Trends fade in K-Pop quicker than a scene in a T-ARA MV. Here’s my list of what I think will dominate the music scene in 2014 and what I’m hoping will become a 0.5 second memory. (I feel like MYNAME’s Hello & Goodbye should be playing in the background…)
Goodbye (Incredibly Vague) Sexy Concept
What girl group didn’t have a sexy concept this year? It seemed like the default option for entertainment companies in order to automatically receive attention and press. However, the controversies are beginning to pile up concerning the choreography and wardrobe choices used in these comebacks. Music Bank even released a statement stating that due to viewer backlash, bands like AOA, Dal Shabet, Girl’s Day, and Rainbow BLAXX had to change certain aspects of their performance and even their wardrobe.
And, of course, poor Stellar are receiving insane amounts of negative press for their asset-revealing clothes and porn-like promotional strategies. Frankly, K-Pop fans shouldn’t be angry at these poor girls who are probably under an insanely-restrictive contract. Instead of preoccupying their time calling them horrible names, fans should be angry at the misogynistic pigs handling their careers. Also, for the sake of this article, sexy means provocative attire, suggestive dance moves, and very little musical sustenance. I think censorship is an entirely different topic worthy of its own article, so I won’t dwell on the hypocrisy of broadcasting companies when it comes to female idols and “inappropriate behavior” versus male idols and lack of creative restrictions.
I believe this year entertainment companies will realize that this “sexy” concept bandwagon has become completely unoriginal, uncreative and unsurprising (without a stronger plot or justifiable substantiation). The shock factor is gone and the public is now preoccupying themselves pointing accusatory fingers. Groups need to find their own identity to make it in K-Pop long term. Following trends will only get you so far. Who knows? Perhaps they’ll decide to adopt a completely different strategy by going the wholesome way á la Girls’ Generation 2007. It seems to be working for A Pink. (Though that in itself could lead to a whole other level of hypocrisy.)
Hello Supernatural Concept
Dark MVs with subtle literary references and supernatural themes are growing in popularity. In 2013 alone, the VIXX members were vampires (On and On), demons (Hyde), and voodoo dolls (Voodoo). In an interview with K-Rush, member Hyuk said that he suggested the vampire theme for On and On because of the increasing popularity of supernatural films and fiction books, like the Twilight series. Other bands like LADIES’ CODE and EXO have also had dark fantasy themes in their music videos. Solo artists have also adapted to this new trend, with JYJ’s JaeJoong becoming an enslaved angel in Mine, BIGBANG’s T.O.P. going back to the dawn of evolution in Doom Dada, and IU trying to run away from a pair of cursed fairytale shoes in The Red Shoes.
I believe in 2014, entertainment companies will continue becoming more creative with their artists and concepts and will take greater creative risks. I would also love to see this creativity be exercised in more artistic promotional activities. For example, the creation of an entire vampire-themed showcase with creepy backdrops and romantically sinister interlude videos. Or like a pre-single-release mini film telling the respective fairytale while starring Kim Woo Bin! As a fan, I would really appreciate this and such promotional strategies would make me more engrossed in the album’s story.
The Retirement of “Leggo”
There are a lot of common phrases in K-Pop, but this year “leggo” was the word you had to sprinkle into your song if you wanted to sound cool. Abusers of this word include B.A.P., Bangtan Boys, Jay Park and even VIXX. Considering the overuse of this word, I think we’ll see a new “it” hip phrase become the intro to a multitude of songs. Unfortunately, new band Kiss&Cry already used it for their January debut, but I’m hoping that’s the last we see of this word. If I hear it one more time I might just rip my ears off.
Idols Taking Greater Control Over Their Image
Each year, more and more idols begin to take more creative control over their music or image. In 2013, G-Dragon and Beast’s Junhyung released solo albums with songs that they wrote, composed, and produced. For MBLAQ’s Sexy Beat comeback, Cheondung wrote and composed Sexy Beat and Dress Up. Meanwhile, Mir penned the lyrics for R U OK? and 소녀 (Girl). Girls’ Generation’s Yuri co-wrote the lyrics for XYZ for the band’s ‘I Got a Boy’ album and Seo In Young finally released her first mini album under her own private entertainment company, IY Company. Whether it’s a small step, such as a co-write, or a big step, like taking complete creative control over a comeback, I think it’s fantastic and inspiring that artists are being empowered by the success of other artists, who’ve braved the production process.