Sakura’s Kara Earworm got my mind wandering this morning and I happened to have my laptop in my bag, so here are some random thinkings…….
I have to confess that I’m kind of fascinated by the whole K-pop phenomenon. As you may know, most K-pop stars are required to attend intensive and thorough training and teaching in a wide range of skills – singing, dancing, language skills (usually English, Japanese and Chinese), interview and media training etc alongside regular school studies, for a number of years before they are unleashed on the world as a complete unit. It’s like a combination of university study and job training.
I think the whole idea of giving in-depth skills training is brilliant. I don’t see it as being manufactured at all, it’s just giving people the necessary skills to do the very difficult job of being an international pop star. If you don’t have training, you can often end up with……Travis ! I know they are an easy target, but I single them out for two reasons a) I once read an interview with Fran Healy where he said that he didn’t really listen to music and only owned about 10 CDs – which I just find so depressing. It’s difficult to see how can someone with no knowledge of or interest in their job can have the temerity to present their music to the world and expect to be taken seriously, and b) they are shit.
Other creative industries have colleges and universities; art college or drama school for example, and people expect artists and actors to be highly trained and knowledgeable – they don’t accuse them of being ‘manufactured’ because they take learning their craft seriously. “But they don’t write their own songs or play their own instruments, they’re not REAL musicians” I hear you cry. Well, actors don’t write their own films or build their own sets – they just perform what’s written for them in the manner that the director tells them to. Good actors do it well and transcend the tight restrictions laid on them, and so it is with good pop stars too.
I once read that K-pop groups like Kara or Girls Generation deliberately make their performances less slick and smooth and add imperfections for their Japanese audiences, as in Japan we prefer the home-made-outfits and DIY approach of the AKB-style bands and find being slightly crap endearing and kawaii (yet another thing in common with the Brits). I was astonished at this at first, but then I realised that it is just clever marketing – like the latest James Bond film having a different poster for the Indian market or whatever – and shows awareness and respect for the people that buy their records.
The likes of Big Bang, Girls Generation, Super Junior and 2NE1 (Psy doesn’t really count!) are already filling stadiums in the US and with such a well-planned and professional approach it’s surely only a matter of time before the UK falls too. And when it does, don’t criticise them for being slick and manufactured, but salute their attention to detail, passion for perfecting their skills, taking their careers seriously and respecting their audiences enough to learn a whole new language just to communicate with them. Or alternatively, just sit and stare in admiration at the girls’ lovely legs and the boys’ great hair and perfect cheekbones!