with diverse skill sets. “Nine people, nine colors” is their motto, and they’ve been showcasing these different elements over the past year through a variety of singles and EPs.
“Beginning with our earlier singles, particularly our track ‘Fanfare,’ we wanted to express the big ambition that we had towards our debut and SF9 ourselves,” bandleader Youngbin told Billboard, referring to their swaggering debut track, one of three songs that the group performed later that day at the first concert of this year’s East Coast KCON event.
But while there were cheers aplenty as the band performed “Fanfare” and the similarly boisterous “Roar” with their powerful choreography, it was SF9’s most recent single, “Easy Love,” that proved to be the true crowd-pleaser. For their latest, the boy band switched up their sound, favoring emotive, melodic pop over the bangers they had previously put out when they returned in April with their Breaking Sensation EP.
“We were trying to go for a more masculine feel with a sci-fi twist,” Youngbin said, before grinning, shrugging and adding that the overall feedback they heard was that “Easy Love,” and band itself, seems a bit more boyish than their past singles.
Though they may have expected one response and received another, the change in style worked and the group began to shift ahead of the increasingly crowded pack of rookie K-pop boy bands. Breaking Sensation, peaked at No. 5 on the World Albums chart, revealing their growing attention from American K-pop listeners.
The song’s warm embrace by fans, known as Fantasy, was a pleasant surprise to the group, and English-speaking member Inseong joked that, “Maybe next time we’ll come back with 'Easy Love’ once more.”
Like “Easy Love,” SF9 is a bit different than expected, even in their clothing choice. For their first New York City-area event, the band opted for casual gray suits that emphasized the mature vibe they wanted to show through the single. But lime-green detailing and a few suits that looked more suitable for Korean high school students than office workers hinted at a more playful side to the boy band. The members showed that throughout the day on Friday, as they greeted their American fans for the first time with smiles, immense energy and personal serenades.
KING. OF. FAN. SERVICE. = #ROWOON
We’ll be uploading more #KCON17NY moments so keep an eye out & check back with us every day! #SF9 #KCON pic.twitter.com/d8hCWdP73R- KCON USA (@kconusa) June 26, 2017
“It was so exciting to meet foreign fans,” Hwiyoung said, eyes bright as he referenced the meet-and-greet SF9 held earlier in the day, where he had shown off some of the group’s choreography. “I really thought, 'Oh gosh, we should work a lot harder to meet many of our overseas fans.’”
When #SF9 & #KCON fans are the best hype man for #Hwiyoung, this happens.
The cool guy who rarely shows off his #aegyo – #KCON17NY pic.twitter.com/7JKxk05a17- KCON USA (@kconusa) June 27, 2017
Though they’re still new and have a long way to go to gain recognition back at home in Korea and overseas, SF9 isn’t slacking when it comes to meeting their international fans. Prior to KCON NY, the team performed at KCON Japan in May, just weeks before their first Japanese-language single hit No. 14 on the Japan Hot 100. They will also head to Los Angeles in August for this year’s KCON LA and get a chance to meet even more American fans.
And it’s not only music and performance where SF9 is excelling: The multi-talented members live up to their motto. Chani, the group’s youngest member at 17, garnered attention last year after playing a memorable role in the 2016 breakout Korean TV show Signal. Meanwhile, Rowoon had all eyes on him at Seoul Fashion Week in March, where he walked the runway. “As a group, as a whole, we each have our own unique qualities that come together,” said Dawon, gesturing to the rest of the members sitting beside him.
SF9 will keep coming together in the future to create music with one aim in mind: to be on top. “We want to keep on developing so that we can become a K-pop group that people will watch,” deep-voice rapper Zuho said with a determined nod of the head.
Something I'll never not be amazed at is European/American K-POP fans DEMANDING apologies for things that they have no right to ask for like one kid has a accent and when saying naega(Korean for I/me) it sounded like the n word and ppl wanted a apology like fuck off asshat he's speaking another language either learn it or don't listen to it if two words sounding similar makes u THAT uncomfortable
Idk why tf he should have to apologise for speaking his own fucking language just bc a word sounds something similar to another word doesn’t mean it’s the same thing jfc
Interview: Meet Tony Jones, BTS Hip Hop Mentor on “American Hustle Life”
7-member male group BTS enjoyed a “break” from their usual hustle and bustle of idol life when the members packed up their bags and headed to Los Angeles, California a few months back for the filming of their variety program “American Hustle Life.”
The boys wanted to experience true hip hop culture and got hooked up with artist Tony Jones as their mentor. He and the boys were inseparable as they spent two weeks together practically 24/7, where the boys completed various missions to get a better sense of hip hop.
Tony Jones was so kind to set aside time for an interview. He discusses the state of American music and K-Pop, Korea’s strict culture, first impressions of BTS, and more.
[Q&A QUESTIONS OMITTED]
S: On the other hand, what do you think about K-Pop? T: K-Pop is really interesting. I’ve never heard of K-Pop or Korean hip hop until BTS and I think the first record I heard and saw was “Bulletproof” when I was trying to do some research about the group. I didn’t expect that much from a K-Pop group. They were really good. The music video was directed really well, but I was just really impressed as that being the first record, the first song I ever heard [in K-Pop]. It got my interest and my attention. I thought every other group and artist in Korea that did K-Pop was like that and that talented. I was wrong. Not to talk about any other group, but they’re just different. BTS has so much to offer. They really studied hip hop culture. I want to meet the person behind them because the producers and the directors are finding the beats, and everything they’re doing is really American. I also really think that they can come over to the U.S. and do music if they can learn English in the future. They’re that good. They’re that talented. Afterwards, people were like “Look up BAP, look up EXO, or G-Dragon,” and all these groups. I checked them all out, and it wasn’t the same for me, you know. They’re talented as well, but it wasn’t the same reaction that I got.
S: How would you compare the American music industry to the K-Pop industry? T: Well, it’s really different. They are in Korea- the culture and everything. You’ve got to respect it. And yea they put on makeup and they dance, and it’s not really American hip hop, but that’s the culture there and that’s what everyone wants, and that’s what’s successful there. Rap Mon can rap really good, I mean Suga and J-Hope can as well, but the fact that he wears makeup shouldn’t take away from it or the fact that he dances shouldn’t take away from it because that’s his culture. I’m sure he can switch it up- him and Suga can do straight hip hop tracks and raw hip hop tracks and rap music and all that but what they’re doing right now is they’re in a group, BTS, and that’s the path they chose to take. Sometimes you’ll have to take paths that will help you to further your future, and if that’s going through BTS getting their voice known and heard in Korea then that’s what they have to do. So it’s very different but you still have to respect it.
S: Where do you see K-Pop in five years? T: I really see K-Pop blowing up and growing. I don’t know if the management thought of bringing them to America or starting an American BTS, but what they’re doing is brilliant. There’s no one in America dancing, singing, and rapping like that. It’s actually a good idea to start a group like that in America. They took from New Edition, from Boys to Men, they also took from A$AP Rocky. They just took everything and put it together. I don’t know if that was the plan or the boys were that talented but it’s lucky they came together. It’s brilliant. I really think that K-Pop will blow up more and it won’t be a local thing anymore. It’s going to grow because of BTS.
S: Do you think America is ready for them (BTS, K-Pop) right now? T: They’re not ready for the language, but I think it will cross over eventually. As you look at every culture, you start with rock and alternative or you start with rap. Those cultures merged and they’re now one to where the white race loves hip hop and the black race loves alternative. Little Wayne did a rock album. You have Macklemore, Matt Dillon doing rap albums, so everything is merging. If this is going to continue to grow worldwide as far as different cultures like BTS incorporating American culture, who knows when Americans will start incorporating Korean culture. It’s all going to merge together. So if they don’t come to the States after five years, I’m going to bring them over here myself.
[Q&A QUESTION OMITTED]
S: Scooter Braun is working with PSY and CL. A lot of K-Pop artists have been expanding their promotions to the U.S. now. I saw that you were at KCON with BTS as well. It’s an event that brings together a lot of fans from the U.S. for a genre like K-Pop. What are your thoughts about that and were you surprised by BTS’ reception there? What surprised you about that. T: I know that there’s a lot of American fans that love K-Pop. I wasn’t surprised at KCON because of a concert before. When I first got there, there was a line around the corner and there’s people outside and kids crying because they couldn’t get in. I was amazed. I knew that they were big in Korea, but I had no idea that people like K-Pop here. They have loyal fans here as well. They limited the show to 200 people and all the girls were crying and screaming like they’re N’SYNC or Backstreet Boys. When I got to KCON, that really opened my eyes. I think it was about 25,000 people celebrating and cheering on not just BTS, but all the groups. K-Pop has a big market in the States because you have a lot of people that want to be different. If everyone loves N’SYNC, they want to find somebody else and find a different boy group. They found BTS.
S: You mention that for a K-Pop label to cross over, something needs to be done with the language. At KCON, there were so many foreign fans we saw singing along with the Korean lyrics and embracing Korean culture. What are your thoughts about that? T: For one, the boys have to learn English before they come over here. They’ll learn over time. Rap Mon has really good English and He’s actually rapping in a lot of English. I’ve noticed that people were singing along in Korean and I tried to sing along. I don’t, I can’t, and it’s hard. I don’t know what they’re saying but the fact that they learn the lyrics and they sing along with BTS was amazing. I didn’t even know how to pronounce the words other than what V taught me but that was amazing. It’s not like learning English lyrics. You have to learn a completely different language and sing along. That means you’re really dedicated and really loyal fans. They’ll learn English in the future and if they can they can be successful in any country.
S: Previously you’ve mentioned about BTS’ latest album “Dark & Wild.” Have you heard the whole album? Do you have a favorite track? T: I’ve heard their whole album. I heard it the third night because people on Twitter were like “You have to listen.” It’s BTS. I have to listen. I checked out the whole [album]. My favorite, well, couple favorites actually, but my favorite track is “Hip Hop Lover.” It’s amazing- the rapping, the hook. I was really amazed. “Let Me Know” is also a really good record. I actually got to hear that before it came out at KCON backstage. My boy Suga pulled his phone out and said, “Hey I produced this track. Do you wanna listen?” So I heard it before but when I could hear it in speakers, that was a beast. Suga is amazing. He made that record. He produced the track, the hook, and everything. The third would be “Danger” and there are a couple others. Actually, the whole album is really good. I don’t know which, but I heard that some songs were banned in Korea. I’m sure “Danger” was one of them. I don’t know if they’re trying to be banned, trying to get attention and be different, which is good you know. It’s how NWA did in the States, just rebelling a little, but you can’t talk about stuff like hormones in Korea at all. I think I asked this question to one of the staff when we were doing a filming, and I brought up sex in a very light manner. They were like “Yea, it’s kind of banned.” It’s unspoken and not talked about over there. That was interesting as well. “Dark & Wild” is amazing. If they keep making albums like that, they’ll be the greatest Korean group ever, you know.
S: What do you think of songs being banned? Sometimes different associations require you to change the lyrics or music video to adapt to a certain standard. But that will compromise with artists and their vision for that song. Do you think they should comply or stick to what they’ve originally intended? T: In Korea, there’s a lot of control. There’s a story told to me as far as someone wanting to leave a group and they wanted to go solo and then they were banned and you couldn’t mention the name or the network, and if you did they wouldn’t send you their music from other artists – I don’t know. But they have control over there. In the U.S. you don’t need a major label, you don’t need anything. You can do it on your own. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis sold millions of albums just by themselves. You can’t do that in Korea. They kind of have some control and I don’t know what it’s going to take to break out of that over there and why some songs are banned. Someone needs to figure out how to counter all of that- not saying you should. I don’t want anyone to take it the wrong way- to just go against the people and the government, the networks and all of that. I’m not saying that, but as far as banning a song, you know, in America we have free speech. You can’t ban any songs that we do and anything we say. We can say whatever we want. Even when NWA makes a song, and this is pretty explicit, “F the police” back in the 90s, or late 80s. When they made that song there were riots across the world. They tried to ban it as well. They’re gonna keep creating and keep making music. It’s unfortunate, but the true fans will hear their music and hopefully BTS as a group will grow in the hopes that they continue to be who they are and have a lot of American influence as well. Those boys and the staff really studied American culture and they do it very well. I’ve seen people from different countries try to mimic it and try to replicate it and try to rap the same, sing the same, and act the same, but it’s not happening. Those boys really studied and really got good at it. They’re all talented from top to bottom. There’s not a weak link in the group. So it’s very interesting. They’re really good.
S: What are your first impressions of the boys? My very first impression was when Nate and I woke them up. First of all, they had no idea what the show was about, that they were doing the show, and what was going on. So the very first encounter we had, we woke them up five or six in the morning and they’re looking around like “What’s going on?” Little did I know that they have been kidnapped and I didn’t see that until the actual show. We woke them up at six in the morning and they jump out of bed ready to go like soldiers like “Let’s go.” We’re like “rap or dance or do something” and the first one, the leader, Rap Mon, started rapping for us. It was six in the morning and he has no idea who we are. They’re that dedicated. I thought I was dedicated. They’re so dedicated, always dancing, always practicing. It’s not all forced- they don’t have to do that. They just want to be good at what they do because they’re going to get so much flak for wearing makeup and for dancing so Rap Mon wants to be great. When he’s rapping on “Hip hop Lover,” you hear greatness in Rap Mon. My first impression of the boys: they’re really nice, really friendly, and just have a really good time. The whole entire show, don’t think there ever was a dull moment. There were some differences and stuff, but other than that they’re just cool kids. They’re sixteen to twenty. The most talented one of them all, even though they’re all super talented, is Jungkook who is the youngest. He can do all three. He can really rap, he can really sing, he can really dance as you saw in “Bulletproof.” He’s probably the most valuable to the group because he’s so young and can do all three.
S: And the fact that they’re probably all jetlagged, that’s amazing.
T: I don’t think anyone knows how hard they work- like all day. We would be tired; we would leave and have to come back to wake them up but they barely went to sleep- maybe two or three hours. They just worked so hard. Episode five. That’s probably one of the main times you can see how tired they are. We had to carry them out of bed. It wasn’t scripted, it wasn’t acting. We had to carry them out of bed. They barely kept their eyes open and were falling asleep.
S: Any memorable moments with the group off camera? Yea, absolutely. Every day was memorable. Showing them how to approach a woman when they’ve never interacted with a woman in that level- that was amazing. To see them actually go out there- because they can’t hit on girls, they can’t have girlfriends, they can’t, you know- they do have hormones. That’s why they wrote the song “War of Hormone” because it’s really true. To see them be around woman or interact with women and actually be successful at it, that was awesome. That was one of the many things we’ve taught them and they were really good at it. The video was a lot of fun- they didn’t show all of it. There were a lot of moments.
S: That’s really sweet. After the bonding, were you able to keep in touch with them? I do keep in touch with the boys. I’m not going to say how because I know there’s some really serious fans out there and they will find them. They will find out. I guess I didn’t believe how crazy some of the fans were until two instances. One, they were like “Don’t post anything on Instagram” and I’m like “Why?” So, I posted up a picture from a video we did and this was before people knew I was working with them. It was me, J-Hope, and Jin. I blurred their faces out. You have no idea who were there or what I’m doing or anything. First of all, the fans found me. I don’t know how they knew who I was. Secondly, they were like, “Hey, is that J-Hope and Jin?” I’m like, “What?? How did you even..” I believed the Korean team when they said the fans are on top of it and will find you, find out you’re here. When the boys came to LA at the airport, there were fans waiting at the airport. They didn’t tell anybody that they were coming. Two of the fans at the airport were waiting on them. That was crazy.
S: Any last words to our readers? I really enjoyed myself and I really love all the boys. We’re going to stay in touch. It was a pleasure to work with them. I really think something else will happen in the future as far as it’s America or Korea in working together or doing something. I think it’s a bigger picture involved even though the boys are big already. I really appreciate all the love and appreciate all the support.
You know what's really turning me off about K-Pop these days?
Out of the like 40 different (and I use that term loosely) girl groups in mainstream K-Pop only about 5 of them really stand out.
Beyond that, it’s a smorgasbord of pale, super skinny, high heel wearing girls and young women who either have an image/sound that is super cutesy and girly or super sexy or some blend of the two. Their vocal abilities are mediocre at best and their dance routines are never really fantastic, powerful or intricate (usually just very simple and repetitive with a lot robotic arm and hand gestures). Once in a while some female idol groups have one or two members who really stand out and show talent, but beyond that it can be fairly obvious which members were signed on simply because they were attractive (at least by Korean beauty standards).
And speaking of beauty standards, I know every country and society in the world has their own made up rules about what they consider physically attractive but South Korea (and several other East Asian countries) have some of the most rigid beauty standards I have ever heard of.
Positive body image is pretty much unheard of in K-Pop. Embracing and respecting people with different body types is a foreign concept most definitely, as you can spend hours online looking up videos and images of K-pop artists and I guarantee that there is a very slim chance that you will find someone (male or female) who isn’t skinny and pale; and they didn’t always look that way. The pressure these people put on themselves and each other to look a certain way is clearly way out of hand. Teasing and bullying is common; not a good combination when you take into account that South Korea has one of the highest suicide rates in the world.
I’m also starting to get the feeling that many young people in the K-Pop industry are victims of abuse and neglect. It is not hard at all to pull up online news articles describing young idols passing out or fainting during onstage performances, being hospitalized for dehydration or exhaustion or being diagnosed with eating disorders. They are bound by what a lot of K-Pop fans are calling “slave contracts”. These entertainers appear to be overworked, not getting enough rest and not eating properly, but nothing is being done to prevent this until something bad happens. .
And on the back end of all the this, just toss in blatant examples of racism, colorism, sexism/misogyny and cultural appropriation and it’s a wonder how mainstream K-Pop stays so popular at all. I’ve even read accounts from native Koreans who believe K-Pop is a bunch of superficial nonsense and isn’t really all that special; very similar to what a lot of Westerns think about mainstream American pop music actually.
Recently I’ve been comparing K-pop to junk food: people like it because it’s fast and easy and it fills you up and gets you pumped up right away. Soon your find yourself addicted to it and you can’t stop and you constantly need more. But after a while you start paying closer attention and realize just exactly what you’re getting yourself into and you start saying to yourself, “Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.”
(Outside of mainstream K-Pop, there are actually a lot of legit Korean singers and musicians who are amazingly talented that I would highly recommend to anyone who has an appreciation for non-generic music.)
B1A4 Shine With Super-Supportive Fans, Live Band & Bob Dylan Cover at Debut NYC Concert
The boy band also tease “seasonal” new music they’re hoping to release ASAP.
California has got a healthy amount ofB1A4 lately with the K-pop boy band recording their “Solo Day” music video in Los Angeles in May and then performing at KCON 2014 in downtown L.A. this summer. But the rest of the country got a chance to get close to Jinyoung, Baro, Sandeul, CNU and Gongchan via the just-wrapped U.S. leg of their Road Trip tour. And their New York audience sure seemed appreciative of the trip.
While concertgoers weren’t fainting like they were atINFINITE and B.A.P’s recent concerts, it was most remarkable how intense the fan support was inside NYC’s Best Buy Theater.
There was the usual fan hysteria before the guys hit the stage – like any show – and it was kept high throughout performances of early singles “OK” and “Beautiful Target.” It soon became clear the audience was filled with longtime, committed fans. Every member got huge screams when they sang their lines while the signature “sprout dance” move in the band's “Beautiful Target” choreography had attendees shrieking. B1A4 debuted in the K-pop scene in mid-2011, just as the music was gaining international traction, so these early songs very may have been the initial tracks in helping solidify a new generation of excited, American K-pop fans.
The enthusiasm stayed high with yelps and hollers seemingly from any type of slightly suggestive dance move – whether it was a slight shimmie or a crotch grab – to any time a member had a vocally challenging riff or rap section. The crowd even yelled supportive chants throughout certain singles. It was all likely comforting for the group who were not totally in-sync with each other during early numbers like “Oh My God” or “Because of You.”
But nerves eased as the guys were allowed to get a little more free onstage. After performing “This Time Is Over,” the quintet brought a video camera backstage where they showed fans their changing area in addition to a ton of kissy faces for the camera. The boys came back to perform an unexpected, sing-a-long cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door," led by Jinyoung on guitar.
By the time the guys got to 2014 singles "Lonely” and “Solo Day,” coming smack dab in the middle of the setlist, it was clear they were in their element with their sharpest performances up til that point. The “Lonely” number also let B1A4’s backing band – an expense usually not spent for K-pop acts touring the U.S. – shine with additional live instrumentation added. The four piece (consisting of guitar, bass, drums and keys) was an awesome addition throughout the whole show, but the songs like “Lonely” and “Who Am I” stood out sonically for the added instrumental riffs.
While their backing band was the most striking technical difference between B1A4’s concerts versus other recent K-pop showcases, the boys pinpointed to Billboard another reason their show stands out.
“We can’t say that our concert is different from any other band,” B1A4 leader Jinyoung says via translator. “But what we’re trying to do is communicate more with the audience through our music and that’s what we think is most special during our concert.”
The guys didn’t speak a ton of English to the U.S. audience – though the band agrees that Baro has the best grasp on the language and is “always studying somewhere” – the fivesome worked hard to make a connection with attendees; whether that was pulling a fan onstage to serenade during “Chu Chu Chu” or going into the camera pit to take selfies with them.
While fans can watch the guys’ stateside adventures on Mnet America's Go! B1A4: Road Trip YouTube series, the boys told Billboard they’re currently recording new music off-camera. While there is no concrete release dates, CNU says their next release will be related “to the season the album is released during” with Jinyoung adding they’re looking to share the music “as soon as possible.” They’ve discussed solo or sub-unit options within B1A4, but the group adds they’re opting to keep those types of performances for their concert dates at the moment.
But whether as soloist, units or the full B1A4, it’s clear B1A4 has done a fine job established a super-supportive fanbase that will cheer them on while the band pays them back, first and foremost, with performances of high musicality and the occasional selfie.
K-pop fans who think that K-pop is “better” or “more mature” than American pop are idiots.
I hate to break it to you, K-pop fans, but in Korea it is basically the equivalent of Justin Bieber or One Direction. K-pop is seen as a childish genre of music that is aimed towards preteens and teens who like looking at pretty idols and sexy music videos. The average Korean does not give a shit about K-pop, let alone what your favorite K-pop song is, or who your favorite K-pop crush is. And it certainly isn’t a big part of Korea’s “cultural identity”
So stop pretending that the lyrics are “deeper” than American pop, that the songs are “more meaningful” than American pop, or that the genre is more “grown up” than American pop. It’s not. It never will be. It’s the same lifeless, vapid, flavor-of-the-month crap that American pop is…just in a different language.
And that’s fine….it’s okay if you like it. There’s nothing wrong with liking pop music. But don’t act holier-than-thou just because you listen to pop from one country instead of another country. Don’t gloat just because you know a handful of Korean words you learned from some song. Don’t mock Justin Bieber or One Direction for being stupid and childish, then squee over Big Bang or G-Dragon. And for goodness sake, don’t claim that K-pop songs so much more “innocent,” “moral” and “less pornographic” than American pop songs. Have you actually googled the lyrics of K-pop songs ffs?!