Last July 2015, my cousin told me to watch this music video on YouTube. It was a music video by a Korean-Chinese pop boy band called EXO, titled Love Me Right. At first, I could only shoot my cousin various disturbed glances her way. Was she so tired of hearing Sledgehammer by Fifth Harmony on repeat because of me?
As the music video began, I could only conjure up thoughts such as, “They all look alike, how can you tell who’s who?”, “How do you sing and dance in skin-tight jeans?”, and finally, “Why are they wearing makeup?” I’ve had a mouthful of comments and for some reason, after a marathon of this boy band’s videography, I found myself humming to the beat of their songs.
After which, I’ve succumbed to watching that one music video again repeatedly for several times. Consequently, I found myself looking up the biographies of each member and next thing I know I’m learning Hangul, the Korean alphabet. One could say I fell down the rabbit’s hole and had a hard time getting out, but I don’t mind it at all. Since then I’ve been on this Hallyu and I can only say that the waves are only gusting and raging on.
Hallyu is described as “the Korean wave or Korean fever, which refers to the sudden increase in popularity of the South Korean culture around the world.” Many Hallyu fans would acknowledge that the main contributors to its popularity would be the Korean entertainment industry and the boom of K-drama and K-pop.
Despite all this K-drama craze recently, people are still abhorrent towards K-pop fans in general. Unlike K-dramas which are heavily subbed in order for its viewers to understand the story, K-pop does not rely on translation to get its listeners hooked to a song. Not so very long ago, a good friend of mine told me about a conversation she had with a friend, he asked her, “Why do so much people like K-pop? You can’t even understand the lyrics!”
I’m sure we’ve all jammed to foreign songs at least once or twice already and I don’t think it was ever a bother to anyone that it was sung in another language. You probably also never considered whether you could or could not understand the message the song really conveys. We’ve just been accustomed to listening to western music that anything else is just “weird” and “not normal”. People who say K-pop is dense because it isn’t in English are probably the same people who listen to Despacito even though they don’t understand it.
We now live in a world where all kinds of information are easily accessible. I believe if one is not knowledgeable of something, it’s best you go surf the web and be informed. Although preconceived notions of K-pop would suffice for most of us, this would only lead to creating stereotypes and hasty generalizations towards listeners of the genre.
Having a preconceived notion that people who are Hallyu fans should be looked down upon because of their lack of taste is wrong. I admit that there was a time when I myself would give looks of disdain towards people who publicly declared they love K-pop. Because of this, when I was a new fan, I also felt ashamed of letting other people know that I enjoyed listening to this type of music.
Don’t shame on someone because they listen to K-pop; it’s music. Let people listen to what they love without being unreasonably judged. Likewise, don’t be fixated on people who listen to that kind of music, anyone is free to engage in other cultures without claiming it as their own.
Of course, I realize I’m making it sound like everyone should stop what they’re doing and listen to K-pop now, that’s not what I’m saying at all. All I’m saying is don’t restrict yourself from discovering things outside of your comfort zone. You never know what you’re really missing out on until you find out for yourself.
People who refuse to listen to K-pop just because they can’t understand the lyrics are really missing out. You don’t have to understand a language to feel music. One of the main reasons why I love K-pop is because it proves that music truly transcends languages. Another thing I admire about K-pop is it’s simply about experiencing and learning about a new culture. It’s about immersing yourself, juxtaposing two things, like English and Hangul, and learning to fall in love with it in the process.