For me, 2017 has been the year of discovering new music and TV shows. This year, I've fallen in love with more new shows, songs, and musicians than I probably have in the last few years combined. And of all of these new-found obsessions, one stands out among the rest-- K Pop. Of course, 2017 was not the first time I'd ever heard of K Pop, but it was the first time I truly gained a respect for and love of the genre. So, today, in conjunction with a video that I posted on my K Pop-centric YouTube channel, I'm going to be explaining how I fell in love with K Pop and why I love it so much.
For the beginning of this story, we have to go back pretty far. Several years, in fact. And, to be honest, I'm really not totally sure how far. At the very least, we're headed back to high school. Yikes. I'm warning you, the early years of K Pop are hazy. I don't remember details, and if I do, I definitely don't know how or when I discovered things. It's gonna be a long story, so... brace yourselves.
This may come as a major shock (lol not), but I was a weird kid in school. I wasn't some social reject with no friends, but my "people" were definitely the artsy and just downright weird kids. I was in orchestra, and most of my closest friends were either in orchestra, band, or theater. And there was a subsection of those friends who, in hind-sight, probably counted as Koreaboos. Or... Weeaboos. Somewhere in that mix. They were honestly more in the "friend of a friend" category. They were close with one of my best friends, so I would sometimes end up having lunch with them or just hanging around them in the halls after school. The only way I know to describe them is that they were your typical group of weirdo kids who were super into manga, anime, and honestly just anything dealing with "Asian culture." They ranged from the types of people who would do cosplay (sometimes borderline cosplay at school), to those kids who didn't pay much mind to their appearance at all-- wearing ill-fitting, solid colored clothing. Y'all know the type. No hate, though. I'm sure my clothes were just as horrible back then too.
The first time I ever put names to any K Pop faces was, like many people, when the Fine Brothers did a react video. Kids react to K Pop came out in early 2012, my senior year of high school. I was an avid viewer of FBE and was familiar with the term, so I clicked. I re-watched that video recently, and I honestly think that the only long-lasting takeaway from that video was the MV for Gee by Girls' Generation. Years later, when I finally did listen to a K Pop song or two on purpose, Gee was the one, shining, familiar light. Upon re-watch, I was super-surprised to see SuJu & 2NE1 in the video.
After that, I paid basically no mind to K Pop. Fast forward to my freshman year of college. Y'all know what happened in mid-to-late 2012.
|(Hongchul is a blessing, y'all.)|
I hated it. I hated it. I hated it. I was still firmly entrenched in my "pop punk is GOD" mentality, and pop music was just garbage. Especially the pop music that became mega-popular. Even more-so, weird pop music. And even more than that, pop music in a language I couldn't understand. Seriously, I was a judgmental lil' 18 year old. I mean, I think we all still see Gangnam Style as a big ol' joke, but obviously I was pretty judgy.
Sometime around then, one of my friends tried to get me to listen to K Pop. He knew how I felt about pop music in general, so he gave me some videos that he wanted me to watch. I think that was the first time I'd ever heard of 2NE1. That was his favorite group. I think he might have shown me one of their videos (probably I'm The Best). I think he might've shown me some other videos, but I don't remember them. Sometime around here, I think I watched The Chaser by Infinite. Not to jump forward too much, but when I started to actually get into K Pop, the music video seemed far too familiar. I have no idea how or why I stumbled across it, but I'm almost 99% certain I watched it sometime around its release.
Anyway, apart from possibly watching the MV for The Chaser, I didn't give K Pop much more thought until the summer of 2013, when The Fine Bros did another K Pop reaction video, this time with YouTubers. This would become a recurring theme on their channel, and given my disinterest in K Pop and my slowly waning interest in FBE, I didn't watch many of these K Pop reactions going forward. But I did watch the first one, which introduced me to Fantastic Baby by Big Bang, I Got a Boy by Girls' Generation, and Lucifer by SHINee. I still wasn't particularly impressed with any of them. Y'all get the gist. I was way too into my own love of pop punk and didn't understand why people loved K Pop so much.
It's important to note here that I didn't have any sort of legitimate dislike or hatred toward K Pop. Starting from that first year of college, and getting more and more strong constantly, I consider myself to be someone who's very open-minded to art. I may not particularly like some music/art/movies/etc, but I'll defend its validity as a legitimate art form until the bitter end. Everything is art to someone. So, while I personally didn't understand why people wanted to listen to pop music in a language they didn't speak, my mindset was "Cool, more power to you. Just leave me alone to my pop-punk."
And, for the next few years, that's exactly what happened. I didn't really pay attention to K Pop except for when I'd see things in passing. YouTubers I watched would occasionally mention a group. I'd see someone re-tweet an Idol's tweet, etc. It wasn't something I actively avoided, but rather just something that really didn't pop up in my day-to-day life. I was once again vaguely familiar with certain names I'd see popping up. Infinite was one that I saw a lot (which is odd, now that I know how underrated they actually are). BTS popped up quite regularly. G-Dragon. Monsta X. Rap Monster (who I totally thought was a member of Monsta X). BamBam. L. Exo. SNSD. 2NE1 (which I was convinced was a boy group?). Big Bang. That's probably the extent of artists I would've been able to list off to you at about this time last year. Like in high school, names without faces or meaning.
And then, the life changing show. The Genius, a Korean reality show that has now become my favorite show ever. Which will need a bit of back story. So... hang on.
There's a podcast that I listen to, Rob Has a Podcast, that covers strategic reality shows like Big Brother and Survivor. Over the years, there were certain personalities on the podcast that I really gravitated toward. Two of the guys I really liked, Alex and Taran, would constantly make brief references to this show called The Genius, which they both really loved. I got curious, but it was never a high priority for me. Then, one day in the summer of 2016, I was looking for podcasts to listen to, and I stumbled across another RHAP episode where the eponymous Rob was given a crash course introduction to The Genius by Myles Nye. I was a little wary of reading subtitles, but the premise had me intrigued. When Myles described it as about as close to The Mole (my FAVORITE TV show at the time) as you could get, I was sold. I watched the first episode almost immediately. I enjoyed it, but given the amount of focus needed to sit and watch the whole episode without doing anything else, I ended up not continuing the show.
Seemingly, when it comes to Korean entertainment, I need to be introduced to it, take a break from it, and then return to it before I can find a genuine love for it. I didn't watch another episode of The Genius for a solid 6 months after that. And then, Rob released an audiobook, with chapters covering each episode of Season 1 of The Genius. I was on my holiday break from school and was going to be on some long car rides, so I figured I'd go ahead and re-watch the first episode, listen to a preview of the audiobook and see what happened from there.
I was hooked. I re-watched episode 1 and found myself falling in love immediately. I binge-watched the season, binge-listened to the audiobook, and fell completely in love with the other podcasts covering the show. And here's where we get to the K Pop. For those of you who aren't familiar with the show, the cast is comprised almost entirely of Korean celebrities. And the biggest name of Season 1, the biggest "get" for the show? Kim Sunggyu, the leader & main vocalist of Infinite. I don't want to spoil the show for those of you who haven't seen, but if you know Sunggyu, you know he was a fun character to watch. For however long he was there.
So, I got curious. I'd fallen in love with Sunggyu as a character, and I wanted to check out his music to see if I liked it. Guess what happened? I listened, felt kinda meh about it, and then didn't return to it until several months later. The first song I listened to (sometime in January) was Back (now an all-time fave). I also gave The Chaser and The Eye a listen before deciding that they were alright, but not really my thing.
To be honest, I'm not really sure what sparked the second wave of Infinite curiosity. It might have been a resurgence of excitement about The Genius, or maybe just an interest in the Korean language. But, either way, at the beginning of May 2017... I got obsessed. I re-listened to Back and found that I really loved it. Some of the first things I watched of theirs weren't even music videos, but rather episodes of them on Weekly Idol and Ranking King. I fell in love with them as people, and subsequently fell in love with their music.
At this point, I was still kinda in the mindset that Infinite was an anomaly in my music taste. Not that I was dis-interested in other K Pop, but rather that I just probably wasn't going to seek more out apart from Infinite.
And then, around mid-June, I felt like I was being absolutely suffocated by one group, and finally decided to check them out. Surprisingly, it wasn't BTS. It was Got7. Every time I watched an Infinite video, there were 2-3 Got7 videos just hanging out in the recommended sidebar, begging for me to click. Finally, I did. Like most people, Jackson was the first one who stood out to me. He was loud and crazy, running all over the Weekly Idol set and screaming his lil head off. Definitely not my cup of tea. (Little did I know that he'd become one of my Got7 biases & I'd be constantly worried about that lil fluffball cutie's health.) I watched their Never Ever MV, and thought it was alright. I watched their Just Right MV, and liked it more than Never Ever, but wasn't sold. I ended up deciding that they were alright, but not my thing.
I think y'all have figured out how this story goes by now, right? About a month later, while watching Infinite line distribution videos, someone mentioned that Hard Carry by Got7 had a good line distribution. I was curious and decided to listen... and I liked what I heard. I ended up watching a few more of their videos, before coming across the one that absolutely sold me. Still, my favorite K Pop song to this day.
IF YOU DO.
Something about the song just clicked. It seemed so oddly satisfying for some reason, especially when combined with their rhythmic footwork. I was in love. And of course, I spiraled from there, watching dance practices, watching their appearances on variety shows, watching clip videos, everything. I fell in love. But I wasn't quite to the point where I considered myself a K Pop fan. I wasn't really venturing outside my two groups.
That's when I discovered K Pop quizzes on YouTube. I'm a sucker for things like "guess the song"/ "guess the member"/etc, and given that I now had 2 groups under my belt, I figured I at least had a little bit of knowledge to attempt a couple of them. Predictably, I failed horribly. But, as I watched more of these videos, I started hearing choruses that sounded intriguing. I found myself looking up some of the songs I was hearing over and over again in these videos, and soon had a playlist of K Pop MVs to watch.
I was now to the point where I was finally dipping my toes into multiple different groups, rather than going full-force into one at a time and not considering myself a K Pop fan. First came EXO, then Big Bang, then Block B, then Super Junior, then BlackPink, then Seventeen, then BTS and a whole slew of other random groups. A couple songs here and there from each artist. I consumed more and more and more and more, finally embracing my status as a full-blown K Pop stan. And, of course, more recently I've fallen head over heels in love with my Day6 babies, who I'm literally obsessed with. So, yeah, super long build-up of seeing K Pop for years, before having it all come to a head within about 2 months' time. And I'm so, so glad to have found it and there's no way I'm looking back. I love my K Pop, and I love it more and more every single day. Also, that last sentence was cheesy and I've been rambling for way too long, so it's time to stop.
So, that's my story of how I got into K Pop! I'm sure it was way too long-winded, but hello and welcome to my brain. You must be new here. I talk too much. Except in person, where I barely talk at all. Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my rambling nonetheless! Let me know if there are any K Pop-related videos or posts you'd like to see in the future, because I'm always trying to figure out new ideas for things to do!
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