Yes, you read right. Before I continue allow me to make one thing abundantly clear: I love U-KISS. I love them more than is probably healthy. I love the Neverland album so much I fuck it. And I ain’t hearing your old-as-dirt jokes about “flop”-dom and “relevancy.” To me, arguing one K-pop band’s “relevancy” over another in terms of international fandom is like nerds fighting to the death over Star Trek vs. Star Wars. To anyone outside the Internet, you all wear fake vulcan ears and still play with action figures, yo.
And it’s not just U-KISS. K-pop groups and artists in general need to stop trying to make it in the U.S. Like “fetch,” it’s never going to happen. I can think of so many reasons why. I’m going to list a few.
With the Western music industry the way it is now, the chances of any K-pop group being moderately successful here are up there with snowballs in hell and Kim Kardashian in a stable marriage. Let’s not shit ourselves here. The only way it’s even remotely possible is if the American music climate suddenly reverts back to the bubblegum pop of the late ’90s, and even then it’s iffy. Remember, for every BSB and *NSYNC there was an O-Town, LFO, 5IVE, Dream Street, etc. And while I can’t be the only K-pop fan who initially gravitated to the genre with gleeful squeals of, “It’s like the 90s never left!”the 90s did leave, at least in North America.
And even when ’90s pop was cool it was never really cool. Regardless of boy bands’ and pop princesses’ dominance on the charts, there was still a lot of stigma attached to liking that sort of music, at least if you were over 14. And like all music crazes, it reached saturation point quickly and crashed even more quickly, as American fans’ affections switched from the fluffy and frothy to angry and screamy, with such esteemed early-’00s bands as Linkin Park and Nickelback. But I digress. Some 90s pop stars are still around, but they’re the ones that adapted the changing climate of the Western music industry and no longer put out the bubblegum sound so popular in the late 90s and still popular in K-pop.
Furthermore, K-pop plays heavily upon the Asian “flower boy” aesthetic which was never embraced in the U.S., at least outside of the Teen Beat crowd. Are you people forgetting the rampant homophobia surrounding Western boy bands, even in their glory days? Must I go into detail over the amount of shit I received being a Backdoor Boys fan? See how well it worked out for Heart2Heart. And these are all western boy bands who spoke the language and fully understood the western aesthetic of masculinity (even if they didn’t always subscribe to it). K-pop might be a bit more westernized than say, J-pop, but it’s still full of guyliner and metrosexuality and rampant homoeroticism. That should go over spectacularly in the U.S., with the nice dash of racism you know will accompany it.
I’ma cut the shit. For now at least, Asian men are never going to be considered heartthrob or “leading man” material in the U.S. Yes, there are exceptions as there always are, but generally speaking Asian men tend to only succeed in the American entertainment industry within certain roles: kung fu guys, Yakuza/Asian mafia guys, and comic relief-y stereotypes. And while K-pop boy bands would definitely provide comic relief, I doubt it’d be the kind us fans would like. It’s only OK when we say it! And don’t any of you fuckheads start rattling off examples of rock or hip-hop bands with Asian members. We’re talking about idol groups here, who target a drastically different audience and have a drastically different appeal. The goal is to present dreamy lust objects for teenage girls, not legit musicians renowned by Pitchfork writers and Internet hipsters (although apparently K-pop is Pitchfork-approved now). If you honestly think Kevin Woo and Mike Shinoda have anything in common aside from nothing, I suspect you also think the Star Wars prequels are underrated and Hudson Hawk was the movie that defined a generation.
I’ve mostly discussed boy bands so far, but let me address girl groups briefly. They have one thing going for them that boy bands don’t, which is that homophobia is not an issue. Huh huh, chicks giving each other baths and getting cozy in cars. Hot. They also got the whole Orientalism hot-Asian-chick shtick going for them. Offensive stereotypes, yay! Still, I don’t see girl groups gaining any traction for the same reason boy bands won’t–the American music climate is simply not conducive to bubblegum pop right now. Even Western pop groups are flopping in their own native countries. Jonas Brothers, we hardly knew ye. A few years ago, who’d have thunk that Nick Jonas’s 18th birthday would pass with so little fanfare? I can’t even think of any girl groups that are successful at the moment. The most recent spate of them–Danity Kane, Pussycat Dolls, Cheetah Girls–all seem to have faded into obscurity or worse (warning: very NSFW).
So if any of my oppas and unnies are reading this (let’s just ignore the fact that I’m older than everyone), please, as a diehard fan, I beg of you: stay in Asia. It’s really the best thing for both of us. U-KISS, you might be the musical equivalent of that embarrassing boyfriend that wears hokey Hawaiian shirts everywhere and thinks burping the national anthem is an impressive party trick, but I love you dearly, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Live long and prosper.