What does Kpopalypse want to hear in k-pop? More importantly, will any of it actually happen? Come on a journey with Kpopalypse as he explores k-pop's musical trends and shows areas for future improvement!
Music fashion in the west goes in cycles. For example, the sounds of the 1980s were cool in the 80s, then in the 1990s the 1970s sounds were trendier, but by the late 2000s a lot of the 80s sounds had gained popular currency again. The 80s also had a revamped revival of 1950s themed music, and around 1990 there was also a blues revival spearheaded by John Lee Hooker, who had his original recordings in the 1940s. Korean pop is no different in that there are fashions that move cyclically, however because Korean pop at the moment is moving and developing very quickly due to the large quantities of material being produced and very high levels of competition, phasing in and out of trends is happening at a much quicker rate than in the west. Let's look at some musical trends that have affected k-pop and how their influence has waxed and waned over the years.
POSITIVELY-MOVING TRENDS IN 2015
HARD AUTOTUNE INDEX (HAI)
The use of hard Autotune in k-pop peaked during k-pop's Golden Age (a few years after it peaked in the west), with songs like Super Junior's "Sorry Sorry", T-ara's "Bo Peep Bo Peep" and most of 2NE1's early output exploiting the effect heavily. However no sound fashion trend lasts forever, and while Autotune sometimes does crop up in newer songs, it's generally now considered to be "that sound that k-pop used a hell of a lot a few years ago and doesn't really use much anymore". Kpopalypse predicts that the use of hard Autotune will remain minimal for the near future - newly-discovered effects tend to spend a few years almost completely out of the sun after they've run past their initial spike of popularity.
VOCALFAGGOTRY AGGREGATION GUIDE (VAG)
People caring excessively about vocal technique died off during the start of the Golden Age but then re-emerged as an equal-but-opposite reaction to the excessive use of hard Autotune in k-pop - people developed a desire to want to hear the "real voices" again (even though this "realness" is actually an illusion) and k-pop labels rushed to cater to the demand. Kpopalypse predicts that the vocalfaggotry trend will gradually decline due to the same oversaturation that depopularised Autotune plus the fact that Autotune's lack of popularity right now will make the need for an equal-but-opposite musical trend redundant.
NEGATIVELY-MOVING TRENDS IN 2015
FLACCID ENNUI LABOURING CURRENT HIPHOP (FELCH)
Rap music has been popular in Korea since the idol wave of the 1990s, however as the rap audience has matured, their tastes have become mellower as they turn to slower, softer songs less likely to cause offence at tea parties or rattle their wheelchair spokes out of position. This means that rappers wishing to retain their maturing core audiences have softened their musical approach to suit. Kpopalypse expects that the current hip-hop trend of soft-as-shit weaksauce jazz/R&B infused limp nursey-rhyme beats in hip-hop will hold steady due to Korea's aging demographic offsetting any musical counter-trends.
YOLO EFFECT AND SWAG TRACKING (YEAST)
Horrible yoloswag trapturds in k-pop have been on the increase, largely thanks to highly influential artists like G-Dragon championing the style (which is odd behaviour for someone who supposedly likes Wu-Tang Clan but whatever). Kpopalypse predicts that more k-pop performers will leap on this bandwagon and that yoloswag will reach a peak before (hopefully) dipping again in a few years time. This peak will be helped along by the FELCH charted above, as a growing number of new listeners bored by FELCH but also uneducated in the ways of what actual proper hip-hop beats sound like will consider ratchet yoloturds to be the equal-but-opposing option instead.
NEUTRAL TRENDS IN 2015
RETROGRADE IN MUSIC JAMS OR BACKINGS (RIMJOB)
There's been a strong current of retro-themed songs in the k-pop landscape ever since JYP proved that he could throw his sound back to 1960s girl groups and still create a hit. Secret, IU and TVXQ all took the retro theme back to even earlier decades along with many others and all achieved success, cementing the "retro concept" as a viable option in k-pop. Kpopalypse predicts that while it will never be the main focus of k-pop, this trend will continue at current levels.
SYNTHESISER PROLIFERATION ENTERING RECORDED MUSIC (SPERM)
After heavy use of synthesisers and programming throughout the Golden Age, a "real music" trend emerged, with the pendulum swinging back in favour of "real" instrumentation. Of course, this trend is actually illusory in real terms with the "real" sounds being largely also programmed, but the reason for the apparent shift is that technology has improved to the point where almost all instruments can be convincingly simulated now. The pace of technological advancement gave k-pop engineers more options to work with naturalistic sounds, however the popular synth noises are now making a slight return and integrating into tracks alongside more natural (but often synthesised) sonics, blurring the lines of what is "real" from a listener's perspective. Kpopalypse predicts that obviously electronic sounds will see a levelling out in popularity at roughly current levels.
So that's enough about what's actually going on. What about the trends that haven't hit Korean idol pop in a meaningful way yet, that Kpopalypse would like to see happening more?
TRENDS THAT COULD USE MORE PRESENCE IN 2015
DISTORTED INSTRUMENTS CONQUERING KPOP (DICK)
Distorted guitars have been chugging away sneakily in the background of k-pop ever since the days of H.O.T but the closest that k-pop has ever gotten to any kind of genuine heavy metal takeover is when B.A.P debuted and looked like they might become successful consistently working a hard rock/metal idol concept. Of course this didn't happen because after their first few songs their label insisted that they change things up a little and do some softcock rubbish to appeal to Korea's pussbag demographic. Sure we've got Pritz now but who knows if they'll stick with the metal thing consistently, and other groups like KARA are really doing metal by stealth instead of openly (using the same sonic layouts but without turning the guitars up all the way).
SUSPENDED HARMONY IS TAKING HOLD OVER LARGELY EVERYTHING (SHITHOLE)
Suspended harmony refers to the alternating use of dissonant and consonant intervals in a harmonic motif to create tension and resolution in a manner consistent with pre-Baroque era vocal counterpoint norms. For those that aren't music theory literate and don't know what the fuck I'm talking about I might bother to explain it in an upcoming post if I wake up one day feeling super fucking nerdy. In the meantime know that every time I hear suspended harmony used in a k-pop song I nearly jizz myself and each year there's usually one or two really awesome k-pop songs that exploit suspended harmony to some extent (and usually by MBK), but rarely any more than that. I'll probably get a million questions on ask.fm related to this, to which my reply is - I'll probably post about it more one day when I run out of other blogging ideas and could actually be fucked, until then don't interrupt my fapping rhythm with questions about this thanks.
ANNOYING NOISES ARE LOVELY (ANAL)
Suspended schmended, there's one thing everyone with functional ears definitely understands and that's an annoying fucking noise. Kpopalypse loves annoying noises in all songs and thinks there should be more of it. However k-pop producers tend to disagree, going down the path of "let's leave a kettle overboiling in the studio kitchen and then sample and loop it for lulz", "why don't we put 20 times more input into this gadget than what it can handle and see what happens" and similar activities all-too rarely. I guess in lieu of any decent music k-pop idols will have to continue to annoy people with their scandals and non-squeaky-clean behaviour instead.
JIMIN ON CRACK KEEPS SAYING THINGS REALLY AWKWARDLY PLACED (JOCKSTRAP)
As the only person alive who has heard Dr. Dre's Detox, AOA's Jimin possesses the secret rap knowledge that could save k-pop and in fact all music everywhere. Every time Jimin says "Hey!" on a track or some other clunky line of English, k-pop's future gets just that little bit hotter, fresher and flyer. It also annoys a lot of people, which is fantastic. However even these days with Jimin currently working at full capacity with both AOA and rap side projects, her collective output accounts for a tiny minority of all k-pop music. FNC needs to start outsourcing Jimin's trademark vocals to other companies and besides lifting the quality bar and annoying lots of people who undoubtedly deserve to be annoyed, it'll be a great little earner - who wouldn't pay dearly for a guest spot from the hip-hop master?
That's it for this post! Thanks for reading, Kpopalypse will return!