Face it, Western Media Doesn’t Care About K-Pop

20130116_theoneshots_jayparkA few years ago, allhiphop.com (no relation to allkpop.com) came out with an article titled “Teddy Riley, Snoop, and T-Pain Link With Korean Superstar Jay Park.” Back then, it was rare that Western media took the time to write articles about K-Pop. Most of them were short and riddled with inaccuracies and misinformation, but it didn’t matter – not for fans anyway. In fact, that article on allhiphop was one of their most read and commented. Jaywalkers and other K-Pop fans flocked to the page, leaving comments with the oft-heard exclamations, “Wow K-Pop is really going global!” The page was so inundated with comments that regular visitors of the site theorized that Jay Park’s marketing team was behind the article’s popularity; that Jay’s street team had gathered around their laptops, leaving comments and racking up the page views.

It wasn’t long before they realized that that’s just the power of K-Pop fans and their overzealous tenacity.

Since then, the comments have been removed. And no, Jay Park never did that collaboration with Teddy Riley, Snoop, and T-Pain. But it was the beginning of Western media coming to understand the value of mentioning K-Pop in their stories. Not that instance in particular, but instances like it during that time period. Page views skyrocketed when random American websites mentioned 2NE1‘s “I Am the Best” in their “top songs of the month” lists. Comments went haywire whenever some random outlet used a photo of insert-idol-here in their editorial about insert-subject here. And videos were constantly refreshed whenever random K-Pop songs were used in Western media.

20141005_theoneshots_quintessential_psy bwWhen you build a music website or blog with the intent of becoming successful, success is determined by the bottom line. That is, how much money your site, magazine, newspaper, or publication is going to make for you. And if your content isn’t getting views, then you can’t make money. Or as my old boss from a big music website used to tell me, “Ultimately we need page views. What’s the point, if you’re not making money?” And in a culture where journalism is seeing its ad revenues drop faster than Kim Kardashian’s panties, there’s been one sure savior: K-Pop.

Long after Psy’s “Gangnam Style”  incited a worldwide frenzy, Western media began looking for “the next Psy.” The man and song that had become the world’s biggest and most recognized act of the year had become an avenue for outlets to begin lining their pockets. In a desperate grab for page views, top outlets wondered if maybe Ga-In was the world’s “next Psy.” Perhaps SNSD? Oh, maybe Chanyeol?

Where my K-Pop Google Alert used to be a dry desert wasteland, it’s now inundated with K-Pop mentions from XXL, Reuters, Vibe, the New York Times, Rolling Stone, etc. Am I saying this a bad thing? Hell no! I’ve waited years for K-Pop to get some recognition, some props for how awesome it is. It’s about time.

But I am saying that K-Pop fans need to be more aware which Western outlets are gaining appreciation for K-Pop and actually wanting to highlight how awesome it is, and those that couldn’t give two shits about the music and are using K-Pop to lure naive fans to buy their magazines and visit their websites.

This is another debate I got into with our friend over at the Prophet Blog. Rolling Stone recently shared their reaction to SNSD’s “I Got A Boy“:

It took the most beloved of all Korean girl groups (and a handful of Euro writers) to finally deliver a song as sharply plotted and blindingly razzle-dazzle as the K-pop machine itself. Harmonizing, speed rapping, and belting like divas, mostly in Korean, these nine young idols romp through a candy land of pop sounds, from minimal R&B to high-BPM dance. It’s a musical gymnastics routine.

20130116_theoneshots_tiffanyI snicker at the phrase, “belting like divas,” mainly because there is no belting involved. But setting that aside, the debate was centered around the question of whether Western media is using K-Pop to make money, or if they’re just now catching wind of (and liking) this established genre of music. “I Got A Boy” is an interesting case. While both worldwide media and Korean media loved “Gangnam Style,” Korean audiences are largely lukewarm to “I Got A Boy.” But Western outlets seem to be trying to push this song onto their audience, desperately trying to make it the next “Gangnam Style.”

Call me a cynic if you will. But I can’t help but feel as if these K-Pop articles in the Western media are products of trying to reach the bottom line. Not all, but a lot. I guess the question is, how much of this exposure will help K-Pop make it in the U.S.? What do you all think? Is the Western media genuinely interested in introducing K-Pop to the masses or do they only care about the money? Does it even matter? Sound off below!

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  • Jon

    General entertainment media outlets only do things for the money…

  • Blueberries

    I have been waiting for kpop to get some recognization (also jpop and jrock) and at least some kind of agreement that kpop really is listenable music. When Big Bang won EMA’s all newspapers in Finland (my country) totally ignored them and only wrote other winners. Wtf is up with that T_T

    I’m still quite mixed with these western media’s new intrest of kpop. All articles that I have seen are really akward and quite inacqurate. It shows that writers are totally apart from international kpop fanbase and they don’t know about kpop at all so they don’t know what to say about it either. Their articles are like persons who just got into kpop so I just have to say that fangirls’d wrote better and more insightful articles.

    And yea, I think it’s totally about money in western world. Many sites have included kpop groups in their votings like Popdust and that totally brings more people to their site who’d never go there if there wasn’t any kpop.

    • absolutely agree. Even the biggest news outlets write shitty articles about K-pop, like all the American “reviews” on big bang’s US tour. It clearly shows they look up Wikipedia for basic info on bands and they do no deeper research on the subject, like when Big bang was compared to Backstreet Boys and the like. It didn’t occur to any of the writers that Big bang produces their own music and is NOT a synchronised-dance “boyband”. All because they never took the time to actually look into their music, look up other songs, take a look at writing credits etc. And why? Simply because they are not interested at all, it’s there only to pull the growing K-pop fanbase into reading the articles and push up page views.

  • Here in my country we had one article when BB won EMA last year and the author of it wrote this “masterpiece” based on BB appearance to thank on stage. She based her whole “deep understanding of boys on gel” on that. She didn’t even looked up to wikipedia to quote maybe title of the album.

    Yep, let’s face it, except for insane and delusional Kpop fandom, no one cares.

  • Jillbear221

    Um…when is the music business–anywhere– ever NOT about “trying to reach the bottom line?” Why is it such a shock to Koreans that the US music industry is about money? Are you trying to tell us that the KOREAN music industry is NOT all about money? Please…..in the end, to westerners, Koreans sometimes look like a pack of nationalists, sometimes very racist (for example when someone asked for a Psy-style dance at a recent Korean concert by another group, the main singer went off on a creepy, racist rant against white people) who are promoting their music not because it is necessarily good (although sometimes it is) but because they are so obviously desperate to be revered on the world stage…but with music fans in the west, that looks really weird. Music should not be about nationalistic fervor. It should be simply enjoyed. Trust me– this is why there is always a disconnect between pop fans and literally the rest of the world.

  • mikedo2007

    I knew this was written a year ago, but thing has been changing a lot for K-pop since then.