Music Comparisons (Part 1)

Since I’ve been busy lately (and haven’t found any new anime recently, besides Darker Than Black) I’m going to compare 4 different sorts of music: American, Korean, Chinese, and Japanese, and to a greater extent I think, Eastern to Western music. I listen to music much more than I watch anime, since my iPod is far more portable than my laptop. This is based strictly off my opinions and general observations, so there may be some slight stereotyping and ignorance, because I won’t pretend for a second that I’m even close to an expert on this. Feel free to correct me or give a different opinion.

So…lately I’ve been listening to a lot of Korean music. A lot of Korean music. If anyone’s ever heard of the Hallyu, I’m a late-comer to it. Recently, a lot of people have been recruited into the Korea craze:  (at least in my area of the world) SNSD, Super Junior, SHINee, 2NE1, Wonder Girls, Big Bang, 2PM and 2AM…big names, definitely. There are several trends in Asian music though, that I’ve noticed. For one, groups (I’m loathe to call them bands for a reason I will address in a moment) tend to be one gender. Through and through. SNSD is short for So Nyeo Shi Dae (소녀시대), which is Korean for Girl’s Generation. Super Junior holds the record of biggest boy band in the world with 13 members and 4 subgroups, last I counted. So that’s 15 including Zhoumi and Henry. S.H.E from Taiwan is obviously a girl band, in fact their name used to be 女朋友, literally Girlfriend. Johnny’s Entertainment, one of the biggest entertainment companies in Japan, actually does not have any girl idols. I’ll just save myself some time. None of the groups I’ve listed have members of the opposite sex in them. It’s pretty rare to find that.

But the big thing I need to point out that makes Korean music unique is that Korea is huge on dancing. In fact, it’s one of the promotion techniques they use. How does that work?  Well, generally the dances are simple and very catchy. The Nobody dance by Wonder Girls for one. Oh my god. Nobody absolutely swept the world with the whole…shaking-finger-one-leg-pointing-fingers thing. So Hot by Wonder Girls had this cute heart move, nicely demonstrated by this random kid here who knows the dance better than me. (Sungmin from Super Junior starts performing it at :36, and everyone in the room immediately knows what it is. Very nice.) Tell Me by Wonder Girls did that wavy side-to-side thing. The reason they all seem to be Wonder Girls is because Wonder Girls is HUGE. One of the few Korean artists to plan to release an English album. Like BoA! They toured with the Jonas Brothers, how could they not be famous.

Another famous Koren song is Sorry Sorry by Super Junior. (Absolute hilarity ensues at Star King when some men come in to perform the dance. Some actual members of Super Junior are in the audience by the way, those people laughing to death that the camera keeps focusing on.) Gee by SNSD is still popular…I always find it ridiculously cute and hilarious when the boy groups of SM Entertainment (the company that manages Super Junior, SHINee, SNSD, 2PM and 2AM…) come together to perform Gee. Even I know the first part and chorus of the Gee dance. /OTL And Abracadabra by Brown Eyed Girls had this…what do you even call it? It’s a move.

Either way, I think I basically made my point. Even if the rest of the dance is something that none of us normal people could ever hope to pick up, those huge big name songs and their bands always have this one signature, simple move unique to the song, immediately recognizable without playing the song itself. I myself have broken into the Nobody dance at school before, and a friend immediately joined me and started singing the song.  (Not quite like this, but close enough.) It’s powerful advertising, there. Catchy song, catchy move that everyone can do, it makes it easier to promote the song and heightens the popularity. I mean, just watch it in action. Recently the Brown Eyed Girls actually did a flash mob (supposedly meaning they pretty much broke into an unplanned performance in a public place, but unfortunately it was a publicity stunt and planned ahead of time) of Abracadabra. Just look at all those people dancing along. And those weren’t paid backup dancers, they were civilians.

Anyway, so I guess I’ve established two things. Korean music tends to be from groups of only one gender, and the big hits have at least signature dance move and sometimes a simple dance. Now on top of that, I’ll explain why I don’t like calling these groups “bands”. They rarely if ever actually play instruments. In fact, now that I think about it, there’s rarely an instrument on stage. There are some exceptions, I know Siwon and Sungmin of Super Junior play drums and guitar respectively on occasion, but the only person I can think of that actively plays an instrument for performances is Henry from Super Junior M. He’s actually kind of famous because of his violin though, so that’s to be expected. But yeah. There are rarely live instruments being played on stage, if the song isn’t being lipsynched anyway. (And lipsynching is very common and understandable, some dance routines are just impossible to execute without really messing up your singing.) There’s also rarely a main singer, which is common in American bands. Actually, this seems to be a common theme in Asian music overall…o_________o;

Either way, I can’t really think of any more real things to point out, so I think this wraps up my comparison of Korean music…the big thing is that Korean music tends to have that dance element in there. As far as I know, Japanese and Chinese music does not incorporate this huge emphasis on dance and the resulting advertising element, with the exception of Super Junior M. (And to be honest that really doesn’t count, since they’re just the Chinese subgroup of a Korean band.) Asian music overall tends to be just one gender in a group, and they rarely have instruments on stage at all, let alone have members performing them. (Unless you’re Henry Lau, then you’re just a special Canadian/Cantonese/Taiwanese violin-1337, yes you are. *obligatory mochi cheek pinch*)

Bye guys, and be sure to point out anything I’ve missed/anything I got wrong!



3 Responses to Music Comparisons (Part 1)

  1. lindsey @ eva perry library, apex says:

    This is really interesting, Vanessa. I am going to check out some of these videos.

  2. Matt Hill says:

    haha Sorry Sorry by Super Junior is actually really popular here in Taiwan, I guess the people here are into Korean boy bands (I think its probably one of the most ridiculous things I’ve ever heard). Also S.H.E. performed at the New Years concert I went to the other day here in Taipei

    • Vanessa says:

      I’ve actually heard about how Korean music is super popular in Taiwan, I’m planning to touch more on Chinese music later but there’s honestly not much to say on pop culture in China…Taiwan is really the one leading overall in that field.

      And I wouldn’t say Sorry Sorry was bad, I certainly like the song to a degree, but it’s not Super Junior’s best, nor is it that great of a song overall. (And they’ve milked that song bone dry for about a year =3=) I like their less mainstream, more ballad-ish songs much more…

      S.H.E! I remember last time I went to China their song Superstar was huge x3

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