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15 years later, the Okay-pop group Girls’ Generation continues to be making music and stays iconic within the trade. Since they got here onto the scene, the then 9-member group (Taeyeon, Sunny, Tiffany, Hyoyeon, Yuri, Sooyoung, Yoona, Seohyun and Jessica) laid the groundwork for a lot of subsequent Okay-pop teams and even protest actions. Visitor-host Elise Hu discusses their legacy with tradition author and longtime Okay-pop fan Tamar Herman and Korean movie and tradition scholar Michelle Cho.
Y0u can take heed to the complete episode on the prime of the web page, on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. These excerpts have been edited for size and readability.
On their best-selling hit
HERMAN: The one [song] that everyone associates them with might be Gee. Gee is a music that begins off actually candy, has a spoken intro, after which it simply form of goes off. It is enjoyable, it is catchy, it is upbeat. It additionally confirmed the members’ distinctive vocals. The dance has you making a capital G together with your fingers. There have been quite a lot of visible and dance components that have been very fashionable and attention-grabbing.
Okay-Pop typically, the singles are seen as an audiovisual expertise; you are not speculated to expertise it with out each other. It is form of like a musical. So a music video for Women’ Era virtually at all times has one thing that is very distinct about it. So that you consider Gee and also you consider coloured skinny denims.
On the timing of their stardom
CHO: They mirrored what was occurring within the trade. What got here earlier than 2006 to 2007 was an trade that had successes however wasn’t systematizing a manufacturing mannequin. However the second era of Okay-Pop idols, which Women’ Era is claimed to be [the vanguard] of, the trade begins to systematize, taking younger hopefuls and placing them by idol college.
The opposite factor that was occurring was a redefinition of idols as aspirational but additionally performers which can be attentive to followers with a extra accessible picture. That is influenced by the J-pop trade, the place idols are folks you’ll be able to go see and shake their arms and speak to them. Precise contact in real-life is constructed into [Girls’ Generation’s] schedules.
On redefining lady teams
HERMAN: [Girls’ Generation] debuted in 2007, which is across the begin of YouTube’s world growth, and so they’re not the one Okay-Pop lady group from that period who actually bought a lift from it. They have been the primary nine-member Okay-Pop lady group, [and as part of that,] all people might discover somebody that they relate to.
On the criticism of Okay-pop idols being “factory-made“
CHO: I believe that Okay-Pop can get unfairly criticized for that notion that Okay-Pop idols are these empty shells and that nothing they do is genuine. I believe the explanation why they’re focused can vary from nefarious stereotypes about Asian our bodies being duplicitous or overseas or inscrutable. Or it may be the attachment folks must an concept of creative authenticity that is often solely anticipated or utilized to the western genius. Typically male artists are assumed to be completely genuine and clear and so they’re not doing any form of efficiency in anyway, and that is clearly a fantasy and never true! So I believe anticipating to be entertained by celebrities with none artifice – that they are simply being themselves – is form of a foolish expectation. Each performer is performing, so I do not know why you’ll immediately have misgivings about how performative efficiency is once you’re Okay-Pop.
On their debut music changing into a protest anthem
CHO: This originates with a protest that occurred at Ewha Ladies’s College in 2016. College students have been actually upset on the manner that the administration had made modifications to necessities and packages, and so they thought that they need to be heard as college students and as stakeholders. A bunch of about 300 college students assembled, and so they have been dealing with down the riot police despatched there to take away them. There have been over a thousand police confronting this a lot smaller group of girls. They usually begin singing [Into the New World].
This protest in 2016 led to the candlelight motion that ousted the president, and it was initiated by these younger ladies. the [protest] songs that you’d be singing are coming from figures which can be typically not taken critically. That is why this music, and lady group songs typically, have grow to be an necessary device for establishing solidarity in protest actions throughout Asia.
On whether or not Women’ Era is empowering when embodying slender magnificence requirements
HERMAN: I believe it is sophisticated. Okay-pop is form of consultant of societal norms. I am not saying this in a foul manner, however I believe it’s extremely telling that in Women’ Era there are three members (Yuri, Yoona and Seohyun) recognized collectively because the Bermuda Triangle as a result of all of them look so comparable.
From a visible facet, there was simply an article from BuzzFeed that was consuming dysfunction relationships amongst Okay-Pop followers and the way there is a large group of followers fashioned round this. These magnificence requirements mustn’t even be thought of for the typical individual, as a result of that is not our day-to-day life.
Additionally it’s a must to keep in mind that most of those Okay-Pop teams, male or feminine, they don’t seem to be those making the choices about what they appear like or what they’re singing. So there is a hierarchical background to all of this. It is actually terribly not empowering. However a number of years in the past, I spoke to one of many Women’ Era members, Tiffany, and she or he at all times has had a repute that she loves pink. She’s very girlish and she or he mentioned, ‘Individuals advised me, you are getting older, you must cease carrying hair bows.’ And I used to be similar to, ‘Oh, I suppose I ought to… However I do not wish to… it is virtually like I do not wish to develop up. But additionally it is form of like I am grown up, I can do no matter I need.’
[Tiffany] additionally was speaking about how she used to enter conferences and simply be like, ‘Oh, I suppose I am unable to say something.’ After which she realized at a sure level, ‘No, wait, we are the ones in entrance of the cameras and we are the stars. We needs to be main our personal course.’
On the importance of Women’ Era nonetheless (largely) being collectively 15 years later
HERMAN: The truth that Women’ Era has grown into their thirties collectively from youngsters is nearly surprising. It simply does not occur. In case you take into account the counterparts who debuted with them, most of them are inactive. In [South] Korea, the Okay-Pop scene, there are contracts the place time span is often seven years. So Women’ Era did must undergo that when it was the seven-year interval, that is when Jessica left the group. So there’s been this dedication to their model past the preliminary stage already.
I believe having the ability to arrive on the scene, nonetheless keep related in an trade and set the tempo for therefore many different issues. Not each Okay-Pop group’s title finally ends up being prophetic, but it surely actually does really feel prefer it was Women’ Era for this lengthy whereas.
This episode was produced by Janet Woojeong Lee, with engineering help from Hannah Gluvna and Neal Rauch. It was edited by Jessica Placzek. You may observe us on Twitter @NPRItsBeenAMin and e mail us at [email protected]