I Listened to K-Pop for 48 Hours Straight

When Brad Casey told us he was faintly interested in K-Pop, we suggested that he listen to it for two days straight. He did.

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Feb 28 2013, 7:16pm


Learning how to pose properly with a K-Pop expert.

K-Pop is coming for you. It might not come today but it’s currently one of the most popular genres in the world that’s focused on breaching Western ears. You know how Gangnam Style is so popular that there’s more than one video of old ladies dancing to it on the internet? It could be the clarion call that brings K-Pop to our shores. Granted, Gangnam Style is making fun of K-Pop but it still falls into the K-Pop sound. And what is the K-Pop sound? I personally knew next to nothing about K-Pop before I went ahead and listened to K-Pop for 48 hours. It was quite the learning experience.

First I needed to know what K-Pop was all about, so I visited a friend of mine named Kerri who lived in South Korea for almost five years and writes about the country. Apparently in South Korea everybody loves K-Pop, even adults and old people who should know better. Songs have simple lyrics that are easy to sing along to and even signature dances that everyone can learn. She said K-Pop was played everywhere, any time she was in public and didn’t hear K-Pop it was notable and refreshing. Despite this, she told me that she loves K-Pop. She helped me pick out a list of the 75 best rated and most recent K-Pop hits and we made a playlist that clocked in at just over four and a half hours so I would hear every song about 12 times.

The next morning I woke up and let out a hefty sigh. I knew it would be my last quiet moment for two days. I put on “I Am The Best” by 2NE1 because it sounded like something that might make me feel good. I quickly noticed that if this shit was played in my house I would turn it off immediately but, as I had no choice, I adapted. I found myself making up little dances as I made myself breakfast. I would learn to love K-Pop.

At times, K-Pop sounds like boy bands and girl groups from the 90s like N*Sync and the Spice Girls, but at other times it sounds like something more recent like Robyn or Usher. What gives K-Pop the advantage on all of these groups and artists, though, is that to the common Western ear you can’t understand a word they’re saying. You don’t have to worry if you think the lyrics are shit because you can’t understand them! It’s like Sigur Ros, but instead of making you feel like you’re falling asleep on heroin, it’s always a party and everybody loves you! So I guess it’s more like cocaine? Regardless, like all pop music, some of it is good, some of it is obnoxious and some of it sounds like it blatantly ripped off Rihanna and Drake.

I went to the Korean market down the street from my place and looked for some tasty fish waffles as “Ring Ding Dong” by SHINee blasted through my head. One thing to note about K-Pop is that while it’s mostly sung in Korean, the tracks are peppered with English words. I found myself mouthing the words “bad boy” every time they were sung because it made me giggle. While I was at the Korean market, I found this happy fellow.

One of my favourite groups that I listened to was Girls Generation. They’re sound like they’re made up of a dozen mega-leggy ladies, who seem to be singing about how fun everything is. Or they’re all about girl power? Either way, they’re catchy. I’d already been through my playlist once and I found most of it was easy to ignore, but Girls Generation’s “Gee” would make everything in my little personal K-Pop infested world stop and transform into a super happy fun time. Same goes for Wonder Girls. Those girls are like a little shot of sunshine in a tiny, probably exploited purely for profit, adorable package.

I went home and tried to do some reading but that wasn’t happening. Focusing on anything was almost impossible because every time my brain generated a real idea, the K-Pop would snatch it away and turn it into pink sunshine. There’s no room for ideas when you’re submerged in K-Pop, you have to be always spontaneous and having fun. Since I’m generally not a spontaneous or fun person, I just sat there hating my life. My girlfriend came home and listened to Muddy Waters on the other side of the room and it was like torture. I wanted to be where she was, but alas, there’s also no room for sorrow in K-Pop. I noted this as I began to feel K-Pop induced nausea.

That night I tried to go to bed with my headphones in. My body felt tired but my brain felt like there was a puppy on ecstasy in my head that was constantly barking to scare away the very concept of sleep. I took the headphones off and let myself rest, even though I could still hear the echoing reassurance of “Boyfriend” by the K-Pop group Boyfriend.

The next day I woke up to “Bubble Pop” by Hyuna. I immediately hit snooze and reconsidered what I was doing with my life. By the time I was showered and getting ready for the day, I was bangin’ along to B2ST like the best of em. At that point, I couldn’t tell if I genuinely liked K-Pop or if I’m just adapting to my situation because I’m trapped. I think they call it Seoul Syndrome.

It’s important to mention that K-Pop relies heavily on how highly stylized and beautiful its artists can be. Everyone in K-Pop is young, beautiful and they’re on top of all the latest styles. They’re always smiling and giggling like there’s a tickle fun ghost waiting to lunge at them and make them pee their pants in joy. I decided if I was to truly understand the K-Pop experience I’d have to really immerse myself in the style so I recruited a friend to give me a K-Pop makeover.

I don’t know how K-Pop stars stay so beautiful while wearing such crazy clothes but shit, are they brave. The trendy K-Pop style didn’t make me feel young or beautiful, it just reminded me that I’m too old to dress like an idiot.

That night I went for a few drinks with a friend. At the end of our drunken evening, I walked home through an awesome snowstorm. I thought about how wonderful everything looked and I tried to appreciate the majesty of the weather around me but the fucking K-Pop was forcing sugary fun down my throat. I couldn’t think about anything but dance moves and forced fun. It felt like someone was poking me in the arm saying, “This is fun, right? Isn’t this fun? It’s fun time right now - let’s have fun!” If K-Pop were a person I would have turned away and said, “Just give me a fucking minute man, Jesus.”

The next day I woke up and finished out the 48 hours of K-Pop imprisonment and put my iPod down with pleasure. I now know what to expect when the K-Pop overlords finally takeover the world, at least. K-Pop isn’t the kind of music you want to listen to at all times. Adorable times, yes. Dancy times, hell yes. You want to have giggly times and pillow fights? K-Pop is the answer. That said, this constant K-Pop experiment made me feel miserable and amazing at the very same time. But thank you anyway, K-Pop. Keep making the world smile!

More crazy things Brad did:

I Had a Face Tattoo for a Week

I Sat Through 24 Consecutive Hours of Comedy from the Same Comedian

Our Intern Is Afraid of Heights, So We Put Him on a Zip-Line

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