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My K-Pop Awakening

안녕하세요! UIC Radio 소니아 입니다.

I have experienced a cultural awakening.

Earlier this semester, my friend/roommate Pearl and I were sitting at our kitchen table working on homework when I decided to take a quick break and scroll through Facebook, when I came across a video of Buzzfeed’s The Try Guys acting out scenes from Korean dramas. This ignited a conversation between us about Korean entertainment, dramas, and music.

Before I came to UIC, I grew up in suburban Chicago in a town that… let’s just say didn’t have a whole lot of diversity. So I wasn’t introduced to much music outside of the weird alternative stuff I was into, and the mainstream hip hop and cringe-worthy country music (that I avoided at all costs) that the rest of my high school was into. The only occurrence of Korean entertainment of any kind I experienced in high school was Psy’s “Gangnam Style.”

Naturally, coming across this video on Facebook talking about Korean entertainment, I showed it to Pearl (who is Korean and speaks Korean), and immediately she went off on a rant about how K-Dramas are so cheesy today, listing off all the different tropes and reasons why it essentially sucks. Also naturally, being the troll friend that I am, for the next hour or so, I dove headfirst into YouTube to search for over-the-top K-Drama videos that I knew Pearl would immediately hate me for.

The first K-Drama series I got into: Scarlet Heart: Ryeo, of which one of my favorite K-Pop group members is a character in!

Throughout the next few days, this trolling of my Korean friend escalated to me discovering current K-Drama tv show trailers, which then escalated to K-Pop music videos. I thought I would just find a few goofy videos to send her and watch as she grimaced throughout them, only to go on with my business and forget about it.

What I didn’t expect was how much K-Pop content actually exists on the internet. One music video leads to another, and then another, and then another. What’s happening to me is what has happened to every other person I’ve spoken to about discovering K-Pop:

I’ve fallen into an endless void, one that I have no plans of trying to escape.

K-Pop is like nothing I have ever experienced. Each and every music video has the highest production value of any music video I’ve ever seen before. The outfits, the choreography, the scenery, the props, everything just looks so cool. One of the most popular K-Pop groups I was introduced to is EXO, a boy group made up of 9* (I can still barely keep count, honestly) members who have some of the catchiest pop songs I have ever heard, not to mention their music videos: coordinated outfits, pastel hair, dreamy lighting – the works of some of the best K-Pop music videos.

*Note: the group used to consist of 12 members but is now down to 9 as of last year.

One of my favorite EXO music videos, “Monster.” Just look at that synchronized choreography.

And it doesn’t just stop there: popular K-Pop artists are frequently invited onto well-known variety shows to do what’s called fan service, which often involves the actors or singers playing games or doing crazy things in order to give back to the fans who adore their work.

What’s interesting to me is that I was never into American boy bands (I was just slightly too young for NSYNC and Backstreet Boys) and loathed other current boy bands (One Direction… don’t hate me fandoms, you have your things I have mine) that other fangirls my age were into throughout high school. But this? Endless videos of various different performances, behind-the-scenes, alternate music videos, and top-quality fan service? This I can get behind.

I know I’m in too deep. Everyone else knows, too. But I am not ashamed. I’ve gone so far as to make a Spotify playlist of all my favorite EXO songs that I’m still adding to. I’ve already ordered band merch online. I’m already picking up on the verses despite only knowing extremely limited Korean. Those I have outed myself to as a new K-Pop fan have divulged all their favorites to me as well. I am a heightened version of myself. There is no stopping me.

I still have a lot to learn and even more to discover, I am merely scratching the surface of what K-Pop has to offer. I want to delve into other genres of K-music as well, this is only the first wave of my discoveries. As soon as I recover from the high of absorbing all this content all at once, I will only continue to ascend to a higher understanding of K-Pop and more. So be sure to check out the upcoming blog once that happens.

In the meantime, enjoy another EXO music video below:




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