Culture > Why American impostors can never become K-Pop artists

Posted on August 21, 2017

Image courtesy of YG Entertainment via flickr

Julia Shikunta discusses why you need blood, sweat and tears to succeed in Korea's exclusive music genre

K-Pop, an abbreviation of Korean pop, is a musical genre consisting of electronic, hip-hop, pop, rock, and R&B music, originating in South Korea.

They have fans from all over the world including me. My friend got me into K-Pop after she discovered the genre through YouTube, as you do. I now listen and watch it on a daily basis because it’s addictive, and if you become a fan, good luck on trying to leave the fanbase.

More than 110 concerts have, and will be held in 2017 by K-Pop artists outside of Asia. About 24 of those concerts were held in Europe, with only six of them in London. So naturally you’d expect all the K-Pop artists, or Idols as they’re called, to be Korean. However, new K-Pop band, EXP Expedition has managed to break that rule.

EXP Expedition is an all American boy group who call themselves a ‘K-Pop group’. They originally debuted in the K-Pop industry in 2015 with six members, causing outrage on social media, as people opposed this new band creation. Now in 2017 EXP are back, but with four members, the other two left, I think they knew this project wouldn’t work.

Colombian graduate, Bora Kim who is a native Korean, created the group. “I wanted to see what would happen if I made American boys into K-pop performers.” From my point of view, this wasn’t such a great idea.

They’re trying to “find the “K” in K-Pop

EXP comes from the abbreviation of ‘experiment’. EXP was originally a social experiment to see how fans would react. The outcome wasn’t very positive. One reason why fans don’t see EXP as a K-Pop group is because they’re not Asian. As one fan said on Twitter, they’re trying to “find the ‘K’ in K-Pop.”

However, there are some idols that come from Japan, China or Thailand. For example, EXO’s Chinese member Lay. Even though they’re not Korean or only half Korean, they still come from Asian countries. They’re fluent in the language, as well as understand the culture. Yet only one member of EXP is half Japanese. It wouldn’t be as bad if EXP could actually speak Korean, but they’re not at that level yet.

Another reason why K-Pop fans are strongly opposed to EXP is because the K-Pop industry is a very competitive field. On average, around 300 groups prepare to debut each year. Only 50 of them succeed and one or two will gain serious recognition.

In the K-Pop industry, there are over 50 companies that debut Idols groups. However, three big companies dominate the industry, and have the nickname ’The Big 3’. They’re called SM Entertainment, YG Entertainment and JYP Entertainment. In 2015, JYP invested $429,000 debuting the popular girl group Twice. It paid off since the group went on to earn $1.54 million.

It takes a K-pop trainee around 3-7 years before they become an idol. If they’re still at school they need to balance their school and training from 6am to 10pm. A former SM trainee said “you train by singing while doing sit-ups and while someone hits your stomach in order to develop muscle and vocal power.” These are some extreme cases, but you get the point. Idols work very hard to get where they are now, and therefore so should EXP.

Is it really fair to label EXP as a K-Pop group if they haven’t put in the same amount of effort as all the other idols

An example of one of the most dedicated K-Pop trainees is BIGBANG’S member G-Dragon, who trained at SM Entertainment for five years and then at YG Entertainment for six years. So in total he trained for 11 years. Now, G-Dragon is one of the most successful idols in K-Pop. In 2016 BIGBANG made $44 million.

So is it really fair to label EXP as a K-Pop group, if they haven’t put in the same amount of effort as all the other idols?

EXP have now moved to Seoul (capital of South Korea) where they will record their album, and start their training, so one point for them. They are signed with IMMABB Entertainment, which stands for “I’m Making a Boy Band”. As you can probably can guess, this company was created just for EXP, and are currently and hopefully its only artists.

Since K-Pop is a competitive industry, the performance level is high. Idols are expected to dance to high intensity choreographies as well as singing with very stable voices. For example, BTS’s song ‘Not Today’ or BlackPink’s song ‘As if it’s your last’.

Therefore, EXP cannot think they will gain fans by standing on a stage singing some badly pronounced Korean words as well clicking to the beat. They’re expected to work just as hard. Pronouncing the words properly might help as well. Although, their cover of the song ‘U’ by of K-Pop group, Super Junior was strong, and actually well practiced, so I’ll give them another point.

Bottom line, can EXP be seen as a K-Pop group if they lack the skills needed to be an idol, haven’t put in the same amount of effort as other idols, and are still learning Korean? I don’t think so.

The K-Pop industry is nothing like X-Factor, where you sing on a stage and boom, you’re an artist. It takes hard work, and commitment to make it.

Julia Shikunta
Julia is your local meme and social butterfly who has an unhealthy obsession with K-Pop. She has two modes, Snpachat/hanging out with friends or lazing around on her couch.


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