20110622

The K-pop bubble

Pop, that's the sound of a bubble when it bursts. Not your usual, big fat speculative bubble, no : rather the cute, ephemeral, soap edifice of a kid.

But K-pop is not much of a child's play : here, no room for innocence, chance, or unexpected wind twists. In this overformatted industry, creativity only exists in the way products are marketed, with a focus on viral and addictive gimmicks.

In a certain way, K-pop mirrors Korean society in this early IIIrd millenium, but not in its most sustainable aspects : visual and auditive over-stimulations including immediate reward systems, a dystopia founded on extreme competition and superhuman training leading to the negation of nature and systematic plastic surgery, mushrooming virtual communities offering the security of belonging without any ideology-related stress...

Yet, nothing new under the sun. As far as music is concerned, of course, but also regarding the business model : you simply have to adapt classic boy / girl bands recipes, and to progressively inject some of Hollywood majors' tricks to lead a young and docile audience along the slowest and most controled maturation process. SM Entertainment & co plan to alter their product mixes step by step, so that consumers don't churn as they grow older. Longer lasting K-pop groups have already developped embryos of proto-intellectual alibis, illusions of brainwaves because you don't want to believe your favorite singer is "a mental midget with the IQ of a fencepost"*.

Does it sell ? You betcha : as soon as the first contagion signs showed in Europe, K-pop marketers rushed to Paris with their whole Barnum.

Not exactly the kind of cultural bridge I dreamt between Asia's and Europe's heralds of cultural diversity... But I'm getting used to it : a couple of years ago, I was crucified by Uzbek or Japanese Bae Yong-joon fans because I deplored the way 'dramas' were promoted overseas, or the vacuity of Yonsamania (sorry but Korea shouldn't be summed up in that Hallyuwoodian caricature of Michael Jackson).

Hopefully, theses fads won't last. And something positive can even grow from them : the most daring fans will reach deeper into Korean culture, its language, and its fantastic cuisine**.

blogules 2011 - see also "La bulle K-pop" on blogules in French, "K-popping bubbles" on SeoulVillage.com (join Seoul Vilage on Facebook, on Twitter).

* in the musical universe, Tom Waits is probably the ultimate anti-K-pop element : an ugly fella with a rough voice and crafting incredible songs by himself (this line belongs to "The piano has been drinking (not me)", best served in the album "Bounced Checks").
** another cultural domain where the Korean government has been promoting exports
a not always subtle way...

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