1. says

    K-pop never appealed to me, but it’s always cool to know the history behind any genre of music.

    Me, I’ve been listening to I-pop off and on lately…

  2. hemidactylus says

    Love the subtle dig at Japan at 2:37. Still too soon!

    Not sure where boy-band Menudo timelines against K-Pop. And sorry but Gangnam Style seems to K-Pop what Macarena was to Spanish pop (I will not liken that travesty to freestyle or proto-reggaeton).

    Of course I’m biased. Took me quite some time to stop despising Donnie Wahlberg for the boy band thing. Is K-Pop exploitive of its artists? How prevalent has plastic surgery become in Korea to conform to facial “norms” of perhaps exogenous origin? I recall reading how Baywatch influenced body shape norms in places like Brazil, though it was exogenous as a source.

    The music industry itself can be brutal. Maybe think of another retirement angle.

  3. says

    I’m just confused about all of this, I still listen to King Crimson, Zappa, and Stravinsky. New music to me is Porcupine Tree. I literally know zero of the names/groups mentioned.

  4. says

    Have some K rock.

    The lyrics for this song, “Azalea,” are based on the work of Korean poet Kim So-wol. It was originally performed by South Korean singer Maya. Rolling Quartz have been playing shows in the US this year.

    The Fix might have a bit of a problem if they take off abroad given the existence of British rock band the Fixx, known for such songs as “One Thing Leads to Another.” Lead singer Leenzy was actually born in New York, while bassist-keyboardist Zo is the musician half of the duo Lofibaby.

  5. joel says

    Wikipedia says the Boy Band movement began with barbershop quartets in the early 20th century. I’m not sure I buy that, but I do see a clear line of progression from the Jackson 5 through the Backstreet Boys/NSYNC (they’re interchangeable) to BTS today. Korea, with a bit of help from their actual government, has done a really good job of repackaging western pop music trends.

    PBS Sound Field did a pretty good musical analysis of K-Pop a few years ago. More interesting than I expected.

  6. Rob Grigjanis says

    jimf @6: Objectively, music reached its zenith with Larks’ Tongues in Aspic.

  7. robro says

    Ronny may be a little off on one point: There’s no requirement to be Korean in the sense of being born in Korea, or even of Korean descent. There are quite a few non-Koreans in the genre. Blackpink has one singer from Thailand and one from New Zealand (tho Korean parents), and I recall one of the groups has a Korean-American singer from the US.

    I went through a couple of weeks a year or two ago getting up to speed on K-Pop, and I’ll say one thing about it: You’ve seen one, you’ve seen all. Whether “boy” groups or “girl” groups, it’s all the same shtick. You almost never see musicians, just stage personas who are “vocalists”…well they hold the microphone to their mouths and lip sync…and dancers. Each group seems to have specialists…the rapper, the ballad singer, the dancer…all carefully concocted by the production companies. The music is repetitive and the choreography monotonous. It’s difficult to tell one group from the other except the “boy” versus “girl” part.

    What Ronny doesn’t get into is the horrible conditions these young people live under while they’re in “training” and actively performing. At least one of the BTS guys (I believe) has been openly critical of the practices employed by the production companies who create and promote these groups. The “youth” focus means that any performer over their mid-20s is getting “too old” for the genre. Very few have had enough talent and/or moxie and/or fan following to make the transition to solo careers but most disappear after a few years.

  8. hemidactylus says

    Thanks @timgueguen I kinda like the Rolling Quartz song. Makes me wonder what Korean death metal might be like.

    Thanks @jimf for reminding me of Porcupine Tree. I have them followed on my music app due to a suggestion maybe here in the past. IMO Smashing Pumpkins were the art rockers of the grunge era, though Corgan has become hard to take. I guess we shouldn’t judge The Smiths by Morrissey either.

  9. says

    “cutest boys” – It’s easy to be cute when you’re young. Heck they might still be cute when they get back from their mandatory military tour, in five years or so. The problem is people might be like “BTS who?”

  10. says


    Of course I’m biased. Took me quite some time to stop despising Donnie Wahlberg for the boy band thing.

    You can still despise him for his role as tough-guy cop who cuts corners in Blue Bloods.
    Or you can do like I do sometimes, which is watch the show and make constant boy band jokes. Like when somebody referred to his character’s experiences in Fallujah, I said “he was in Fallujah? What songs did they do?”

  11. hemidactylus says

    @14- feralboy12
    I couldn’t even hatewatch Blue Bloods. But I liked Wahlberg in Dreamcatcher, especially his transformation at the end. Dennis Miller used to mock him during Weekend Update. Look how he (DM) turned out. But Wahlberg’s wife Jenny McCarthy has been involved in dissing vaccinations. Grrrr! I have watched Wahlburgers out of curiosity quite a few times. I’m not perfect.

    Timberlake too has tried his hand at acting. Ricky Martin broke away from the Menudo thing as a solo artist and acted in a soap opera for a stint (yes I admit knowing that). Hopefully K-Pop artists can break away from the superimposed mold too.

    Admitting my own musical ignorance I had thought Pitbull more closely tied to reggaeton until seeing a show about his Miami upbringing and early attempts (eg- with Luther Campbell) at establishing a bona fide hiphop career. Freestyle and reggaeton were cool genres. IMO boy bands not so much. There is other Korean music out there too, metal included.

  12. lakitha tolbert says

    I was really into K-Pop about twenty years ago, when I worked in the music department of the local library which had a surprisingly large selection before it became known as K-Pop. I eventually lost interest in it for the reasons listed above. There’s a sameness to all of these bands that gets pretty tiresome after a while, although I still try to keep up with which names are popular. I don’t listen to any of their music though. I just eavesdrop on fan conversations.

    Oh, and this is one of the most entertaining conversations I’ve come across about music in a long while. Thanks people!

  13. says

    That video ignores one of major parts of South Korean music: the Punk Rock scene. Unlike the manufactured “girl bands” and “boy bands”, the Punks, Metal, Industrial acts are still DIY bands playing and writing their own material. It was one of the best parts of my time there. Many of them toured overseas, and the the third band below, Slant, toured the US and UK in 2022.

    BTS’s “hiatus” is due to mandatory military service. In the early 2000s, military service was a career killer for male kpop singers. If they joined, they were forgotten, and if they avoided the military, the fans turned on them. The Punk bands were the first ones that did military service and found the fans waited for them, ending the damage to careers.

  14. Reginald Selkirk says

    How prevalent has plastic surgery become in Korea to conform to facial “norms” of perhaps exogenous origin?

    Plastic surgery is so common in Korea that a trope in Korean movies is that a female character (possible a North Korean agent) gets plastic surgery, and becomes completely unrecognizable.

  15. says

    @9 Rob G

    “Could I do one more immediately?” – BB

    As much as I love Lark’s Tongues, there are too many other releases to call that a zenith. It’s more like a broad plateau to me (although admittedly, that would be a little harder to turn into an avatar).

  16. John Morales says

    birgerjohansson, hm.

    When I was in earliest high school, the Bay City Rollers/i> were a thing.

    (As you may imagine, I was disdainful)

    Or, nothing new; different cultures, different instantiations.

    Anyway, isn’t the topic about KPop?

  17. oaktownathiest says

    BTS are not just cute guys (who are now all in their mid-20’s to 30’s) with catchy songs. There is a lot of thought put into their lyrics. Their Map of the Soul era was based on Carl Young, they have songs inspired by Ursula K. Le Guin and Hermann Hesse. They speak openly about their mental health challenges, which is still very taboo in South Korea. Their Love Yourself era has helped many, including myself, improve their mental health. Their solo work is excellent, too. J-Hope’s Jack in the Box is based on the myth of Pandora, and what happens to someone who is expected to be everyone’s hope/sunshine when they need help. Suga’s latest album has a song called Amygdala which looks at a person’s ability to overcome trauma. (Trigger warning for self harm). Not only did he write, perform, and produce the song, he wrote the script and story board for the music video:

    This is Black Swan, one of my favorites, which explores an artist’s “first death;” when they can no longer perform the art they love:

    If you like something a little harder, might I suggest Dreamcatcher. This is Scream, the first song in their Dystopia trilogy, which talks about bullying, and people no longer being kind: