Casual Cadenza: A love-hate relationship with K-pop

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There’s a lot of strange phenomena that occur in the world with no explanation — K-pop is one of them. It’s difficult to decipher what makes it so appealing to global audiences: the ultra-synchronized dancing; the colorful hairstyles; the Korean lyrics heard by international fans who have no idea what they’re singing about; or maybe it’s the gender roles that are being challenged by men wearing copious amounts of eyeliner (and doing so fabulously). 

The phrase “K-pop stan” has actually developed somewhat of a negative stigma these days, thanks to Twitter. While I applaud those dedicated enough to devote their accounts to promote their favorite artists, sometimes it can get a little much. I’m just trying to see why certain things are trending; having to dodge five different fancam Tweets in the process is a bit tedious. 

However, K-pop Twitter stans have also established themselves as quite a powerhouse. Their innate ability to flood harmful hashtags with whatever random material they can find never fails to make me smile — not to mention the stunt they pulled with that Trump rally in Tulsa. All in all, their flaws get canceled out by sporadic events proving their existence as a positive (but at times annoying) force in society.  

And that existence doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon. K-pop continues to grow as both an industry and an opportunity for fans around the world to become immersed in Korean culture: everything from skincare to food to dramas on Netflix. I’ve come to embrace my designation as the token Korean friend whenever people have questions about drama recommendations or when they just want to rave about BTS. Although I don’t really listen to them, I still appreciate the sentiment. 

I’ve already mentioned my brief (but intense) K-pop phase in middle school, when the only band I listened to at the time was EXO. For the past six years, that stage of my life has remained dormant. Lately though, there’s been a resurgence of Big Bang and NCT listening sessions that have managed to bring a certain amount of nostalgic bliss; or maybe it’s just my mind yearning for simpler times after taking three midterms this week. 

Whenever I think about the number of people who say they’ve just started getting into K-pop, it’s odd to consider the genre as an acquired taste. I grew up surrounded by groups like Super Junior, Girls’ Generation, SHINee and 2PM, all of which I owe either to my older sister’s obsessions with them or the more likely fact that as a Korean family, K-pop was simply inescapable. Watching its popularity spread globally, especially within America, was something I wouldn’t have been able to imagine back then. 

I’ve grown used to having to cater toward one culture, where most of the time I find myself acting more American than Korean — a common side effect of trying to assimilate into a primarily White society. But K-pop’s widespread approval has actually helped in bridging the gap between two different aspects of my identity and for that, I’ve realized it deserves more value than embarrassment. 

Image courtesy of @weareoneEXO on Twitter.

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