[Opinion] 111014 K-pop Fan Apathy and Its Impact


“Apathetic” is hardly the first word that most people would use to describe the general K-pop fan base. “Crazed” might be a more popular choice, or perhaps “devoted” to put a positive spin on it. After all, K-pop fans are the ones that organize fan clubs and charge membership fees. They’re the ones setting up flash mobs to guilt trip their favorite companies into paying a visit to their countries, and sending creepy couple fan art by the boxful to their idols. But still, they are apathetic.


What makes the average K-pop fan so apathetic, then? Something rather simple: they never demand better, or more, of the companies and the idols affiliated. I don’t mean that they don’t bother demanding quantity and the companies don’t respond. Heaven knows those idols promote anywhere and everywhere and there’s mini albums and repackages galore. The thing is, they never demand better. The companies release the same terrible electro-pop songs over and over and the fans lap it up for the sake of their oppas and their noonas. Nobody starts a flash mob in the name of real vocal gymnastics, or protests for the sake of good lyrics, or asks for, heaven forbid, something new. Nobody really looks in earnest for anything above a superficial level.

Well, why should anyone ask for better? It’s just bubblegum pop, right? Not meant to be taken seriously? That assumption, right there, is where the apathy lies. The fans have resigned themselves to things always being just “stupid pop, not meant to be taken seriously.” If they decide not to take it seriously, when will it ever progress? When you don’t ask for something, people will err on the safe side, and assume that you don’t want anything more.  And so, the companies have decided that the public doesn’t want, or isn’t ready to handle, anything more. SM Entertainment slaps Super Junior with the same boring dance videos over and over because the fans haven’t proved that they would appreciate anything more than staring at Super Junior’s faces for the entirety of a video. JYP never pulls the Wonder Girls out of the retro rut because the retro rut was what sold them, time and time again.


Listen, your idols aren’t stupid. Sometimes in those cheesy variety shows, you’ll see flashes of wit or a spark of creativity. But those things are always kept under wraps because the media just assumes that people are afraid of anything that requires a little brainpower and attention span. Entertainment companies are afraid of fans being scared off by an intelligent, accomplished idol. As a consequence, the idols all play stupid. They never cut loose with poetic lyrics or sing something from the heart. They never air their views; they never show another side behind those vanilla-bland personas that are meant to reel in the screaming fans. The fans are doing them a disservice by talking down, patronizing, and never expecting more than a wink at the camera, a stupid catchphrase, and vocabulary at the sixth grade level. The low expectations are holding these idols back.


But hey, the idol industry shouldn’t necessarily be doomed to stupidity. Just look at JYJ. They felt not only underpaid and underfed but creatively constricted under SM Entertainment, so they sued to break free. It was a long and hard struggle, but in the end, they got what they wanted. Of course, after all of that, many doors were shut to them. The networks were locking them out and double-crossing them. Cassies worldwide were sobbing into their pillows.  Some cried traitor and demanded that they slink back to SM Entertainment’s constricting arms that very instant, for the sake of preserving the group. But a great, great chunk of Cassies did stand by JYJ’s tough decision.They respected that JYJ wanted artistic freedom, and trusted that if they gave them the power to go their own route, they would do great things. Sure, “Ayyy Girl” may have been a crime against humanity. Most of the fan base wants to scrub that collaboration with Kanye West from living memory. But then, something important happened with JYJ: after they got past that first rocky bit, they began releasing good music, with heartfelt lyrics and strong vocals and themes and videos that prodded at the normal limits of idol music. In short, they did something different, and far better than ninety-nine percent of what they had done before in the industry, all because they had the audacity to ask for better, and their fans had the audacity to expect that of them, and push them for it. Sure, it wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t revolutionary in the context of what international fans are used to.  But it came from the heart, and it bought them recognition worldwide.  Ask, and ye shall receive.


The rallying cry of many foodies and vegetarians worldwide is “Vote with your fork!” Perhaps it’s time the K-pop fan base developed its own rallying cry: “Vote with your expectations!” If you want your idols to do better, you ask for better, not just more. Do you think that the K-pop fan base has fallen into the trap of apathy? What do you think should be done to break out of it?


Credit: Seoulbeats
Shared by: TheJYJFiles


11 thoughts on “[Opinion] 111014 K-pop Fan Apathy and Its Impact

  1. I agree with u 100%. The entertainment industry is catering to the tweens who will gobble up a pretty boy who can dance, look sexy, but vocally lacking. Yet they buy, buy, buy and ask for more. but as they get older there listening style may change, or not. SuJu brought me into Kpop, but lately I have been disenchanted with them, there is nothing new, their answers on variety shows are the same. Shindong – weight, Ehunhyuk – dance n looks, Teukie – I am the leader, u lack so n so. Yesung – his parents, Wookie, Donghae and Sungmin still shy on camera not much to say. Siwon – the handsome one, crazy eye looks. Kyhun – has a sense of humor. Through out the years they have told the same stories. You would think that after all these years they would have something new to say. Heechul was the only outspoken one and then sometimes he was censored too. Donghae co-wrote a song Y with One Way’s Chance, but have they promoted it? Nooo. Why not? Mr. Simple n A-Cha were total disappointments after anticipating their comeback. Makes u wonder what Shinee’s comeback will be like, since they are still promoting the same songs in different languages. I wonder if they r tired of singing Replay for all these years, how long now? since they debuted May 2008. I enjoy other artists now, JYJ is one of them also Aviatix, Brian Joo just to name a few, if you cant carry a tune, and need autotune thru out the song I don’t listen to it. To be honest the main vocals of SuJu is Kyun, Yesung and Ryewook. Without them they would not be as popular vocally. I know there will be hateful comments, But I will leave SuJu to the teenage girls to enjoy.

  2. ” But hey, the idol industry shouldn’t necessarily be doomed to stupidity. Just look at JYJ. They felt not only underpaid and underfed but creatively constricted under SM Entertainment, so they sued to break free. It was a long and hard struggle, but in the end, they got what they wanted.”

    To the point!
    I like this way of summarizing!

  3. This is an interesting read of someone’s opinion regarding the state of, or quality of kpop music. I hope I’m paraphrasing correctly — it’s the fans’ fault for not asking for better. I can’t disagree completely. But I would like to suggest one small caveat…

    This is the way it was planned for the fans to evolve. LSM/SME the progenitors of this entire mess called kpop, designed the fandom to accept what was dished out to them. If they keep the expectations low, they can keep the production costs low. Sure they have to spend something, but if they can rehash a theme or repackage the same nonsense without adding a great deal of new content, all the better. The others operate out of the same paradigm.

    For these companies, less is more. But the bottom line is, how much can I (head honcho) stuff into my pockets before the remainder has to be dished out to the ones doing all the work – drudge staff, artists, etc. So, the investment in fresh updated music/productions is not going to be a huge consideration, especially if the fans don’t ask for it.

    And why should the fans ask for it? After all they are given fanservice with a whole bunch of non-music related nonsense that keeps their eyes and ears off the real nuts and bolts of the industry. The driving force in any music industry is duh! – the music!

    Building large size groups allows them to ‘showcase’ talent rather than nurture it. In a group the size of SJ or SNSD, how many are really great singers? Those who are marginal are there for show. Are you really going to spend money on quality songs for groups this large, when you know the majority of the group are not the voices for real quality songs? The groups who have the voices are gone, and in the case of The Grace, they are being squandered to no end.

    The entertainment companies want to earn money. Yes, they have to create album cds to initiate the sales, but the real money is in concerts. Concerts is where they ‘showcase’ the acts, wow and dazzle the fans. Once the fans have a taste of the visual, the actual music takes a back seat. And so the cycle repeats itself.

    JYJ and the others like Shinwa, and those with great voices like FTTS, knew that staying at SME would be the kiss of death for their careers. Out they went. In JYJ’s case, being the major cash cow was how they were to remain, until they became of no more use. Funny thing on the way to the forum…three of the guys became determined they would no longer be mistreated physically, verbally, or mentally. They knew they wanted to stretch their wings musically. This is what makes them breathe. Seeing that they were not going to convince the company to be straight up with them, they decided to seek a way out.

    And that is what has made the difference. They now have the artistic freedom to be who they want to be, and how they are going to do it. Yes, they have skills. But, even with all the prior experience, they are still newcomers so to speak. They are virtually starting over. Their new efforts are not the stuff of polished engineers, songwriters. However, what they are producing, content wise, is so way above what’s coming out of the Biggies right now. But given their young ages, these skills are way better than anyone has a right to expect. And they know this. As JYJ progresses with each project, they will get better. This is the really scary part. The direction they are taking is moving them away from formulated music. Songs written from the heart have longlasting appeal. Songs such as this will be here long after they are gone.

    His life was cut short, but John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ is still around. It won a Grammy posthumously. It has impact appeal to this day. This is the class of music artist JYJ will one day be compared to. This is what kpop as it is now, doesn’t get. The fans who grew up with John Lennon still listen to his music. The fans who are accompaning JYJ on their journey, will be doing the same thing. Somehow, I don’t see this happening with the music coming out of kpop right now.

  4. Pingback: [Opinion] 111014 K-pop Fan Apathy and Its Impact | The JYJ Files | BESTTOPIC | It's a News site

  5. Some of the Super Junior fans have started to wonder about SME giving them mediocre material because they know that fans will lap it up while putting more effort into SNSD’s album. We know that groups within a company aren’t even treated the same and sometimes looked over. But the thing is we still buy. Like the author says we don’t demand more or better thus they have been providing us with the same things, have you noticed that SME’s recent releases doesn’t matter which group under them has had a similar sound? I think this isn’t necessarily a problem when it’s an in house song producer (which may be the case) but some of the songs are obviously reusing things.

    I’ve recently resorted to reading seoulbeat where the authors are much more opinionated and have said things that people didn’t like. But I think it’s legit to hear them out, we keep praising and praising but what are people learning from these praises? Most people learn better by making mistakes and receiving criticism, but there is a fear to criticize because we know fans are going to make your lives miserable (cyber bullying) or make you lose your jobs.

  6. Pingback: [Trans-Opinoin] 111014 K-pop Fan Apathy and Its Impact | ilnostroposto

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