A 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.
When 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.
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.
I 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!