Category Archives: Jay Park

Tools vs. results

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There’s still some agita out there about the Seven Seasons/KQ Entertainment thing, which is kind of interesting to me because the whole thing doesn’t really set off any alarm bells for me, like, at all.

I think one of the reasons people get worried about this kind of thing is because they kind of confuse a tool with an actual result.

For example, let’s say I need to attach two pieces of wood together with a nail. I could drive the nail into the wood with:

  1. a hammer
  2. a nail gun
  3. a rock (or anything hard and handy)

Which is best? Well, it depends. If I need to get that nail in right now and no hammer is handy, it’s probably best for me to use the rock that’s right there. If I need to drive in about a thousand nails, then for God’s sake, give me the nail gun.

Most people use a hammer, and there’s nothing wrong with using a hammer–hammers are great! But the nail can be driven in just as well without one, and in some case, a hammer is not the right tool at all.

If you insist that only a hammer be used and get very upset that a hammer is not evident, then you are confusing the tool (a hammer) with the desired result (two pieces of wood fixed together with a nail).

If you further insist that the only way to attach two pieces of wood together is with a nail, driven in by a hammer, then virtually all methods of construction, ancient and modern, are going to upset you horribly.

All right. Now let’s apply this logic to business.

Here’s a tool! It’s called:

Seven Seasons

What does the Seven Seasons tool do? It manages and promotes Block B.

Why do people like the Seven Seasons tool? Because it is specific to Block B and has done a good job since its inception.

Why are people upset? Because the Seven Seasons tool is becoming much less visible. Indeed, its social media accounts are being replaced by KQ Entertainment, a tool that is not specific to Block B.

Why am I not upset? A few reasons.

  1. Block B is not upset (and it’s not like they don’t complain when they’re unhappy).
  2. It’s the same damned people.
  3. Block B has contracts.
  4. Even if KQ Entertainment starts managing and promoting other talent, Block B will be their main earner for the foreseeable future, and the smart thing is to take care of your main earners. (I know Stardom didn’t, but Stardom was really, really bad.)
  5. It makes perfect sense to put Seven Seasons in the background if they are now merely Block B’s management subsidiary. There is no Earthly reason to promote a management subsidiary–you might as well start promoting the accounting team or the insurance underwriters.

In short, I don’t see why I should care that a tool is being moved into the background. There’s no reason for it to be in the spotlight, and it could disappear altogether as long as the job is still being done.

What I think people are interpreting as being kind of nefarious is the fact that KQ Entertainment is obviously going to start using Block B as a tool to promote the label–you know, “We were SO successful with these guys, you should check us out!”

But to me, that’s not nefarious–that’s simply intelligent. And it’s KQ Entertainment taking credit for something they actually did: They provided good management to a musical act. Hopefully they’ll continue to provide good management to that act, and with any luck, many others.

The fact that Block B is now going to be part of a label is also causing people consternation because it (sort of) represents the loss of another tool. What is that tool?

Being indie

I’ve talked about indie-ness here and here, and one thing that I really want people to realize about being independent is that it’s never a black-and-white situation, where going indie is always the right thing to do and being with a label is always a horrible thing to do.

In addition, there are so many different flavors of indie-ness that many people argue that it doesn’t exist at all. (And it can definitely be a term of art, there’s no question.)

Let’s look at Jay Park and his label AOMG.

Is he independent? What about the artists on his label–are they independent?

Park says he is, and he’s very proud of it–because he’s not with a big label, and he grew his label up from scratch! But other people would say he’s not an independent artist, and the other artists on his label certainly aren’t–there’s a label right there! it’s a fricking subsidiary of CJ E&M!–and that AOMG is more properly understood as a small label, not an independent label.

Let’s say that indie-ness does exist, and we’ll go with a strict definition that being with a label (no matter how small) means you’re not indie anymore. So Block B was independent until, say, Babylon was signed to KQ Produce (which made KQ Entertainment officially a label–I’m ignoring Shimo, but so is everyone), and now they’re not any more.

What is this being-indie tool supposed to do?

  1. Give you more artistic freedom.
  2. Pay you fairly.
  3. Ensure that you always receive attentive management.

Why are people upset? They think that now that Block B is no longer indie, they are no longer going to have these things.

Why am I not upset? Because you can get every single one of those things from within a label! Again, same contracts, same people. I don’t see everything suddenly going off a cliff here.

The other thing I have to point out is that running a business is a demanding activity. People have to be recruited and paid, deals have to be signed, taxes have to be paid, etc., etc., etc.

I haven’t see anyone in Block B showing the least interest in that end of things.

Jay Park splits the CEO job with Simon Dominic, plus AOMG has a corporate owner that presumably offers some support. But while Park and Dominic both still perform, you may have noticed that Dominic doesn’t put out a hell of a lot of new music anymore, and they both rely an awful lot on Cha Cha Malone and Gray to produce songs.

That’s because handling the business end of things is a real job–depending on the scale of things, it can take a tremendous amount of time and energy. The work may not play to your strengths (Verbal Jint and San E should never go into management), it may not be something you like doing, and it may be a major distraction from the work that actually makes you money. Does anyone honestly think that Zico should spend his time, I dunno, processing time sheets instead of writing and producing music? Would that be what’s best for Block B?

And frankly, I find it kind of annoying that people have so little appreciation for Block B’s management. Yes, I think that what’s going on here is that Kim Kyu Wook wants to make himself a label–good for him! He’s done really well by Block B, and now he’s hoping to secure his own future. That’s not a bad thing.

Nobody gets bent out of shape when the members of Block B use their popularity to help out other artists. I don’t understand why it’s such a horrible thing that they use their popularity to help out the guy who helped them get so popular. Kim isn’t Cho PD, he hasn’t been this incompetent horrid sleazeball, he’s done a good job. Let him chase some of his own dreams for once!

Concerts, cons, whatever

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There’s been a lot of “Oh, K-Pop events outside of Asia are always a mess” over on Asian Junkie, so I thought I’d address that for a minute.

At this point I’ve been to four Block B concerts, Show Me the Money concert, a Dynamic Duo concert, and an AOMG concert, and I have to take issue with the notion that these kinds of things are invariably some kind of disaster. I would agree that the AOMG concert would have been better at a different venue (although that is more a Seattle problem than a K-Pop problem–there’s a shortage of performance space here), and the New York Block B concert was definitely disorganized. But it’s not like the shows weren’t worth seeing or the environment was dangerous or anything (and all of the shows I’ve been to except the first two Block B shows had open floors).

I’ve also read second- or third-hand accounts that massively exaggerate (or invent) problems at these concerts, including allegations that the fans rioted (!) at the New York Block B concert, which is complete bullshit. Other than people sneaking back into the high-touch line, there was not a lot of misbehavior, and the venue was actually pretty awesome.

Do I regret seeing this? No.

But I would toss out a few things to consider if you are thinking of attending a K-Pop show or convention:

Why do you want to see the show? Are you in it for the explosions and Psy flying in the air over giant inflatable waves? That’s too bad, because all of that probably won’t happen. No traveling show is going to be a spectacle of the sort that can be generated in a 14,000-seat stadium. If you don’t think the group actually sings or dances well enough to be entertaining, you should probably stay home.

Are you in it because you’re hoping that you’ll make eye contact with your idol, and then he’ll immediately fall in love and whisk you away to a magical island? That’s not going to happen, either. (True story: Park Kyung recognized me from the stage in San Francisco and it freaked him the hell out. Yes, he and I are at that very special stage in the fan/celebrity relationship where the celebrity recognizes you but doesn’t remember where he knows you from, so he thinks you’re a stalker.)

Are you OK with the format? Is it called a “fan meeting” or a “showcase”? That means less music and more charades. If you’re not OK with that, save your money.

Personally, I am not too crazy about conventions in general, and I’m picky about music, so I’m not planning on going to K-Con Los Angeles. That said, if you really like conventions, then own it–get together with your buddies, do your cosplay, practice your cover dances, pass around your fan fiction, and just generally set yourself up so that even if you have to sit through some things you don’t like, you will still have a good time overall.

What do you really, really not want to have happen? I paid for pit tickets for both the Los Angeles and San Fransisco Block B shows–and then I made a beeline for the back of the pit. I enjoy being close, but I really don’t like being squished, so that was the best approach. People act like they have to be right up next to the stage, and then they complain about the crowding–you can’t have it both ways, you have to prioritize.

You also need to think about the kind of group it is and the reputation the fans have. I like BTS, but I’d certainly not go see them in, say, the same venue I saw AOMG–it’s too open (I’d be more comfortable with seated, given the intensity of the fandom), and you can’t see the dancing anyway.

Who’s organizing this, anyway? If you go to the organizer’s Facebook page and it’s all people complaining, beware. If there’s a lot of “These guys are coming! No they’re not!” beware. Conventions and festivals are always more risky because if half the groups get canceled, well, there’s still the other half plus the vendors, so–hey! You got what you paid for! Kind of!

Are fan-organized events always a disaster? No, but I would definitely poke around to see if they’ve ever organized anything else on the same scale–something that goes for professional organizers as well.

Does doing all this guarantee that you’ll have a great time? Nope. No guarantees in life. Hell, you might get food poisoning the day of. But if you do a little research and keep in mind what you do and do not like, that does greatly increase the chances that you’ll have an experience that you actually enjoy.

Vital insights on important issues of the day

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Park Kyung on whether or not to worry about music-show wins.

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My two cents. We had wins on 4/20, 4/21, and 4/24; K-Con France went up on the Schedule page 4/21.

Jay Park on underwear.

And if Block B can keep doing super-cheesy PSAs, that would be awesome.

This was right up there with the milk campaign, with the added bonus of them stupidly doing suicidal things! I’m hoping for fire-safety next. (Should you douse yourself in kerosene? I’m not sure!)

AOMG!!!

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So, it’s been quite the season for Korean hip-hop in the Pacific Northwest–last month, it was Dynamic Duo in Vancouver, and this month it was AOMG in Seattle.

(And the only reaction the line outside the venue got from passers-by was them honking their horns and whooping at us. Because we were going to party! It was a slightly less Asian crowd than Dynamic Duo but still largely Asian, so yeah. Seriously, I don’t know what’s going on in Vancouver, but whenever anyone complains that Americans are too politically correct about race, remember that there are worse things to be. Like hostile.)

Anyway, I hate to start off on a negative note, but I really disliked many things about the venue. The Showbox SODO is a club, not a theater, so the stage was like this:

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It was not that high compared to where we were standing, the floor did not slant up so that you could see over the people in front of you, and the layout was narrow and deep, so that you were always far from the stage. (I’m not going to have great pictures. Which is a shame, because SOMEBODY finally took his shirt off!)

Not helping matters was the AOMG light stick, which was this large tube with multicolored lights. They look really cool:

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But they’re thick and long and block your view like a motherfucker.

The lineup was Simon Dominic, Loco & Gray (who performed together), and Jay Park, with DJ Pumpkin as, you guessed it, DJ.

It started with the Reading of the Rules. I found this confusing, because it went like this.

CONCERT GUY: Flashing is not permitted.

ME (shouting): What sort of flashing?

CONCERT GUY (looking judgmental): I didn’t hear that.

He then made us repeat “No flash!”–and then he made a joke about flashing us. Even now, I have no idea if they meant that flash photography was not permitted, or if taking off your clothes was not permitted.

Rule #2 was that we should “respect the artists” and not throw anything at them.

Was either rule followed, and if not, what happened? Read on to find out!

Simon Dominic started out, and he was fucking amazing. He’s one of these guys who never seems to even breathe–he sounds like he could rap non-stop for the entire three minutes of a song without any trouble whatsoever. His English isn’t very good (which REALLY amused the two young Korean guys standing next to me), but he said nice things about Seattle and being happy to be here.

Then Gray and Loco came out–I think it was Loco first, then Gray, but they basically performed as a unit. Since their voices are at about the same range, they even split songs so that they could both perform them. At one point Loco screwed up and rapped when Gray was supposed to–it was pretty funny because Gray was just like, Dude! and Loco ended the line and Gray picked up the next one.

I was able to get fairly close to the stage, but as their set went on people started to crowd in because they were expecting Jay Park, and I got hotter and thirstier and hotter and thirstier…. Finally I realized that the one advantage of the venue was that their was no way for the performers to see if you snuck off and went to the bar for a bottle of water and a really horrible Cape Cod, so that’s what I did. (And that’s where I took the second picture from.)

After I drank, I went back down–I didn’t want to get into the scrum again, so I went around to the other side, and I was actually able to get fairly close.

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And Jay Park came out! He went from the sweatshirt to the tank top to no shirt at all, which was glorious (no lie–he looks really good), but unfortunately none of the shirtless photos came out, so you’ll have to be satisfied with this.

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He was great–the problem was that he didn’t perform as much as I would have liked. In fact, he had two Seattle rappers come on up there and perform their songs.

Now, I appreciate that Jay is a generous and wonderful human being who wants to promote new talent. That’s swell. But I bought a ticket to see AOMG, and instead I got four songs performed by people who frankly were not at that level. (Simon Dominic didn’t perform many more than four songs, and trust me, he shits better rap than these guys.)

The first guy was not too bad, but the second drove me into a stall in the ladies’ room, where I waited until he went away. Then I came back out, and Jay Park was like, I want to show you my AOM b-boy crew!

Well, I was thrilled–I’m always up to watch b-boying, and Cha Cha Malone was there–but there was a small problem: You couldn’t see the dancers. This had been a problem even before Jay Park came out, because (being AOMG) there were these really great backup dancers who would periodically come out, get low, and disappear entirely. Then when Jay came out himself, well, of course he loves to dance, so they’d all do stuff that looked like it might have been really cool, if only you could have seen it.

With the AOM crew–it was like a sick joke. They’d toprock (not that you could see their feet), and then they’d vanish. Then you’d see their little sneakers kick up in the air. Then you’d see Simon Dominic and Loco (who brought their cameras) smile with delight at whatever the fuck was going on there.

At this point, I was seriously contemplating just going to my car and heading home.

I didn’t, and I’m glad I didn’t, because the final part of the show was all four of them doing songs like “Bo$$” and generally burning down the house. It was really great–Simon Dominic spent an entire verse dragging Gray around by the face, it was hilarious.

And now: What happened with the Rules?

Was their flashing? I believe so, and of both kinds. I did notice someone’s phone flash go off once, although the person promptly fixed it.

I also noticed Simon Dominic looking very happy at someone close to the stage–he was grinning like a serious perv. Then he’d put his hand up in a sort of No/I’m blocking my view gesture. Then he’d drop his hand and grin some more. Then he’d put his hand up again.

Were objects thrown at the performers? Definitely yes. Someone threw a bra at Jay Park–and not a sexy bra, either, but a HUGE beige support bra. This kind of bra, except with the even-less-sexy foam-lined cups.

What did he do? Well, first he tried to put it on Loco, and then he tried to put it on himself, and then he left it up on the turntable.

They’re kind of into mixed messages over at AOMG….

Anyway–I am glad I went, and I would go see them again, but I would greatly prefer a different venue. (ETA: Am I jealous? Yes.)

TS, is this you?

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Asian Junkie has a most excellent post today, and I strongly recommend you read it. Sadly, I believe that site’s Jay Park manwhore post was lost in The Great Crash of 2015, but it was equally glorious to behold. (I know you can see Jay Park manwhoring pretty much anywhere you see Jay Park, but the comments were awesome faux concern about how Jay’s parents felt about it all.)