Pat Blythe: K-Pop and other stories

PBlythe

During a recent conversation on writing and music I was asked if I had ever heard of K-Pop. My answer was “no” although I was tempted to say “of course” me being a music junky and all. I’ve been told I don’t get out enough so I’m working on that. In the meantime…

kpop_idol_collage_by_tplt95-d3331z8

Links to a couple K-Pop bands were forwarded to me and I finally decided to watch them. Cute, definitely “poppy” and certainly danceable…. and I love to dance. So, while continuing to rip my entire CD collection (I’ve lost count now) on to my new laptop, I figured I’d while away the time initiating myself into the land of K-Pop groups. There are masses of them!! I had no idea. Way too many to keep track of. In 10-15 second snippets I probably listened to over 200 groups — and that’s just the very teeny tiny tip of the iceberg.  I added several full-length videos to my repertoire (lots of CDs to rip). Another addict is born!

Apink – NoNoNo

Now North America has certainly had its fair share of pop over the last 50-odd years. Our contributions to this genre include Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, NSync, BSB, One Direction, Pussycat Dolls….

This video (and quite possibly Sailor Moon) changed forever the way schoolgirl uniforms were worn (and perceived).

Britney Spears — Baby One More Time

I just love Danny DiVito.

One Direction – Steal My Girl (with Danny DiVito)

Meeeow….!!!! Really?

 Pussycat Dolls — I Don’t Need A Man

…. and if we go a little further back, Bobby Sherman, David Cassidy, The Monkees, Dave Clarke Five, Herman’s Hermits, and yes, The Beatles. A “legends of pop” museum…. it would fill up in a heartbeat!

Bear with me on this next one….a sidebar trip down memory lane.

BOBBY SHERMAN!!  OH BABY! (swoon)

Bobby!His image was plastered all over my bedroom walls. You can probably still detect all the Scotch tape marks through the layers of paint. At the tender age of twelve I was truly in love. Every issue of  Tiger Beat that displayed his image, on any page, became part of my collection. Julie, Julie, Julie do ya love me? Earworm!!

After leaving the entertainment business, Sherman became an EMT (help, I think my heart stopped) and then a Reserve Deputy Sheriff (officer, pleeeeease arrest me). Unfortunately, at the tender age of 71, he has permanently retired from public life. *Sigh*.

Bobby Sherman — Little Woman

I’m back.

K-Pop is a new kind of “canning”. In my business we call it a “turnkey” solution. Get them young, educate them, train them, groom them and put them in the spotlight. Shades of Simon Cowell. It’s a K-Pop factory.

zappaNow, truly I’m a rock ‘n roll baby at heart. Spent plenty of time hanging out, playing Risk (I never did rule the world), listening to Captain Beyond, Spirit, Cream, Deep Purple, Yes, Queen, Santana, Zappa….you get the idea…all in a thick haze of purple smoke (someone wrote a song about that) and loving every minute of it. Did I mention, I also love to dance.

The local disco’s beckoned and in between the vinyl rock concerts you would find me downtown at the local discos dancing up a storm to Boney M, Donna Summer, KC and the Sunshine Band, Blondie and of course, the kings of the disco age… the Bee Gees.

 Bee Gees – Stayin’ Alive (1977)

Wow, Barry Gibb had hair! Lots of it.

I LOVE music. So much so I want to be surrounded by it, enveloped by it, sucked in and swirled around by it. I love to sing to it, dance to it, hum to it, tap my toes to it — just plain move to it. Music can make me laugh, weep, take me back, make me dream, excite me. Truly, there is nothing more satisfying than sitting in the control room at the recording studio listing to the master tape of a just finished session. Everyone’s gone, the lights are out — flick the switch, lay back….it’s pure bliss.

Sorry, I digress….again….

park-geun-hye-time-magazine-south-korean-netizen-meme-2So fast forward to the 21st century and there is K-Pop. It’s almost like a pop flashback on steroids. Introduced to audiences in the early 90’s, K-Pop has mushroomed into a multi-billion dollar industry worldwide. According to Time Magazine in 2012, K-Pop was recognized as “South Korea’s Greatest Export”.

Cultivated from various musical genres, fusing pop, rock, electronic, metal, rap and hip-hop, among others, K-Pop has danced and bopped it’s way in to the hearts of millions of followers around the world. The catchy videos are elaborately produced, instantly grab your attention and reel you in, holding your interest…. right to the end…. and they keep you wanting more. Search K-Pop on YouTube and take your pick.

A few K-Pop highlights….

2NE1 — the first K-Pop girl band to rank on Billboard’s Current Box Score.

2NE1 — Come Back Home (from the 2014 album Crush)

The blowout — Psy’s “Gangnam Style” (remember him) became the most watched video on YouTube, over a billion spectators tuned in. This was the world’s introduction to K-Pop, inviting a whole new audience to the K-Pop world and Psy to the Grammies. It seemed Gangnam Style was EVERYWHERE.

PSY – Gangnam Style

Girls’ Generation YouTube video “Gee” surpassed 100 million views. They became the first K-Pop  “Idol” group to achieve this. In 2013 they were awarded Video of the Year at the annual YouTube Music Awards.

Girls’ Generation – Gee

….. and the list goes on and on and on….

According to Wikipedia, more than 60 of these boy and girl groups are produced each year in South Korea  in what’s been referred to as “star factories” (Simon are you listening). Beginning as early as the age of nine, the members must be young and attractive according to South Korean standards.

Suggestively dressed but by no means scantily clad (the costuming is very precise), the members bump, grind, play and sing their way into the pop hearts of millions of juveniles and young adults around the world. The videos are beautifully choreographed, combining innocence with a flirty tease, creating subtly suggestive undertones — all with a story to tell that will keep you glued to the screen with your toes tapping.

Each year (or month in some cases) there are boy group and girl group rankings

2014 KPop Girl Group Ranking (Top 22)

Official Kpop Girl Group ranking for 2014 by Sports Chosun.

Then there’s the guys….

Top 25 KPop Boy Groups of 2014*

*Note: This ranking is based on record sales as compiled and counted by various charts, including the hanteo. It takes into consideration both sales of new releases and old albums. Sub-groups and solo act albums sales are not counted for the main groups and are ranked separately.

In Canada, there’s an entire website called KPop Canada with the tagline Pop! Goes the World! Online since 2012, they are “the first and largest all Kpop focused agents to hit the market in North America”, according to their website. They produce events , domestically and internationally, act as talent agents and provide branding and marketing. Just in case you’re interested, the next K-Pop happening is Bubble Pop at Toronto’s Club 120, 120 Church St, Toronto, Ontario, March, 7th 2015.

Bubble Pop Poster large

(Editor’s Note – Here’s the song the party on the 7th is named after. The first K-Pop song I found after the Gangnam Style video broke worldwide. Over 88 million views on YouTube alone to date)

Remember when the radio stations used to rate and chart songs every week? The new number one would trigger a buying surge of 45’s at the local K-Mart. (“attention K-Mart shoppers….”). Now it’s YouTube and the K-Pop charts.

Here are 50 of the top K-Pop songs for January 2015! Flavours of the month. They just keep on coming….your own personal K-Pop chart.

 Top 50 K-Pop Songs for January 2015

There have been thousands of articles, analytics, and financials written and published about K-Pop. Too much information to cover in a single article. Suffice to say, with almost a hundred new groups introduced every year, to a global audience that is expanding by the minute, K-Pop is here to stay.

Yep, I love to dance and K-Pop certainly produces enough fodder for that fire. My journey continues — listening, learning  and exploring this delicious, fantastic, wonderful world of music.

Cheers!

=PB=

Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-buttonIn “real” life Pat Blythe has spent the past 32 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry. After an extended absence Pat is now heading back to the GTA clubs, immersing herself in the local music scene, tasting what’s on offer, talking to people and writing once again — sharing her passions and her deep love of music. Together for 34 years, Pat also worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who shot much  of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, Plateau, Buzzsaw, Hellfield….) as well as national and international acts,  Currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, Pat is currently compiling a photographic history of the local GTA music scene from 1975 to 1985. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance….

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