by Cate of The One Shots
This is the life story of almost every Kpop fan, especially if you don’t have a lot of Kpop fan friends in real life. For me, that circle of friends exists mostly online. And whenever I try to get the people around me on board, I’m met with the same things over and over again.
First come the looks. You know, that unimpressed, “I’m not thinking you’re weird… just different” kind of look. A good chunk of my 2013 was spent exclusively listening to Kpop. I went for months without listening to any English-language song. When I mentioned the fact to some of my friends, their eyebrows shot up to their hairline. “K-pop? Korean pop music? Like, Psy?” While I have nothing against everyone’s favorite Youtube superstar oppa, it’s a little frustrating to me that a lot of people are introduced to Kpop through “Gangnam Style” and “Gentleman.” There’s really nothing wrong with these songs; they are just not very good representations of the Kpop we fans know and love.
Once they kind of understand that I listen to songs other than Psy’s, this question to end all questions is asked, “Do you even understand what they’re saying/singing about?” The short answer, no. Long answer, sorta kinda. When a new song comes out, all you have to do it wait about 15 minutes or so and a very nice fan will have it romanized and translated. But really…does it even matter? I like what I feel when I listen to the song. And if the translated version turns out to be crappy, I can just forget that and stick with the melody. Heck, when I listen to Drake’s “Motto,” I don’t understand a thing he’s saying. And that’s in English!
Language is a huge barrier but with music, that doesn’t seem to matter. The melody carries you and in no time, you find yourself humming along, then singing along. And that brings me to the next question, “Are you sure you’re singing the correct words?” Uh… I’m a dedicated Kpop fan so yeah, I’m pretty sure. I dare you to a noraebang; romanized lyrics are not needed, dance moves are optional.
During the California leg of Big Bang’s ALIVE tour, a couple of my friends and I passed out lyrics sheets for “Haru Haru.” They were romanized and fans were encouraged to practice so we can all sing along later. After months and years of merely mouthing random syllables as we hear them, it was refreshing – and rewarding – to be able to sing the actual words back to the guy(s) who wrote it.
And really, if you’re a fan, you’ll make an effort to learn the actual words. Impress your friends and family by singing in another language. Start with one song and soon, you’ll be posting your cover versions all over the interwebs!
At The ONE SHOTS, we do our share of spreading the word about Kpop by popping a few cherries. Kpop cherries, I mean. This is where we show a complete Kpop noob a music video and document their first impressions and overall reaction to it. So far, there have been mixed reactions. As with many other genres, Kpop is not for everyone. How did you react when you saw your first Kpop MV? Were you as wide-eyed and impressed as you are now or were you disinterested as Joe?
One of the more common questions people ask me after watching their first MV is, “Is that a girl or a boy?”, “Uh… why is there so much makeup on the boys?”, “What happened to that guy… er, girl’s (?) face?!” and the inevitable, “Are they gay or what?” Whatever, dude. My oppa is a beautiful human being! As for the PS (plastic surgery,) I don’t even know.
Sure, the boys of Kpop “aren’t afraid to channel their inner Lady Gaga.” But we fangirls – and fanboys – love them anyway, even if some of them are prettier than us. I actually get makeup and fashion inspiration from them, not gonna lie. Nu’est‘s Ren does eyeliner better than any of the girls of Global Icon. He certainly dresses better too. These Korean male idols do look a little bit more feminine than their Western counterparts. But that’s okay. Beauty comes in many forms.
One time I was listening to Monster by Big Bang and my Kpop curious co-worker asked for half my earphones. I saw that as an opportunity to introduce him to the genre. But out of nowhere, he asked me, “Nintendo? Is the song about monsters in video games? Is that what he said?” Uh… no. He was talking about this line:
I love you baby I’m not a monster
Neon al-janha yejeon nae moseubeul shi-gani chinamyeon sarajyeo beoril tende
Keu ttaen al tende baby
This is what you call a mondegreen, a word or phrase that results from a mishearing of something said or sung. A Youtuber named Buffalax made it famous when he put “English lyrics” on Bollywood music videos. But they’re not the real translations but just how the song sounded to him. I gotta admit, some of them are pretty funny.
That same friend pointed out some lyrics, especially “Not bad meaning bad but bad meaning good,” from CL‘s The Baddest Female. “Did they lift lyrics from Run DMC? Not that I blame them but are they inserting English lyrics to reach out to the Western audiences?” he asked. This is not the first, only, or last time K-pop took lyrics from Western songs. K-pop takes titles also. Just look at Miss A‘s I Don’t Need A Man (vs the one by The Pussycat Dolls), If I Were A Boy, and Independent Women Part 3, as if we need another one.
K-pop is plagued by plagiarism accusations left and right, but that doesn’t stop them from “borrowing” lyrics from English songs. As long as it works with the general message of the song, I’m all for it. They don’t always say it correctly but fans get the gist through context. As to whether these English words are used to reach out to a Western audience – maybe not, but hey, it does add another interesting dimension to listening to the songs!
Sometimes my soon-to-be-converted friends would “sing along” to K-pop stuff on my playlists and end up butchering the lyrics, but hey, we’ve all been there. Whatever it takes to make them pay attention to K-pop, right? 😉 Most of my friends have learned to tune me out while others have ended up joining me on the wild and colorful side. I still get those looks from time to time, though.
I’m curious to know how you react to these questions when you encounter them. What other crap do you get from your non K-pop friends?