Concept Change and Experimentation in Kpop

Some people believe that change is inevitable and I tend to agree with that. Look how far we have come in the world and this belief extends to all parts of life for those who believe it. Sometimes it is easy to argue against it because change is not always instantaneous. Sometimes we see it coming because we get updates on the progress of that change, but sometimes it hits like lightning and most of us are taken by surprise. It is the typically long length of that change and sudden appearance of change that many of us get comfortable with the ways things are now. This is often the case in Kpop because a group/artist often debuts with a theme in mind and it is made apparent with the label’s statement about the artist(s). Statements that say the group will show how cute they can be or what it means to be fierce men/women give fans the idea about what they should expect in the long run. Some people don’t like surprises and these same people like to make up their minds about whether they like the group ahead of time based on their concept. This is not exactly fair because the concept can be done in various ways that can clash with what a fan imagined and this might be why the aspect of concept change exists in Kpop. At least it is one likely reason for it.

Girl group ‘Wassup’ is a prime example of a group judged far before they even debuted based on a stated concept. They got the name “Twerk-dols” because of the statement that “twerking” was going to be a part of their performance, but that aspect has not been as big as it appeared it would be back then.

[Source: seoulbeats.com] Link: http://tinyurl.com/k8wdftt

Let’s stick with ‘Wassup’ for a while and look at this issue. Wassup isn’t a typical mainstream girl group and they never aimed to be one. They were described as “spreading hip-hop”, so they are more of a K hip-hop group than a typical Kpop girl group. What do I mean? Well, they are supposed to be a little more unconventional than other girl groups in Korea and even a bit more western than their fellow artists. This is where some people saw a problem. If you have been in Kpop for even a month, then you know some people have an idea of what Kpop should be for everyone. Some people believe it is cute and innocent, while others believe it is tough and cool. Very few people believe Kpop should be about sex appeal and seduction, but most people will admit it is bound to show up every now and then because “sex sells” as they say. Lots of Korean fans and fans who want to belong in that group “turn their noses up” to any aspect of Kpop that seems Western, which generally means American. There are plenty of other countries in the Western Hemisphere, but the idea is understood when it is presented. This usually is due to international fans going to Kpop to escape typical American pop music or Korean fans believing their Kpop is better than American pop music. Sometimes both types of fans just believe American pop is bad and Kpop is used as the opposite aspect for comparison. This is not true for all fans, but the criticism of a Kpop group/MV being too “western” usually comes from these feelings. ‘Wassup’ was said to include “twerking” into their debut MV and later interviews show they actually worked hard to do their best at it. However, many people instantly turned away from them and began to bash the group before they even debuted. I won’t repeat those names, but you can easily guess the names used and how they don’t make sense to a logical person. The issue is their label, Mafia Records, is not stupid and their live performances did not have as much “twerking” as people thought it would. These feeling stick to this day, but the group has gained a larger following since their debut. Many of their fans appear to be international fans, but that has not stopped the group in any way. Later MVs are not as “envelope-pushing” as their debut MV and this might be Mafia Records realizing they need to compromise with the public to make a profit, which keeps ‘Wassup’ alive in the industry. Not all groups have as rough of a debut, but they encounter some less-than-happy fans when they decide to experiment with a new concept or even completely change.

Some Girl’s Day fans were not happy about the sudden change the group took from their old concept of cute to their new concept of sexy. Maybe the labels should start sending out memos that a group is about to change concepts and how long or just a fax that says “Big change coming up for [insert group name here].

[Souce: soompi.com] Link: http://tinyurl.com/lwrygls

The “old” ‘Girl’s Day’ took the route of the cute and somewhat bubbly girl group. It wouldn’t say it is just like ‘APink’, but it is in that area. They followed this route for many years and then “Expectation” came out in 2013. This was met with a few widened eyes and raised eyebrows from fans. It was a bit unexpected and I did not plan that pun ahead of time. (><) It was sexier than ‘Girl’s Day’ had ever been before and the fact that it was a sexy concept at all took fans by surprise. This song was followed by “Female President”, which many people feel was a nod to the newly elected President Park of South Korea. She is the first female president of South Korea and some people took that as a positive sign of female progression to come. The concept was still sexy, but not too risque. It was even seen by some fans a little less sexy than “Expectation”. There was the cheer song for students taking finals called “Let’s Go”, which obviously was upbeat to serve it’s purpose. This got some fans to believe ‘Girl’s Day’ had gone back to their old concept of cuteness and the sexy concepts were just a phase. This idea was quickly shut down when the girls came back with “Something” earlier this year. “Something” was their sexiest concept yet and it was part of the trend of sexy concepts girl groups were trying at the time. Their label, Dream Tea Entertainment, did announce ahead of time that ‘Girl’s Day’ would be coming back with a sexy concept, but a label cannot give too much away or the surprise is ruined. It also lets the competition know what to expect, so fans are still left in the dark when it comes to most of the details. Some fans went toward ‘Girl’s Day’ initially because their old concept was what they were looking for in a Kpop girl group. The change turned some fans off of the group, which would make it seem like those fans fell in love with the concept and not the girls themselves. This is a core issue when it comes to Kpop fans and their loyalty. Some fans will stick with a group and love all their concepts out of an uncompromising love for the members. Sometimes it is even taken to the length of loyalty people have for an organization they belong to or their homes. However, some fans are only loyal so long as the group pleases them and sticks to the concepts they prefer. A few of these fans will not like a comeback, but stay loyal to the group in the hopes that the label shifts the group back to a concept they like from them. Some fans can quickly turn against their idols, like the After School fans when they felt ignored or general fans when a group takes on a concept they don’t want from the group. This is not fair to the idols, who often have little say in their concepts and it is not true love for the idols. This is similar to falling in love with the fantasy the group presents with a concept and not the group itself. There are many concepts and many groups in Kpop, so finding a group that has your favorite concept while your favorite group is changing is not hard. If you really love the group and the members in it, then supporting them despite concept changes should not be hard. Turning against the group is never right because it hurts them and they actually do see the negative comments you leave online.

U-KISS’ Kevin Apologizes to Fans for Mature Concept in “Quit Playing”

Sometimes idols or the labels of the idols will apologize when the public shows enough distaste for a concept. It is often because enough of the public spoke out about the concept being too mature or finding fault with a potential message in the MV.

[Source: soompi.com] Link: http://tinyurl.com/ntn6s23

A recent example of fan outcry about a concept change/experiment is between KissMes and ‘U-Kiss’. The latest comeback for ‘U-Kiss’ is titled “Quit Playing” and has a mature concept, which brought a ban down on the original choreography on various live music shows.  Kevin of U-Kiss recently went to Twitter to voice his opinion concerning the mature comeback.  As stated in a Soompi article (linked above),  “As you know, I’m part of a group and sometimes being a part of a group and working in the entertainment industry means I don’t always have full creative freedom to do things how I wish.” This implies that, at least, Kevin would have made the comeback less mature than it turned out to be with “Quit Playing”. This reinforces my point earlier about idols having little control of the concepts they use with their songs. Even solo artists have to work with their label to get a concept across, which is only in the idol’s hands if they are managing themselves. Kevin went on to say how he does not believe in the behavior shown in the MV or of any of the characters portrayed in the same MV.  Some fans and critics felt the female choreography and main female character in the MV objectified women and made women look bad with the theme of the MV. “I would like to apologize to our fans and viewers who might have been offended by the material in the music video and choreography. ” This is what most likely prompted Kevin to go to Twitter and apologize, which once again reinforces an earlier point of mine. The idols do see what you post online and the labels definitely see it, which means the idols will eventually find out. They are people too, so be kind and don’t act rude. If you don’t like a concept, then ignore it and wait for a new comeback. If you feel betrayed for some reason, then just move on. There are many other fans who will support them and these idols don’t need any more stress from additional anti-fans or haters. Your idols will not stay the same forever, so it is best to be ready for the day they change from now. Just remember to be civil with them and other fans who support the idol’s new concept.

What do you think?

 

“Cute” Girl’s Day:

“Sexy” Girl’s Day:

“Debut” Wassup:

“3 months later” Wassup (Notice the difference in the Like/Dislike Ration):

“Old” U-Kiss:

“New/Recent Comeback” U-Kiss:

 

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