LFL's Anniversary Blogging Celebration!, Topic Tuesdays: Music

Let’s Talk About Some Problematic Things About Kpop.

Dear, guys – welcome back to Letters From Liz!

As many of you all know, I’m a huge kpop fan. I discovered kpop back in 2018 at a local laundromat where they were playing Twice’s “Knock Knock” on their television set and was instantly hooked to the catchy song. Soon afterward, I went down the rabbit hole that is kpop; different boy and girl groups, watching survival TV shows to debut new groups, and the most expensive part of it all: collecting.

I officially got into the kpop community during the pandemic in 2020. During this time, collecting wasn’t as intense as it has been for the last year. The community definitely was a lot smaller when I first joined it, and since then it has expanded to be this phenomenon that can be intimidating at first glance.

While kpop has become internationally known and wildly popular, many of us enter the community not really knowing that in any community, there are just things that are problematic as you dig deeper into the subject. I specifically want to talk about two things that have been on my mind as I’m writing this; to say the least, I think many kpop fans can agree that some of these things are problems that we just condone because there’s nothing else we could do, unfortunately.

The Curse of Pre-Order Benefits:

In the kpop world, a pre-order benefit (POB) is typically a photocard that you get when you order albums during its pre-order period. A pre-order period typically runs until the album release date, or on the date that is provided on certain sites. Before the pandemic, POBs weren’t a big deal; in fact, many people didn’t collect them! It was just a nice thing people got when they ordered their albums in their pre-order period. When I first got into collecting Victon, I didn’t even know what a pre-order benefit was! I bought my first POB on eBay when I realized it was a card I didn’t have, and when Victon announced their Mayday comeback during the summer of 2020, I bought my albums under the one website that was had a POB with the album. Since then, it’s nearly tripled. For their full-length album comeback, there were way too many to even sit here and count! If I had to guesstimate how many photocards were for that last comeback, I have to tell you that it’s pages. Tons of money went into getting these photocards, and even then I still don’t have all of them! The thing about collecting is that many collectors want to have completed collections of their favorite members. Again, another toxic mentality to have within the community; collectors think that the more you have in your collection, the better “stan” you are. Also, it feels better to have everything than to have missing slots in your collection, which again is crazy to think, but it’s a mentality that many of us have in collecting and somewhat tolerate in the community. The thing is when a group makes a comeback and pre-order details come out, sometimes it becomes more stressful than fun to collect, and a lot of people who were once in the community aren’t in the community anymore because of the stress collecting can be and has become.

The fact of the matter is, pre-order benefits became a big deal during the pandemic because entertainment agencies weren’t making their money through concerts and offline fansign events. Collecting became this huge thing during the pandemic, and companies hopped on that bandwagon and made it a battle of all battles to collect them all. So, in order for consumers to buy through specific sites, they include their own special pre-order benefit, which in all reality look the same like they are no different whatsoever. I hope that in the future, POBs doesn’t happen as often once the pandemic is mainly in control, but knowing that these sites and companies have already seen success in doing things like having lucky draws or POBs, I highly doubt they will just stop doing so. It’s just the new norm of collecting and as collectors, we just condemn it.

Line Distribution in Songs:

A little backstory on what inspired this part of the post: so back in August, a new survival show aired called Girls Planet 999, which if you’ve been a fan of the now-damned Produce series, you would know this was just another way for Mnet to make idol survival shows again without bringing back the Produce series. The network definitely had to be careful that there weren’t any scandals happening behind closed doors (i.e companies bribing their trainees to the debut lineup) so when the final lineup was announced back in October, it wasn’t that surprising that certain members were in the final lineup. For a show that had 33 Korean, Japanese, and Chinese trainees, only 2 Japanese members made it to the lineup, as well as 1 Chinese member. But, when 50% of the votes came from Korea, it was suspected that most of the final lineup would consist of Korean members, of which 6 of the 9 members are. Anyway, after the uproar in the community wondering how Huening Bahiyyih (TXT Huening Kai’s younger sister) got to be in the final lineup for Kep1er (which speaks for itself: she has a huge international fanbase), people anticipated their debut album release, which was finally released on January 3rd. While their title track is the most catchy song of 2022 thus far (and probably will be because, well, go listen to it), many people are upset about the line distribution of the title track and the rest of the album as well. Specifically speaking about their title track, one of the non-positioned yet members got a huge fraction of the lines while others literally had as little as 7 seconds of lines in the song.

Unfair line distributions have always been a problem within the community. If the member isn’t the center, main vocal, or main rapper, you most likely won’t hear much from other members. It’s common for the main roles of a group to have the most lines in songs, but for larger groups (I would say 9 members and more), line distributions can get a little tricky and borderline unfair. Line distributions (unfair ones) have been in the community for generations on end, but with kpop being a more internationally known genre (and Korean companies creating new groups and advertising them as a “global group”), fans all over the world demand for more even distributed lines in songs. It definitely pushes the agenda of companies when things like that happen: while some fans will argue that certain member’s voices just “fit” certain concepts more than others, but when there is a major distinction between a member and their lines and the other members, there’s typically a “favorite” that the company has. Again, this is an issue we as listeners can’t control; it’s a company-level thing and we as listeners don’t typically have a say. But, it influences our liking to certain members and even our dislike of the members with the heavy screentime and/or most lines in the songs. It definitely makes it a competition against the members in the community when in all reality, the members just want their fans to support them as a group because they all deem each member a major important part of the group.

But yeah, I just wanted to discuss some of these issues now that we entered a new year, and kpop already made January its “unofficial comeback season”. I wonder if there are kpop listeners and collectors who feel the same way!

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