EXP Edition, CoCo Avenue – My Take On The Topic

These are the two videos:

CoCo Avenue:

EXP Edition:

I know this topic has been floating around for a while and I just caught a whiff of it recently. These two videos have vastly different reactions – everyone is supporting CoCo Avenue and I see mixed reactions for EXP, but mainly bad ones. I can summarize what many people are saying – CoCo Avenue have their own style, know the language, appreciate the culture; EXP sounds like an American pop group and not very good at speaking the language. Both groups are made up of non Korean members.

I feel like this boils down to this question: What does “Kpop” mean? Everything else extends out from it: Are all songs in Korean considered “Kpop”? Is there supposed to be a distinct sound to Kpop? Do the people have to be Korean? Do the members have to go through intense training to be considered “idols”?

I personally don’t feel very fit to be answering these questions, but I’ll try anyway. I’ve been following Kpop for 6 years now, but my passion to keep up with everything slowly died off in the past 4 years. I don’t hear a difference between Kpop and American pop anymore. If you asked me this question 5 years ago, I could tell you that there definitely is a big difference – that there is a distinct sound that makes it Kpop, but in the past few years, this distinct sound has been blending in with all other genres. To this day, I consider any mainstream song sung by an idol group to be “Kpop.”

EXP was actually formed as a social experiment for a thesis, back in 2015. (Side note: studying the Kpop industry is really interesting, coming from an anthropological/sociological perspective.) Out of curiosity, I did watch their first song, which was pretty terrible, coming from a Kpop fan’s perspective. The song and music video seemed almost like a joke and it didn’t even seem to be trying to tackle the Kpop industry. But I actually didn’t read anything about them in 2015 (maybe I was living under a rock at the time?), and they are mainly gaining traction after releasing this new song. This new song, however, doesn’t seem like a joke or anything – the song is actually not that bad, besides the fact that they’re not pronouncing the language properly. I mean, it’s pretty hard to learn a new language, not to mention, sing in a new language. Props to them for trying.

I’m not sure if people don’t like them because they’re white or because they can’t speak the language. If it’s just a language issue, then would things have been different if they spoke better? And just from personal experience, foreigners can never talk like natives. No matter how hard we try, we always have accents and we always stand out. And the thing is, half the time, we don’t realize we have an accent when we speak. I’d like to think that race/ethnicity is not the real issue here (I mean, CoCo Avenue isn’t having any backlash because of it), but knowing the industry and the culture, people aren’t as accepting as we’d imagine them to be.

Now I also read a lot of comments about how it was so unfair that this group came out of nowhere without having the traditional years of training with a company. Does Kpop mean having to go through the traditional training? Do the number of years of training you do define how much hard work you put in? Does the amount of hardships you face during training define what Kpop is? Better yet, is this training process something that should be praised? The training period is super harsh for all trainees – not being able to see their families, no cell phones, forced to lose weight, maybe even forced to have plastic surgery. I don’t understand why people say it like it’s a good thing, like this is the initiation that all groups have to go through. Maybe we should take a step back and think about what we’re supporting here.

Are fans just frustrated that EXP “work as hard” as their idols did or is it a issue surrounding talent? They say that CoCo Avenue has the talent and EXP doesn’t have talent. But honestly, I think a lot of Kpop really comes from hard work rather than talent. I think there are only a selective number of idols out there who are truly talented. And even then, they work just as hard as those who I think don’t have talent. How do we know that EXP isn’t working hard or trying? Their new song is nothing like the song in 2015 – they do seem pretty serious.

I think it’s really interesting that Bora Kim is seeing how people will react if we have a different kind of culture flow. Well, now you see it, there’s a lot of backlash and also a handful of people supporting them. What I’m trying to say in this post is that it’s not easy making a project Kpop group. You first have to define what Kpop really means. Is Kpop just a musical genre or is it the industry that defines what Kpop is? To me, Kpop is just a genre of music. I don’t care about the industry anymore; I think there’s too much unnecessary drama. I personally don’t like how all idols are expected to be perfect role models for everyone. It’s so fake. People dig up the past to slander idols and tear down their career. Every little thing they do wrong turns into a big scandal. Not sure if I’m being insensitive here or people are just too sensitive.

I think I’m too into watching dramas right now to care about the music scene or the industry. I barely follow new groups now and the quality of music is really all I care about. Just because I like a certain group doesn’t mean that I like all their music and if I don’t like a certain group, it doesn’t mean that I hate all their music either. If groups like EXP or CoCo Avenue want to tackle the Kpop industry, be my guest. I’ll support you if you produce good music.

Oh yeah, didn’t Jaden Smith say that he was going to drop a Kpop single sometime in August?


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