Guide for the Perplexed: Kpop, or how I learned to Stop Worrying about the Lyrics and Love Korean Pop

We write a lot about hallyu (exported Korean pop culture) on this blog, and K-pop has really started to hit the mainstream U.S. press this year, including a write-up in Pitchfork and two of Spin Magazine’s best of 2011 albums were by Korean artists (2ne1 & Girls Generation — despite the fact that the Girls Generation album was at the time a Japanese import only album!) — and an article in Harvard Business Review. And there were even showcase shows by some of the major Kpop labels in New York earlier this year — and 2ne1 won MTV Iggy’s “Best New Band in the World”.

So why listen to Kpop? If you remember a time where large groups with talent existed (the present lack in the U.S. decried in both The Atlantic and The Root), waiting for anticipation for both singles and entire albums, and exciting live performances, then Kpop is worthy of you giving it a shot.

The way the Korean pop industry works is very different than the U.S., with everything blatantly manufactured. Potential artists become trainees to usually one of the four major labels at a young age, and hopefully, after many years of training, are then selected to become members of a group. Often, groups have leaders (the go-between the management company and the group), those that are primarily singers, primarily dancers, and at least one rapper. The rate of new music for these artists is frequently at Rihanna-like rates, with at least a new single coming out every year.

With the release of every new marketing push, there is usually a new “concept” for the group and live performances on television shows — similar to American Bandstand, Soul Train, Top of the Pops, and MTV shows of yore. Unlike U.S. pop artists who are increasingly phoning in live performances,  K pop artists do it live — frequently changing up the arrangement, dance routine, and costumes. With. Every. Performance. As highly manufactured as all the music is, the performers are true professionals.

One advantage for newbies that Kpop has is that in the dizzying array all of the singles, double singles, EPs (they still exist in Korea), regular length albums, and then the reissues (oh, the reissues — usually albums that are reissued with one or two new songs and new inserts), is that frequently albums and videos name check themselves — 1st Album or 2nd Reissue — and include the name of the artist and song in English.

Before we get to the individual artists, the most comprehensive source of frequently posted well-written (in English) writing on Kpop with a critical eye is Seoulbeats — which rather than surface writing delves into thoughtful essays — and doesn’t shy away from mentions of racism and homophobia in Kpop. Other recommended sources are KoreAm magazine’s blog (for Kpop from a Korean-American perspective) and AllKpop (breathless updates with the feel of old school Metal Edge or Tiger Beat).

Below are some suggested Kpop artists to try out — ranging from underground hiphop to girl groups with attitude to aegyo (cuteness). For our earlier post on Korean female rappers, go here.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Oh you didn’t know? The Learned Fangirl is on Facebook!

Big News! The Learned Fangirl is now on Facebook!

“Why should I care?” you’re probably thinking. “I get spammed enough on Facebook by my elderly relatives.”

Fair enough, but hear us out. If you like the TLF blog, then you’ll want to check out the TLF page for posts that we’re too lazy to flesh out  shorter, time sensitive posts and maybe, just maybe, some multimedia stuff like video  if we’re not too lazy to do that.

Anyway, “join the conversation” as the social media folks love to say and like the TLF Facebook page today!

3 Reasons to Skip SXSW Interactive This Year

For the past few years, The Learned Fangirl has enthusiastically covered the sessions and keynotes of South by Southwest Interactive. There was a point when SXSW was the most wonderful time of the year for startups, bloggers, VC’s, coders, and social media douchebags. 5 days of networking in a glorious haze of free beer and tacos.

But this year, TLF reluctantly plans to sit this one out,which saddens us because we have a lot of great friends presenting this year! The reason? It’s not worth the money.

Though the price of a badge has nearly tripled in the past three years, at $950, SXSWi is still a deal compared to similar tech/innovation conferences like Techcrunch Disrupt or TED. Even so, the tech conference marketplace has become a crowded, fragmented one – SXSWi is no longer the must-attend event that it used to be, and that money may go further at other, more specialized events.

Here are the three reasons TLF is skipping SXSW and why we think you may be better off spending your (or your employer’s, lucky you!) money on a conference that you’ll get a lot more out of.

Continue reading

The Short Second Life of Post Secret; or How Griefers, Sexters, and Haters Ruined an App in Only Four Months

Today, the Post Secret app officially died. How things spiraled down so quickly is a highly cautionary tale for anyone who fully trusts anonymity — and expects it not to become a tragedy of the commons. As Frank Warren, the founder of Post Secret, states on the website, this was a difficult decision made, but one made necessary due to problems with some of the anonymous secret postings:

Like the PostSecret Blog, the App was designed so each secret was absolutely anonymous. Unfortunately, that absolute anonymity made it very challenging to permanently remove determined users with malicious intent.

99% of the secrets created were in the spirit of PostSecret. Unfortunately, the scale of secrets was so large that even 1% of bad content was overwhelming for our dedicated team of volunteer moderators who worked 24 hours a day 7 days a week removing content that was not just pornographic but also gruesome and at times threatening.

For many users of this app, this is a great loss — not just of a fun way to pass the time, but also the app served as a supportive community for those who were suffering through great loss and difficult times (such as having children with cancer, multiple miscarriages, soldiers with PTSD). And now that community is erased through the removal of the iPhone/iDevice app. Forever. (At least not in a recoverable way).

As cNet reports, users are saddened by the loss of community through the end of the PostSecret app:

“I will always wonder about the beautiful woman fighting cancer that always had the kindest words to say in response to people’s secrets. I will wonder about beard guy and assume he’s still brightening people’s days…Thank you for the opportunity to take a look into the world Frank, and help me realize that I am blessed and privileged in a world where many people are not. It gave me a new sense of compassion for others.”

The app was released in September to much fanfare — including a glowing article in Wired. And according to ReadWriteWeb, the app “taught beautiful lessons about privacy on the web” (and is where you should go to read about what the user experience was like, if you haven’t used the app.) The app rocketed to the top of the App Store, becoming the #1 downloaded app within 24 hours.

And the PostSecret app was a highly entertaining app, easy to use, with secrets ranging from the tragic, to the hilarious, to the simply banal. My own user experience likely followed those of other early adopters — only positives, then surprise by the negatives, then annoyance with those who were wrecking the app for others, to now, acceptance of the shutdown. And the negatives started slow — with anonymous pleas for sexting, complete with Anthony Weiners, moving on to a flood of these posts — and also occasional direct personal attacks. And then things got much worse around Christmas, with the amount of what I would describe as legally obscene pictures posted — no message — so the entire point was to disturb the viewer.

Of course, some of the secrets posted were racist, sexist, or demeaning to others in some ways. But as long as those were “secrets”, they were still within the spirit of PostSecret. But the direction that many of the postings that shut down the app showed the worst side of people generally and specifically on the internet.

The Post Secret app was launched after years of the PostSecret brand as a website, books, and speaking tours. It failed not because people did not want it to succeed — but because a tiny percentage were interested in their own needs, upsetting others, or something else negative towards communities, everyone lost.

I doubt that future app developers will be so amenable to anonymous user experiences as PostSecret was, and the next time you wonder why we can’t have nice things (read: more privacy) remember the griefers, sexters, and haters that ruined the PostSecret app for all.