[Herald interview] K-pop today is more complex, more complex

Unlike most music critics who dabble in world music at a young age, K-pop music critic Cha woo-jin admits that he was not a music lover in his youth.

At home after school, he turned to comics, news and movies rather than music. Things changed when he entered his teens.

“At one point when I was a teenager, I felt a sincere desire for music,” he said. Looking back, Cha believes that spark came when he understood the meaning of the long-held definition of music – music is “the art of sound in the movement of time”.

Cha is the founder of TMI.fm, a music news magazine and radio start-up. He’s a regular in the field, having worked at various pop culture content companies including Naver, T Magazine, Space Oddity, Weiv, and MakeUs.

Cha rose through the ranks to become one of Korea’s most frequently heard critics of K-pop talks. Cha is also known for his ideas on “who will be the next star”.

“As a kid, I wanted to keep the tunes for myself in my own space,” said Cha, recalling the very first music CD he bought, which was the second album in the show, Kim Dong’s 90s pop duo. -ryul and Seo Dong-wook.

Back then, vinyl records were hard to come by and Cha didn’t have a CD player at home. “I took the CD in my school backpack and after school I randomly walked into cafes. I ordered a soda, politely asked the owners, “Would you like to play the second track on this album for me?” ”

Cha said the desperation to hear the tunes made him a fan of certain albums and ultimately led him to become a fan of the singers.

Curious about what other pop music fans think, Cha studied K-pop fan culture.

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Korean teenage girls didn’t have much of a voice in society, which made fan culture a big phenomenon, according to Cha.

“Back then, young schoolgirls buying music CDs and going to concerts was the only way for musicians to get on the music charts. Then the media and critics would start paying attention, which would be followed by interviews and invitations to do shows, ”Cha said.

Back then, Cha explained, buying CDs was probably the only way for fans to have a meaningful impact on their favorite musicians and have their voices heard. “Today almost everyone is a fan of at least several musicians, regardless of their age,” he said.

Unlike the days when there were strict lines between one group of fans and the other, Cha believes that the role of fans and how they influence their favorite artists has changed dramatically. With the spread of the Internet and the rise of video content, album sales are no longer the only index of popularity. They are also no longer the main criterion for measuring the popularity of a musician.

Music curation, once the exclusive domain of show producers and radio DJs, is now open to everyone. In the age of digital streaming, it is possible for anyone to create their own playlist and make it public.

“You can freely listen, view, talk, interact and share the sub-content that you have created with others, broadcasting your personal thoughts about the music and the musician,” Cha said. This, he believes, has dramatically expanded fan power over the past two decades.

Discussing today’s K-pop, Cha said that it has become much more intricate and complex in its melody, rhythm and choreography.

“These days, you can easily hear a mix of five to six different musical genres on a single track,” Cha said, citing girl group Aespa’s song “Next Level” as an example.

In Korea, the mix of genres was once frowned upon. However, as K-pop music gained prominence on the global stage, music experts and critics alike realized that a hybrid form can be seen as something new and fresh, according to Cha.

As for the choreography, Cha explained that each member of a group has a unique and distinctive character. While from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, singers of similar styles and tones were selected to form an idol group, things are very different today.

“Today artists are not afraid to express themselves and many pass their own judgment on social and political issues. I think it has to do with the way they perform and also relate to the fans on stage, ”Cha said.

Many successful South Korean musicians who have global fan bases, including BTS, have their own opinions and perspectives on global and human agendas, according to Cha.

Music comes and goes, and some are gone forever, like any other culture in capitalist society, according to Cha. “At the end of the day, it’s the fans and their fandom culture that stays the same,” he said.

“Music and its presentation have changed shape and form, and will continue to change. However, fans’ bonds with their love for music have continued throughout pop music history, ”said Cha.

“Music is an emotional language, so it’s important for artists and the industry to keep a close eye on fans and keep in mind that they not only hear and associate with music, but interact. also with her, “he said.


About Dawn Valle

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