Ashley got me into this stuff. It’s amazing both for the songs genetically engineered in a laboratory to be perfectly catchy, and for the absolute mastery of marketing.
So, there’s a few like big talent agencies that run the whole operation. I don’t know all of them but one of the biggest is JYP, named for Jin-Young Park who used to be a big time pop star himself in the 90s but now he is a producer and mogul. So what they do is make these all-boy or all-girl groups, in the vein of like your Backstreet Boys or N’Sync. BUT they are also reminiscent of like the Spice Girls, in that each of the group’s members has their own persona and style.
That’s TWICE, I actually can not stop listening to them, for real.
As you can see they also often load the roster up with as many performers as possible. Which is GENIUS. Because there’s no pretense of this being like a little garage band that all knew each other and dreamed of making it big together. You know how in the US they always have to push some kind of narrative like that? Or else the focus is on like, the one big name (like your T Swifts or your Biebers or whatever). The ONE exception maybe is like One Direction, which reads almost as a throwback to the 90s-00s boy band era in the US and which is now sort of falling apart I think?
Cause the thing with K Pop is, they have distilled the essence of the pop group down into its individual elements, and it works PERFECTLY, like a well oiled machine. There is no pretense or narrative: these groups are openly constructed piecemeal by recording executives, or in some cases, like that of TWICE, by reality show contest. They don’t even pretend the group members are songwriters: they’re entertainers. Every group will throw in like: the pretty face, the dancer, the rapper, the badass. Or some slight variations depending on how many people are in the group. The songs, as I mentioned before, are basically constructed by committee to appeal to everyone.
So, you put a bunch of young, attractive people in a group together, give them songs that are guaranteed to be hits, and watch the money roll in. THEN, as if that’s not enough, you can watch fan reactions to gauge which members are the most popular and spin them off into lucrative solo careers. And since they signed long term contracts with you in hopes of getting their big break, you own all that new content too! This is what happened to Hyuna, who got her start in Wonder Girls before going solo. She is also the lady with the pool balls shirt in the Gangnam Style video. Her song “Bubble Pop” is amazing.
And THEN you can just fill Hyuna’s old spot in Wonder Girls with someone else and it’s totally OK! Nobody pretends to be mad about authenticity because it’s just accepted that these are pop songs and they don’t work that way, and it’s totally ok. It’s a much more efficient way to do things, I feel.
The other genius thing they do, is release more than one type of music video. When the song first drops, they do a big production-number kind of music video to promote it, with costumes and set pieces and whatnot. But then, they KEEP releasing videos. The big songs all have choreographed dances to them, so you have to watch the dance studio video to learn how to do it. Then you have to watch the dance studio variant where they’re all in school uniforms. And then the remix dance video! FOREVER! I think this makes it so you don’t get sick of it as quickly. You’re still getting the hook drilled into your head, but it feels fresh and so you get a lot more life out of it.
OK, one more thing that exists in this crazy pop culture universe is Fan Chants. During live performances, the audience chant/sings along to the song with like accompanying lyrics, that are designed to supplement the song without interrupting it, and which often feature the names of band members.
I’m not really clear on this but I’m pretty sure fans make these up on their own and then they get adopted like unofficially-officially.
OH yeah the real last thing is that you don’t pick a favorite within a group, the correct term is ‘bias.’ I don’t know why, it just is. For example, in TWICE, my bias is Chaeyoung. Because she is badass and wears good coats.
In conclusion, I will link to Itaewon Freedom, which features JYP himself and is funny.