What is the K-Pendium? In short: an obsessive, compulsive, hopeless attempt to highlight and deconstruct – song by blessèd song – the full trajectory of Korean popular music, as brought to you by the loving hands of the voice behind the K-Popcast, a soon to be unimaginary podcast.
Why you? Why now? Certainly no one else is going to do it. And the music merits it. If anything, I’m surprised nobody tried earlier.
Why should a K-pop fan read it? I believe I write from a perspective not often seen in K-pop, and I may provide ways for fans to appreciate things they may not have realized – even about some of their favorite songs. We’ll see! I hope that, even if just to vehemently disagree with me, K-pop fans enjoy reading and having a conversation around these essays – it will ultimately make them a more fun, more valid, more informed body of work. I will always consider incorporating alternative perspectives, and of course appreciate any factual corrections or insights that could improve my entries. (Links to pertinent essays, live performances, variety show appearances, news stories, and other bits of cultural context are all welcome.) K-pop expands, after all, at a rate much faster than any one person could hope to track. I will update old posts as long as readers provide me good reason to do so, and will happily credit anyone who contributes – so please do speak up!
Why should the K-oblivious, -skeptical, or -opposed read it? This is the real crux of the matter; it is you whom I am after. In my brief experience of listening to K-pop (since July 2012) and writing about it (since a year later), I have met with more than my share of odd looks and casual shade. On one hand, I get it: like any category of music in the internet age, there is an almost impossible abundance of K-pop out there, and most of it is trivial, bad, or worse. Which, of course, this cherry-picked history is meant in part to remedy. But I’ve also encountered, in many instances, that the reluctance to take K-pop seriously has much more to do with non-musical factors. This project aims to guide the listener’s attention above all to the music itself (with some helpful cultural context), and past the pitfalls I’ve seen snag many others struggling to make sense of Asian pop in general. Within the space of just a few songs, I’ve gotten some of my most resolutely skeptical peers to agree excitably that what’s going on in K-pop is clearly more advanced, sophisticated, and sublime than anything that’s happened in the western mainstream in a long, long time. And in gradually assembling a cohesive analysis of the entire Korean pop continuum, I invite you, dear skeptic, to try your best not to be moved. (I was once like you.)
Why should a Korean nonbeliever read it? Just as there’s no shortage of international music fans quick to disregard K-pop, there seems to be plenty of Koreans embarrassed of their nation’s contributions to the modern pop firmament. Avoiding the stuff wherever possible, these people are eager to write off K-pop as an unremarkable, neon pap derivative of “all-natural” western nourishment – a reflex uncannily similar to the international music fan’s, though animated by very different social inputs. I won’t challenge anyone’s right to dislike what they dislike, but if nothing else I hope to assemble ample proof here that no Korean has reason to be ashamed of K-pop wholesale. That such a small country with a social climate so thoroughly unsuited to ideal music-making has managed to establish a pop economy that routinely outperforms and outcomposes the longstanding US-UK duopoly is nothing short of astounding.
Isn’t this going to be subjective? Woefully, wondrously subjective. I hope you like it and disagree loudly.
I hate this idea. How can I stop you? The bar is low.
I’ve changed my mind: this is incredible. How can I help? Above all, please share any entries (or any K-pop/Korea articles of mine you like) over social media, on forums, via email, in malls. You can also encourage my continued investment in this project (and other people’s taking of notice) by following me. And, if you have Tumblr, by following ours and doing the whole reblog rigamarole, every now and then. And, if you�����������re genuinely bilingual and interested in donating some translations to the cause (especially in Korean), or if you’re decent at web or graphic design and can help make this site prettier, or if you’re really good at illustrations, or if you’re a theoretical whiz and want to help take some of the burden off K-Pendium’s resident musical genius Scott Interrante, or if you think you might be as sharp a sparring partner as Tzechar when it comes to��all things K-philosophical, I would very much welcome your inquiry. Please get in touch.
You still haven’t written about my favorite song; you got something wrong in one of your entries; I want you to know why I dis/agree with you. How do I let you know? As always, twitter is best. And do speak up – if enough people request a song, for example, I’ll prioritize it. (Extra weight given to requests from followers, frequent retweeters, and sentient Paypal deposits. No shame.)
(I don’t actually have a Paypal.)