Ah, more on Korean girl bands!

2010 may be remembered by some as the year that Korean girl groups made some significant headway into the Japanese music industry.  Although, I’ve seen several articles address this topic, one from a video game blog (of all places) summarized the phenomenon pretty well.  Over at Kotaku there was an interesting piece on their sudden rise in popularity in the neighboring East Asian nation:

In the early part of the last decade, Korean popstar BoA made a big splash in Japan with her poppy tunes and power ballads…. But in 2010, Kpop truly exploded in Japan with groups like Kara, 4Minute and Girls’ Generation releasing chart topping tracks. Not all the singers have a strong command of Japanese, even if they recorded entire albums in the lingo.

Apparently, Kara has been especially popular given their comparatively decent command of the Japanese language.  Regardless of what one may think, at least at this point in time Korean girl groups in Japan are popular and selling a lot of music.

With the rising popularity of girl bands both domestically and abroad, the Chosun Ilbo regretfully asks if girl groups are the best Korea can do to represent their pop culture:

The popularity of Girls’ Generation may be a passing fad, but the fact that young manufactured bands are sweeping the popularity stakes is a sign that popular Korean culture is becoming shallower by the minute. We need to do something about that before it’s too late.

Japan’s enthusiastic reception of Korean girl bands seems to be reciprocated.  Kara will be in a Japanese reality show that will chronicle their search for “love” on the island nation.

Another thing that’s interesting is that back in their homeland these girl bands have often been criticized for being too “sexy” by many in government and society.  Japan is a nation that is more, how shall we say, “tolerant” and “open” of young gals gyrating their bodies in skimpy and/or suggestive outfits in music videos and concert arenas.  Seems like a good fit to me.

  • seouldout

    Regardless of what one may think, at least at this point in time Korean girl groups in Japan are popular and selling a lot of music.

    It’s been said that country music, and only country music, continues to sell well because its fans haven’t figured out they can download the songs for free. Same too for Japan’s Kpop fans.

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  • YangachiBastardo

    This was overall a mediocre year in terms of sheer quality for k pop, very few songs reaching magic-status, i hope this rise in the Japanese market doesn’t work as a contrarian indicator

  • slim

    That Chosun Article hits the mark, but critics and the masses almost never agree.

    Would these K-girl bands sell any records or concert tickets if they kept their clothes on? Would Lady Gaga, for that matter?

  • slim
  • YangachiBastardo

    slim: graduate school in DC in the late ’80’s, early ’90’s…mmmhh…that link you posted…mmhh me thinks you are a fan of bands like Fugazi, Dag Nasty et al

    anyway you’re wrong about k-pop: i love to listen to it cos i’m addicted to electronic sounds, i like some videos cos of their craziness but i really don’t care about how the bands look like (and my fave band is a male group…Big Bang)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com setnaffa

    Given that the men in the Korean “Rock” scene are all some combo of Emo, Prince, and Boy George, it’s no wonder the light pr0n version of the k-pop industry is so popular…

    The whole thing is just another cover for the Frankfort School’s anti-Culture theology…

  • αβγδε

    The popularity of Girls’ Generation may be a passing fad, but the fact that young manufactured bands are sweeping the popularity stakes is a sign that popular Korean culture is becoming shallower by the minute.

    Nowadays, it seems a bit simpleminded to judge a singer on the basis of whether this person wrote or produced her own music. I think most kids understand this. They understand the enormous amount of collaborative effort involved in bringing a good pop song to life — the fleets of production people, the directors, musicians, composers, songwriters, sound engineers, beauticians, choreographers, dancers, agents, and the performers, entertainers, and gasoos themselves. Music is judged on how well all of these elements lock into place and are put into motion. That’s modernity for you. And for the consumer of such music, it’s the whole point: To be entertained by the entertainers. Good music can no longer be reduced to the dots on a clef on a sheet of paper.

    That said, as far as pop music goes, the quality of songs produced by Kara/DSPE, SNSD/SME, or 4minute/Cube/JYPE have all been very good. I find that they’ve all been well produced, presented, and marketed.

  • YangachiBastardo

    abyde that must be probably the first and last time we agree on anything 😉

  • αβγδε


    Hey, hey, hey! Don’t latinize my SN, bastardo!

    Or, rather, please do.

    I don’t care. I think it’s convenient.

  • http://pawikirogii.blogspot.com pawikirogii

    ‘anyway you’re wrong about k-pop: i love to listen to it cos i’m addicted to electronic sounds, i like some videos cos of their craziness but i really don’t care about how the bands look like (and my fave band is a male group…Big Bang)’

    k pop is popular because it’s so catchy and flashy. the other day, i was at youtube looking at a k pop page and i was kind of stunned to see how many hits some of the songs got. for example, a song form girls generation got some 32 MILLION hits. another song by g-dragon called ‘heartbreaker’ got some 17 MILLION hits. it ain’t just koreans who love k pop, that’s for sure.

  • slim

    The Dude abydes…

    Sr Bastardo – Never was a real punk, but have managed to see a few of the key bands (Ramones, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys) in their heyday. Ditto jazz — not a huge fan, but saw Miles Davis and a lot of heavyweights, though not necessarily in their prime.

    In high school (1977-79) my favorites were The Grateful Dead and their solo projects, Jefferson Airplane and some of their spinoffs, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Marshall Tucker Band, The Outlaws, Allman Brothers Band and their spinoffs, Traffic, Frank Zappa, The Band and their solo projects, The Outlaws, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Talking Heads, Neil Young, Billy Bragg, Lou Reed, Dr. John, Tom Waits, STAX-era Memphis soul, The Neville Brothers and a lot of the better-known bluesmen like Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker and Otis Rush. Never got into metal, disco, soft-rock or prog-rock or commercial country. The earliest rap music intrigued me with wordplay but I don’t find the genre tuneful enough — and I get enough loud hip hop from car windows in DC now. To me, listening to electronica has no point without recreational drugs. I’ve always had a weak spot for The Cure.

    In college, I was too poor to buy much music, but mainly followed that high school line-up, adding the odd punk or post-punk artist, R.E.M. , Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robert Cray into the mix. That was followed by 18 years in Northeast Asia, where I was largely unmoved by J-pop and K-pop (which, by and large, seem derivative of Western genres I never cared for in their original forms) and embraced newer forms of indie and alt-rock that the Internet made accessible.

    Today, 9 months shy of my 50th birthday, I keep on eye on the jamband scene, Southern rock, alt-country, New Orleans music, Chicago electric blues and Canadian indie. I particularly like so-called “freak folk” and/or hippyish rock acts like Sufjan Stevens, Devandra Banhart, The Fleet Foxes and Blitzen Trapper and lo-fi oddballs like The Tallest Man on Earth, Phosporescent, Langhorne Slim and (the late) Vic Chesnutt. (My collection has a decent number of Asian-American artists, including Suzy Suh, Thao Nguyen and the Get Down Stay Down, Carol Bui, and Jake Shimabukuro — singer/songwriters who happen to be of Asian decent, rather than constituting a genre per se)

    Artists I’ll drive 200+ miles (300+ kms) to see include Lucero, The Drive-By Truckers, Randall Bramblett, T-Bone Burnett, Chuck Prophet, JJ Grey & Mofro, Widespread Panic, Ben Harper, Phish, Tony Joe White, Richard Buckner, Lambchop and Grant Lee Phillips.

    I agree with αβγδε about the craft that goes into these K-pop songs, and am not as hung up as the Chosun Ilbo (which after all is the Wondergirls’ grandfather’s newspaper) about whether such singers write their own material. But I do tend to have more respect for artists who write their own lyrics and music and play instruments.

    My overall sense about the K-pop bands this thread and the Chosun rant are focused on is that this is music that is made for young teens — and in a country where arguably kids don’t necessarily grow up as fast as they do in the West. Nothing wrong with that, and I celebrate it as an example of Korean soft power that may help chill out the Chinese people and subvert North Korea, but it will never be my dance.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Baby Vox in North Korea!


    You gotta love the expression on those North Korean faces!

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    But seriously, com’on Nork fellas… is Baby Vox (or any Korean girl group for that matter) any more shocking than this?


    North Korean joy brigades!

    Hummm…. maybe they are not as talented, which is why the North Korean ajoshis are jeering with a stone face?

  • Granfalloon

    Speaking as a life-long and former semi-pro musician, I feel I have some authority when I say K-pop is FUCKING AWFUL. It’s derivative, over-produced, and severely lacking in what we musicians call “substance.” I have very broad tastes in music, from electronica to hip hop to punk to jazz to metal to classical. And I find very little of redeeming value K-pop.

    Lest you think I’m picking on Korea, let me add that I think 90% of the pop music that comes out of America is awful as well. Black Eyed Peas, Katy Perry, Akon, Ke$ha (oh god Ke$ha) . . . this is honestly some of the worst music I’ve ever heard in my life. Listen to this all-star collaboration for the perfect example of modern pop music:
    It starts off as simply mediocre, flirts with “in poor taste,” and at some point veers straight into terrible. If anyone out there thinks this is good music, I implore you not to breed.

  • http://www.san-shin.org sanshinseon

    Ditto Granfalloon. And Slim (or at least his HS self) would get along very well with my iPod, except that he forgot to list the Stones (which i’ll charitably assume was mere oversight).

  • bumfromkorea


    I have the same opinion (though not the same expertise :D… my reaction is more visceral), but I always wonder if I would think better of them if those pop music artists call themselves ‘entertainers’ than ‘musicians’. If the objective is to ‘generally entertain people’ rather than ‘make great music’, they’re certainly doing a good job, aren’t they?

  • Granfalloon


    I’m not the first to make the analogy between pop music and fast food, but it works on several levels. People go to McDonald’s because they’re hungry, and they don’t want to think too hard about their food. People listen to pop music because they want to listen to music, and they don’t want to think too hard about their music. In both cases, the corporate producers of the product are under no illusion that it’s “quality,” which is why they pour a fuck-ton of money into marketing. Nobody’s gonna buy that shit on its merit.

  • wjk, 검은 머리 외국인

    There’s three brands of Korean music makers today in the market.

    and another.

    SM and Yang Hyunsuck just copy and paste and rearrange. The best example is probably Heartbreaker by G-dragon. SNSD is just a copy of Morning Musume with taller, more attractive girls. Japan has long had Morning Musume style girl groups with many members. Korea only started in the last couple years.

    Park Jin Young actually seems to compose some of his music. In the 1990s when I was into rap music, I saw Park Jin Young credited as one of the producers.

    Yang HyunSuck and Seo Tae Ji just copied copied copied like most of them and they still do. I almost laughed my ass out when he claimed G-dragon will sue Sony music or something like that for libel.

    Don’t take me as an expert, I just notice from generalizations I made myself from a handful of youtube videos. But, it is enough to make a correct impression.

  • αβγδε

    I don’t care if you’re a maestro who can shred guitar at xxx beats per minute or if you play saxophone and can improvise a thousand measures of music through a thousand modes, keys, and time signatures. The apropo question is, can you look as cute as Nana, Rainy, and Lizzy in Red Riding Hood costume and dance as cute as they do here?:


    I see a lot that’s praiseworthy in the MV above. The choreography, costumes, stage-presence and performance of the song fall within the category of “talent” in my book. And I’ve only posted the dance version of the MV.

    Or maybe Orange Caramel are not the best example. Consider IU’s recent “Good Day” song and MV instead:


    One can’t in good conscience say there’s nothing of value in such a rich and thoughtful production. The MV is lush with visual motifs and an elaborate set, IU is charming, and the dance routine and fashion are quite fitting for the music.

    I’ve got rather highbrow music tastes myself. The difference between me and others here is that I take care to avoid fallacy in aesthetic judgement wherever I can. I don’t let my ego get the best of my commitment to an open mind. I’ve got principles! 😉

  • http://pawikirogii.blogspot.com pawikirogii

    Who cares if it’s derivative? The stuff is catchy. Koreans copy? Yes, and so does everybody else. That’s called ‘diffusion’. Humans have been doing that for a long time. PS I can’t get that g dragon song out of my head derivative or not.

  • wjk, 검은 머리 외국인

    as an ‘artist’, I’d imagine you are not proud or recognizable if all you do is outright copy copy copy copy copy copy copy copy copy copy.

    Does anyone proudly claim to be a copycat of Van Gogh or Rembrandt and be recognized or rewarded as such?

    people on the real billboard make original music.

    No respect for Korean music until the Yang Hyun ‘Sucks’ get pushed over the cliff.

  • Granfalloon

    Would you say the guy who thought of putting toys into Happy Meals ™ contributed to the world of cuisine?

  • seouldout

    One wonders how farshe could have gone w/ a bit of choreography and cutesy hand gestures.

    The Clash is all ya really need. If you really want something else you can go with Big Audio Dynamite.

    And The Specials. GBH, too.

    That’s enuff.

  • YangachiBastardo

    K-pop like many Koreaan things started really derivative then evolved toward something really cool…actually if Kraftwerk were some bored teens who grew up in the Dong-daemun, they would sound exactly like the mighty Brave Brothers

    ele electroboooooooyzzzzzzz…this is the coolest song of the year

    pawi: you come late to the party G album was my obsession last fall 😉

    hey fellas i’ll give you some news…music, as was traditionally meant, is fuckin DEAD, now it’s time for plastic

    GBH, too.

    the memory lingers on when you were same as us
    3 months old baby you still lived love and fuss…

    you know the rest

    add to that list bohse onkelz, cro-mags, olho seco, angry samoans. cripple bastards et al

    somebody needs to investigate the link between hc punk and electro

  • http://www.wm3.org iheartblueballs

    actually if Kraftwerk were some bored teens who grew up in the Dong-daemun, they would sound exactly like the mighty Brave Brothers.

    If Kraftwerk were bored teens who grew up in the Dongdaemun, the education system and their parents would’ve destroyed any chance they had at creating anything meaningful before they ever touched a keyboard.

    Come on bastardo, Kraftwerk were revolutionary and influenced just about every great electronica act of the last 3 decades. Brave Brothers are serving infinitely-recycled bubble gum to teenagers incapable of recognizing any of the previous chewers. You can’t be serious.

  • http://pawikirogii.blogspot.com pawikirogii

    ‘pawi: you come late to the party G album was my obsession last fall’

    hi bastardo, how are you? i somehow cannot translate g’s video into other media. so, is his cd worth a buy? have a good day.

    ps i also can’t get brown eyed girls’ stupid song ‘abracadabra’ out of my head. that shit is catchy.

  • Maximus2008

    IHBB, NO ONE can be serious if defending k-pop. Bastardo is just teasing us, for sure.

    Granfalloon: I always liked your comments, and now I truly think we think alike in many aspects. K-pop is awful, musically speaking.

  • seouldout

    ‘Ere you are, pawi. Something else you won’t be able to get out of your noggin.

  • slim

    As someone who catches 80-120 concerts and 2-3 big festivals a year and is not a huge electronica fan, I have to put a 2005 Kraftwerk show I saw at Washington, DC’s 930 Club (capacity 900) as one of the most memorable shows, sonically and visually, I’ve seen in the past decade. They all looked like German investment bankers in black suits and short haircuts and showed no emotion (until the encore), but they took us through their catalog inventively and masterfully. For their second set they came out in white space suits that looked like something Andre Kim might have done for NASA.

    K-pop IS bubblegum, full stop. For evidence of where the US music industry sees K-pop fitting in the scheme of things, note that the Wondergirls “splash” in North America this past year was as the opening act for tweener favorites the Jonas Brothers. To me, that’s neither good nor bad, but it sounds about right.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    IMHO the Wonder Girls wasted their time in America. They should have tried breaking into Japan. It would have made them a lot more money. It appears that Kara, 4Minute and Girls Generation were a lot smarter (or at least their managers).

  • numberoneoppa

    ^Absolutely. They’re English wasn’t nearly good enough to begin with, either. JYP is an idiot.

  • numberoneoppa

    Maximus2008: Yeah, I seriously like kpop. A lot. It’s fun to listen to, you’d be wrong to say otherwise. :)

    @wjk, you said “people on the real billboard make original music.”. You’re fucking kidding, right?

    Mainstream music is pretty much the same in any country. Mass produced. Korean girls happen to make the music bearable. No surprise there, right?

  • Jieun K

    WARNING: Off-topic

    YB, if you read this, check this tune out.

    Waxolutionists – Restored

    Slow tempo, but I hope you’ll enjoy it.

  • YangachiBastardo

    pawi: thanks ! Actually i survived a terrible time in my life recenty, thanks God things are better now, my loved ones have been close to me and this time i’m not gonna do other stupid shit…next summer we move to Hong Kong, a new adventure begins

    slim, granfalloon, ihbb et al: as slim impressive list shows America is the last reservoir of modern music ( i say this without any trace of irony) and Americans seem to treasure and cherish their modern, rich popular traditions more than anybody else. Here we’re talking about a completely different level: the feel good factor. I know that without Kraftwerk nothing would have been possible but this is not the reason why i listen to them, it’s cos of the dopamin their synths release in my brain. Right now Brave Brothers is one of my main providers of dopamin.

    It would be like comparin Italian Renaissance art and manga, sure Raffaello is great, but quite frankly i prefer spendin a few minutes reading Berserk.

    Mind you even for the dumbest, most mainstream junk you need talent: to go back to GF fast food metaphor i personally hate McD but nothing beats spending lunch break with my old friends from the street days laughin and munchin on a triple whopper with cheese at BK….and fuck all the boring, overpriced gourmet restaurants we have in this country

    Jieun: wired, supercool song happy new year crazy one

  • seouldout

    Saddened to read that Boney M’s Bobby Farrell died the other day. RIP.

  • http://www.xanga.com/wangkon936 WangKon936

    Compare and contrast. Which is sexier?

    Japanese version of SNSD’s Genie:


    … or the Korean version?


  • wjk, 검은 머리 외국인


    it’s more original than SM and Yang Hyun SUCK’s stuff.

    Can you argue otherwise with a straight face?
    I think you are severely biased by your current love for Korean females.

  • αβγδε

    On average, Kpop and its fans have the best dancers, yo:


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