Fluff Journalism & Fan Delusion: K-pop

Joined: August 16th, 2007, 8:24 pm

November 19th, 2011, 2:19 am #1

It's a really good read. Rabid K-pop fans should read it.

Fluff journalism & fan delusion doing more harm than good for K-pop in America

With the “SM TOWN LIVE WORLD TOUR” recently coming to New York, there have been a flurry of articles in respected American publications covering K-pop’s global ambitions.

Naturally, K-pop fans are excited about the exposure, and so too are Asian American writers, who are all too eager to dish out puff pieces on the phenomenon.

While everybody is understandably excited, I suppose I stand alone in thinking that all this hype is not in K-pop’s best interest.

    Now arriving in New York City: The South Korean phenomenon known as “hallyu,” or “Korean Wave.”

    Already a craze in Asia, the wave has opened the floodgates of K-Pop in France, Brazil, Germany and Australia. Now it’s about to take over New York.

New York Daily News claiming it’s going to take over New York.

    The feature coincides with SNSD’s arrival in New York, to join labelmates in the one-night-only concert “SM Town Live in New York” at the Madison Square Garden. Madison Square Garden is a concert venue well-known for hosting music superstars Michael Jackson, Beyonce and Lady Gaga.


    SNSD are in the spotlight lately with the success of “The Boys” and their Korean comeback. “The Boys,” was written and produced by Teddy Riley, who also worked with Michael Jackson and Lady Gaga in the past.

Soompi again and again putting K-pop in the same breath as Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Michael Jackson.

    This serves as further proof that the Hallyu wave is a significant force that continues to spread throughout the globe!

allkpop hype machine fast at work.

    If the massive roars of the sold-out show were any indication, everyone had a great time at the first — and most likely not last — major Korean pop show at Madison Square Garden.

Billboard doing work as well.

    “With something like K-Pop, you’re seeing something very different. I mean, the visual vocabulary of this music is completely different, as you’ll see. It’s like, sometimes you feel like this is, wow, David Bowie in the Ziggy Stardust period — but South Korean.”

Wait, did that dude just compare K-pop to David Bowie?


Hype, hype, hype.

Shouldn’t be a problem though, after all, publicity can only be a good thing, right?


Here’s a nice reality check for the delusional:

    Think of the work required to make just one Justin Bieber. The production, the management, the vocal training, the choreography, the swagger coaching — all that effort to create one teen-pop star in a country that’s still starving for them.

That paragraph is from a solid review of the tour in the New York Times, but it’s a passage that desperately needs to resonate among the K-pop fandom.

Justin Bieber, that’s how your oppas and unnies are thought of in America, and that’s how they will be looked at.

Of course, compare K-pop artists to the likes of Justin Bieber and The Jonas Brothers and K-pop fans will lose their minds because they are convinced that their biases are on a higher level.

The tough reality though is that they’re not any better, and pretending that they are is just offensive to the exact target audience K-pop will need to resonate with to find success.

As it stands though, the world of K-pop fans is heavily skewed by a media onslaught that practically breeds delusion.

Sites like allkpop and Soompi are understandably positive about the Hallyu Wave, as their incomes depend on it expanding, but a byproduct of that hype is that both sites basically become breeding grounds for delusional fandom, as every story on the K-pop phenomenon makes it seem more widespread than it really is.

If you haven’t noticed, K-pop fans and publications do everything in their power to cite their competition as Beyonce and Lady Gaga, compare their rappers to Eminem* and Jay-Z, and their dancers to Usher and Michael Jackson.

*I once saw a story on a poll that had Eminem and G-Dragon on the same list of best rappers and G-Dragon fans were steadfast in their belief that he was a better rapper. Seriously.


It’s just stupid to me, because in the end, you’re writing checks that your oppas and unnies can’t cash.

It’s a vicious cycle, really: fans read puffed up media reports, fans become delusionally confident in the abilities of their idols, media reports on insane fan enthusiasm, and fans become convinced their biases are the best in the world.

The K-pop fandom in America is still a tiny niche. A growing one, but a small section of a gigantic picture. The way to continue to grow that section is to take the slow and steady path that will allow K-pop artists to gradually gain footing in America (perhaps most importantly, it will give their language skills time to develop).

Unfortunately, companies have chosen to go with the loud and bombastic route, forgoing the Asian methodologies that made K-pop so appealing to begin with, and instead switching to the American ways of promotion that turned people like me away from American pop and on to K-pop to begin with.

So why does all of this hurt K-pop?

It hurts because it creates a situation where managing expectations is going to prove impossible, and managing expectations in humans is of the utmost importance, especially with Americans, since we are generally skeptical of hyped products anyway. Say something is great and we’ll pay attention, but we’ll also then compare it to the greats, and we’ll be let down if it’s not up to par.

Needless to say, I believe the orgy of media hype and fan delusion is only resulting in an inflated sense of ego that degrades K-pop as a whole.

The media is busy writing about how K-pop’s time is now, they’re busy insulting currently popular American artists, and busy installing unreasonable expectations of comparing to America’s best. The fans are busy arguing on message boards and social media, busy claiming that their biases are better than everything America loves, and busy repeating the rhetoric that the only reason they aren’t already ruling the world is that Americans are racist or xenophobic.

Stuff like that can be found all over the internet, and to the casual American, it’s just off-putting. Hell, most of that shit is offensive and insulting to boot.

I can’t stop anybody from writing intellectually dishonest puff about K-pop, nor can I stop rabid fanboys and fangirls from degrading the image of K-pop fans, but I can let those people know that as much as they think they are helping K-pop, they aren’t. Not in the slightest.

If you’re in a new culture and want new people to accept you as a person, you don’t go around saying you are as smart as Steve Jobs, as kind as Mother Teresa, and as athletic as Michael Jordan. Why would you? Everybody will think you are an arrogant, delusional dick, which is exactly my point about how the K-pop media and K-pop fans are going about their quest to conquer America.

If you want to be accepted, you should be respectful of the new environment and let your personality and talents speak for themselves.

So far the idols themselves are doing their part, I just wish the K-pop media and K-pop fans would do the same.

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