If you’ve hung around the internet long enough you’ve definitely come across both J-pop and K-pop and if you’re a noob you probably believe there is no difference between them. However, they are aesthetically, and musically different and the way they are marketed is also very different.
In recent years around the internet there has been a massive flame war going on between fans of K-Pop and J-pop and non-fans about how similar they are, who’s better and what sets them apart. Whether is praising either side to the utmost or making rude or racist remarks to flare up fan hate, the debate is ongoing and in truth pointless. Both genres poses different qualities that make them stand out and here I’ll try to separate and explain just how different they
Let it be known that I am fan of both J-pop and K-pop and have no biased towards either side. Go that? Good, now let get to it.
The way in which Korean Pop stars and most Japanese pop artist dress is inherently different in a rather obvious way. When comparing a group like LM.c to a group like TVXQ, Japanese pop artist dress in a manner that is heavily influenced by punk rock and Lolita Fashion which is heavily reliant on exaggerated hairstyles, hair colors and articles of clothing that would usually never be seen in public on a regular day; not even in anime typically. Korean pop idols on the other hand dress in a way that is more close to how normal people dress which makes their sense of style more relatable not only to their mother land fans but fans across the world. Korean idols are dressed in attire that their fans can wear on a normal day while still being stylish and cool. Contrary to that Japanese Pop stars wear clothes that can sometimes be borderline fetish clothing or something that a nineteen eighties final fantasy character would wear, which is fine but outside of conventions it will be frowned upon. In their music videos their styles change a bit to more glamorous attire with a lot more jewelry but the same contrast of style is still present.
Korean pop starts are marketed to the public in an image that their fans can adorn to be more like their favorite idols if they so desire. However, with a Japanese pop star, there sense of style may be socially acceptable in their native country however, international fans who want to dress like their favorite stars may hit a road block because they style in which they dress may not be a common fashion statement for their area. There is also a huge difference in the amount and style of jewelry they wear. Japanese pop stars wear more spikes and studded attire reminiscent of the punk rock image, whereas Korean pop can be seen with this same trend, although they tend to wear smoother jewelry like watches and necklaces. If there were words to describe the styles of both genres of Asian music Korean pop music would be described as overall mature with a stylish and smooth flare and a very refined look. Japanese pop on the other hand could be described as childish or edgy in some cases with more rough features or features that are more childish in nature.
The music produced by Korean Pop stars is also on a different scale and draws its primary influences from a different genre than Japanese Pop. Korean pop seems to draw more influence from the nineties to early two thousand era of pop and hip hop music, relying a lot on electric beats, drums and hip hop style lyrics to produce sound. Japanese Pop on the other hand predominantly relies more of either heavy rock influence with guitars and drums or solely electric beats to give a metal sound or a kids bop type of sound. Korean pop music tends to be more aligned with today’s western pop and R&B music industries music. Japanese pop music sounds more like the punk rock era of the western music industry in the early two thousands. Even in the way that the two go about performing music videos is vastly different. In Korean pop videos the performers are the main focus of the video is the artist or band and predominantly focus on them and their music. It also incorporates a lot of complex choreography that takes a lot of practice to perform in sync as they do as seen in EXO-K’s video Mama. Contrary to that, Japanese Pop is more about telling a story with the video that sometimes and other times not explains the symbolism of the song. It uses less complicated dance moves and in a lot of cases does most of the dancing in one such as with an E-girls music video such as One Two Three.
Korean pop music is predominantly heard by people who like artist for their music without attachments to anything else. Their music is popular because of them as artist, be it for their looks or the actual quality of their music. When a K-pop artist appears in a score for a Korean Drama, they are there to help popularize the K-drama and not the other way around such as the Loveholics featuring one of their older songs Flowerpot in the K-drama Coffee Prince. Japanese pop on the other hand is more known for being a part of Japanese anime and there are several examples of this such Moan Kurosaki’s debut album HOTD being a collection of ending themes she did for animated series High School of the Dead. Another example would be LM.C sponsoring the anime Red Garden in which there logo and paraphernalia made numerous appearances and also featuring two of their singles Oh My Juliet and Rock the LM.C as the two ending themes of the series. There are some instances where a Korean Pop artist does a themes song for an anime such as TVXQ’s brilliant remix of the very first theme song of the smash hit One Piece called We Are! By Hiroshi Kitadani. It should also be noted that there are a number of J-pop artist who are also Japanese anime voice actors.
The way in which Japanese pop idols are marketed is a bit different from your typical K-pop group. As far as it is known Japanese pop groups don’t have an extensive training program anywhere near as rigorous as the Chaebols systematic training system and there is also no base or upper age limit in Japanese Pop. Singers can go on singer well after their forties and there are some quite young Japanese pop artists as well. There is also a seemingly more American style to recruiting new blood into the industry because based on talent more than looks. This is not to say that there aren’t J-Pop idol groups out there though. A lot of Japanese pop groups of this day and age find their niche in the anime industry as it is one of japans highest grossing forms of entertainment and a lot of artist debut their singles as opening or ending themes for new or ongoing series; as a side not opening themes tend to be more popular than ending themes. One such example would be the solo singer LiSA debuting her 2011 single Oath Sign as an opening for the series Fate/Zero and Crossing Fields for the anime Sword Art Online, both of which were wildly popular series in 2011. There are many other veteran groups that have made a name in the fan world for performing several themes for a wide number of anime such as Uverworld and the W-inds.
Korea on the other hand has a very extensive program for creating and molding artist into the ideal artist and marking tool. Korean idols being at a young age, usually teenage years, and begin training them for a certain number of years, with regular evaluations of skill and talent before putting together a select few chosen recruits from thousands to be a new face in K-pop. They endure log amounts of dance practice because K-pop involves a drastic amount more choreography than J-pop, vocal training to assess how good their singing talent is and they also make sure they are visually pleasing to the eye. They may or may not be selected for a group and if not they continue to be evaluated until it becomes their time to shine or they are dropped from the company. There is much circulation around the net about K-pop artist having to enter into slave contracts that bind their every move and give the company they sign with almost total doctoral reign over their personal lives.
The life span of most K-pop artist is fairly short unless you’re like mega popular and transcend boundaries like Seo Taiji, in comparison to their sister genre across the way in which some K-pop artist go through a 5 year span and end up doing something else with lives like going to law school. The reason their lives as artist are so short is because they have to pay for managers of groups, good choreographers for performances, vocal coaches, and living accommodations as well as marketing teams which can begin to rack up cost; not to mention that they still have fifty to seventy other kids that are still waiting for their chance to shine. Overall the reason is that it becomes to expensive to keep up the cost of one when there are many behind them.
Although they both have strengths and weaknesses any reasonable fan can agree that there is much fun to be had enjoying both genres of music and that neither is perfect. Hopefully this will help you distinguish between the two the next time your derping around the internet.
- Bethany. “The Road To K-Pop Stardom: Training.” seoulbeats.com. 13 Feb. 2013. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. http://seoulbeats.com/2012/02/the-road-to-k-pop-stardom-training/
- Raizel. “The Dark Side of Hallyu (Korean Wave)?” thelearnedfangirl. 16 June. 2011. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. http://thelearnedfangirl.com/2011/06/16/the-dark-side-of-hallyu-korean-wave/
- Anime News Network Inc. animenewsnetwork. Est. 1998. Web. 26 Apr. 2013. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/
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