Category Archives: BTS

Funny, but then serious

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This was mentioned in the comments over on Asian Junkie, and the ending especially made me laugh out loud.

I’m actually a little confused by who, exactly, is angry at him for liking BTS, because at first I thought it was BTS haters, but listening to it carefully, I think it’s BTS fans who don’t like the fact that he likes the group? Or maybe something else–I can’t really follow the logic, and I’m not sure I want to.

But the video brings up something I’ve seen expressed before by the dumber K-Pop SJWs: The notion that you can’t be racist to white people. Another variation is that you can’t be racist if you’re not white–which is an especially exciting idea for the Korean fetishists, because (News Flash!) it turns out that Koreans! are! not! white!

Of course all that’s silly, anybody can be racist to anybody. (On the other hand, it annoys me when white Americans encounter racism and act like it’s some incredibly significant event–you know, because they’ve never experienced it before! Everybody deals with racism, and it’s always unpleasant, but if you’re white in the United States, at the end of the day you’re still one-fifth as likely to be incarcerated as a Black American and your family has, on average, ten times the wealth of a Black family. Have a sense of proportion.)

My main annoyance with this notion, however, is that it is the massive dumbing-down (by some massively stupid SJWs) of a very important idea: That there is individual racism and institutional racism, and that these are two forms of racism that present very differently.

Individual racism is what probably jumps to mind when you think of racism–slurs, denying someone employment because of their race, etc. A person might deny that they’re racist, but they’re lying and they know it–they are knowingly acting in a way specifically designed to hurt people of certain races.

Institutional racism doesn’t necessarily look like racism at all, and the people who are actually enforcing it may not hold racist beliefs, or even have the slightest idea that they’re promoting racism!

Say that you are a police officer–a proud African-American police officer, even. You are assigned to an African-American neighborhood, where you go right to work, issuing summonses, arresting criminals, and generally doing your darnedest to enforce the law.

Eventually a study comes out showing that Blacks in the city where you work are far more likely than whites to be arrested for the crimes that whites commit much more often.

Oh, shit! What happened?

No one is patrolling the white neighborhoods. The only time the police show up there is if somebody calls them up and asks them to.

All that hard work you’ve been doing? Whoops! Sorry! You are part of the problem!

If you ask your supervisors why you (and every other police officer) were assigned to an African-American neighborhood and not a white one, they will pull out records pointing out that crime (as measured by all those arrests you made) in your assigned neighborhood is high. Crime–as indicated by arrests–in the white neighborhoods that are never patrolled by police is low. Your “race blind” supervisors were concentrating police resources in high-crime areas, without much thought as to how those areas came to be defined as “high-crime” to begin with.

Institutional racism is almost always “race blind,” which actually makes it a lot more difficult to weed out than if your police department was headed by some Bull Connor type who couldn’t go five minutes without bragging about all he has done for the cause of white supremacy.

And that’s just one way institutional racism can operate. The vast majority of civil rights activists in the United States have come to accept the idea that combating every incident of individual racism, no matter how trivial, should not be nearly as high a priority as identifying and rectifying institutional racism, which tends to impact many more people more significantly. Because whites in the United States still control a disproportionate amount of money and power, and because historically racism was quite acceptable in the United States, institutional racism typically benefits whites–even though it’s supposed to be doing something else, like fighting crime, preserving property values, or preventing voter fraud.

Or preventing people from voting for Obama.

Saying that you can’t be racist to someone who is white is the idiot’s version of this. It’s taking the ideas that 1. individual racism aimed at whites isn’t so significant that it deserves to be a huge policy focus, and 2. institutional racism in the United States does not target whites, and then passing it through a brain that struggles to comprehend those new 280-character Tweets.

Here’s a particular nuance that I think it’s important to pay attention to: Institutional racism benefits whoever has the power. In the United States, those people happen to be whites who speak English.

In other countries?

This is why the “Koreans can’t be racist because they’re not white!” thing is so extraordinarily stupid. Not only can Koreans be individual racists, but Korea is 96% Korean. Of course Korean institutions are going to be designed to benefit Koreans.

If a non-Korean can’t fill out a government form because their name has more than three syllables, well, to me, that’s a pretty close cousin to institutional racism. These forms were probably not designed to exclude non-Koreans and damage their interests–in all likelihood, nobody thought about non-Koreans at all. “Language blind”!

It’s not just Korea, either. Lots of countries have weird insider/outsider institutional crap, like hereditary positions, ethnic or religious segregation, and strict restrictions on citizenship. Adopting the dumb American SJW mentality that institutional racism in every place in the world is exactly like it is in the United States contributes to the mentality that racism, bigotry, and discrimination are problems only in the United States.

Racism certainly is a problem in the United States, but guess what? We look for it. Institutional racism flourishes precisely in those situations where nobody (well, you know, nobody who matters) thinks it exists at all.

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BigHit and big hype

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When I first read that BigHit had had a real gangbusters 2017, my thoughts were, “Good for them! It’s no surprise considering how well BTS has been doing! Awesome!”

But then I started coming across a lot of very enthusiastic (and occasionally financially illiterate) fan translations, and I started to think, Whoa, I’d better do a post about all this.

Here’s the thing: BigHit is planning on becoming a public company, with an initial public offering (IPO) planned for next year. (If you don’t know the difference between a private company and a public company, look here. If you don’t know the difference between revenues and profits, coughcoughPannChoacoughcough, look here.) I was a business reporter during the dot-com boom–believe me, I have seen many IPOs get hyped to fucking moon, and that’s what’s happening here.

Why is it happening? Given the Korean media‘s penchant for printing anything that gets it clicks, it could be pumping up BigHit for that reason alone. But the important thing to remember about IPOs is that they are often an exit strategy for the original investors in the company, and that the original investors plus the banks that handle the IPO want to sell all the shares they have for offer at a good price. That means that right now, we are in the middle of a marketing campaign to sell shares of BigHit to a larger circle of investors.

That’s just how IPOs operate, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it. What troubles me is the combination of IPO hype and K-Pop fans who are younger and obviously very inexperienced as investors. Remember, good investors have 1. clear financial goals, 2. realistic strategies to meet those goals, and 3. the discipline to stick to those strategies and work the plan.

Not a reason to invest. I’m sad about that, too.

The good news is, there’s actually quite a bit of financial information out there about BigHit, because shares are being traded over the counter. The bad news is…how accurate is this information? In the United States, being an unlisted security means that you don’t have to comply with all those pesky SEC regulations–you know, the ones that protect investors from fraud.

Now, as BigHit nears its IPO date, it is going to have to dot its Is and cross its Ts and get in compliance with stricter accounting standards. But we’re not there yet, which is why breathlessly comparing its results to those of actual public companies is a little naive. BigHit doesn’t have to play by the same rules as a public company, and if reporters are currently getting information about BigHit from anyone with an interest in seeing the IPO go well…you start to see the conflict of interest there. (And don’t get all excited because the people hyping the company are being called economists. The kind of economists who hype companies are the kind of economists who work for the banks that handle IPOs.)

Where does this get especially naive?

Yeah. That 35% (!!!) profit margin sure is impressive, isn’t it?

Of course, BigHit does not yet have to comply with the costs of being a public company (which are considerable), but the main thing there is that seven-year contract timeline: BTS debuted in 2013. BigHit will go public in 2019.

One year after the company goes public, BTS’ contract will be up for renewal.

You want to know a secret about BigHit’s $23 million net profit? It is coming out of the pockets of the members of BTS. They are the ones earning that money, and under their current contracts, they are just letting it go again. They may well decide not to do that any more when their contracts come up for renewal. A six figure salary may seem like a lot–until you realize that your company is running a fucking eight-figure profit off your labor!

The downside of a company hyping a profit margin is that, generally speaking, the talent can read (and hire lawyers) just as well as the investing public. Of course, thanks to this IPO, by 2020 the members’ contract demands will no longer be the problem of BigHit’s original investors–a very fortuitous bit of timing there.

But of course there’s always Option B: Hold a firm line against those BTS punks, so that various members or even the entire group walks!

Ah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha! Oh my God, can you even imagine! HA! HA! HA!

Yeah, this is the long-term problem with BigHit: They are not diversified. Like, at all.

This graphic made me cackle:

Gee, why did YG have such a slump in its operating income last year? Because BigBang didn’t release a new album in 2017. Investors have long complained about YG’s reliance on BigBang to make money, and the company’s stock reliably takes a beating whenever investors worry about BigBang’s members going into the military or a member has a scandal.

And YG is about a thousand times more diversified than BigHit. Jesus.

Does this mean that BTS and/or BigHit don’t have a bright future? Not at all! But it does means that you might want to hold off on sinking your retirement savings into BigHit’s IPO, even if you really love Suga a whole, whole bunch.

Fans can also do it right

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Since I did a long post scolding fans for bad marketing, I also wanted to do a little addendum highlighting fan efforts that actually do work.

Traffic to BlockB.com has improved a bit since March 14th, in no small part because of some traffic from Twitter over to the Mixtape page.

What happened? Well, on the 15th, a couple of Block B fans were arguing with BTS fans over whether or not BTS had invented fire and the wheel, and they put up a couple of Tweets linking to that page.

And those links paid off.

There were, like, three Tweets by two people? Fifty visits to the site. Plus there was the fun of watching someone new to Block B dig into the group.

This is the thing about BTS fans, especially nowadays: Many of them are new to K-Pop. Now, that’s something that can come across as really annoying, because that means they’re vulnerable to the BTS Is Not K-Pop hype, which is the kind of thing you believe only if you know very, very little about Korean popular music.

But it’s important to realize that ignorance is an opportunity. If a person genuinely believes that BTS is the only decent musical group ever to come out of Korea, well then, that is a person who is ripe for education!

It’s actually good that a lot of newer BTS fans are unfamiliar with K-Pop–it means that they probably haven’t gone down the rabbit hole of thinking that listening to another group constitutes adultery or something. It’s more likely they’ve just been led astray by the actual crazy fans, so they’re just not bothering to look at other Korean musicians because they’ve been told there’s nothing to see. But as far as the music is concerned, there’s a lot of overlap between Block B and BTS–it was not long ago that most people who liked one group also liked the other. And as you can see from the impact of those Tweets, Block B is not a tough sell with that crowd (but you do have to be willing to go past name-calling).

So, do newbie BTS fans a favor and expose them to some Block B!

Could this get dumber?

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I mean, it’s K-Pop, so of course the answer is yes, but apparently the justification for BTS fans being totally shitty to people who could help the group actually succeed in North America is that BTS is “not K-Pop.”

Right. You know you’re dealing with a bunch of not-terribly bright 12-year-olds when they think they can make something be or not be something by simple declaration. (And is there anything more stereotypically K-Popian than fans fucking up an artist’s career because they think the artist is too good for whatever is actually helpful? Or launching into a long “explanation” that includes an entire history of some fanwar that nobody who actually matters gives a fuck about?)

Anyway, the rationale the dimmer international fans are using for classifying BTS as “not K-Pop” is this post, which was written by someone who at least claims to be Korean about how the group is not K-Pop.

Except that these international fans are ignoring some very important context.

The poster’s argument is that BTS is not K-Pop because K-Pop is “B-grade Western pop songs”–in other words, because K-Pop isn’t really Korean. They like BTS because BTS is, in their opinion, “extremely Korean.” In particular, songs like “Spring Day” contain han. You can read a lot about han here, here, here, and here, but basically it’s a Korean term about suffering under injustice and having to persevere anyway.

As you might guess even if you aren’t extremely Korean, a preference for han typically also means “a strong preference for sad love songs and sad love stories.”

Now, if you want to argue that “Spring Day” was written very much to appeal to Korean audiences, I would agree with you–especially when you’re talking about the older generation. There’s a lot of sad ballad music in Korea–you can point to han and the country’s sad history, or you can more cynically point to the fact that ballads were one of the few forms of music allowed to be played publicly under the country’s military dictatorships (also part of the country’s sad history) and argue that the older generation simply likes what they grew up with.

In any case, according to the poster, BTS Is Not K-Pop or More Than K-Pop or Better Than K-Pop because BTS is authentically Korean, and K-Pop is not.

I’ll be honest: I really don’t like this kind of essentialist argument. I don’t think a Korean who likes sad music is somehow more Korean than a Korean who likes upbeat music. (Where would that leave many trot songs?) I feel like this poster is equating their own personal musical preferences with Koreanness to conjure up a nationalist version of talent-dol branding.

However, I think it’s important to pay attention to the fact that the “BTS is not K-Pop” argument as it is presented in that post is an essentialist and nationalist one—this is a Korean person grading BTS (and K-Pop) on their Koreanness. What makes BTS better than all those crummy K-Pop idols who are only of interest to hormonal schoolgirls? KOREANNESS!

From a practical point of view, the problem with international BTS fans picking up this “BTS is not K-Pop” mantra–and using it to justify damaging K-Pop’s prospects in a foreign market–is that international BTS fans are not Korean.

I think “BTS is not K-Pop” is unhelpful to BTS’ ambitions in the United States as well: After all, Psy was presented to American audiences as The Big Exception to K-Pop’s Enslaved Robots, and look where that got him. Compare his career in the United States to that of, say, Daddy Yankee, who is seen here as the founding father of reggaeton.

But where the whole “BTS is not K-Pop” thing could potentially kill BTS is in Korea. Foreigners saying “BTS is not K-Pop” is never going to come across to Koreans as “BTS is EVEN MORE Korean than K-Pop!” Especially when those foreigners are, again, attempting to damage a Korean export market.

And this matters because BTS sells and has always sold much more in Korea than in places like the United States. Success abroad gets hyped in Korea, for sure–the original poster acknowledges as much. What they don’t mention is that the main reason the hype happens is because these kinds of K-Pop groups are seen as representing Korea abroad.

The notion that K-Pop groups represent Korea abroad is something that’s just everywhere in the Korean media–even the interview with Seven Seasons’ CEO ended with this coda about K-Pop helping Korea abroad. A big part of why Block B’s Thailand scandal was so bad was because the group was seen as not representing Korea well abroad, and their other big scandal in Korea came from not appearing to be adequately patriotic. When CL was seen as being something of an Uncle Tom abroad, it was also not helpful to her in Korea.

There is no way “BTS is not K-Pop!” flies in Korea coming from a bunch of foreigners, and it has the potential to cause BTS some real hassles in their home market. Like most K-Pop groups, BTS has to kind of thread the needle between their domestic and overseas market–and in general they’ve done that quite well. I think it’s ridiculous for fans to risk blowing it up for them because they’re, I dunno, afraid that Americans will hear Exo and decide they don’t have much use for a hip-hop sound after all. You have to know your market, and above, all have faith in your product.

Also, you know, have some respect for your own work. I keep seeing this argument that BTS fans have worked so hard, yadda yadda yadda we can do whatever we want now! as though they can’t understand that you can always undo the good that you have done if you’re stupid enough.

Is this what BTS fans are going to be doing now?

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JFC.

Wow. OK, do they honestly think that particular radio station is going to be championing BTS from now on? Does it not occur to them that “BTS: Their fans are shitty to us, but that’s only because they are horrible people” is not the winningest strategy? Because I promise you, at this point everyone who works at that station is planning to do their best to bury that group—it is a short step from removing all other K-Pop songs from a playlist to removing all K-Pop songs entirely.

BTS has a loooooong way to go before it becomes an actual hit group in North America (which those fans should know, considering that their current campaign is…to get national radio play in the United States), and those fuckwits are making that possibility that much less likely.

Fucking think, drama queens. Business is business, but people are still people—don’t act like the guy at work who thinks he can be an asshole to everyone because he won last week’s sales competition.

(If there’s another slew of “K-Pop: Mental Illness, or Just Dangerous Cult?” stories in the American media, we’ll know where they came from, won’t we?)

Here’s something else U.S. fans can do

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So, if you’ve been hiding under a rock or something, BTS made a bunch of media appearances in the United States, and then released a song that featured American artists and is in a genre of music Americans actually listen to (i.e. not “DNA”), and then did some more media appearances to promote it. Lo and behold, now BTS is actually starting to live up to its hype in the U.S. market!

This is great, and kudos to them–I think they’ve been really intelligent about it. In particular, while BTS has definitely been using their accomplishments in the U.S. to hype themselves in Asia, that hasn’t been their only goal. They’ve actually treated the United States as a distinct market and have clearly recognized the reality that what sells in one market isn’t necessarily what sells in another–if “Mic Drop” is only ever some crummy B side in Korea, that is totally irrelevant to the song’s prospects in the (much larger) U.S. market.

But anyway, what about Block B?

This is a really good opportunity for fans to help Block B draft off BTS’ success, because of course, it’s quite easy to identify outlets that have been open to BTS and therefore might also be open to Block B. For example, that Billboard article on “Mic Drop” notes that:

Much more so than with “DNA,” “MIC Drop” is receiving notable early play at pop radio, led by 53 plays in the week ending Dec. 3 on KJYO Oklahoma City, Oklahoma…. “MIC Drop” was KJYO’s 11th-most-played song in the week ending Dec. 3. XHTZ and KHTS, both in San Diego, follow with 31 and 24 plays for the song, respectively, in the tracking week.

Hey, do you live in Oklahoma City or San Diego? Or any place where you’ve heard a BTS song on the radio? Or on a popular playlist? This is a good time to drop those people a line and suggest that they might want to add Block B to the mix as well.

Will it work? You never know, and even if your particular communication doesn’t have an immediate effect, it helps make the people working in media outlets aware of Block B so that the next communication that comes along is more likely to be effective.

And it is potentially much more helpful to Block B than spending your time arguing with BTS fans over whether or not “Mic Drop” is a rip-off of “Conduct Zero.” Think like a shopping algorithm, not like a keyboard warrior, OK?

And this is why I don’t see the point of judging musicians on things other than music

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Asian Junkie did an article on the BTS remake of “Come Back Home” by Seo Taiji & The Boys, in which he states that he likes the remake better than the original…because he doesn’t like the way the members of Seo Taiji & The Boys have conducted their dating lives.

I’m an “old” K-pop fan, but the whole group is creepy as fuck. From YG grooming his wife to Lee Juno sexually assaulting women to Seo Taiji cutting (a teenaged) Lee Ji Ah off from the world and doing the same to Lee Eun Sung (her work before & after meeting him), getting defensive for them is pointless anyway.

In general I like Asian Junkie, because it tends to be relatively less delusional than most K-Pop sites, but COME ON.

What do we know about how the members of BTS treat the women they date? Absolutely NOTHING!!! I mean, there’s this rumor and that rumor that maybe someone dated someone at some point…but as for the details, it’s all pretty much cloaked in secrecy.

Why is it cloaked in secrecy? Why is this the norm for the industry? Precisely so that the public will have a nice, convenient blank slate on which to project their own desires.

Do you want the members of BTS to not date, because they just love their fans so much they couldn’t possibly? DONE.

Do you want the members of BTS to all be secretly engaged in massive gay orgies with each other? DONE.

Do you want the members of BTS to all be ultra-pure virgins, like the man your parents tell you you’re sure to marry one day, as long as you stay pure yourself? DONE.

Do you want the members of BTS to be automatically boning every attractive girl group or actress or groupie that passes them by, without any consequences? DONE.

Do you want the members of BTS to be noble and enlightened men, who would never abuse a woman, emotionally or otherwise? DONE.

Just like magic!!! Wow, it’s almost unbelievable how perfect they are, and that to every observer….