Here’s a catchy and fun song for you all to get stuck in your heads, the silly “Umpah Umpah” from South Korea’s red hot Red Velvet, one of today’s top K-Pop acts and one that I’ve been a fan of for several years now.
When it comes to addictive bubblegum pop, the world of K-Pop just can’t be beaten. Listen to the Korean Top 40 and the U.S. Top 40 back-to-back and tell me which is more contagious and you’ll probably say the K-Pop one even if you do so begrudgingly.
I actually used to review K-Pop, J-Pop, and other music from Asian countries, regularly for a site called OtakuDX, which is still online as an archive. At the time I was doing that, I was also doing Love is Pop and I just grew accustomed to keeping the Asian stuff on one site and the other stuff on Love is Pop, especially since OtakuDX was a paid gig and Love is Pop was and remains something I just do for fun. Besides, the audiences for Asian music tend to differ from the audiences of everything else I covered. Also, to be totally honest, OtakuDX was a paid gig and I was really depressed when the site’s readership went down and I couldn’t be paid to do it anymore. It was just a complete bummer and for quite a while after that I couldn’t listen to much K-Pop and J-Pop. Or C-Pop and M-Pop or V-Pop for that matter. If I tried to listen to it, I’d just think about how much money I wasn’t making for reviewing it anymore. And after I grew out of the habit of listening to it, I kept putting off going back because I knew I was so far behind that I’d surely missed many releases by my favorite artists. It was easier not knowing what they were releasing than to try to dive back in and be overwhelmed by the amount of stuff I’d missed. It’s really only been these past few months — a few years after OtakuDX ended — that I’ve really started listening to much K-Pop and J-Pop.
At first, I was finding it hard to get back into because the K-Pop stuff is so insanely addictive that I almost feel like I’m listening to advertising jingles when I hear it. And most J-Pop has its own unique sound and it’s really something you have to acquire a taste for. For example, they still seem to use drum machines from the early ’90s on much of it, making it sound out-dated as soon as it comes out. They also use a lot of synthesized horns, which sound thin and cheesy in a bad way. So, with J-Pop I’ve mostly been getting reacquainted with artists I’ve been a fan of for years like Ayumi Hamasaki, Kaela Kimura, Miliyah Kato and Namie Amuro because they do different things each album and never sound thin or out-dated. Not most of the time anyway. I’ve checked out some newer artists but I haven’t found any yet that I’ve been impressed enough to mention, honestly.
Even with K-Pop, I’m liking the new stuff by artists I’ve liked for a long time, such as Red Velvet, MAMAMOO, BTS, etc, but the newer artists I’m listening to generally seem like pale imitations of those. The other thing with K-Pop is that there aren’t a whole lot of artists who have staying power beyond when they’re in their mid-20s. The K-Pop industry kind of uses them then tosses them aside when they’re too old to wow teenage audiences.
Perhaps I will review more Asian music on Love is Pop going forward. But I have to see that there’s enough interest in it. If I post a few things and the pages get way, way fewer visits than my interviews and other song of the day picks then I’d feel like I’m just posting things that are going to irk my longtime readers here and benefit next to no one.
So, if you’d like to see more Asian-language music here, comment and let me know. Likewise, if music in foreign languages really bugs ya, let me know that, too.