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K-pop and sexual liberation K-pop and sexual liberation
by Joseph Gatt
2021-01-13 08:38:26
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K-pop is not ethno-pop. Ethno-pop is a musical genre where musicians who use a mixture of folklore and modern beats hit the stage.

Ethno-pop tends to be popular in the summer in Europe and North America, and tends to involve folkloric musicians who use a few modern instruments, strong vocals, and a mixture of folkloric and modern vocals and dance to their tunes.

kpopa0001_400Popular examples of ethno-pop artists are Mory Kanté, Youssou N'dour, Ismael Lo, Alejandro Sanz, Juanes, Fonsi, Cheb Khaled, Oum Kalthoum, Buena Vista Social Club, Idan Raichel and a few others.

But K-pop does not adhere to the folklore and does not mix of traditional Korean music and folk music with modern instruments that are the signature trademark of ethno-pop.

K-pop is the Korean version of house music. House music is a musical genre which mostly uses electronic music, few vocals (often love lyrics on repeat) and is music specifically aimed at dancing, specifically aimed at erotic, sensual, sexual kind of dancing.

Now K-pop had what house music did not have: charismatic, metro-sexual stars. That is House music which is mostly composed by anonymous DJs who simply mix a few tunes and release the music on the dance floor. What K-pop does is it stages metro-sexual pop-stars to dance synchronically and in unison to electronic beats and with love lyrics on repeat.

Sociologically, the phenomenon is important. K-pop is very popular in areas where sexuality tended to be repressed, where the notion of sex, sexuality, dancing and womanizing/being feminine was taboo.

It is popular in the Middle East, in Southeast Asia, in China, and among immigrant communities in Europe where sex and sexuality tends to be taboo, and where parents tend to have conservative morals when it comes to sex.

Until K-pop, there was no musical genre where male and female performers were fully allowed to express their sexuality, using suggestive erotic dance moves and lustful love lyrics. The closest thing to that which existed were Beyoncé and Shakira, perhaps along with Rihanna, but those were just three people.

So in those Asian and Middle Eastern communities with conservative morals when it came to sexuality, K-pop was often an excuse for those men and women to be more comfortable with their homosexuality, metro-sexuality or sexual impulses.

That is, K-pop events and K-pop being played at night clubs was often an excuse for these metro-sexual men and women to go out, dance erotically, and perhaps spend a romantic night with someone. All this in societies where expressing sexual desires, lust, or affection are very taboo in what were once conservative societies.

Just like the Beatles in the 1970s led to men growing their hair long in imitation of the Beatles, both men and women around the world have been closely following haircuts, props and fashion styles adopted by K-pop stars. Such fashion statements used to be rejected in conservative societies, but K-pop helped those fashion trends become accepted and mainstream in what were once considered conservative societies.

More importantly, I insist on this. K-pop idol bands are almost never mixed-gender. This is very important.

When conservative parents see an idol K-pop band composed of 9 men (and no women) or 7 women (and no men) parents often falsely assume that metro-sexual fashion is the kind of fashion that separates gender. That is if their daughters are wearing shorts that only cover 10% of their legs, or if men wear skin-tight jeans and unbuttoned shirts, parents assume that they are going to hang out within their gender.

Now of course what happens at the night club stays at the night club in those conservative societies.

Interestingly, conservative societies have always had night-clubs and an erotic music scene. But that erotic music scene tended to be associated with prostitution, and now that K-pop is almost mainstream in many conservative societies, night-clubs are no longer associated with prostitution, just with girls wanting to have fun.

In sum, K-pop added to house music two things: recognizable figures (or idols, or singers) and brand names, which house music, did not have. So the once restrained, European crowd that danced to house music is now a diverse crowd from conservative societies dancing to K-pop.

But I insist that K-pop is not ethno-pop, since folklore and Korean traditional instruments, vocals and fashion are not part of the genre.

Did K-pop contribute to popularizing Korea? K-pop fans are not stupid. Yes, Korea has become popular and attractive to K-pop fans, but the K-pop fans have also heard the stories of the kinds of abuses that take place at the Korean workplace, including in the K-pop industry.

The scandal involving K-pop stars E-Dawn and Hyuna getting fired because they dated did not serve the Korean culture cause very well. And the fact that K-pop stars rarely come out as gay or discuss their dating or sexuality in any form does cause a lot of K-pop fans to question the opacity of the industry.

But they'll dance to the tunes nonetheless.

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