After a very popular article published on the Ask a Korean blog, it appears that the definition of the term “K-Pop” is under dispute. So in the second half of this episode Rob and Eugene try to hash it out and come to a more solid definition, but still end up not totally agreeing on it. Oh well!
“All of this music is post golden age… 1992-2002.” -hipster Eugene
So here is where we dive right in and get down to try to define K-Pop. After about 20-30 minutes of discussing it, we decide to make a scoring test to see if your group of choice is or is not K-Pop. We also spent a lot of time talking about a group called EXP Edition which has no Korean members, debating whether or not it is K-Pop… We said if they promote on Korean TV then they definitely are… and well….
Watch at your own risk… We are not fans…
Rob actually wrote a blog post on this subject where he published the rubric (or his later edited version of it) which I have copied into this post.
Group 1: Necessary? Sufficient?
__ Marketed toward Koreans in Korea (50 points)
__ Sung in Korean (50 points)
__ Marketed toward Korean diaspora (15)
__ Group is signed with either: A Korea-based, Korean-owned label (15) One of the “big three” Kpop labels (YG, SM, JYP) (30)
__ Group promotes itself on Korean shows like Music Bank, Inkigayo and Music Core (40)
__ Group is NOT signed with a Korea-based, Korean-owned label (-20)
__ Group/singer was active before the 1990s (DISQUALIFIED) __ Group/singer was active since 2007 (3 points) __ They play their own instruments at live shows (-80: they’re not K-pop anymore. They’re K-something else.)
Group 2: Makeup and Formation
__ Add 5 points for every member the group has after the first five (so, a six-person group gets 5 points; seven-person = 10 points; a 12-person group = 35 points)
__ Subtract 3 points for every member of the group who was not born and raised in Korea
__ Subtract (__) more points for every member of the group who could not pass for Korean in physical appearance (ethnicity/race is important to some people, who will want to put a point value here. I don’t really care as long as the next requirement is satisfied).
__ Subtract 8 points for every member of the group who is not fluent enough in Korean to make appearances on Korean television
__ Group was chosen and trained by the label (15 points)
__ Group members are on restrictive, probably unfair long-term contracts (7 points) __ Group members are all gorgeous by conventional standards of attractiveness. (12)
Group 3: Aesthetics
__ Creative choices for songs, videos and dances are made by the studio, not the performers (8)
__ Music videos all have a “concept” (5)
__ 3 points for each group member with a designated role (“the visual” “the bad girl” “the vocal”)
__ Music is driven by synthesizers and sounds like a mash-up of other popular music genres (4)
__ Features rap solos that add nothing to the songs, or dance breaks that sound like the trendiest EDM styles of the day. (4)
__ Cute poses and extreme close-ups feature prominently in videos (3)
Group 4: Promotion
__ Subtract 4 points for every single released only in a language other than Korean (lose too many points, and you’re not K-pop anymore: you’re Asian pop, J-pop or something else)
__ Subtract 2 points for every single released with a Korean version and a version in another language
__ Subtract 5 points if the group has a “sub-group” targeting markets outside Korea
__ The Korean government has actively promoted their music (12) __ Add 2 points for every advertising campaign they appear in in Korea. __ Add 1 point for every advertising campaign they appear in in the rest of Asia. __ Has an online fan club (10 points) with a quirky nickname (3 more points) run or closely managed by the label (8 more) pumping fans for more money through special offers and deals (5 more) whose fans will fucking dox you SWAT you and cut you if you diss their group (12 more)
Group 5: Other
__ White men over thirty living in Asia who don’t listen to it sneer at it contemptuously and talk about it as if they were experts on it (7 points)
__ James Turnbull has written 3000 words about them (3 points)
__ One or more performers were discovered on a Korean audition reality TV show (__) add value here: I don’t care about this but some might.
__ Nobody has suggested a different hyphenated K-genre for their music (For example, “She isn’t K-pop: she’s K-indie!”) 5 points
UPDATE!Here are some suggested additions to the checklist from Facebook. Thank you, Jon Dunbar!
__ Band is mixed-gender (-20) __ Band name could be mistaken for a chemical corporation (good one: wish I’d thought of it) (5) __ Band wears a uniform or uniforms (5) __ Minus one point for each year above 25 of the band members’ ages
(Rob riffing on those:) __ Band does a video in thinly veiled fetish gear (3) __ Plus 3 points for each year below 19 of the band members’ ages