I will not say that I am a huge fan of K-Pop, nor am I a huge fan of J-Pop, but I am more familiar with J-Pop than K-Pop. But I find myself very impressed with the K-Pop groups I have seen. The other day I saw a “Girls’ Generation” cover of “Dancing Queen” – they did it in English, and without a discernable accent. It was extremely high quality. Frankly, it was much higher quality than I would expect out of a J-Pop group. More frankly, any J-Pop group save, perhaps, Babymetal.
There seems to be a cultural difference between Korean and Japanese pop, and I have remarked on it before. The Japanese seem to value cuteness and approachability, and talent doesn’t seem to matter. The Koreans seem to deliberately cultivate unapproachability and perfection. Their idols truly seem to be meant to be idols, meaning, objects of worship. But the Japanese groups don’t really need talent – hardly at all – as long as they can gain a following of people who will buy their albums and “support” them (meaning, voting in senbatsu competitions and buying their products).
Now I’ll admit I don’t know a whole lot about K-Pop, but I know what I saw the other night, and that was quality. Some groups are a little more fun than others, like Crayon Pop seems to have more of a J-Pop sensibility to it. The Japanese seem to think “ganbatte”, or “try my best”. They’ll prepare as much as necessary and get it done. The Koreans seem to think “If I have to try, I’m not good enough. I’m going to nail this.” And holy cow, do they.
Which do I like better? I don’t know. If I’m looking for cute and poppy, J-Pop pretty much fits the bill. If I’m looking for actual quality, it’s K-Pop all the way. The poor J-Pop groups – particularly the really popular ones like AKB48 – really don’t stand a chance. They’re cute, they’re funny, they’re silly, they’re adorable, and Korean singers and dancers wipe the floor with them.
But then, they know this. They know exactly what they are, what they do, and why they’re there. Maybe it will translate to success in the future for them – I know aces like Takahashi Minami and Sashihara Rino have gone on to decent careers. But not all. I don’t think that would be tolerated in Korea. The standards are far, far, far, more exacting.*
* There are exceptions, on both sides. So stop typing. 🙂