When jrock-dedicated website Tainted Reality announced that they will be hosting a kpop radio show, the response had been fiery. While there are some who are ok with the idea, many, particularly the fans of each musical “type”, were against ‘”mixing the 2 fandoms” (check out the animated discussion here). I myself is ambivalent towards the whole thing. I approach it with the same wariness I had when Animax (a cable channel in Asia that features anime and shows about Japanese pop culture) began broadcasting Korean dramas. It just seem strange. Then again, it is really nothing to be surprised of. The Korean wave is smashing shorelines and this, this is barely the crest of it.
First, a little lesson in history. This so called Korean wave or Hallyu began during the late 90s and it refers to the phenomenal increase in popularity of South Korean culture not just in Asia but stretching as far into the United States, the Middle East and some parts in Europe. Today, Hallyu is a billion dollar industry that has boosted South Korea’s income from film and television exports, merchandise and even tourism. Triggering the wave was the huge success abroad of Korean soap operas. A most often cited example is the massive following of Winter Sonata starring Choi Ji-woo and Bae Yong-jun. The show was said to set record TV ratings in Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and the Philippines. Though the interest has on Korean soap opera has yet to wane, Hallyu seems to fortify its influence now via another medium.
Cue in the sounds of kpop.
Whilst housewives fawn over their Yonsamas and Byonsamas, their teen-age daughters (and perhaps even sons) are gawking at the likes of Se7en, Super Junior and SHINee. In the Philippines, the adoration for these Korean boybands and their female counterparts is reaching fever-pitch, it’s practically insane. Tune in to any local radio station and chances are you’ll hear a kpop song blaring. Check out MYX (the Philippines’ answer to MTV) and an hour will not pass without one or two kpop music videos playing. Records bars plaster Wonder Girls and 2NE1 posters on their walls alongside Lady Gaga and the cast of Glee. They are even invading the live scene. Just a few weeks ago, Rain and UKiss had fans trooping over to the largest concert outdoor venue in Manila. Super Junior earlier conquered the largest concert indoor venue. I repeat, IT IS INSANE.
Japanese pop culture also has it share of fans in the Philippines but it was never this omnipresent. Jpop/rock appreciation, while not necessarily underground, remain clustered among a chosen few. Sadly, our numbers or perhaps our presence, is not enough to warrant an actual visit from our favorite Japanese acts. (I still find it ironic that I have more chances of seeing say, D’espairsrRay of L’Arc~en~Ciel live if I move into another continent even though the Philippines and Japan are just neighbors.)
Anyway, back to the “mixing of the 2 fandoms” brouhaha. Personally, I find it strange because jrock and kpop are two very different musical styles. The only thing they have in common, in my opinion, is that looks play a very pivotal role. But looking at it from a purely musical standpoint, the 2 is akin to apples and oranges. Yes, it is possible to like both but it is just mildly amusing how fans of dark, gothic, and hardcore sounding jrock (via its most prominent form visual kei) could also exhibit the same level of adoration for the bubbly, well synchronized (with matching choreography to boot) sound of kpop. It’s like a Marilyn Manson fan professing love to the Backstreet Boys – quite possible but a bit strange nonetheless. And isn’t it more peculiar that it’s jrock that is being pitted against kpop and not jpop?
In conclusion, I would like to stress that in my opinion there is absolutely nothing wrong with kpop crossing paths with jrock. Liking both is ok and being loyal to one is just as fine. To each its own. And if fans would remain steadfast in their chosen type of music, then there is no need to fear kpop eating into jrock. Most importantly, as an Asian myself this increasing interest on both jrock and kpop is really commendable. Hopefully, it will also pave the way for other Asian music acts to penetrate the international market. Afterall, isn’t music supposed to be universal?