Late on the wagon – very late, in fact, to be honest considering not only have 2 seasons been produced, they’re both now finished! – but guess what show kept me occupied two nights in a row …which I totally did not see coming?
Let’s backtrack a little on how these all started…
Sometime last year not long after the end of KPop Star Season 1, I stumbled (literally) upon a video of Lee Ha Yi a.k.a Lee Hi singing her cover of Rolling In the Deep for the season 1 finale; I was awestruck – so incredibly moved and no kidding, goosebumps all over. Since then, I have watched a steady stream of performance videos of both season 1 and 2 contestants, but never the full show. Then two nights ago, I stumbled upon the special episode, featuring epic collaborations such as…
Featuring who else? My girl Lee Hi and my up-and-coming favorite dynamic duo, 2000 Won.
Not just them, honestly I was totally blown away by all the collaborations; case-in-point, here’s another favorite that’s been on replay -:
But 2000 Won in particular, had me curious for some reason – why didn’t they make it as far as I would’ve assumed they would? What is all this about that supposed kid-extraordinaire, Bang Ye Dam that has JYP and YG looking like they’re eargasmic (seriously, I am not even joking) whenever he appears onstage? Wait, wasn’t Akdong Musician the clear winner all along throughout the show?
Finally curious, I scoured trusted English subtitled sources for KPop Star Season 2‘s episodes and jumped into the top 18 round. One video led to another and the next thing I know, two consecutive nights later – despite the use of the always-useful fast forward button – I found myself tearing up sometimes, applauding and at other times, bluntly annoyed and furious at particular judges or their feedback.
Last night – or rather, this morning considering I slept at 5 AM thanks to this show… – I’d completed the second episode of the first live show where all my favorites put on great performances and verdict? Now I understand what the hype about this show was all about, and why.
The thing that’s great about KPop Star – despite my feeling that most of these kids, contestants excuse me, are much too young to be swallowed into the mechanics and identity-less of the KPop manufacturing machines – is that it truly is a show about realizing one’s dreams. In a sense, it’s really Dream High except the Real Life version. On the surface, the show is pioneered by the Big 3 – the 3 major label companies, namely JYP, YG and SM – represented by the men themselves JYP and YG and BoA, representing the latter. In another attempt at analogy, conceptually it’s basically similar to American Idol. At heart though, this show really is pioneered by the contestants and their obvious desires and aspirations.
Perhaps I am feeling more for them right now in particular because I am myself, battling against inner demons and having to face reality – despite however much I want or hope to continue graduate school there is simply no way without funding which seems especially bleak right now. A number of the contestants, especially the older ones, said this and it really resonated, “I told myself – this is the last time. This is the make or break.”
For instance, one of the girls in the last-minute formed girl group YouU confessed, “Prior to this show I’d probably gone to more than 50 auditions. Whenever my friends see me, they’ll say that it sure looks to them that all I do is attend auditions. Honestly… this is the last. If we [the girl group] don’t make it to the top 10, this is the end [of my singing career].” In another instance, my heart especially felt for the boys of 2000 Won, who’s serious, passionate, obviously talented and have been trying to break the scene … but kept getting criticized and put down by the judges. The desperation in their performances, body language and near-tear instances really got to me; ugh gutted.
I’m not an arts-enthusiast, nor do I have the talent for performing arts – I’m honestly, a very straight-laced science student-type – so I don’t know and am not familiar with the harshness of the performing arts world as depicted in movies and such – my knowledge about this comes exactly from those sources. But despite our differences, these sentiments: passion, determination and resilience in trying to realize a dream – they’re similar and reverberate.
I’m not familiar with the judges’ previous judgments – in terms of style, technicalities and overall perspectives – having not watched the first season, but frankly I am feeling increasingly annoyed at their feedback. I’m sure they’re great persons in Real Life, plus talented and obviously mighty successful in their own rights and within their circles and spectrum, but this is the thing about adulthood sometimes – the older you are, the more insistent and stubborn you tend to be in thinking you Know It All.
I don’t dislike everything they say, but I take offense at 4 particular instances shown in the show – up until the first live show, at least. Cases in point are discussed below:
1) Their overly harsh “constructive criticisms” towards 2000 Won
I get it that no one is perfect, I get it. Compared to their established powerhouses like say, BIGBANG, SUPER JUNIOR and 2PM – these contestants are rookies after all; raw at the edges and amateurish. But when I watched the qualifying rounds leading to the first live, as 2000 Won kept slumming further into themselves the more the judges kept going at them, I’m ugh – rattled. Is it just me or they clearly seem to Have A Case against these boys? Yes they’re a little bit desperate at one point, yes they keep falling short of bringing in their A-game, but can one really blame them at that point? I think they’re about my age and thus are not teenagers anymore, but these two clearly have been trying to Make It Big seriously and really, even the strongest person breaks at repeated put-downs. JYP especially – what is his deal against these boys? He keeps going all, “I’m not impressed,” over and over at whatever they do that please tell me how could they possibly not finally cave in and feel disheartened?
2) Their obvious bias towards Bang Ye Dam
DUDE. I thought judges are supposed to be neutral? Maybe the kid is a whiz-wonder – I don’t know and I’ll withheld judgment because I just don’t see whatever they see in him – but seriously, favoritism much? He’s talented yes, and definitely even more so for a kid his age, but that’s the thing – he’s still a kid! His voice will break and he’s still so, so young that though he’s got his A-games going on – one simply cannot ascertain right now I think, that he’ll be oh, the next Michael Jackson or something. Having musically-inclined parents don’t give you automatic entry, you know? It gives you an advantage, but not necessarily an edge. I think he’s a good kid, really cute too, don’t get me wrong – this isn’t a personal jab. But I have issues with this obvious favoritism because when last I checked, judges are supposed to be neutral. I get it that in the KPop idol-factory obsession, the younger you are, the more marketable you are and higher potential to be trained et cetera, but there must be a line to be drawn when comparing against a mosquito voice versus someone who harmonizes like the likes of Andrew Choi and even one-half of 2000 Won. You can’t put them on the same scales in comparing their natural talents! I don’t think so, at least.
3) The following sentence stated and agreed upon in the case of Kim Do Yun who withdrew,
“She chose to gave up on her dreams.”
Wait a minute, hold up on that! You said she did what? Gave up on her dreams? Dude, I beg to differ. She didn’t give up on any dreams – she just realized that her aspirations lie elsewhere and thus, not only acted bravely, but also maturely and realistically. I get it that KPop is Big – the capital B is intentional – in their music scene and yes, internationally as well, and they’re the main 3 producers behind so many KPop wonders; I get it, I’ll give credit where it’s due. But I think they’re being a little too full of themselves, thinking everyone would want to be like them and in terms of making it in the music scene, that this KPop-manufactured sound and image are the only ways to go about it. I don’t believe so – rather, I don’t want to believe so. Clearly this thing called Identity still exists even in the most manufactured entertainment world.
Perhaps I’m making a mountain out of a mole – perhaps even, the translator had misinterpreted what they meant, but if the statement was indeed said and conveyed as is, ugh – that’s just annoying.
4) Their perception that Akdong Musician will not and or cannot make it big if they don’t stick to mainstream sounds and type
Excuse my language but the f*ck? I recall JYP and YG saying something along these lines at the top 10 qualifier and again following their first live performance. Say what? Say what? They’re not able to capture audiences if they don’t stick to more commonplace chords and stuff? Dude, Akdong Musician is so bloody talented and even more so because they’re just so unique; original. I’d commented and said this in response to an op-ed article in Seoulbeats, and I still think so: Akdong Musician just seems to me, personally, more suited to the indie genre and smaller label companies. I would hate hate hate to see them lose their flavor and originality at the expense of going mainstream and selling their souls and identities to the big leagues. I don’t believe that they won’t be successful if they don’t stick to more KPop-common trends and music because Akdong Musician‘s selling point in my opinion at least, is their music. It’s not all about the music, I agree, but I believe the basis of qualitative sticky factor in the end comes down to music after all. It’s the same concept in not flaunting one’s own traits – if you’re talented or good at whatever you do, your actions will speak for you.
Ah, okay. I’ve ranted all these out of my system – I feel so much better now, aha.
In hindsight, again I will attest that I don’t dislike the judges and especially, I’m definitely not attempting personal jabs – I don’t know anyone related to this show on a personal level! – but I just strongly feel that despite how high up there you may be, you musn’t forget that 1) you could be wrong in your talent-eye or assessment, 2) unconventional is not at all an automatic No-Go and 3) dreams are dynamic.
I’m aware I’m being especially critical, but no one is perfect after all – regardless how mainstream one is or how KPop-producin’ you’ve been and are. I’ll be watching this show following the release of the English subtitled episodes – here’s to hoping the later live shows are more enjoyable and give credit where effort, talent and sincerity are due!