Open Thread #13

(Source)

With apologies to Seoulplay, but I’m tempted to only use screenshots from 2NE1′s (투애니원) Try to Follow Me (날 따라 해봐요) music video for the Open Threads from now on! For like Anna at her Appears music blog explains:

Every moment in this promotional video is a photograph. Every shot, every pan, every object has been calculated to the point of mental instability. What is K-pop like in the 10′s? Everything I predicted and more. And like all the things I truly admire in this world, I’m torn between laughing at them and laughing with them.

Read the rest of her post, and you’ll soon see why. And on that note, a quick but serious question to anyone familiar with 2NE1 to get the ball rolling this week: how accurate a portrayal of the group would you say is presented by the following recent video on them?

In a nutshell, I ask because I’m about to start working on a project to find out how actual fans respond to various girl groups’ song lyrics, music videos, and on and off-stage behavior and so on, rather than simply speculating like I’ve done previously. And to do that, I’m planning to join their fan clubs (albeit probably posing as my Korean wife), but naturally I would like to start with groups whose music I really like and/or which has a slightly radical message before I invest the all the time in translating long comments threads about them.

Liking almost all of After School’s (애프터스쿨) songs so far then, or at least DJ Areia’s remixes, I’ll definitely still start with them, but in light of that video I’m now considering looking at 2NE1 after that. So before I do, my question is: do they live up to all the hype?

Thanks in advance, and of course readers please feel free to raise any other Korea-related issues!

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41 thoughts on “Open Thread #13

  1. As an actual fan of the Wonder Girls, and as a serious music junkie, I would say that their appeal to me is for a few reasons. First, I would never put a manufactured group on the same level as a group like epik high i.e. actual artists that write and produce their own material. So I have to view WG based not on creative merit, but on what is presented to me: in this case vocal talent, dancing, charisma, sexiness, and presentation. And i think that is precisely why image comes into play, why I prefer female pop vocalists (with a few notable old school exceptions such as Sting and Phil Collins). Sex does sell. Catchy tunes with retro audio production and 1980s pop samples keep me around, but sexiness hooked me in.

    • Update: This is a considerably edited, hopefully more readable version of the comment I sleepily wrote last night. Must restrain myself and go to bed before writing in future!

      I used to think the same about manufactured versus original groups, but then someone older and wiser than I pointed out how The Monkees, for instance, were originally a manufactured group, but still had good music and were hugely influential on pop-culture for all that. So I’m not quite as dismissive of manufactured groups as I used to be, although I probably still will always at least respect original artists more.

      Regardless, manufactured or otherwise, if I don’t like a group’s music then all the eye-candy in the world isn’t going to make me listen to it. But if I do like it, then that “package” of vocal talent, dancing, charisma, sexiness, and presentation that you describe is certainly a powerful component in my extra enjoyment of it. Granted, that applies to any music really, but I think that it’s particularly true in the case of trance music (which almost all of DJ Areia’s remixes are), because that genre is very conducive to – nay, is explicitly aimed towards – letting one’s imagination go and/or simply fantasizing. And although I don’t mean sexual fantasies per se (I don’t tend to have those when jogging, which is when I usually listen to music), I do prefer attractive women to men as the backdrop to them!

      In an earlier version of this comment I wrote something along the lines of with this blog being about sexuality and gender issues in pop-culture, then I’ve genuinely long wanted to find a male Korean group or singer whose music that I like, so as to motivate me more to write about that half of the equation so to speak. But in hindsight, that’s not quite true: I never really wrote about K-pop at all before finding DJ Areia’s remixes, because I simply didn’t like any of it: with too much hip-hop and virtually no trance here, I’ve overwhelmingly just listened to trance from overseas since I came here 10 years ago (with some notable exceptions like Wax/왁스).

      I did write about certain groups though, most notably SNSD, because they’re all over the Korean media (so I’d look at advertisements they were in and so on), and yeah: the eye-candy helped! But then I discovered Areia, really liked his version of Oh! by SNSD, was motivated to write about their music video and (I think) make some good points about it…and within a month was completely hooked on K-pop. So, who knows? Maybe I’ll find a Korean male group that I like pretty soon (G-dragon has already come pretty close), and I no longer feel guilty about not actively looking for one earlier: I’d never really liked girl groups either!

      • James, it’s as if you’ve read my mind. I too really want to find a Korean male artist that I genuinely like, and my female friends (both Korean and non-Korean) who enjoy K-pop have certainly introduced me to a number of artists that they like…but I can’t manage to find one that really appeals to me. Though I will say as a hip-hop fan there are number of male Korean hip-hop artists I do enjoy.

        Your comment about trance in particular really hit home with me, because I really wish that there would be more trance in Kpop. I was never particularly interested in Japanese pop, but when I stumbled across the Ayu Trance series I fell in love: the music of Ayumi Hamasaki remixed by some of the world’s best Trance artists…I am dying for a Kpop artist to put out a trance remix album that can even come close to the quality of Ayu Trance.

        There are some remixes out there in the Kpop field, but at the risk of sounding too elitist I have a somewhat greater than pedestrian understanding of music production so it takes more than just increasing the BPM’s and overlaying a dance beat to existing lyrics to please me. That’s why trance is so good… it can’t be done “on the cheap” in order for it to really be considered true trance it needs to be reworked and have the trademark crescendos and really transform the track to make almost unrecognizable in some ways from the original – that’s what I call good trance.

  2. ah, you already know my feelings about 2NE1 :) They definitely live up to the hype. When I saw this video a few months back, I thought, “Ah, that explains why I like them so much – feminists FTW!” lol

    The thing is, though, I don’t get the same vibe from After School. While, as DJ Areia noted in the description of his “Ah!” remix*, they do bring something different to the girl group scene in that they are unabashedly sexy and confident females, they don’t bring the same girl power sass that 2NE1 does. Their image as an older girl group does give them the freedom to be sexier than your average girl group, the same way it does for Brown Eyed Girls (though the continual addition of newer, younger members to AS could change this), but I’m not quite sure what that adds to the generally one-sided representations of women in k-pop. I think their presence is a good thing, but I’m not sure exactly why. One of the reasons I’m doubtful is that they’ve been compared to the Pussycat Dolls, who in my opinion basically tempt and tease in order to sell records…. If the two groups are doing the same thing, I don’t see how it helps.

    *Don’t get too excited, I have stepped cautiously into trance and techno music and am probably not going to get further than this.

      • Hmmm, so much to say in reply!

        Well, first up, don’t get me wrong about After School: I didn’t mean to imply at all that I get the same vibe from them that I do 2NE1 sorry. Instead, I like them partially because like you say, they are unabashedly sexy and confident females, which naturally feeds well into the “package” of the group presented to fans like that Mike describes of the WG above (and which I’ll elaborate on further on in a separate reply to him).

        But it’s not like Korea is short of sexy girl band members (although Afterschool’s do seem leggier and sexier than most), and so while eye-candy might – and usually does – persuade me to at least check a girl band out, if I don’t like their music then that’s that. And in fact I don’t like most K-pop, only liking a handful of groups and solo singers in nearly 10 years here…which is why DJ Areia was literally such a godsend, suddenly opening a whole world of music to me.

        Not that I’m so star-struck that I like all of this remixes though, but that’s the thing about After School: I’ve liked all the remixes he’s done of their songs so far. First up, Because of you (너 때문에): not only an intriguing music video in itself because it the lyrics seem to be about a heterosexual relationship, but the visuals about a lesbian one (something I’ll follow up later), but the segment from 2:43 simply heavenly, the background melodies at that point raising my spirits from virtually any depths and making me feel like I can conquer the world, even after probably 200+ times of listening to the song:

        Update: There’s many trance songs that that particular part reminds me of, but probably closest is that from 1:40 of Just Be (2004) by DJ Tiësto, peaking at 2:52:

        Anyway, I can’t put my finger on why exactly, but unfortunately something no longer sounds quite right about that part of Because of You in DJ Areia’s recent edited version below (especially right at 2:44-2:46), so download the MP3 of the first original one above while you still can (update 2 – I exaggerate: the difference was probably just because of listening on the computer rather than via headphones):

        Then Bang (뱅!) is very catchy and perky, albeit especially with all those uniforms, legs, and navels:

        In contrast, his “Greek Nights” remix is quite dreamy, but actually I liked that one better at first:

        And finally Ah!: not my favorite, but I still like it enough to have downloaded it and jogged to it this morning:

        And crucially, that’s 3 out of their 4 songs that I’ve liked, a ratio I don’t have with any other Korean girl band (and, alas, with no remix so far, I haven’t even listened to Diva below yet; will do so after I finish this). Liking them so much then, they’re a natural choice for first doing research on, and being such a new group makes them a much more practical choice too.

        And on that note, that was half of my intended comment actually! I’ll follow up with the second half about 2NE1 after dinner! :D

      • On second thoughts, think my ramblings about 2NE1 and the video would probably be better placed a few comments down really. But before I “go”, a quick thanks for all those posts of yours you’ve linked to (now printed out on my desk in front of me), and it was actually through your blog that I found the video in the first place!^^

        12:02 am – Make that in the morning on Monday that I’ll write that: MUST go to bed…zzz…z.z..zz….zz.z..

  3. 2NE1′s album is quite good, while sounding very American, more so than than their two singles from it even. I like commercial rnb so I like their album. “Try to Follow Me” is a departure and does not sound american at all, but I like it, and the video. It’s sort tuneless, but also sort of really good because of how the dishwasher-production doesn’t drown the girls, just drape them in clicks and whizzes. Admittedly the heavy autotune makes them more or less a part of it. A lot of korean (female) pop is fairly tuneless, aggressive and repetitive and it works when the attitude and character is as strong as in this case.

    And if by ‘hype’ you mean their image and the things they connote, sure.. They’ve felt ‘aggressive’ in all their videos, aggressive and in control, and now even with guns pointing at you to prove it. What is a little odd to me is that groups like this, with members who aren’t ALL _totally_ stick thin and/or classically pretty, and who don’t even do the variety/talk show circus like other groups are still plastered with the ‘no dating’ rule. You feel that they are sold as an alternative, but then they are still treated as typical idols by their company. I don’t get it.. and I wouldn’t have believed it if one of the members didn’t say it herself in an interview.

    • Thanks for your comment, and just to clarify: are you saying that you personally think that their image is just as manufactured as more mainstream girl groups, as evidenced by the fact that their company strictly controls them also? If so then it makes a lot of sense, as being sassy, independent and all about girl-power etc. etc. sounds like all a bit of a farce if they can’t even have boyfriends.

      Indirectly related, when reading your comment I was reminded of what a lecturer (and an ex-Sandinista guerrilla to boot) of mine told me at university in the 1990s about Rage Against The Machine, preaching anti-capitalism while being millionaires. That’s about the full extent of my knowledge of the group though, and we all know I know little about 2NE1 too, so I’m quite happy to be educated about both!

  4. Well, I think the reasons I love Korean pop are outlined pretty succinctly in my post, although it’s an added bonus that I’m very interested in the relationship between gender, sexuality and music and the creation of male and female through (music) culture; East Asian pop is obviously ripe for analysis. That’s the critic in me speaking; the fan in me just loves good music.

    As for the video, does anyone else find it a tad patronizing? The representative of YG Entertainment, Jinu Kim, was speaking as if 2NE1 started an entire revolution simply by giving the country another unattainable standard of beauty fused with mixed signals about sexuality. My favorite moment is when he points out they are “confident, independent, and strong, yet feminine,” acknowledging the discrepancy between females normally being associated with those terms; independence seems to be just another product that seems to sell well right now, rather than a long-term change in gender politics. Am I totally off?

    What’s wonderful is that I think despite this blatant manufacturing of a lifestyle (with the cell phones you have to have to the clothes you must wear to be hip), fans ARE enjoying it for a reason, and hopefully more than just as a reflection of something they want to possess. I’m really looking forward to hearing more about your project in the future, as it will be interesting to see which aspect fans find most appealing, and which “product” it is that creates the most appeal to them: all the “stuff”, or the confident personalities.

    • Anna ~ My favorite moment is when he points out they are “confident, independent, and strong, yet feminine,”

      This could also be an influence of his non-fluent English abilities. Maybe he would have chosen something different such as graceful in other circumstances. I think judging a sentence like that can’t only be done from a feminist perspective…

      • I also found that line patronizing Anna & Chris, but then Marvin made me realize that that might just have been because he wasn’t a native speaker, so I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Even though I think his English was good enough not to have required specific coaching or tutoring for the interview.

        One thing I’m surprised no-one’s mentioned though, is how gushing the video was as a whole about how supposedly great things are for women in Korea these days, when it doesn’t take much reading of any newspaper (let alone this blog) to realize that things are actually the exact opposite. Indeed, I’ve just had to say goodbye to an intelligent and highly educated Korean female friend who’s just left the country because she’s so sick of her minimal prospects for a career here, the demands by her parents to get married and have kids and become a housewife, and so on. And am getting quite sick of that happening to virtually all the cool Korean women I become close friends with to be frank.

        If you’d like a more concrete criticism of the video though, take the example of Korea’s first astronaut Lee So-yeon that it cites as evidence how much Korea is supposedly improving for women: read Michael Hurt’s report on how the Korean media basically vilified her for, well, being a woman, and you’ll be furious.

        So, although she’s still cool and all, I have to mention that when I heard 19 year-old CL repeatedly describe how good it was to be a woman in Korea these days, I nearly spat my coffee at the screen, mentally screaming “What the hell would YOU know??”. Not because of her youth per se, but rather because after several years in YG Entertainment’s “idol school”, then performing and interviews and so on, then well, what would she know about life for average women in Korea?

        But still, however trite and unconvincing to me personally, I’ll seriously be very happy to find that their messages of girl power and so on are being taken to heart by their fans. Watch this space!

  5. Someone please tell me why these groups exist again?

    @Anna – a fair question, one that can’t simply be explained by poor English skills. Surely he practiced the line or got coached / tutored through the 영어 required for the interview. Perhaps because people assume a “confident, independent, and strong” woman can’t also be feminine?

    On a side note, asking the current question on my blog for the month of May – What do you think of ATEK? – don’t want to sidetrack this conversation, but thought I’d throw that out there.

    • Chris, sorry that nobody took up your question about ATEK. If you’d like my own 2 cents though, then I’ve think it’s been doing perfectly fine for its first year or so as an organization, and that many complaints about it stem from unrealistic expectations of what any organization is able to do at that that early stage.

      As for FREED or whatever that breakaway organization is called? God, what a mess, and have no respect for it whatsoever: for the sake of English teachers in Korea, all differences should have been resolved internally.

      Don’t know much more though, so don’t feel like debating those points personally, although of course anyone else is welcome to add their own thoughts.

  6. “naturally I would like to start with groups whose music I really like and/or which has a slightly radical message ”

    That, of course, would be the death of any study that could be presented in an academic setting..

    just sayin’

    ;-P

        • Okay, I get it now. But I did literally mean “start with”: it was S’s idea, with me looking at a minimum of 4 or 5 Korean girl groups in the end, him their Japanese counterparts, and basically seeing what teenage girls and women in each country made of them.

          Probably I’ll look at After School, WG, SNSD, 2NE1, and T-ara. Admittedly S and I haven’t specifically discussed why those groups in particular, and so I’d have to admit that that choice was because of my/our own personal interests (but not my music tastes: I actually don’t like most of what WG, SNSD and T-ara have produced so far). But if I have to rationalize those choices by other means, then they are indeed all linked by having very young members, and if not a majority of those Korean groups that do, then are definitely at least a wide cross-section of them. And SNSD and the WG have also been heavily influential on Korean pop-culture in recent years too, and are virtually ubiquitous in the Korean media (at least until the latter went to the US).

          I’m only just realizing how much work it will all be though, and as I’ve never joined a fan club or anything like that, much less tried to analyze one with an objective eye, then I thought After School would be a good one to start with, for the practical and personal preference reasons I mentioned.

          But of course I don’t have to love or even like a group’s songs to examine their lyrics, music videos, and (mostly) scouring the message boards of fan forums and so on: was just saying that it would certainly help! Not that I think you’d disagree with that of course, but seeing as we’re on the topic then you might be interested in the fact that the whole After School approach angle of mine so to speak was actually prompted by this paragraph I recently read on Gord Sellar’s blog, albeit about a completely different topic (my emphasis):

          The thing was, she had a specific preference for the American TV dramas, and took the universally-applicable validity of her preference for granted. This tripped her up, for what I think is mostly the same reason a lot of literary critics bash SF and can’t produce anything worth reading on the subject: it’s difficult to do really incisive critical analysis on something that you regard as trash, or dislike immensely. Of course, it is possible to do so — otherwise feminist, postcolonial, and other schools of literary criticism would have nothing to say about the texts they most often are very concerned with — but one needs to be well-trained in order to do it well, and it’s just not easy or pleasant.

          Sorry, what was your comment about again? :D Seriously though, thanks for getting me thinking!

  7. The argument of value reletiveness ahhh yes haha

    I havea love-hate relationship with KPOP but the reason I like 2NE1 is that they have off-stage personas and stage personas like really old celebrities had (well you didn’t really even know their off-stage persona’s). And when you see their off stgae pesona’s they seem incredibility genuine. So when they get on stage and transform, it’s a good watch.

    With SNSD, they always have variety image on. I love watching HyoYeon bully people but that’s all you will see or she’s dancing. SooYoung telling jokes or being aegyo, someone is quiet all the time. Aegyo aegyo aegyo. Wonder Girls, the weird one (sunmi<3), the out going one Yoobin, the silent one who cracks witty jokes now and then Sohee, the intellectual Ye Eun, the deep thinker and aspirer Sun ye. Dynamics people, dynamics! With 2NE1, Dara and Bom have their images but the youngest actually seem like relateable people. Sometimes silly, sometimes don't wanna talk, sometimes just wanna sing instead of talk to the camera and sometimes reflective. That's what I saw from watching 2NE1TV anyway. I think you should take a look if you plan on joining the 2NE1 fan club forums. It's a great way to get a back up knowledge on their behaviours off stage sow hen you join you'll understand waht fans mean when they talk about their fav. members.

    Park Bom's voice has been ruined somewhat, she strains so much and I still think it has to do with the work done on her face. Can barely enunciate

    Before:



    After:


    (above: my fav perf from her since she debuted in 2NE1 – her English got really bad from being away from America)

    Only a delusional person would say she sounds exactly the same of what she did before. Her high notes have become "eeehe ehheheh ergh sounds" and her voice's less smooth – it sounds like she's trying so hard. I cannot describe it. I still love her though, she's so adorable MOKSU SHIREOYO!! XD

    • To me at least Park Bom looked better before her debut, so it’s all the more unfortunate if her voice has been messed up by plastic surgery. I’ve read that she auditioned for YG something like six times before they hired her – perhaps they told her not to come back until she’d had something done.

      On a related note, Younha has said that she was turned down by several Korean companies because they didn’t think she was pretty enough. And then she had a veritable Korean Photoshop disaster with the photos for her third Korean album, leading to netizens speculating about a nose job – again because someone decided she wasn’t pretty enough.

  8. This is coming from a strictly non-Korean overseas KPOP fan PoV.

    I don’t think 2NE1 lives to the hype. The package is certainly something to gawk and admire for its esotericism, but the thing that keeps me from naming them as a favorite KPOP girl group of mine is their lackluster stage performances. Yeah, they certainly have a lot of charisma in them, but they don’t bring enough dynamism on stage as the hype attributes to them.

    I’ve been a huge fan of After School ever since they came out. I recall when they were first debuting, they got a lot of hate for being “too slutty” or things along those lines. I was quite flabbergasted by those kinds of comments. Yeah, sure they were showing quite a bit of skin, but what were they wearing? Track suits and gym clothes! What parts of their body were they showing off? Their toned legs and midriffs. They weren’t showing themselves off as coy sex objects. They were asserting themselves as strong women who knew they were fine and could probably really kick your ass if you messed with them (and not in a gangster type way like I would say 2NE1 tries to emulate in their “hardness”).

    While both 2NE1 & After School bring something a little different to the table, the way I see it, 2NE1 is all a put-on persona, while After School is a state of mind…if that makes any sense. ahah

    Although I have to say, AS’s latest “Bang!” is very BLAH to me, while I’ve loved all their other original songs.

    A big thing I’ve been thinking about in terms of KPOP girl groups is while I enjoy watching the products they churn out, how are they in any way good role models? Girl groups are so overly objectified and treated like products that I find it problematic that young girls would want to be like them or men want to date someone like them.

    • A quick question before going to bed (sorry, too tired to write more!): do you remember where/from whom you head them being called “too slutty” etc. etc.? Thanks!

      We can agree to disagree about Bang! though; and Diva I guess, which I didn’t like myself. But then I’ve only ever been talking about the trance remixes (which there isn’t of Diva yet), and in fact the original song doesn’t really do it for me either!

      • Hmm..it was mainly browsing through YouTube and other KPOP blog comments. This is kind of a vague memory for me since it’s been a while now, but I just remember it pretty strongly because in comparison to other girl groups out at the time, AS was far from “slutty” or exuding too much sexuality.

        My favorite song from AS is “Bad Guy,” but I don’t think they were allowed to promote this song because Beckah says “fuck” in it. While I love the newfound burst of fame AS has gotten recently, I miss the sound and attitude of their first mini-album.

        I notice that when girl groups first debut generally, although they produce good material that showcases their talents rather than strictly a concept, they don’t really get noticed. Case in point would be the Brown Eyed Girls. They produced a lot of really good music a year or so after their debut, but while they got a fair bit of recognition for their talent, their popularity didn’t blow up until they sexed it up and got massive amounts of plastic surgery (which they confessed to doing due to their lack of popularity on an episode of Strong Heart)with “Abracadabra”. I think I’m also seeing the same thing with the new girl group Secret. They came out pretty strong, although with a song that may be a lil’ too bubble gummy in “I want you back”, but now with “Magic” and all their chest popping and body shaking, they’re getting attention. Same thing with the Wonder Girls, “Irony” was such a strong song for them where all the girls showed off their vocals (even Sohee who sounds horrible now because they give her parts well over her range), but now they are running on gimmick dances and catchy repetitive songs.

        This is just a lot of ramble for me. Ahah~

  9. As a fan of 2NE1, I would say that they do stand out to me and live up to the hype surrounding them. I tend to like them a lot more than other girl groups like Wondergirls and Girls Generation because their music does not only include loving someone and being hurt by them. I personally like their image because none of them are the cookie cutter Korean girls regarding their looks, yet they are all very pretty in their own ways. These are the kind of girls that other girls look up to and want to emulate. When I look at Girls Generation perform, it makes me sick because they come off and so weak and ready to lay it down for any “oppa” that comes along. 2NE1, for me, seem like the kind of girls you can see out at a club just hanging out with people having a good time enjoying themselves. I think they are good role models for impressionable girls in Korea who, up until now, have looked up to groups who are all about pleasing men and showing how naive they are.

      • In the “story” version of Run Devil Run, the girls who love the oppa so much win the “battle”. To me it says “I’m just gonna be run all over by oppa instead and continue my aegyo!”

        • Wow, really? That’s very very interesting to know, and I never would have learned of it myself because I don’t even like the trance remix of the song.

          Either way, even before I knew that a professor friend who writes about K-pop told me he wouldn’t be surprised if it emerges that the “dark SNSD” theme was planned years in advance by SM Entertainment, and if anything this new information does corroborate that slightly.

          • i wouldn’t be surprised. Particularly because not long after Run Devil Run came out, they featured in this CF for LG:

            In light of this, the dark theme seems more of a strategic marketing plan in order to get fans to buy the repackaged version of “Oh!” than anything else. In the end, they’re still relegated to their aegyo image.

            Which is why I like watching the youngest member, Seohyun on We Got Married. It’s weird that she’s doing this show when she’s only 18(19?) but she seems a lot more genuine here than in anything else I’ve seen her do. She’s not all about the aegyo, and she strikes me as somewhat feminist, even though that may just be my hopeful imagination :) She also admitted on Strong Heart that she thinks the lyrics to “Oh” are embarrasing, which may be a sign that the girls themselves aren’t buying what they’re selling to their fans. So maybe there is hope somewhere? And maybe 2NE1, while not themselves experiencing what average Korean women go through, actually believe in the message they send through their image and music.

            • Also, YG Ent. always seems to be trying to distance themselves from the rest of the k-pop industry, and it shows in the way they market their artists. I can see, then, how 2NE1′s image is probably completely manufactured for the purpose of making YG stand out among the many entertainment companies out there. But, at least the image is a positive, and dare I say empowering one, despite the fact that things aren’t as great for women as they make them out to be.

  10. hahaha thanks for the shout out

    This is the image they are given by YG they are a female knock off of big bang (and yes I do realize that they have been marketed to the world as a female big bang) (which is already popular with the ladies) They appear to be more realistic compared to their competition and their target market relates to them. If you look at all the endorsements Big Bang has made in the last three years, 2NE1 has also endorsed them since their debut not to long ago.

    Whats with the gender splits anyways, I don’t see a problem with comparing female groups to male groups. Music is music, yet everyones stuck on putting them in categories.

    I think that Bom deserves to be a solo act instead of sharing airtime with mangnaes

    However,
    not all VIP’s are blackjacks too

  11. I’m an American female fan of a number of Korean groups, including Big Bang, DBSK, Epik High, Drunken Tiger, Super Junior, and so on. I wasn’t interested in female groups, but eventually became interested in different groups, but not to the point that I follow them. Rather, I like certain songs from different girl groups.

    I’m an older fan as well, 35, so I find 2ne1′s image sassy tomboys/strong willed women to be as manufactured as the overall girl next door image of SNSD. I enjoyed some of 2ne1′s songs I Don’t Care and Fire in particular, but found their actual performances less then appealing. Their dances are usually lackluster and unmemorable unlike the BEG or even Kara dances. And Park Bom and Sandara have very little stage presence or charisma and its up to CL and Minzy to sell their performances mostly. I like Minzy, she seems to have actual talent, I don’t care for Park Bom’s looks, or her voice in particular, CL sometimes tries too hard with the attitude, and Sandara is just bland…

    In the case of 2ne1, some of the members have talent, some don’t (guess who?), but overall, they have been skillfully marketed by YG and they do bring a different vibe to mainstream Korean pop. Also, like soulplay said, the group was supposed to be like a female Big Bang, which brought a more hip hop and r & b style to the mainstream. I’m waiting to see if 2ne1 can live up to the hype right now. They’re a pretty new group and should improve and become as polished as After School, SNSD and other groups performances.

    In regards to male groups, I would suggest you look into Big Bang, as they’re closely linked to 2ne1, especially my favorite Taeyang.

  12. After avoiding k-pop for a very long time (I’ve got a conflicted relationship with my Koreanness, as I think a lot of Korean-Americans do) but have become kind of addicted recently. The girl group that has caught my eye the most is f(x): they’re a rookie group that just came out with their second mini-album (as in, today) and they’re trying to work a concept that emphasizes their difference from the other girl groups in both appearance and music.

    Their heterogeneity is fascinating to me, and it’s one that extends beyond the nationalities and cultures of their members (2 Koreans, 1 American-born Korean who returned to Korea in grade school and is the younger sister of Jessica in SNSD, 1 Chinese girl, and a 1 Taiwanese-American) is the gender presentation of one of their most popular members, the Taiwanese-American, Amber, who is their rapper. She’s a most androgynous creature, and basically looks identical to a lot of the male idols out there, but instead of that being a turn off, that’s created an enormous female fan base for her.

    I’d love to know what your thoughts are on them.

    • Um, typing error. Instead of “is the gender presentation,” that should read “to the gender presentation.”

      Mea culpa.

      • ooh, I listen to a bit of f(x). Not a fan of the new album – the title track is the only one I like and that’s only for the beat. As for a different image… yeah, I guess, but what is it? Young and quirky instead of cute and coy, maybe? I don’t see them standing out as much. I am a huge fan of Amber’s, though someone somewhere questioned her androgynous-ness. They were like “the label made her do it”. I wonder though… has she always been a tomboy and SM just capitalized on it? or did they make her boyish because she has the face to pull it off?

        • It’s interesting to me because there’s a certain dissonance between the edginess of their look and the bubble-gum, bright sound of their songs. I think the new album definitely has more edge than Chu, bu that’s not saying much…

          As for Amber, judging from pre-debut photos, she’s always been a tomboy, and SM just capitalized on it. While I’ve read about how oppressive these entertainment academy/factories can be, I don’t think Amber’s gender-queering is an instance of it.

  13. My favorite moment is when he points out they are “confident, independent, and strong, yet feminine,”

    Exactly! I’m not sure I’m buying the non native speaker angle. His grasp of English seemed really solid.

    I really dig the music of 2NE1 but really how much control do they have? Are they simply the faces and bodies with the folks like Jinu Kim pulling the strings? How independent are you if all your lyrics and music is being produced for you? Did they construct their image? Do they give them talking points to hit when speaking with the media?

    That’s my problem with manufactured groups: you don’t know how much is manufactured.

    I too found it strange how they trumpet the time of the woman in Korea and yet only show us Kim Yuna and Yi So-Yeon but then she’s shown doing her hair? Riiiight.

    Where are the K Pop stars who clawed and scratched and fought their way to the top? Unless that is pretty much impossible in the industry?

    Oh and can I say that I want to have that voice over guy follow me around and narrate my life! What a voice!

  14. Thank you for taking the time to edit my post into a more presentable manner!

    I agree with kmk, you never know what’s manufactured enough. I usually revel on who can fool me the best. 2NE1 however seem so genuine and if you watch old videos of Sandara Park when she was only starting in Phillipines, her personality has always been the same. If that’s manufactured then she has a strong soul to keep up that image for so long at an age of only 25/26.

    When SNSD first debuted every member got their own I think MTV ‘Behind the story’ to show their daily life and personalities… I only watched two members clips over a year ago so I cannot compare with their appearances on TV now.

    Also for James: Have you heard of the controversy concerning Pledis’ choreogrpaher taking dance moves? Th original choreogrpaher was incredibly polite and thanked After School fans and his own fans alike for supporting him in this obvious stolen dance sequence. Pledis however, replied with the rudest reply ever. I wonder how GaHee, who is supposed to be an awesome dancer, feels about it. Even with their image of mature women on a roll, there’s still always control.

    Regards ^^

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