Sunday, December 14, 2014

[Book Review] Mark James Russell - Kpop: The Korean Music Revolution

   This will be my shortest review ever - don't bother reading. In this book you won't find the title "revolution" explained in detail, you will not find any in-depth analysis of the phenomenon. Instead, you will find:
  • Profiles of all the current K-pop artists and their hits
  • A look at Seoul's hippest hot spots and hangouts
  • Interviews with top artists like Kevin from ZE:A (that's a stretch!!) and Brian Joo from Fly to the Sky
  • A look at the Kpop idols of tomorrow *
And that would be EXO all over the place.

   In all honesty, an average Kpop fangirl can tell you more regarding the Kpop scene. And maybe even in a more fantastic ways, cause fans know the inside jokes, know the stories etc. This book is just pictures and random facts that are not always true. NOT a proper book trying to dismantle the highly intricate pattern of Kpop music and mechanisms behind it. 
The picture below is the actual content of this 130-something page book for illiterate kids who need pictures and little text.


 I can almost see some fandoms raging because of the lack of their groups - and quite rightfully so. The book was published in 2014, there's no reason to NOT include VIXX, U-KISS, B14A (huge fandom in Japan), JYJ and a dozen of others. Granted, some are mentioned by the end of the book in "Kpop Future" chapter.
And no, I don't fucking care if SMEnt made some problems or set conditions. You cannot mention Kpop without mentioning what JYJ became for the scene (ethically-wise if not the musically).If you conform to this, you have to admit it. And be prepared to lose some credibility.
But hey, we got EXO who changed the Kpop scene so much past 24 months! Not.
Other thing is - the order of presented groups. To be fair, it should be alphabetically or I dunno, maybe by the year of birth? 

The most interesting part of the book is "What is Kpop" chapter. It presents the short overview of the music in Korea. And this part:

This book might be useful only for those who started their adventure with Kpop like 3 months ago and they want to know the basis of the basis. There is a standard info on every group and solo artist, as it appears on every damn official website - members birthday, albums, fandom name and colour. For more demanding fans - you can probably find your info in other places. But the book has pics, did I mention that?
Does the book have any good parts? Yes. The chapter on history of Kpop is worth reading, it's informative and concise. The author knows what he's writing, too bad he thinks people are kindergarteners. However in chapters that have more text, his approach is visible - he likes Kpop. He knows what's good in Kpop and he genuinely feels Kpop. So the tone, language and approach to the subject is filled with warmth and knowledge, but the product we got is rather an aborted fetus of what it could have been.

I'll be frank, there is no Kangta here and that makes this book an utter crap not worth publishing or reading.

*All quotes are taken from Russell M.J., K-pop: the Korean Music Revolution, Tuttle Publishing, 2014. They are for the review purpose only.
Picture from