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Monday, July 14, 2014

The Ten Reasons YOU Should be Listening to K-Pop

It's K-Pop week here at alienhits! Many of you longtime readers have undoubtedly noticed that more and more Korean music has been featured on this blog the past several years. It may seem like a lot, but I'm actually holding back. I'd say about 50% of the music I listen to nowadays is of the k-pop variety. So, I need a whole week to focus on my favorite new musical region, starting with an overview today. I present to you, the ten reasons YOU should be listening to k-pop.

1. It’s more diverse than you think
In other words, it’s more than Gangnam Style. Sure, the k-pop industry is built upon that highly produced hybrid of dance, r&b, electro and hip-hop, but delve a bit further and you can find pretty much every genre represented in the community. In fact, the last three albums released from YG Entertainment's (one of the biggest agencies and star-makers in Korea) artist roster range from quirky folk-pop, old-fashioned r&b and futuristic hip-pop.

2. They have the art of distribution down
There’s no endless waiting around for your k-pop fix. It's not uncommon to have an album announced a week or two before it's released, followed quickly by several music videos and a full-on promotional tour. It’s wham bam, thank you ma'am. And they've learned the art of mini-albums (or what we'd call EPs in the West). This allows for more music, year round. Plus, if you decide to buy the physical albums (and you should), you’re rewarded with mini-pieces of art, quite often packaged in elaborate boxes and innovative design.

3. Big budget music videos
Miss the days of impressive, futuristic promo videos like Michael and Janet’s Scream? Well, most k-pop mvs are like mini movies, filmed with a glossy look that puts Western videos to shame. I don’t know how much they spend on these things, but they look like they’d cost millions of dollars. Plus, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get a new one the day each album, single or mini-album is released.

4. Prolific album releases
Speaking of releases, it’s not uncommon for one group to release several mini-albums, or even several albums, a year. This means consistency in quality is sometimes an issue, but with so much music to prune from, who’s complaining? Multi-year waits between your favorite artist’s music releases are rare, while they seem to be the norm in the West.

5. They look damn good doing it
Beyond the gorgeous aesthetic appeal of most of these Idol Bands, their avant garde fashion and styling is compelling all on its own. You could put a G-Dragon video on mute and still be riveted just by the visuals. Plus, the dancing (and there’s a lot of it) is always on point.

6. It’s East meets West
More than any other Asian country or region, Korea's musical output is a real melting pot. It has that traditional Eastern appeal, and obviously the lyrics are mostly Korean, but it borrows heavily from Western inspirations as well. That makes it the most approachable Eastern music to foreigners. I don’t speak the language, but I still feel I understand most of what’s going on, especially from an aural perspective. Plus, a lot of the songs are co-written or produced by Europeans and even Americans. In fact, one of this blog’s favorite Danes, Thomas Troelsen, was my initial bridge into the world of k-pop with his great work with the band EXO. It’s an amazing, worldwide collaboration.

7. You can find a translation for almost anything
Many music videos feature English subtitles now, and if they don’t, it’s usually pretty easy to find them. Compare this to regions in Scandinavia, which are very tricky to find subtitles for. I wish they subtitled Sweden’s Melodifestivalen like they do many Korean shows.

8. Their “American Idol” equivalent is about fifty times better than ours
It’s called K-Pop Star, and it’s amazing. The judges actually know and critique music and music theory, the talent is unbelievably impressive, and it’s producing stars left and right -- most recently with Akdong Musician and Lee Hi at YG Entertainment.

9. The multifaceted talent is incredibly impressive
Much of the music might seem highly produced and processed, but behind the scenes, many of these superstars are ridiculously talented. It’s not uncommon to find a singer/dancer/rapper/composer/multi-instrumentalist. They take their music seriously in Korea.

10. It's a big pool, and you'll get addicted
It might seem overwhelming at first, but start with the big two agencies (SM and YG) and move from there. You'll quickly fall down the rabbit hole and have a hard time clawing your way back up!



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