Sunday, July 15, 2012

Wave or Flood?

I've been thinking lately (yeah it happens, thankfully not that often) about the current situation in Kpop, and I wanted to write a separated post with my thoughts on one particular group that I think should disband ASAP. But since someone wrote an article about the oversaturation of the market with rookie groups, I decided to merge and post my thoughts nonetheless, since in the industry a new trend has emerged - leaving the group.
And coincidentally, all that discontent happens only after JYJ shook up the whole entertainment.
The post below expresses my and only my thoughts that may not be edible for fangirls.

   First, I'd like to say that agencies should pay closer attention to international fora and their opinions. Fans who can form sentences without much exclamation points and emoticons or gifs, are valuable voices that should be taken under the consideration. Some fans can do the "constructive criticism" - pointing out weak points and praising the innovations/good points. A true fan can say "this-and-this song is rubbish" if the song is rubbish indeed. Why lie to ourselves and force to like something? Been there done that, I don't want to repeat the same fan's mistake. Of course, majority of fandoms is now teenage girls who simply cannot separate "my bias" from "good". For them those are interchangeable (like all fair maidens from tales - they are beautiful because they are good, and vice versa - they are good because they are beautiful). Those are not, but for fangirls, "criticizing" means "hating" automatically. I wrote on fangirls' phenomena many, many times, with mockery and pure hatred, and on fandoms' state that is putrid now, I don't want to repeat myself.

   Back to the one of two main points. One article gave nice chart illustrating the pile of new debuts annually. And that scared me, really.

One representative for music shows stated
There are a lot more managers than usual at broadcast halls these days. They are all working for artists with considerable names so it’s a bloody field out there right now. There have been people saying that there will be over 100 teams promoting this summer.”
With that many groups, the competition is really hard, but what's even harder - is to create a substantial fandom and make any impact on the industry. With over 60 groups debuting each year it's mathematically impossible for anyone to remember and keep track of everyone. Sometimes the debuts pass by unnoticed. I have "updating session" twice each month to catch up with all releases, but after 10th song sounding the same and group having the same concept, I give up. Next time I do exactly the same. (digression, there is a joke, kind of explaining why I'm doing this. A guy touches the high voltage broken lever, and of course he gets an electric shock. Normal person's reaction: it's dangerous, I shouldn't touch it. Scientist: I wonder if it happens every time... Now, you got my point).
Some groups stay forever irrelevant, struggling to make any breakthrough. It's really hard to determine why exactly this particular group is successful - like B.A.P. who debuted without any back-up from big agency, with weird yet simple concept, and won the hearts of fans. And why SPICA, who is by far the only one girl group I can distinguish (apart from 2NE1) and that has really talented, experienced members - is shunned by candy-pastel-and-unicorns airhead image girl groups? They're not catchy enough, I guess.

   If it wasn't for SMEnt huge machine of promotion, EXO wouldnt make such impression. But this particular debut proves that the talent does not matter, only nice package and ear-worming beats. I won't argue whether boys can sing or not, cause EXOtics would track me down and eat alive, but screaming is not singing, boys. Everyone after few years of the vocal training can hold a note. It's not an achievement, that doesn't make you an artist. SMEnt did what has always done best - recycled same old conepts, music, beats, added extremely nonsense English - and released as a mix of DBSK, SuJu and SHINee crap. With younger boys only. Knowing fans would buy this again. But fans have their limits, and the number of fans is also limited. If more manufactured idols appear, they would just dissolve in the flood making absolutely no impression whatsoever. Agencies need to start thinking of something else, other concepts, other trends, other music.

This is why so many withdrawal happens now.
On May 24th, Dal Shabet‘s Viki confirmed her withdrawal from her group, while Dalmatian‘s Day Day also left the group, and back in April, EXID‘s Yuzi, Dami, and Haeryung also announced their withdrawal from their group. TAKEN (now renamed A-PRINCE) also announced the withdrawal of their members Seungyeol, Gunwoo, and Yoojun, earlier this week.
That's not the end, I presume, because
An anonymous music industry insider predicted that this trend is most likely to continue. ”There are currently a few idol group members who are considering leaving their groups,” the rep revealed.
Reasons for withdrawal include factors such as schooling, career changes, and solo careers. But, internal conflict with their agencies is said to be the deciding factor for the withdrawal of idol group members.
On the issue of conflicts with agencies, another music industry insider stated, “Members blame their agency if their debut isn’t a success, and eventually decide to withdraw the group. Even if their debut is a success, members leave if they think their agency isn’t supporting them enough.”

And now the second thought prompted by this surge of withdrawals from groups and my own observations lately.
   In SHINee fandom, rumors are circulating from some time that the distance between members is growing. Lots of fans have eyes on Onew as the one who wants to leave the group. I don’t want to fan the fanwars again and repeat the rumors of no value, but there’s something going on under the skin of this group and it may be the reason why members don’t seem that close as in the past. Well, they probably are getting tired, they’ve known each other for like 7, 8 years already.
Plus, one dangerous factor is for sure the growing self-consciousness of Jonghyeon. He’s the unsafe one here. I had an interesting talk with a friend who is completely not into Kpop, but he watched one solo I sent him and he said that this man’s artistic ego is too big for a group. I couldn’t disagree since those were actually my thoughts as well. Lately he’s been acting as if taking over leader’s position, he speaks more often. That’s OK, since (if he’s not high on his own strange thoughts), he speaks all that should be said clearly and without any nonsense (yeah, it happens sometimes). But he has to be aware of his value as the artist – he composes songs (hell, that was the only reason I wanted to have a hard copy of Lucifer album, because of his “Obsession” which wasn’t a single but along with “Quasimodo” is the best song from this group so far. I’d add “Honesty” to it also composed by him, but arrangement is a bit off there. Similar case to Kangta-ssi's presence for me <please don't be mad, I'm not mentioning how much time passed since then, OK?>) and is into composing music, he lives for it, and it’s visible. He flared up when a soldier reached the note he sang in a pure artistic fury (I bet he thought he has to train harder to expand to 5th octave, mehehe).
   Fact, he strains his voice, he can imitate a goat, having full awareness that his voice can have that sound too, but here’s the main point that separates him from all in Kpop – he doesn’t close himself in a safe zone. Fans prefer Onew’s voice that is “soft and nice and mellow”. Yeah, cause Onew stopped doing anything with his voice, no vocalizations, no effects. He just stays in a ear-pleasant zone. Personally, I prefer sometimes what I call “channeling inner Aretha Franklin” that Jonghyeon does, I prefer him sounding unpleasant, but I take this as his experimenting with his own voice.
I think the same thing as my friend who listened only to “Gwiro” – that Jonghyeon’s artistic ego is too big for a group where no one can keep up to his level. He has every right to boast and show off his abilities, because he has them. And since he’s more and more tired and unstable lately, I really wish SHINee would disband or at least go on indefinite hiatus. 
The end of a very personal rant.

   Forgive me ranting so much, I'm trying to be as professional as I can while writing about this issue and separate my usual admiration for some men. Now I'm prepared for all hatred that Shawols can throw my way. But I sincerely wish for what I wrote, and I won't deny anything.