Wednesday, November 4, 2015

An introduction to k-pop music genres part 2 - more stuff and things

Recently I did a post about some of the different music genres that are explored by k-pop.  Although it wasn’t supposed to be a complete list, people still complained anyway about me leaving out their favourite genres (along with their other usual complaints).  The smarter readers would have realised that I left certain genres out for a reason, but there were a few genuine oversights that I probably should have covered.  Also, I started getting questions like this:


I thought it would be fun (for me and people who enjoyed the previous post) and annoying (for everyone else) to revisit the topic of music genres and go through some genres that k-pop explores but which I didn’t cover before.  Let’s do it!


There were seven categories of genre/style in the original post, this supplementary post adds three more.  Let’s start with:


Tango – a South American dance music genre popularised in the late 19th century and designed for couples dancing, essentially waltz with more skin contact, a fusion of folk (accordion etc) and chamber (violin etc) instruments and four beats to the bar rather than three.  Often used in k-pop when a group is going for “sexy”.

Sunmi – 24 hours – very traditional style tango in the breakdown.

4Ladies – Move – tango instrumentation applied in a more modern pop way, but enough to give a slight tango feel.

Shoegaze/Dreampop – a pop music style that originated in the UK in the 1980s, it utilises layers of wall-of-noise distortion (usually from guitars – but not always) but with the intent of a more ethereal, introspective sound rather than punching you in the face.  The genre “shoegaze” is named after the shit stage presence of many of the groups in this style who would constantly stare at their own feet instead of at the audience.

K-Trance – Hey Hey – a k-pop interpretation of shoegaze.

Drum & Bass/Jungle – an electronic music style popular in the late 90s which has since sharply fallen out of vogue, characterised by fast breakbeats and heavy synthesised bass.  Not to be confused with a song that just has heavy drum and bass sounds in it, a common point of confusion for k-pop fans and in fact a lot of other people too.  The top voted comment on Reddit about the original article correctly picked up Drum & Bass as an omission from the first article, but then incorrectly singled out Sonamoo’s “Cushion” and Red Velvet’s “Ice Cream Cake” as examples of drum and bass.  In fact neither of these songs have breakbeats or the correct fast BPM, both of which are essential elements of the style, but I can’t blame anyone for getting it wrong – actual Drum & Bass in k-pop (as opposed to songs with heavy drums and bass that are in fact another genre completely) is almost impossible to find.  Back in the late 90s when Drum & Bass was huge, k-pop was significantly behind the times and never latched onto it, and now that k-pop has caught up to western trends D&B is a genre that kind of got skipped over and left behind in the rush to be current.  As a result it’s so incredibly rare in modern k-pop to find anything influenced even mildly by Drum & Bass that it seemed barely worth mentioning, which is why I skipped over it before, but I’m mentioning it here now to satisfy the curiosity of anal completists.

G-Dragon – Who You? (MKMR D&B remix) – you pretty much have to go to remixes to find Drum & Bass in any modern k-pop, as only remix DJs give a shit about this dead style anymore.

Lim Kim – Love Game – the closest an original modern k-pop has gotten to Drum & Bass in terms of feel and tempo to my knowledge, although this song doesn’t have the required breakbeats to qualify as actual Drum & Bass.

Gospel – the result of combining the three most boring things on the planet: blues music, going to church, and vocalfagging.  I didn’t cover gospel before because I wanted my post to be actually mildly interesting to a few people on the planet, or at least to myself later on when I read my own past back to myself and masturbated.  Yet the shocking truth is that occasionally there is a gospel-influenced k-pop song.

g.o.d – One Candle – a nice person on Reddit (some do exist!) correctly pointed out this song as gospel-influenced thus saving me the trouble of tracking down and listening to a bunch of shit songs.  Thank you sincerely from the bottom of my heart for saving my ears and sanity.

Visual Kei – a Japanese metal style that copied the glam style of 80s hair-metal bands but amped up both the musical contrast and the gender ambiguity.  The main musical difference between Visual Kei and the western glam rock that it drew from is dynamic contrast – the heavier songs are much faster and heavier, and the ballads are also much more soppy and ballady.  Visual Kei is basically X Japan and a whole ton of other bands who are nowhere near as good as X Japan.

Angel Heart – Scarlet Eyes – Korea has a ton of their own crap versions of X Japan just like the Japanese do!

EVE – Agape – here’s another shitty Korean group with some terrible Evanescence-style thing.

TRAX – Paradox – SM Entertainment also has their own wimpy, conservative Visual Kei-lite.

X Japan – Kurenai – how it’s done properly.  Note that this version showcases the metal and ballad styles of Visual Kei in the one song.

Metalcore – a style of metal popular globally that combines the drum rhythms and vocal approach of extreme metal styles with the back-to-basics riffing of hardcore punk.

Diablo – Sorrow – someone asked me about if Korea had any groups like this.  Yes, they do.


World Music – all music is obviously from somewhere in the world but “World” as a genre label really means “music from places that have people with skin that isn’t white and/or is sung in a language that rich caucasian music consumers from western countries who fetishise ‘difference’ can’t speak”.  Of course nobody wants to actually say that lest they be perceived as ethnocentric or racist, so “World Music” is a nice cozy feel-good politically correct dog-whistle term with a hidden borderline-racist origin in the same sense that “R&B” originally stood for “race records” and was all about racially segregating music (see the first post).

Girls’ Generation – I Got A Boy – this is musically the most western music ever yet it still topped Billboard’s “World” chart, which should tell you all you need to know about just how ethnocentrically-motivated the term “World” is when applied to music.

miss A – Breathe – sometimes k-pop will dare to venture to include subtle influences from the music of one of those countries where people have more melanin in their skin tone and sit around in circles being all tribal and stuff…

T-ara – Yayaya – …like the USA, for instance.  This is what people mean when they talk about “world music influences”.  Of course they could just say “folk music from [whatever country’s indigenous population]” but it’s funny to watch people squirm awkwardly as they use the term “World” and not try to appear ethnocentric at the same time, so don’t tell them about this option and just sit back and laugh.  Yes I’m a terrible person.

Urban Grooves – a dog-whistle term for rap music, this cringeworthy label is used in family-friendly record stores so they can stock Eminem and NWA in a special signed section so that teenagers will know where to find the stuff without their annoying conservative parents looking at a sign that says “rap” and saying “kids, you’re not allowed to go anywhere near that shelf, I’ve heard about that rap music, I don’t want you skipping school and turning into a yoloswaggot”.  R&B is also filed under “Urban Grooves” in these stores as a decoy in the hope that your parents will see a Rihanna album out of the corner of their eye instead of MC Buttrape if they decide to inspect the shelf more closely.

Yankie ft Dok2, Juvie Train, Double K, Rap Monster, Topbob, Don Mills – ProMeTheUs – this could be filed under “Urban Grooves”.

Ailee – Insane – this could also be filed under “Urban Grooves” for decoy purposes.

Roots – a fairly useless umbrella genre term favoured by marketing gurus and dullards which means “probably doesn’t have electronic instruments, except when it does”.  Blues, folk styles and reggae all get shoved under the “roots” banner frequently.  The term is mainly used to distinguish “music played by real people on real instruments” from “that machine-generated trash”, even though a real person also built and programmed the machine, so logic isn’t a high priority here.  The term is essentially a dog-whistle that says “if you think things made of wood are better than things made of metal you’ll probably like this” and is aimed at the type of music snobs who can talk your ear off about how vinyl sounds better than CDs and MP3s but don’t listen to any vinyl because they don’t own a record player.

2NE1 & Sungha Jung – Lonely – most k-pop mixes in their original form are too high-gloss to appeal to “roots” snobs but 2NE1’s versions of their songs with Korean virtuoso acoustic guitarist Sungha Jung are probably right up the alley of the kind of people who prefer their food served on breadboards and in pots and old shoes and other bullshit like that rather than on plates like normal folks.


Techno, House, Trance etc – I deliberately didn’t cover any of this, because fans of this type of music are the worst.  Start talking about any of this stuff and wide-eyed ecstasy-fuelled nerds with bad skin and too much unsupervised computer access will start rabbiting on about Afrika Bambaataa and the Detroit house scene and getting all anal about everything.  I deliberately lumped all this music under “electronica” in my previous post just to annoy these people’s OCD tendencies, which fortunately worked like a charm, and I’ll continue to not cover any of these genres properly now.  They’re not real genres anyway for the same reason that EDM doesn’t really mean shit, the difference between one of the 296 techno subgenres and the next is just a patch on a fucking synth.

Bambino – Oppa Oppa – maybe this song has influences of techno or house.  Or maybe it doesn’t.  Fortunately nobody cares, so I don’t feel particularly obliged to write about it.

Alternative/indie/independent – a genre term that literally means absolutely nothing whatsoever.  It has no musical meaning as it can be used to describe any genre at all regardless of sound.  It also has no meaning in a business sense especially in k-pop where the “big three” who dominate the idol scene commercially are actually all independent labels.

Busker Busker – Love, At First – you could describe this completely mainstream-sounding megahit pop ballad as “alternative” if you wanted, and most k-pop fans would probably not even bat an eyelid at that.

Post-[fill in the blank] – post-anything doesn’t really exist as a style in itself, although various styles may be considered post-something if they are a newer reaction to a now-dead musical movement, for instance 90s grunge was a reaction to 80s hair rock, 70s punk was a reaction to 70s progressive rock, industrial and new-wave both started as a reaction to the first wave of punk, etc.  However this type of labelling tends to get abused as a marketing term these days and applied as “post”-genres that the songs are still very much a part of.

Nell – Star Shine – Nell would get described as approaching post-rock by some but really it’s just rock.  There’s nothing in this song that a commercial pop-rock band like U2 didn’t do in the 1980s.

Adult Contemporary – sometimes also called AOR (Adult-Oriented Rock) or even occasionally throwing its cards on the table with MOR (Middle Of the Road).  Basically, boring music for boring people.  If you’re the kind of person who is scared to click on a new YouTube link from your favourite k-pop channel lest something might offend you, then “Adult Contemporary” is for you, however the problem is defining it.  Generally considered the opposite of “alternative”, the term becomes pretty useless when you consider that most groups these days who fit into “Adult Contemporary” fit into “Alternative” as well (U2, Nickelback and REM being good examples), proving that both terms are in fact equally useless.

K.will – You Don’t Know Love – since this term has no meaning it’s impossible to give a solid example, but K.will is boring so I feel like he fits here.

Children’s music – sometimes k-pop artists and agencies don’t just treat you like a child with their dumb press releases, but they even release music for you as if you’re a child!

J-Rabbit – Happy Things – Oh, J-Rabbit, aren’t they so fun and adora… oh wait, I’m an adult.  Never mind.

H.O.T – Candy – truly terrifying, SM must really think their fans are the mental age of 3 to release something like this.  They’re probably right of course, but that doesn’t make this any less scary.  Don’t take “Candy” from strangers with weird clown clothing, kids!

That’s it!  There’s probably a few more genres that I could have included but I’m too lazy and I didn’t even want to do the ones in this post, so fuck it!  Anyway hopefully you enjoyed this post, or it entertained you, or maybe it made you upset and you can post somewhere about how upset you are!  A winner is you!



  1. those AOA pictures are so cringeworthy even the members themselves try to forget that the concept ever existed

    1. so they're filing those pictures alongside Youkyung?

    2. I remember in one of their One Fine Day eps Chanmi saw a picture of a woman with a lyre and told jimin it looked just like her in the Elvis MV and Jimin nearly died from embarassment, you could clearly see the PTSD rising in her eyes

  2. that k-trance song has got to be the best thing I've heard from this site ever