Ok, I said it! I’m a black woman, and I love K-pop! Let me just make a few disclaimers before we begin: I’m aware of the dissonance between being a middle aged adult and enjoying music made by (sometimes) prepubescent looking young adults who sing in a language I don’t understand. I’m also aware of longstanding racist at worst, stereotypical at best beliefs some Koreans can hold against black people. So calm down. ?
I just really like the music, particularly BTS, GOT7, and Twice, and I think I finally know why!
See, What Had Happened Was…
Theoretically, my love for K-pop has been a long time coming. Back in the mid 2000’s, a Korean phenom by the name of Jung Ji Hoon, stage name Rain, started making a name for himself in the US, and I enjoyed his soulful, skilled singing, and effortless dance moves. By the time he debuted as Raizo in Ninja Assassin, I was a huge fan, and I just knew he was destined for crossover success. Eventually his buzz kinda died down in America (not sure why) and we moved on to trap music and twerking. ??♀️ It wasn’t until Ninja Assassin began streaming again on Netflix that I remembered how much I loved Rain, and I began watching him again on YouTube. This led to YouTube recommending various K-pop artists and y’all…I fell into this giant rabbit hole of music, interviews, variety shows, and fan-compiled group videos.
Navigating The K-pop World As A New Listener
Half of American women are already following the 10-Step Korean Beauty skincare regimen, so liking the music is just a little skip over. K-pop has fantastic production, delicious (rarely sampled) beats, a lot of English language parts, and cutting edge music videos that are free of overly sexual imagery! Take a listen:
(Although some parts are in English, I recommend watching with Captions!)
I think that my attraction to K-pop is the overall concept of girl/boy groups, and soulful harmonies. I’m a woman who grew up listening to En Vogue, Xscape, Dru Hill, and Blackstreet. I’m also from a time when women could be sexy while rapping: Salt N Pepa ring any bells? Eventually R&B groups fell way to pop ensembles such as The Backstreet Boys, N’Sync, and Danity Kane, but I was still a fan of these groups and their vocal stylings. K-pop, in my opinion, is almost a “musical return” to those groups I enjoyed in the past, as many of the popular acts utilize that R&B/sexy hip hop vibe I enjoyed so much in my youth. K-pop combines good singing and rapping with original production, and it’s starting to be noticed and appreciated on our side of the pond. Don’t believe me? BTS has been nominated for several American Awards, surpassing well loved American artists! Blackpink performed at Coachella 2019 and completely captivated the largely American audience!
But What About…
I’m kind of late to the party, but I’ve been pleased to find that women of all races and ages (I recently met a 60 year old fan!) enjoy K-pop! However, I’m also aware of some of the issues that people find with the genre. The biggest complaint I hear most often is that the groups are manufactured in an assembly line fashion, and that they do not write their own music. Listen: I’m not a purist. Music, for me, is an escape from the humdrum of everyday life. As long as the beats are good, and the lyrics are free of profanity and over-sexualized content, I’m good! But let me also clear this up: I have heard some of the best vocals, harmonies, and falsetto from male K-Pop groups than I have heard in a looong time. Especially from my fave groups: BTS, and GOT7 (who also write and produce a lot of their music, might I add!) In most cases, the singing, rapping, and vocal arrangements are good enough that the language barrier doesn’t even exist…you just know it’s good music! (*There is English throughout most of the songs BTW, and you can use captioning on YouTube for the parts that aren’t! ?)
Another concern is that the K-pop sound credit black artists as being their inspiration.while simultaneously displaying “the whiter, the better” imagery. Most K-pop idols are hand picked for their lighter complexions (although accusations of bleaching run rampant), and their featherweight physiques; neither of which have anything in common, nor pay tribute to the clear influence of black culture that some groups use in their imagery or sound. Most K-pop groups are comprised of singers, rappers, and dancers. Oftentimes, the rappers rap in a style that can be considered to mimic rappers who are popular in the US (Cardi B, Future, Migos, Nikki Minaj). However, K-pop artists are quick to
In extreme cases, some K-pop groups have utilized the “N-Word” or stereotypical images of black people in an effort to seem “hood.” This is NOT okay, and it is a prime example of appropriating from other cultures without understanding the social, cultural, and political connotations of what they are “borrowing.” However, I do not listen to K-pop groups who practice these behaviors.
*I would like to mention that one of the Korean forms for “I”, is apparently pronounced Nae-ga, and because “I” is used so often in songs, it may sound like the “N-word!”*
like it not and you know over major . were both , beating beloved like in the process What I love the most about this crossover, and subsequent exposure to new music, is the clean lyrics and family friendly videos that are safe for my little girl to watch.
For good family listening, I recommend BTS, GOT7, Twice, Ateez, Red Velvet, Blackpink, TXT, and EXO.
Jus2 is a side project with GOT7 members JB (my bias!) and Yugyeom!
you’re you’re already below journey