Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My view on Gangham Style and K-Pop

PSY's Gangnam Style has broken many records, not only those on Youtube, but also in terms of chart/sales success for an Asian song. First of all, do I enjoy the song myself? Yes, I do. I particularly like how PSY sang that song on stage, as well as all the parodies and flesh mob clips related to that song on Youtube. However, for being a music fan myself, I can't help but take a moment to sit back and take a critic look of this phenomenon, and further share my view of that from a broader scope for a long time span.

These are my thoughts:

One hit wonder destiny- I think Gangnam Style is gonna be another one hit wonder from PSY in the Western music scene. Yes, he signed a label in the U.S., and he does have music talent. But, that's wouldn't change my view. Cuz, Gangnam Style reminds me of few other songs, the most obvious one is Macarena which was sung by unattractive singers (2 older Spanish guys), came with a set of dance (actually not as difficult or funny as PSY's), and it was a big hit in the U.S. to a point that even Al Gore danced along the song. However, does anyone remember the second hit from the singer of that song? No! because there was another one.

PSY's future - he will certainly be label as a spokeperson of K-pop for this generation and will be viewed as a 'living national treasure' in South Korea. Business wise, he will make a lot of money, that's no doubt about it. In the West, he will try his best to replicate his success in coming album, particularly the one that he signed for an U.S. label. He will have moderate success in sales (a quarter million or less in the U.S.) from an Asian artist perspective, but that's about it. No more number one song. The reason is because of many factors.1) Novelity - his success because he is considered to be coming out of nowhere, a completely new singer to the West that dance funny and sing in a strange language. When he starts to sing in English, that's not what his current Western fans wanna hear. 2) Genre - Gangnam Style is a K-pop with heavy programming and loops. PSY himself actually can and does sing in other genre, soften ballad or hip-hop. That's gonna be a tough sell to the Western audiences. They like what they hear, and if change the formula, they wouldn't buy it. If PSY stick to his current formula, he will still be viewed by the Western audiences as doing the same thing for being uncreative. It is no win situation for him.

K-pop in the West - It is no doubt that K-pop has captured a sizable trunk of fan base in the East Asia. However, with PSY and I'm sure few more fellow artists from South Korea who will certainly try to follow PSY's footstep, K-pop will become a bit more well-known in the West. However, I only think that it will only at best become a niche that few world audiences will really take into their heart to follow K-pop in the future. It is because K-pop itself is not really an unique genre. Music wise, it is a bend of dance pop, hip-hop, R&B, electronica, plus bunch of young singers/dancers with 'hot' but 'copycat' style appearance. If they don't have anything that 'exceed' what their Western counterparts have already done, I don't see how would Western fans will choose them over their native artists. For more, Western fans do look at things more than skin-deep. They like their idols to be individuals with unique views, talents, beliefs, or style. They don't mind them to do outrageous things, just to be different. When I see the whole bunch of K-pop artists, many of them do dance and sing well, but that's not enough. What are their background stories? life experience? how they were brought up? what odds that they have encountered and overcome? Have they done wrong and turned right? What are their inspirations? What are their contribution to the music itself? Western fans do care about these things. I'm sorry that K-pop artists wouldn't offer such, at least that's not what I've seen so far. Also, the language is an issue as well, if K-pop artists sing in English, they wouldn't beat their Western counterparts. Even if they are as good, that's still not enough. If they stay singing in Korean, they will have no chance for a long term career in the West. Korean is not Spanish or French, the speaking population of it is just too small. Just because someone buy Samsung or Hyundai, doesn't make him/her a fan of Korean culture.

Wild factor - what I mentioned above is far from certain. One wild factor is the power of MV. The fans these days are not MTV generation. They watch youTube. PSY succeeds because of youTube. It is still possible that his followers will do the same thing by using music video rather than just songs alone to capture fans. To make great MV, it takes money and creativity. These are things that Korean producers shouldn't be short of, at least for the short run. With the visual appeal of the K-pop artists, that would help a lot in that regard. So, there is still possibility that new generation of music fans will take the whole visual package as a whole to choose who they follow. With the growth of broadband, 4G, etc. Technology wise, it would help those K-pop artists in spreading their products to fans over the world.

Well, just some thoughts that I wanna share, feel free to comment if any.

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