Pop or popular music is one of the most widely spread music genres these days. Even though it seems to be one general genre, it is very inhomogeneous. First of all, pop music varies in styles developed by various performers, it contains several sub-genres. Secondly, pop music differs a lot depending on its geography. For example, pop music in Canada is very different from that of Russia, Turkey or Brazil. This paper will focus on studying pop music of the countries of East Asia such as Japan, Korea and China.
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The Japanese media system is organized around the public obsession with idols, which are desirable consumption products; they are designed in a way to fulfill the viewers’ most popular wishes and desires, so being a fan means being a very devoted consumer; this phenomenon started to develop in Japan around 1970s (Galbraith and Karlin 2). Recently it also began to spread to Korea and China. Idols are celebrities of various kinds; they can be well known models, dancers, singers or actors both male and female, mainly in their teen age or early twenties. They are actively and widely promoted. The popularity of idols is all-consuming. Idols gain their fame gradually, coming from various talent shows. Idols are elected by the fans, this provides the feeling of inclusion or the masses, allows them to choose their own favorites, such practice supports the principle of consumption and advertising. Besides, the election and voting attracts huge numbers of people, making it hard for the individuals to stay away from the general obsession with the promoted idols. This way idolized celebrities become popular franchises standing in the centers of their markets and holding the whole industries together. Their roles are to maintain the rates of consumption of products more or less related to the celebrities such as clothes and shoes, accessories, hairstyles, pictures, posters, CDs, films, interviews, shows, makeup, even food and drinks.
Pop music industries of the countries of East Asia such as Japan, Korea and China are mainly based on the concept of idol pop. This is a powerful tool for developing a popular and profitable franchise. Japan, Korea and China have some of the strongest and quickly developing economies of the world. These countries are highly business oriented, culturally eclectic and are perfect marketers of their own goods. The concept of idol pop works well for these nations due to their high rates of consumption and group mentality. The people of Japan, Korea and China really enjoy joining all kinds of streams, clubs, working and resting in a company of several people. This is why being a fan of someone or something is so popular there. A promoted product, would it be clothes, food, drinks, a cartoon character or a person, very quickly becomes highly fashionable, although this crazy popularity deteriorates very fast too. This is why Japan, Korea and China need to maintain a quick pace of fashion turnover and generate new concepts and franchises. East Asian idol pop is based on the fact that the artists coming to pop industry of any of these countries have to be ready to give up their individualities and completely give in to the visions of their promoters and producers, whose roles are to turn the new talents into the goods for national consumption (Covington par. 2). This way East Asian idol pop fits perfectly into the world of their marketing, positioning the audience as the consumers and the artists as products.
Japanese pop music also known as J-Pop generates dozens of new artists a year. This industry is strong and its popularity and success are based on the promotion of youth, cheerfulness, good shape and innocence. Japanese pop industry is crowded with girl bands, which normally include a large number of participants. In some cases, this number is too large for the audience to memorize the names and appearances of the individual artists. Bands that include over seven people are oriented at delivering a variety because in music, just like in any other market – a variety of products attracts the customers. Japanese pop bands mostly consist of young women or girls. Age of J-Pop artists may vary from seven to twenty. All of the artists have to be “kawaii”, which is a well known Japanese description of cuteness and adorableness. Japanese girl bands promote “innocent” sexuality, sometimes have scandalous reputations, and widely interact with their fans. Individualities and characters of the stars are often the products of the producers’ promotion actions.
Korean pop music is similar to Japanese one, yet it also differs in many aspects. One of them is gender. The majority of the bands and individual artists popular in Korea are male. This way, Korean pop industry promotes a large variety of very handsome, young and glamorous guy images. Dancing skills play an important role for a Korean pop star, because the majority of Korean pop music videos involve the artists performing complex dances along with singing. This way, Korean boy bands resemble many of the western boy bands popular in the end of 1990s and the beginning of 2000s, such as N’sync or Backstreet Boys. K-Pop bands have between four or nine members, at least one of which has a rapper status (Gani par. 5) Korean pop music is more melodic and rich in tunes and soundings than that of Japan. Besides, Korean performers prefer more subtle colors such as grey, black and white, as opposed to super colorful images of J-Pop.
Chinese pop music or simply C-Pop differs from pop industries of Japan and Korea by its focus on solo artists. The number of bands in C-Pop is much smaller than the number of individual singers. One more interesting feature of the Chinese pop music is that it is the most “Western” out of the three pop industries discussed in this paper. Chinese pop stars are oriented to adopt a variety of western trends in dancing, clothing styles, the overall keys of music videos. Besides, many C-Pop music clips involve non-Asian actors or dancers, or they can be made within European or American surroundings. Adaptation of the Western soundings and styles is also widely present in K-Pop music, it includes parts of the songs performed in English.
East Asian pop music is rather popular within the Canadian youth nowadays. This popularity can be based on several different factors. First of all, J-Pop, K-Pop and C-Pop successfully promote some of the most marketable concepts of the present days – youth, beauty, fashionable clothing, parties and dancing (Naznim 24). Secondly, both male and female Canadians are attracted to very good looking pop artists of East Asia, especially knowing that Korea, Japan and China yearly generate a wide variety of artists with all kinds of styles and appearances, such variety is always ready to please any taste. Even though the majority of Canadian citizens do not speak any of the East Asian languages, some of the J-Pop, K-Pop and C-Pop songs include bits in English, which makes them overall understandable, besides, their melodies are so catchy, it is hard to forget them. Good examples of such tunes are the famous “Gangnam Style” by Psy or “The Boys” by Girl’s Generation. Thirdly, East Asian pop music widely employs cute and innocent anime-like characters, which immediately attracts the Canadian viewers, who are fond of manga and anime films. Besides, the good looking male and female performers advertising petite and slim bodies, naturally has the attention of millions of young people all around the world, including Canada. Finally, Canada has one of the largest Asian communities of the world, and these people are very likely to be the fans of J-Pop, K-Pop and C-Pop, which adds to the overall popularity of these pop industries on the territory of Canada.
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To conclude, Japan, Korea and China are some of the world’s fastest developing states, they are excellent at using different advertising and marketing strategies, which they effectively apply to their music and show industries. Today, J-Pop, K-Pop and C-Pop are quickly growing out of their local statuses and become known and loved in a number of other countries some of which are Russia, Great Britain, United States and Canada. These fresh and attractive pop industries have a lot to offer to the Western audiences, this is why they are gaining popularity year after a year.
Covington, Abigail. Unraveling a fantasy: A beginner’s guide to Japanese idol pop. 2014. Web.
Galbraith, Patrick W. and Jason G. Karlin, eds. Idols and Celebrity in Japanese Media Culture. Tokyo: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. Print.
Gani, Aisha. K-pop: a beginner’s guide. 2014. Web.
Naznim, Sofia. Popularity of K-POP & Its Influences. 2014. Web.