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K-Pop 101

Hi everyone!  I am here today to explain the wonderful world of K-Pop to you! Right now some of you may be asking yourselves, “What is K-Pop?” while others may be thinking, “Of course Hannah would write an article about K-Pop.”  So, let’s start with defining K-Pop. Basically, K-Pop is popular music from South Korea.  It’s a very broad category and includes many different types of music.

In K-Pop, there are three companies called “The Big Three.”  Creative, right? They are the companies that most of the K-Pop groups and solo artists come from.  So, if you see a group that is from SM, JYP or YG, know that their company is able to put much more money into their debut because they are part of “The Big Three.”  Other well known K-Pop companies are BigHit Entertainment, Cube Entertainment, Starship, and Pledis.  

Many groups in K-Pop are created through reality TV shows or other forms of extensive auditions.  Once someone has been accepted into a company after an audition, they are then considered a trainee. This stage lasts for differing amounts of time, usually anywhere from a few months to a few years.  Trainees generally live in company-owned dorms, so their debt to their respective companies gradually increases over time When a trainee debuts as part of a group or as a solo artist, they, hopefully, start making money and paying off that debt to their company.  However, so many groups debut that only the most successful ones ever make enough money to pay off their company and then become rich themselves. And, many trainees never debut, so they still have to pay off their debt. In my opinion, this system is the worst part of K-Pop, which is why it is so important to know about and keep in mind as you watch and listen to K-Pop.

Now, onto the fun stuff.  In each K-Pop group there are positions: leader, vocalist, rapper, dancer, visual, face of the group/center and “maknae”.  The leader of the group is generally voted upon by the group members. They are often either the eldest or in the middle of the age range.  Their job is to be the spokesperson for the group. The vocalists are exactly what you think: they are the ones who sing. However, there is a main vocalist, lead vocalist, and sub vocalist.  The main vocalist will have the most lines as they are considered, by the company, to be the best singer of the group. The lead vocalist gets the second most amount of lines, and the sub vocalist the least.  The rappers and dancers have the same three levels to their positions. The visual is who the company considers to be the best looking member, and the center is, well, most often found in the center of group formations.  The maknae is simply the youngest member.

Finally, when a K-Pop artist comes out with new music, they perform on music shows.  Music shows are competitions where artists can perform their new singles for the public.   All of the music shows have different components required for an artist to win, but all shows involve voting from fans.  If an idol wins a music show or multiple music shows, they get more publicity and more people are likely to check out their songs.  

Lastly, many K-Pop idols have stage names.  I will refer to them only by their stage names.  Otherwise I will end up switching back and forth between their stage names and real names.  The way stage names are chosen depends on the company. Sometimes companies allow the idols to choose, and sometimes the companies choose for the idols. And, there you go, now you are pretty much an expert on all things K-Pop.  

Moving on to current K-pop news! Recently, Hyuna and E’dawn from Triple H revealed their relationship to the world and rocked the world of K-Pop. Now, the funny part about this whole situation was that their company, Cube, said that they were just friends and then the next day the two of them were like “Nah, we’ve been together for two years.”  The K-Pop world went crazy. K-pop idols dating is such a big deal that in the past, many of the bigger companies would place dating bans on their groups. The idea is that more fans will follow the groups if they think that they have even the slightest chance of dating an idol in the group. Apparently, an idol is considered more attractive if they are single.  I think it’s ridiculous. Anyways, back to Hyuna and E’dawn. When fans found out, many international fans (fans not from South Korea) were very happy for them. There were also lots of compilations made of all of the idols’ interactions and moments when we really should have known that they were dating (I may have watched a few). However, many fans in South Korea were upset and angry. The result of the disputes between fans was Cube putting E’dawn on indefinite hiatus in his main group, “Pentagon.”  Hyuna was not allowed to perform at a music festival. Many international fans created a petition for E’dawn to be allowed back into group activities. I agree with them; he should be allowed to participate in their next comeback. Some fans have said that Cube is doing this to protect E’dawn from fans who are mad, which I think is silly. In my opinion, hiding is not the right choice given that the whole world is watching.

Well, I hope you learned a bit more about the world of K-Pop, today.  I encourage everyone to go check out some K-Pop groups. A few big ones are: BTS, EXO, Twice, Big Bang, and Red Velvet.  My favorite group is BTS, but I also really enjoy Day6, Seventeen, Mamamoo, and iKon. Come to K-Pop club on Thursdays in Scott 2 and let me know what you think about Hyuna and E’dawn and if you listened to any of those groups!  

Update: Hyuna and E’dawn have now been dropped by Cube Entertainment.  You can imagine my feelings on this. Also, Cube didn’t even tell them, they found out through the internet.  I think, in general, the K-Pop industry is a flawed system. The Big 3 dominate the industry and affect the outcomes of music shows.  Cube only listened to the complaints of Korean fans, who imagine that they can date their idol, before dropping Hyuna and E’dawn, completely ignoring both idols international fans.  This latest scandal only exposed another part of the ridiculousness that is the K-Pop industry.

Update: Cube’s stock dropped by about 6% after the news broke that they dropped Hyuna and E’dawn. They have now said that nothing has been finalized.

Update: Hyuna and E’dawn announced that they will be leaving Cube.  I love them.

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