So... Korean pop. The big current groups in K-pop are catchy, well produced, and do not make me feel like a creeper. The girls are typically not overtly sexual. This is partially due to the censorship restrictions on clothing and dances, but frankly I'm grateful for those. I may get a Pussycat Dolls song stuck in my head, but I just cannot sit through a video of them humping a floor in a bikini for 5 minutes. K-pop women also come across as being stronger and more in control of themselves. Certainly there is still the whole aegyo aspect of things, but it doesn't cross over into awkward territory as much. The music and videos also tend to have higher production values, especially for my favorite group (2NE1 what what).
I have gone so far as to suggest that 2NE1 in particular is almost targeted pretty much entirely at women. Their image focuses on attitude much more than it does on sexuality, and their songs tend to have themes of being wronged by men or being in control in romantic situations. There are times they really go over the top with the girl power thing, but all in all I really love their concept.
SNSD is a whole other animal. I don't even know if I can tackle exactly how I feel about the image they portray, but I think it's safe to say they walk the line. SNSD's whole idea is to appeal to the widest possible range of fans. They're cute, but not sickeningly so... sexy, but not over-the-top (not that Korean censorship would allow that anyway). The members have a wide variety of personalities, much like Morning Musume. The music is pleasant without being very hip hop or very bubblegum. It's all walking the middle without being poorly produced or awkward, and that's pretty impressive in and of itself. Their singing ranges from acceptable to very great, but is never bad. They're all very, very unrealistically pretty.
Also, the training for korean groups across the board is INSANE. Those people are well-polished machines, man.
I hate to sound rude, but it astonishes me how so many people use the same false arguments to defend or support Kpop every time it comes up. I really don't think they're catchy, well-produced, or have any kind of drawing factor at all, anymore. I just can't see how trying to emulate popular American music means "well-produced," when most of the stuff that comes out in those kinds of genres nowadays could be produced in someone's basement with a keyboard, some auto-tune and a music editing program.
And on the subject of image, it seems Korean pop groups now do go for more of a "fashion sexy" for lack of a better term, instead of "cutesy sexy" or "slutty sexy" but it comes off as a little bit more lame than both of the alternatives because it feels like they just can't find any truly unique identity, and just have the most generic, overused kind of style in the world today. Most of them look like they just walked out of some trashy American nightclub after a night of cocaine and flashing lights, yet they're just young Korean girls who we know don't actually do these things, so it just comes off as fake as hell, in a different way than say, H!P or AKB. The way AKB or H!P does "fake" feels very different to me because they don't take it so seriously. It feels like they know they're there to screw around, to some extent, and the management companies let that show in a lot of PVs, events, pictures, etc. Kpop takes itself far too seriously nowadays and is always trying to make every artist out to feel like a set of haughty, high-brow fashion models with their heads up their asses instead of some young girls who want to mess around and have fun. And eri mentioned in this thread, the reason a large majority of us like this kind of music/industry is because it is FUN. I see no fun in the way a majority of Kpop is presented.
Also, everyone always says THESE GIRLS ARE SO TRAINED ITS RIDICULOUS HOW GOOD THEY ARE. Yeah, they usually train to dance their asses off and that's all fine and good, but honestly, pretty much every Kpop song I've listened to in the last 3 years or so has so much FUCKING AUTO-TUNE that you can't even really hear what their voices sound like most of the time. Sometimes they're less obvious about it but you can still tell its there and other times they just try to emulate popular American artists and make it so their voices sound about 80% robot, and its really fucking annoying. Just throwing it out there that I don't think you could judge their vocal talent to any kind of degree of accuracy since you really never hear them sing often enough without it going through a machine first.
In terms of aspirational, the same would apply for the K groups: girls want to be like them too. Maybe it is that Jidols aren't as intimidating to try and emulate? But there is also a degree of pure escapism here too -- like, wow flashy music videos! super pretty girls! foreigners! Kind of how Americans like H!P - it doesn't always just boil down to sex (for men) and emulation (for women), right? It is hard for me to say because my interest in pop groups is based on so many different things. Plus, I haven't caught the K-fever and don't find the groups to be all that different in the end.
This is one of the most agreeable posts you've ever made! You would probably think its a bad thing that I agree with you though,
I agree with pretty much everything you said here.
But to elaborate, the idea of it being less intimidating to emulate a lot of J-idols seems very valid to me, because as I mentioned earlier, most J-idols have this sense of somewhat "natural" kind of cuteness or prettiness, whereas Kpop is all like OH OH LOOK AT ALL OUR FLASHY AND FANCY EXPENSIVE CLOTHES AND ALL THIS HEAVY MAKEUP AREN'T WE TOTALLY AWESOME AND PRETTY? It feels like even though some of the J-idol costumes and such can get pretty silly sometimes, they don't have that sassy, "mature" kind of image going on, it feels more like a Jpop girl fan could say something like "oh, if I found some of those clothes and did my hair this way, I could be like her!" Yes, its hard to explain what I'm trying to say through actual statements, I have to come up with fake quotes, but I hope that makes some sense.
I agree. The discussion was not H!P fans vs. AKB48 fans, but rather the marketing of the most successful Japanese group vs. the successful Korean groups. Sure, it got off track in regards to sexuality in media. Sure, DarkRidley and I weren't exactly holding hands and frolicking through a meadow together... but it was hardly a "flamewar." I think we kept it intelligent and civil despite touching on some sensitive topics.
I would like to note that I rarely get into long-winded, serious discussions on this board, nor do I often voice anything other than praise for the moderation of this BBS. Bearing that in mind, I have to say that I'm very disappointed with this treatment of the situation. My .gif posting is too silly, but my serious posts are too serious? These conversations are things that contribute to the unique feel of this board: we're smart, we have a sense of humor about ourselves, and it's supposed to be OK for us to delve into these topics.
I definitely agree that this is the reason I've still stuck around this board as I have the last few years, is I still remember when we used to have these kinds of discussions once every week or two, but it seems like less and less people are willing to get into these kinds of discussions now because they get too afraid people are going to get mad or something, but really, if you can't have a discussion and disagree with someone without getting pissed off, you need to learn a bit about debate before you post. It should be OK to delve into these topics, but it seems no one really does anymore.
Unfortunately, I don't have much to contribute to the original intent of the thread, in attempting to answer the question of "why is Kpop so popular in Japan" since I really don't follow Kpop or its fandom at all, so I don't really have any evidence or anything to contribute here, but like a LOT of things in Japan, it could just be a fad. Whenever something shows up and gets marketed inside Japan that's different from what the Japanese are used to seeing, they usually latch on to it for a while before they get bored and move on to the next thing. That's the only kind of speculation I can add that seems like it might make sense, given when I know of Japanese pop culture in general.
Keep it comin'
Also, Plum, did you used to have another BBS name? It seems like you might be someone who just changed their name recently..Sorry if you aren't, it just seems like it.