MUSIC

Vote for Popdust's 2019 Best K-Pop Group Award

Which K-Pop group is your favorite?

Unless you've been living without wifi, television, or any access to the world at large for the past several years, you probably have at least dabbled in the world of K-Pop by now.

K-Pop, simply put, is Korean pop music. But in reality, it's so much more than that. It's an art form, a spectacle, a phenomenon, and a multi-billion dollar industry. K-Pop groups eat, sleep, and breathe their craft, dancing more skillfully than just about any western group and releasing pop songs so catchy that you don't need to speak Korean to get the words stuck in your head. But with so many K-Pop groups out there, is it possible to say which group is the absolute best? Well, we'll leave that up to you. Vote below for your favorite K-Pop group!

EXO

EXO is made up of nine members: Xiumin, Suho, Lay, Baekhyun, Chen, Chanyeol, D.O., Kai and Sehun. SM Entertainment formed EXO in 2011 and debuted in 2012. Their music is a mix of hip-hop, rap, EDM, and R&B, and they release music in Korean, Mandarin, and Japanese.

BLACKPINK

This incredible South Korean girl group was formed by YG Entertainment, debuting in 2016 with single album Square One, which included "Whistle," their first number one hit. The group is comprised of Jisoo, Jennie, Rosé, and Lisa.

BTS

Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook form perhaps the most popular K-Pop group: Bangtan Boys AKA BTS. This 7 member group formed in Seoul in 2013, and have since gone on to help popularize K-Pop across the world.

MONSTA X

MONSTA X is composed of seven members: Shownu, Wonho, Minhyuk, Kihyun, Hyungwon, Joohoney[2], and I.M.

From South Korea and assembled by Starship Entertainment, the boy band was formed through the 2015 reality show No.Mercy.

TWICE

This group of talented musicians was formed in South Korea by JYP Entertainment through the 2015 reality show Sixteen. The nine members of the group are Nayeon, Jeongyeon, Momo, Sana, Jihyo, Mina, Dahyun, Chaeyoung, and Tzuyu. The group debuted on October 20, 2015, with The Story Begins.

TVXQ (DBSK)

This duo, whose name stands for Tong Vfang Xien Qi, is comprised of U-Know Yunho and Max Changmin. They offer a wide multicultural appeal, releasing songs in many different languages. They are known as Tohoshinki for their Japanese releases, and are sometimes referred to as DBSK, an abbreviation of their Korean name Dong Bang Shin Ki which roughly translates to "Rising Gods of the East."

GOT7

Got7 is a South Korean boy band formed by JYP Entertainment, composed of JB, Mark, Jackson, Jinyoung, Youngjae, BamBam, and Yugyeom. They've been around since January 2014 when they released their first EP, Got It? They're known for their incredible stage performances which incorporate martial arts.

SEVENTEEN

Members of this boy band—which debuted in 2015 with Pledis Entertainment—are Woozi, Wonwoo, Vernon, Mingyu, Jun, Hoshi, The8, Joshua, Jeonghan, Dino, S.Coups, and Seungkwan. This group is known for self-producing, as many of the members are actively involved in songwriting, choreographing, and producing their own work.

TXT 

Tomorrow X Together (TXT) is a South Korean boy band formed by Big Hit Entertainment. The group consists of 5 members: Yeonjun, Soobin, Beomgyu, Taehyun, and Huening Kai.

CULTURE

Nazi-Chic: The Aesthetics of Fascism

Let's take a look at Nazi-inspired fashion.

Villains always have the best outfits.

From Darth Vader's polished black space armor to The Joker's snazzy purple suit, bad guys always seem to show up their protagonists in the fashion department.

Way more handsome than Batman. static.giantbomb.com

But could there possibly be a real world equivalent to the type of over-the-top villain fashion often found in fiction? It would have to be sleek and imposing, austere and dangerous. Probably black.

Maybe it's him. Maybe it's fascist ideology.

Oh, right.

Let's call a spade a spade. From an aesthetic standpoint, the Nazi SS outfit is very well-designed. The long coat tied around the waist with a buckle portrays a slim, sturdy visage. The leather boots and matching cap look harsh and powerful. The emblem placements on the lapel naturally suggest rank and authority. And the red armband lends a splash of color to what would otherwise be a dark monotone. If the Nazi uniform wasn't so closely tied with the atrocities they committed during WWII, it wouldn't seem out of place at Fashion Week. Perhaps not too surprising, considering many of the uniforms were made by Hugo Boss.

Pictured: A real thing Hugo Boss did. i.imgur.com

Of course, today, Nazi uniform aesthetics are inseparable from the human suffering doled out by their wearers. In most circles of civilized society, that's more than enough reason to avoid the garb in any and all fashion choices. But for some, that taboo isn't a hindrance at all–if anything, it's an added benefit.

As a result, we have Nazi chic, a fashion trend centered around the SS uniform and related Nazi imagery.

History of Nazi Chic

For the most part, Nazi chic is not characterized by Nazi sympathy. Rather, Nazi chic tends to be associated with counterculture movements that view the use of its taboo imagery as a form of shock value, and ironically, anti-authoritarianism.

The movement came to prominence in the British punk scene during the mid-1970s, with bands like the Sex Pistols and Siouxsie and the Banshees displaying swastikas on their attire alongside other provocative imagery.

Very rotten, Johnny. i.redd.it

Around this time, a film genre known as Nazisploitation also came to prominence amongst underground movie buffs. A subgenre of exploitation and sexploitation films, Naziploitation movies skewed towards D-grade fare, characterized by graphic sex scenes, violence, and gore. Plots typically surrounded female prisoners in concentration camps, subject to the sexual whims of evil SS officers, who eventually escaped and got their revenge. However, the most famous Nazisploitation film, Ilsa, She Wolf of the SS, flipped the genders.

The dorm room poster that will ensure you never get laid. images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com

Ilsa was a female SS officer and the victims were men. She spent much of the movie wearing her Nazi uniform in various states, sexually abusing men all the while. As such, Ilsa played into dominatrix fantasies. The movie was a hit on the grindhouse circuit, inspiring multiple sequels and knock-offs and solidifying Nazi aesthetics as a part of the BDSM scene.

Since then, Nazi chic fashion has been employed by various artists, from Madonna to Marilyn Manson to Lady Gaga, and has shown up in all sorts of places from leather clubs to character designs in video games and anime.

Lady Gaga looking SS-uper. nyppagesix.files.wordpress.com

Nazi Chic in Asia

Nazi chic has taken on a life of its own in Asia. And unlike Western Nazi chic, which recognizes Nazism as taboo, Asian Nazi chic seems entirely detached from any underlying ideology.

A large part of this likely has to do with the way that Holocaust education differs across cultures. In the West, we learn about the Holocaust in the context of the Nazis committing horrific crimes against humanity that affected many of our own families. The Holocaust is presented as personal and closer to our current era than we might like to think. It is something we should "never forget." Whereas in Asia, where effects of the Holocaust weren't as prominent, it's simply another aspect of WWII which, in and of itself, was just another large war. In other words, Nazi regalia in Asia might be viewed as simply another historical military outfit, albeit a particularly stylish one.

In Japan, which was much more involved with WWII than any other Asian country, Nazi chic is usually (but not always) reserved for villainous representations.

OF COURSE. i.imgur.com

That being said, J-Pop groups like Keyakizaka46 have publicly worn Nazi chic too, and the phenomena isn't limited to Japan.

In South Korea, Indonesia, and Thailand, Nazi imagery has shown up in various elements of youth culture, completely void of any moral context. For instance, in Indonesia, a Hitler-themed fried chicken restaurant opened in 2013. And in Korea, K-Pop groups like BTS and Pritz have been called out for propagating Nazi chic fashion. Usually such incidents are followed by public apologies, but the lack of historical understanding makes everything ring hollow.

Implications

So the question then: is Nazi chic a bad thing?

The answer is not so black and white.

On one hand, seeing Nazi chic on the fashion scene may dredge up painful memories for Holocaust survivors and those whose family histories were tainted. In this light, wearing Nazi-inspired garb, regardless of intent, seems disrespectful and antagonistic. Worse than that, it doesn't even seem like a slight against authority so much as a dig at actual victims of genocide.

But on the other hand, considering the fact that even the youngest people who were alive during WWII are edging 80, "forgetting the Holocaust" is a distinct possibility for younger generations. In that regard, perhaps anything that draws attention to what happened, even if it's simply through the lens of "this outfit should be seen as offensive," might not be entirely bad. This, compounded by the fact that Nazi chic is not commonly associated with actual Nazi or nationalistic sentiments, might be enough to sway some people–not necessarily to wear, like, or even appreciate its aesthetics, but rather to understand its place within counterculture.

Ultimately, one's views on Nazi chic likely come down to their own personal taste and sensibilities. For some, Nazi chic is just a style, an aesthetic preference for something that happens to be mired in historical horror. For others, the shadow of atrocity simply hangs too strong.

Music Features

K-POP for Dummies: An Introduction to Your New Favorite Genre

From BTS to BLACKPINK, learn the ins and outs of South Korea's most popular music genre.

Western awareness of K-Pop music has come a long way since Gangnam Style first went viral on YouTube, but if the 2019 Grammy Awards were your first time hearing of BTS you have some catching up to do.

No worries, though! We got you covered. Allow us to take you on a journey into the musical genre that's taking over the world.

What is K-Pop?

K-Pop stands for Korean pop, a broad genre encompassing pop, rock, hip hop, R&B, and electronic music. The genre dates back to the 90s, during which similarly styled South Korean pop music was referred to as "Gayo." The movement was largely influenced by the group Seo Taiji and Boys, formed in 1992, who began experimenting with different styles and genres within their mainstream pop music. But it wouldn't be until the 2000s that the genre now known as "K-Pop" would fully come into its own.

In the same way, the songs blend many genres into one, K-Pop is a holistic experience. In spite of massive radio play, the actual songs are inseparable from their music videos, their dance numbers, and the personalities of their various group members. In K-Pop culture, fashion, choreography, and fandom are just as important as the music, so to fully understand the genre, you need to recognize its moving parts.

And what better way to do that than by checking out K-Pop's biggest group…

BTS

BTS (also known as the Bangtan Boys) is easily the most popular K-Pop group in history. While other K-Pop groups experience wild success, none can even approach the levels of BTS, especially on an international level. Their fandom is so huge that they've broken multiple records formerly held by the likes of Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber. They also have the most Twitter engagement in history.

In many ways, BTS is the quintessential ideal of a K-Pop boy band. They're so popular they've been called the modern-day Beatles, and as such, we can use them as a case study to understand the intricacies of the genre.

The Members

While some K-Pop stars are solo artists, most major acts are groups, usually put together by one of three major agencies – YJ Entertainment, SM Entertainment, or JYP Entertainment. These agencies are essentially all-in-one management firms for their artists, serving as record labels, talent agencies, concert producers, and event managers. Most commonly, the same agency will discover young talent, train them, group them, debut them, and foster their careers.

Competition is fierce within the K-Pop industry, and the artists who ultimately make it into major groups need to be multi-talented singers and dancers. They also need to synergize well with other group members. Of course, each member has an area of expertise.

RM (Rap Monster)

The group's leader, RM, lives up to his namesake. He's a talented rapper in his own right and was the first member of the group to release his own mixtape.

Suga

Suga also got his start in the underground rap scene and is especially well known for his rhyme speed.

J-Hope

J-Hope initially focused on dancing, but since joining the group, he's begun rapping and songwriting too.

Jimin

Having formerly attended art school to focus on modern dance, Jimin is considered by many to be the best dancer in the group. He's also the lead vocalist, or the best singer in the group aside from the main vocalist.

Jin

Known by his fans as "Worldwide Handsome," Jin is a sub-vocalist (or supportive vocalist).

V

Another one of the group's sub-vocalists, V is renowned for his smooth voice.

Jungkook

The "Maknae," or youngest member of the group, Jungkook is the main vocalist (best vocalist) and a constant presence onstage.

Choreography

Dancing is a huge part of K-Pop. The groups perform stylized dance routines in both their music videos and live performances. In fact, the dance routines are so important that groups like BTS oftentimes release "dance practice" videos so fans can watch their rehearsals.

Here's BTS's dance practice video for their hit song "IDOL."

[CHOREOGRAPHY] BTS (방탄소년단) 'IDOL' Dance Practice www.youtube.com

As you can tell, the dance routines are fast, technical, and high-energy. Unlike a lot of Western boy bands, dancing isn't a secondary or tertiary concern. To pull off routines like these, K-Pop groups like BTS need to be at the top of their physical game.

Aesthetics

K-Pop is, above all else, an aesthetic art form. Music videos tend to be incredibly colorful and, artists are known for frequently changing their styles and outfits, allowing them to popularize new looks and fashions.

For instance, in their "Blood Sweat" music video, BTS donned fancy jackets and ascots, along with platinum blonde hair.

i1.wp.com

Then in "Fake Love," they adopted an artsy street punk vibe with lots of torn denim.

6.viki.io

Finally, "Idol" shows an entirely fresh aesthetic with loud, bright suits and full bright hair to match.

i.ytimg.com

The aesthetic choices translate throughout entire music videos, making each song look and feel incredibly distinct.

The Music

We can talk about K-Pop music all day, but there's no better way to learn about it than to experience it for yourself. At this point, you're familiar with BTS, and you've seen the dance practice and aesthetics behind "Idol." So let's see how it all comes together.

BTS (방탄소년단) 'IDOL' Official MV www.youtube.com

As we said, words can't adequately prepare you for that―all the costumes, set changes, dance sequences, and energy pulsating throughout the video. It's not just great to listen to. It's great to watch. K-Pop is a full-on sensory experience. The craziest part is that each song offers something unique.

Other Groups to Watch

As amazing as BTS is, they're not the only K-Pop band. The genre has lots of other great acts too, so let's check a few of them out.

BLACKPINK

BLACKPINK - '뚜두뚜두 (DDU-DU DDU-DU)' M/V www.youtube.com

The 4-woman girl group, BLACKPINK, is currently one of the biggest names in K-Pop. The music video for their hit song, "DDU-DU DDU-DU," provides a great example of elaborate set pieces, fashionable outfits, catchy music, and fun dance segments.

BIGBANG

BIGBANG - FANTASTIC BABY M/V www.youtube.com

One of the most influential boy bands in K-Pop, BIGBANG's 2012 hit "FANTASTIC BABY" received unprecedented international airplay and is largely responsible for the genre's international spread. Its EDM style was considered groundbreaking at the time it came out and the hook―"Fantastic baby"―is arguably the most famous line of English in a K-Pop song.

TWICE

TWICE "LIKEY" M/V www.youtube.com

On the more poppy side of K-pop, Twice's "Likey" is the pinnacle of the cutesy girl group aesthetic famous in Korea. The bright colors and high school setting do a great job appealing to the target demographic of teens and young adults. And the focus on fashion and makeup connect exceptionally well with female fans.

Conclusion

K-Pop has a diverse, exciting, stylish culture full of diehard fans and groundbreaking music. Now that you've been introduced, we hope you'll enjoy the multitude of great songs the genre has to offer. But even if you don't like the music, here's something everyone can appreciate.

bts jungkook bunny boy HE'S JUST A LITTLE BUNNY UWUUUUUU

BTS's Jungkook is the most adorable human to ever live and is basically an anthropomorphic bunny rabbit. If that's not enough to make you love K-Pop, we don't know what is.


Dan Kahan is a writer & screenwriter from Brooklyn, usually rocking a man bun. Find more at dankahanwriter.com



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