Hello, thanks for always posting song reviews! I do have a question for you, what is your opinion on the rising band scene? I’ve noticed in the past year, especially this year, there has been an increase in band activity, from DAY6’s monthly releases, Hyukoh’s chart success, the light on The East Light (no pun intended) with member Woojin’s participation in Produce 101, FTISLAND’s 10th anniversary and the debut HONEYST (from FNC). Apparently too, there are more bands coming?

Hello. Huge apologies for not getting to this question sooner. I did manage to read it on time, but in terms of actually replying, it has taken a few days. That said, this is a really great question and one I have never even thought about in the realm of K-Pop. 

First, for some background in case a few readers are unfamiliar, within the Korean pop music scene, it does not consist of just “dance” groups that many instantly think of when pondering about K-Pop. Indeed, there are also “band” groups–groups that, as in the label, play instruments and function as a standard band rather than a group of idols who dance. In fact, for some trivia, AOA was intended to be a band group as well but eventually went the popular route of becoming a dance group. 

Focusing on the question at hand, though, I have many takes to the rise of the band scene in K-Pop. Ultimately, I personally cherish this type of variety within group types though there are multiple perspectives on this matter. But before addressing the opposing side and concern, the reason I find a positive in band groups existing (and being on the rise) is that the music they bring is definitely of a different style than the typical pop song one would normally hear. For example, I have coincidentally been listening to CNBlue’s “Between Us,” and while that song in of itself is fantastic, I also appreciate that it is not necessarily pure pop music at play–such as with TWICE’s “Only You,” a song I have been listening to relentlessly. What we find from these band groups are, typically, another branch of pop music: pop-rock. It is not pure rock in of itself, but rather these band groups tend to use the “population-friendly” structure of pop music with the sounds and elements of rock music. Overall, the point is this: I welcome the rise of band-typed groups in the K-Pop scene. They tend to adopt the format of pop music and thus deserve to be recognized in the K-Pop scene versus, say, the Korean Rock scene, but at the same time the actual sounds we hear drastically differ from the typical K-Pop songs we hear as these bands’ songs are in the genre of “pop-rock.”

Now, while I argue people should be welcoming of these band groups, there are many concerns that exist from perhaps a musical, cultural perspective. While these groups are seemingly on the rise, I admit: I fear we might see a decline in the future. The reason I have this concern is dance groups are indeed the actual pop cultural music trend for K-Pop (and even other Asian countries). Certainly many band groups are indeed popular and in fact arguably even more popular than a few dance groups–CNBlue and F.T. Island for examples–but overall, we find a much higher ratio of dance groups to band groups. Dance groups, after all, are not just enticing on an aural level, but they also have an appealing visual component. Furthermore, especially if we consider age, I would imagine dance groups are more appealing to the younger audience members while band groups might be more enticing for older audience members–more so if we tie in how there are not as many “concepts” for band groups. After all, while fans can speculate on whether BTS’ next comeback will be a “sexy” concept or a “dark” concept, band groups do not necessarily have this type of attention–even if, to some extent, they can have concepts as well. (An example is DAY6′s “Serious” where they had a “summer” concept. Though musically and visually it is that, we need to realize it is much harder to show that concept than, for example, Girls’ Generation’s “Party” as the latter is both clearly musically and visually indicative of a “summer” concept.)

But, this pessimism aside, realistically a decline is unlikely as band groups are very much cherished and do have a spot. The issue, though, is whether they will continue to be on a significant rise similarly to recent times of how more band groups are coming. In the end, I will leave this point: Band groups are here to stay in the K-Pop scene. Certainly they are not mainstream pop groups per se, but they still are within the genre of popular music and structurally we can argue that. What is unique and why they deserve to remain is that they bring in elements of rock into their songs and thus, we are able to hear “pop-rock”–a new sub-genre in a sense. Personally, while I am not a major fan, I still do enjoy band group songs once in a while.

Hopefully this answer sheds some light on my take to the rising band scene and even my overall, general take on the band scene in K-Pop. It definitely is interesting to ponder over how K-Pop consists not just of the typical dance group, but also of band groups. And of course, there are debates then on whether these groups are a part of K-Pop or K-Rock and the like, but I personally do argue these band groups are a part of K-Pop as they fall under what I would deem “pop-rock.” (After all, one could listen to actual, pure Korean rock or rock of other cultures and realize how they drastically sound different from these band groups’ pop-rock music.) This is a great question and definitely got me thinking about something I never thought about. Thank you for sending this in. 

Regarding next reviews, IU’s “Palette” will be finished soon, and afterwards VIXX’s latest comeback has grabbed my attention and thus we will also be giving them a review. Afterwards, I plan to conclude this month with one or two Critical Discussion posts–one regarding a social and ethical phenomenon worth pondering over, and the other addressing another musical technicality. More will be said on those posts later. Until then, look forward to IU’s review.