Critical Discussion: “Whether Equal Line Distribution Matters for Groups or Not (ft. Sistar)”

“Whether
Equal Line Distribution Matters for Groups or Not (ft. Sistar)”

Posted on June 4, 2017

image

For
where I wish to take this Critical Discussion, I actually plan on challenging
the very notion that an equal line distribution is necessarily the best
distribution. I, on the other hand, actually argue that a line distribution is
most effective when it accommodates members—particularly
if we are to focus on vocal roles such as “main vocalist,” “lead vocalist,” and
“sub vocalist.”

Edit (June 6, 2017): Fixed many “mechanical” writing mistakes. This post had an absurdly high amount of typos and missing words. Apologies to readers who read this prior to this edit.

Personal
Message:
Before
starting this shorter post, I do wish to apologize to readers for not writing a
review in nearly three weeks despite being on summer break. To explain my absence,
it is not due to any unfortunate event at all; my short disappearance was
merely due to taking some time to truly relax and have fun for summer. With
having two to three weeks of not writing reviews or even subtitling videos for
that matter, I am now feeling refreshed and am definitely now desiring to cover
much content. There are many songs—both newer and older—that I plan to review,
and to make up for May having little content, I will aim to have nine posts for
June. That said, with soon having my wisdom teeth removed, this may or may not
be a realistic goal depending on my recovery time and if I am capable of
writing during that very time.

On topic, however, before getting
entirely back into reviews, I decided to instead cover a relatively brief yet
heated debate that oftentimes occurs in the K-Pop scene: line distributions for
groups. Specifically, as many readers might be familiar with, there is a
general take among fans that an equal line distribution should always exist for
groups. The lack thereof, then, is why mocking statements such as “Hyorin ft.
Sistar” or “Yuju ft. GFriend” are oftentimes heard—and indeed, I find that it is
best to discuss this very topic by using Sistar as an actual example. (And on
that note, I have much to discuss for their disbandment and even the legacy
they are leaving behind when I review their final song.) For where I wish to
take this Critical Discussion, I actually plan on challenging the very notion
that an equal line distribution is necessarily the best distribution. I, on the
other hand, actually argue that a line distribution is most effective when it accommodates members—particularly if we
are to focus on vocal roles such as “main vocalist,” “lead vocalist,” and “sub
vocalist.”

_______________________________________________________

Context:
Now, before getting right into my
perspective that challenges the current, main take to line distributions, first
we need to understand why many do hold onto the notion that an equal line
distribution is the best. Already, if readers are to look at the included
visual in this post, many should feel concerned: according to this source that
gauges time as a metric for line distribution, we can tell that in Sistar’s “I
Like That,” Hyorin is dominating a huge portion of the song. More than half of
the song consists of her singing, and that is definitely a reasonable concern
given that this means the rest of the members now hardly have time for their
own vocals to be heard. A group, after all, is meant to give spotlight to all of its members; thus, whenever one
member dominates a song even if on an aural level, it does appear problematic
and even unfair to the other members.

But, let us expand this argument
beyond merely emotional arguments that it is “unfair”; in other  words, let us critically examine on a musical level why having an unequal
distribution can be problematic. Readers who are familiar with this blog’s much
older reviews will know that I used to consider line distribution as its own
category worth grading akin to, for examples, the vocals and instrumental. The
rationale behind such is that, especially in larger groups, having an equal
line distribution allows a song to maintain a dynamic, active flow. Whether
from physically hearing new voices or how members’ lines are able to alternate from
each other in a fun, creative manner, there are some actual benefits at times
to having an equal distribution. However, indeed, I no longer gauge line
distribution as important for a song as, while it still is important, it is a far minor aspect to be concerned about. And
this is where we will now head for our discussion: my take on why an equal line
distribution is not necessarily the most beneficial.

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
Overall, I argue there are two main
aspects that are worth considering when disagreeing with the view that an equal
distribution matters: vocal roles of members and whether time is a reliable metric—and
no, with the latter I do not wish to connote philosophical discussions on what
time even is. Jokes aside, let us first focus on vocal roles and why these
roles—official or not—matters.

With vocal roles, as stated earlier
in this post, here I am referring to the three main types that many fans are
familiar with: main vocalist; lead vocalist; and sub vocalist. To very briefly explain
what each are if readers are unfamiliar, these are essentially based on “levels”
with the main vocalist being the most vocally capable in her/his group while the sub vocalist is the least vocally
capable in her/his group. (Emphasis is added there as it needs to be reminded
that these roles are always in the context of a group. After all, despite for
example MAMAMOO’s Hwasa being the rapper and lead vocalist of her group, her
vocal capabilities exceed a vast majority of “main vocalists” in other groups
despite how, in MAMAMOO, she is arguably only just a lead vocalist. The point
is, these vocal roles are based in the context of a group and this needs to be
understood.)

Returning to the topic of why vocal
roles matters in relation to line distributions, we have to understand that it
is natural for distribution differences to exist based on these very roles. For
example, in Sistar’s case, it makes sense for Hyorin to handle the main bulk of
a song as she is vocally the most capable in her group—and even generally
speaking as she is a fantastic singer and even rapper. On the other hand, though
Dasom is still a solid singer, she is less adept than Hyorin. Thus, not only
would it potentially be out of her own comfort to handle a huge portion of the
song—and more so if considering vocally strenuous parts—but it might also begin
to hamper the song’s own audio appeal if Dasom delivers her parts less
effectively than if another member were to. As a result, it is understandable
on why in “I Like That” Hyorin would have a very high proportion of the song:
it is where the other members are comfortable with their vocal abilities, and
it allows the song to remain at its most appealing aural state given that
Hyorin is handling and delivering lines that require higher vocal levels.

Now of course, critical readers can
already easily disagree with this point: What about other songs where members do have equal line distributions but
said distributions themselves are based on the vocal roles? The best example in
mind is actually EXID’s “Up & Down”: in this song, if correct, the time length (distribution) per member is
actually roughly equal or at least at a reasonable share, but where there are
differences are merely in what the members sing. For example, Solji’s parts
involve more difficult, skilled singing but the time length is still
equal to Hani’s parts—even if Hani’s parts are less vocally intensive. As such,
readers and fans might argue this perspective that vocal roles should not
dictate the time length of
distributions but merely the vocal level
needed.

For my rebuttal, I admit: I do not
necessarily have one at all and in fact find this line of argument the most
convincing counter point to my argument. Theoretically, if this is always
possible for song, then indeed this is
the most practical, balanced solution: all members get an equal time length for
their lines, but vocal roles are still accounted for and utilized. That said,
the only disagreement here is not so much on the idea itself as it truly is one
of the better ideas, but admittedly we have to bear in mind that this is difficult to genuinely execute. When songs are composed and are then discussed
on how to be arranged per member’s lines, it is not always possible that both an equal distribution exists that
also accommodates for a member’s own vocal capabilities. Once again to use
Sistar’s “I Like That,” there are many points in the song where it simply is
most effective if Hyorin were to sing, even if this leads to her dominating a
large portion of the song. In other cases such as EXID’s “Up & Down,” it is far easier
to have roughly equal times all while fitting members’ abilities due to how the
song itself is structured. In summary, this counter argument to one of my
points is definitely reasonable and a solid one. The issue, though, is whether
this counter point is able to be consistently and realistically implemented in
many songs, and unfortunately I do remain pessimistic. If done, however, it
indeed is a perfect solution to the entire debate regarding line distribution.

But, even in the case that we can always
pair equal line distributions with vocal roles, I still find that there is actually a
problem: the assumption that time is the best metric for gauging line
distributions in the first place. Using “I Like That” as our main example, if
we look at the chart that is included in the post, we find that Bora has an erroneously
low share of the song. But, is that the case? Based on the metric of time and
even based on the metric of “section quantity” (how many sections a member is
involved in) that is true, but I argue these are not reliable forms of
measurements at all. The reason I bring these “units of measurements” into
question is that despite Bora having mostly a singular rapping section in “I
Like That,” I argue it is one of the most impacting and lasting sections in the
entire song due to what the rap brings to the song overall. Additionally, what
do we do with other songs where the rap sections are utterly fast despite the rapping
member potentially covering more words than all of the other members combined? Thus,
do we now count words as the metric
for line distributions or do we account for the “impact”—of which is already subjective
and impossible to quantify.

If this has confused readers in the
sense of realizing that there are too many variables on why line distribution
in of itself if a difficult aspect to track, then I have done my argument: it
is simply unrealistic and almost unreliable to be able to measure line
distributions and thus, the argument for having an “equal” distribution is
already at risk if one can never measure distributions in the first place.

_______________________________________________________

Conclusion:
So, what are we to make of this? Are
readers and fans to not care for line distributions at all, find a new
measurement for counting line distributions, or remain in debate forever?
Obviously the third option. But on a more serious note, this is ultimately what
readers need to take away: the answer is not one of the listed options but instead a combined, balanced view.

In the end, while we do run into
technical problems with accounting for line distributions, it is extreme to say
either line distributions do not matter at all or that it is the most important
aspect for groups. For example, with Sistar’s “I Like That,” I find that while
Hyorin should have had a larger portion than the other members, I find it more
disturbing that Soyou—the lead vocalist—had far less time involved when she is
a very capable vocalist as well. That said with Bora’s minimal amount, I find
that we have to be critical of the claimed 6.5% as her parts involved rapping—a
peculiar section that is not best measured in time length. All in all, then,
line distribution is worthy of critique to a certain extent, but when fans
examine such without being critical—such as without realizing that raps cannot
be reliably gauged in seconds or ignoring that some inequality is fine due to vocal roles—that is when this debate
truly becomes problematic. Yes, an equal line distribution is desirable, but
equally we need to realize why some disparity is natural and even beneficial
and that ultimately, gauging line distribution is already a complex task due to
many variables in place.

_______________________________________________________

Thank you to readers for reading
this whether in full or short, and thank you to readers for being quite patient
with reviews. More content will definitely be coming for June—unless, as said,
my recovery time with wisdom teeth removal ends up being miserable. But
assuming all is well, I plan to finish June with eight more posts whether
reviews or more Critical Discussion posts.

For the next post, IU’s “Palette”
will finally be reviewed—a review that was requested by a friend who, at this
point, joking teased that merely putting up the numerical ratings would suffice
by now. But of course, an actual review will take place. (And I am working on
being more concise with my writing, so readers can expect more reviews to come
out in the future.)

Critical Discussion: “Analyzing the Cult of MR Removed Believers: Understanding the Truth Behind Lip-Syncing and Vocal Skills (ft. TWICE)”

“Analyzing
the Cult of MR Removed Believers: Understanding the Truth Behind Lip-Syncing
and Vocal Skills (ft. TWICE)”

(AtrocityCL’s Video and Commentary)

Posted on May 8, 2017

image

(In fact, I came across a blog post that went into the technical aspect and why MR Removed in of itself is already a process with major faults and unreliability. My video in particular focuses more on understanding the physical limitations of simultaneously singing and dancing and why focusing on MR Removed is a waste when it comes to the analysis of vocals and even pop music in general.)

Personal
Message:
Indeed,
for once I am making a video to present my ideas and discussion. There are many
reasons for this sudden change—besides the fact that I am on summer and thus
have the time to be creative and have fun. (And I am currently working on a
review request, to clarify. Apologies for the delay; I hope to finish the review by May 9.) One reason for this video format is I desire to
reach the broadest audience possible; admittedly with videos, they garner many
more views than would a blog post. This is understandable given how videos
address more types of learning other than reading as it includes audio,
visuals, and the like. And as an upcoming educator, I entirely embrace this: I
am willing to definitely address all types of learning styles, and with this
Critical Discussion possessing an education-like tone, I decided a video format
would serve the best purpose. Furthermore, having actual audio and visuals for
this discussion is crucial as readers should be able to hear what I am discussing rather than hypothesizing and taking my
sheer words as truth. Additionally, this will also be the first time readers can hear
my physical voice—though this is definitely a downside and I wish I was
soft-spoken and sounded akin to the men in dramas who have the typical
charming, clear and crisp voices that everyone envies. I, on the other hand, was gifted with a less pretty voice.

Self-deprecating jokes aside, please feel
free to click the link and enjoy the video and discussion that comes with it. Finally
for a last point, readers should bear in mind this is a “simplistic” analysis
of MR Removed as I do not go into the heavy technical
aspects of why even the process of MR Removed is worthy of questioning. (In fact, I came across a blog post that went into the technical aspect and why MR Removed in of itself is already a process with major faults and unreliability. My video in particular focuses more on understanding the physical limitations of simultaneously singing and dancing and why focusing on MR Removed is a waste when it comes to the analysis of vocals and even pop music in general.)

_______________________________________________________

Context:
*
Refer to the linked video.

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
*
Refer to the linked video.

_______________________________________________________

Conclusion:
*
Refer to the linked video.

_______________________________________________________

*Refer to the linked video.

Critical Discussion: “PRISTIN’s Fan-Signing Confrontation: Addressing Delusional/Sasaeng Fans Seriously”

“PRISTIN’s
Fan-Signing Confrontation: Addressing Delusional/Sasaeng Fans Seriously”

Posted on April 19, 2017

So
for where I do want to direct our discussion, I instead wish to focus our
attention on how we, as sincere and supportive fans, are to address fans who
genuinely are delusional and obsessive. For aspects this post will discuss: the
need to take delusional fans seriously; a misunderstanding of how idols are to
be perceived; discussion of mental health; and lastly, the idea of compassion even towards those who seemingly do not
deserve such.

Personal
Message:
To
clarify, I am in the middle of reviewing PRISTIN’s “Wee Woo” and hope to finish
the review quite soon. That said, and especially as I believe that K-Pop and generally
pop culture of any kind is more than just the entertainment, musical aspects,
this Critical Discussion is one that I hope readers will seriously consider. For
what will be discussed, in light of PRISTIN’s recent confrontation with a man I
personally deem dangerous, I think it is time I personally bring up a topic
that even I have oftentimes belittled: the topic of delusional fans—or in
Korean terms that K-Pop audiences might be more familiar with whether one knows
Korean or not, “sasaeng” fans.

Now to clarify, quite obviously this
Critical Discussion will not focus on persuading readers to not be delusional
fans; I expect that many genuinely delusional fans would not even be reading
these types of posts in the first place, and furthermore, I say with full
confidence that those who are reading this post are intelligent, critical, and ethical
human beings who already know why it is problematic to be an overly obsessed,
delusional fan. So for where I do want to direct our discussion, I instead wish
to focus our attention on how we, as sincere and supportive fans, are to
address fans who genuinely are delusional and obsessive. For topics this post
will discuss: the need to take delusional fans seriously; a misunderstanding of
how idols are to be perceived; discussion of mental health; and lastly, the
idea of compassion even towards those
who seemingly do not deserve such. And of course, I will cover in brief terms
what exactly occurred between PRISTIN and a delusional fan, but admittedly this
discussion will focus more on delusional and obsessive fans in general rather
than just PRISTIN’s case. After all, sadly, this concept of delusional fans—or
“sasaeng” fans—requires a discussion that addresses them all rather than just a
particular case. (Another prevalent case in mind is, if I am correct, with EXO
and how Suho was sexually threatened—or “sexually harassed” if my language here
is too biased—with rape from a woman. Point is, there are many of these extreme
cases involving both male and female artists and thus, I wish our discussion to
be general and that PRISTIN’s case will merely provide a contextual example.)

_______________________________________________________

Context:
I will link a news article that
addressed what occurred: Soompi’s article. I have praised Soompi before, but
I will do it once again—and no, I am not sponsored by them at all nor write for
them: I simply appreciate their professionalism and website layout of not
pouring in obnoxious pop-up ads as do many other translated K-Pop news sites do
as of the late. But on topic, the news article should cover what exactly
occurred with PRISTIN and the “fan.”

For more specific details on why
this person’s behavior is highly inappropriate, he intended to propose to
Kyulkyung at this fan-signing, and regarding a sketchbook he planned to give,
he wrote in the sketchbook sexual threats (or, again, “harassment” if my
language is overly harsh and biased) such as desiring to get Kyulkyung pregnant
along with including an image of a decomposing corpse. For where credit is
deserved, the staff and group members all acted very professionally and
appropriately despite such pathetic actions from the “fan.” The only criticism
I have on this practical, procedural end however is questioning why Pledis
Entertainment does not use a blacklisting system akin to, if correct, JYP
Entertainment (and of whom are also very strict with how fans can interact with
idols when not at meetings). The fact that an infamous delusional fan is able
to physically meet PRISTIN is perhaps the more disturbing aspect of this entire
incident—and bear in mind, the company was
aware of his coming given that fans have taken preemptive measures of alerting
the company and hence why the staff was prepared to deal with him. With that, though,
let us now focus on the actual and more general discussion at hand.

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
Already, one of the major takeaways
I hope readers have from this post is the fact that delusional/sasaeng fans need to be taken seriously. I connote
this on both practical and social levels. In PRISTIN’s case, once again, I
highly wish to emphasize the fact that such a fan was still able to attend
despite multiple, proactive warnings about his behavior. While there could be
many reasons for why this occurred, and to clarify I do believe in the best
intentions and that Pledis Entertainment agreed it was—for whatever reasons—the
best to still allow the delusional fan to attend, I do wonder if part of the
reason involves the company not necessarily taking these types of fans
seriously in the first place.

In defense of Pledis Entertainment
however, especially with most of the delusional fan’s comments being online, it
could all be an entire hoax to make everyone anxious for the person’s own
amusement—and admittedly, I would consider most of these delusional fans to
indeed be mere frauds and jokes. And of course, this is complicated by the
unreliability to detect when someone is genuine or not online; after all, if
someone despised me enough, she/he could take my sarcastic humor of me jokingly
claiming TWICE’s Jihyo will propose marriage to me as real evidence to me being
a delusional/sasaeng fan. Now for a more complicated case, while my own “delusional”
points are easily found as sarcastic, there are cases where drawing such clear
distinctions is difficult. A prominent example is, if correct, how a boy
sexually harassed IU in a live stream. While IU’s label company brilliantly did
decide to press charges—after all, sincere or not such behavior deserves to be
addressed—the boy did claim he was merely joking and was not genuinely going to
act on his words. Nevertheless, we find our tension here: how serious are companies
to take delusional fans?

While I personally propose we need
to take all actions and words from these types of fans as serious, I still wish
for readers to consider the opposing view: many could disagree with me as
perhaps there may be fans who are indeed misunderstood and therefore wrongly
punished. And of course, I am thinking of genuinely innocent examples; in IU’s
case, whether the boy was joking or not, the degree of his words are
unacceptable. Instead, “innocent examples” might involve how a fan “jokes” on
SNS that she would kidnap a certain idol if she could. Quite obviously, there
is the tension of whether this fan would need to be investigated and
blacklisted or if it is quite clear—whatever constitutes as “clear evidence,” another
issue in of itself—she was joking. All in all, readers can see there is in fact
a serious discussion on this front. I urge that we need to take all
repetitively “proven” delusional fans seriously, but already that statement can
be strongly and rightfully disagreed with and I do encourage readers to always
be critical thinkers with considering various perspectives.

Switching onto our next topic, this
one will be relatively brief as I hope to many readers this will already be
common knowledge: that idols are not to be perceived in an objectifying manner.
I bring up this point as there is a peculiar yet reasonable argument for why
delusional fans “can” exist: some argue an idol’s job and role does, at times,
involve putting themselves out there for fans to figuratively consume via
entertainment or in some cases even sexual appeal. After all, it seems far too
extreme if a genuinely well-behaved fan can never say, for example, “Kyulkyung
is so sexy!” without suddenly being labeled as a dangerous, delusional fan. Indeed,
to some extent, I agree: it is not unethical to idolize idols—and hence,
perhaps, the very label of “idol.” In fact, this idolizing can range beyond
just how one might look up to an idol as a role model; I think it is not
utterly inappropriate if a fan is suddenly expressing how she is very much
sexually attracted to some idol. If such occurs, then so be it. However, this
is where I argue there needs to be an appropriate
balance: idolizing to extreme ends to
the point it affects idols and fans, whether sexual or not, is never
acceptable.

For example, despite my conservative
beliefs (as admittedly while I am socially ethical and therefore categorized as “liberal,” I
culturally am “conservative”–and of course, “conservative” or “liberal,” we all should be socially ethical) of how a “real man” and a “real woman” never
makes sexual comments to others, I have—as indeed, I am a regular nerdy
human—made sexual-based remarks before. With PRISTIN in mind, I believe I have
even posted a YouTube comment along the lines of explicitly calling Nayoung
“sexy.” Is this entirely unethical? I argue far from it; my comment was that of
being a fan at the moment and I obviously meant it as a lighthearted praise. Most
importantly, I did not take it to the degree that the comment would be
objectifying and I very much praise
and acknowledge Nayoung more for Nayoung herself rather than for her physical
appearance. Now that said, and particularly to male readers, this is not an
excuse to suddenly go on a “she/he is sexy” complimenting marathon. I say this
to male readers as we have to acknowledge that an innocuous sexual-based comment,
even if meant to be lighthearted and a genuine praise, can indeed still be
considered sexually objectifying and demeaning because we speak from a position
of social privilege. In other words,
we speak from a male privileged stance and could be unintentionally
contributing to the issue of freely sexually objectifying women (and men) because
speaking from a male privileged
stance automatically justifies a male’s sexual comments as acceptable (due to
gender expectations) when such actions should not be excused at all.

Thus, my overall point is this: in a
reasonable, mature and respectful manner, there is not a problem should a fan
idolize their idols—whether with admiration or with sexual attraction. The key
idea is that such comments and idolizing need to be respectful and reasonable.
Praising that Nayoung is sexy is not an issue; there is an issue, however, should one keep repeating and pushing forth
such a comment to the point where Nayoung—a wonderful human being—is reduced
down to purely her body. And of course, adding on male privilege should the fan
be a male, and indeed we have an even more serious situation as it now leeches
beyond just one individual case but is now reaching a social level of
perpetuating the idea that men can freely sexually objectify women. Likewise,
claiming that Nayoung is one’s role model is not a problem; there is a problem, however, should the fan
suddenly find the need to stalk Nayoung and genuinely believes she loves
him/her back in a romantic sense.

As for PRISTIN’s delusional fan, he
is indeed in the wrong: he has made a sexual threat to Kyulkyung—a comment that
claims he would make her pregnant versus merely complimenting her—and his
excessive admiration has led him to believing she genuinely loves him back in a
romantic sense. Yes, idols’ jobs and roles do involve them being idolized, but
an ethical dimension still exists: idols, too, are human beings and deserve
respect and dignity. Indeed, many Korean idols (I have no authority to comment
for other pop cultures) are absolutely fantastic role models for male and
female fans and thus, I do find it acceptable should fans admire them as role
models or even find idols sexually attractive should a fan opt to go this
route. (Biasedly with my cultural views, though, I do urge fans to praise idols
beyond their physical appearance if physical appearances are to even matter at
all. Idols’ work ethics, respectful conduct, care for members, skills, and so
forth are what I find most “sexy” and I do encourage fans to view idols in this
aspect rather than merely physical attractions.) What is problematic is when
such infatuation—sexual or not—goes to the extent of disrespecting the idol and
said idol is no longer a human but instead an object. After all, as much as I
joke about being delusional and loving TWICE’s Jihyo and how she will one day
get on her knee to propose to me, I obviously know at the end of everything—besides
how we will never meet at all—Jihyo is simply an amazing woman who brings a lot
for the world as a role model and musician—not an object that I can somehow “possess.”

Finally, this brings up perhaps the
most sensitive topic yet in this post: a discussion on mental illness. Already
I wish to clarify that I do not want to further perpetuate the stigma that
socially deviant behavior (if that is a proper term; I merely mean behavior
that is not of the norm and do not intend to connote something else) must
automatically be the result of mental illness. Whether it is PRISTIN’s
delusional fan or the woman who claimed she would rape EXO’s Suho, as ethical
and critical human beings, we should never automatically assume these
individuals are mentally ill. For all we know, they might be very sane and
reasonable people; the only difference, though, is perhaps they lack ethics and have no regard for acting
upright in the world. (This is why readers constantly see me discussing social
topics in an ethical lens; in the end, I consider my ultimate goal as a human
being—let alone a K-Pop reviewer and future teacher—is to spread as much
goodness and to encourage others to do as much good as possible.) Nevertheless,
however, I think the discussion of mental illness is still relevant: it needs
to be reminded that us mentally healthy individuals have an ethical role with
challenging the stigma of mental illness, but should the case be that certain
delusional fans are mentally ill, such needs to be addressed appropriately.

Without intending to, I have already
discussed why readers should not hurry to the conclusion that delusional fans
are automatically mentally ill. Again, the example of how these types of fans might
be sane but merely lack ethics is a possible and reasonable explanation. Furthermore,
the automatic association that any social deviant behavior means one is
mentally ill is a highly misunderstood idea. Mental illness cannot be easily
generalized in that sense, and I argue such negative associations of mental
illness—such as how individuals who are mentally ill are dangerous—make it even
more difficult for those who need mental support to get that very support.
Think of, for example, those with depression: if mental illness is considered
wicked and dangerous, the likelihood of a depressed individually getting the
help she/he needs is highly reduced due to social stigma. Thus, I do challenge
readers to be more critical in their view of mental illnesses and to very much
confront biases they have towards mental illnesses. Although I am the one
suggesting this, I do indeed admit I have biases that I very much am working to
challenge—after all, my first instinct to reading about PRISTIN’s incident was
a quick assumption that the delusional fan is “crazy” and “mentally ill” (in
other words, I used the label as an insult rather than its appropriate use as a
general, clinical label). These are disturbing, highly biased thoughts I have,
but indeed I share this as readers need to realize we all have biases worth
correcting and I indeed am joining along in the process of being a more
compassionate, knowledgeable human.

_______________________________________________________

Conclusion:
With addressing so many different
points, I might now have made readers feel overwhelmed, more confused, or
simply unsatisfied with how one is to reconcile what PRISTIN and Pledis
Entertainment staff members experienced with the delusional fan. I will attempt
to conclude this Critical Discussion: a discussion on compassion.

Indeed, I find that the ethical
layer is why a lot of social-related topics matter as all of these related
discussions is ultimately an attempt to answer how we are to make the world a
better place for each other. On one hand, compassion here means that we need to
understand what idols feel and why, despite idolizing them, they are worthy of
respect and dignity as is every other human entitled to. Now for where the idea
of compassion gets tricky, admittedly feeling compassion—in other words for
those unfamiliar, having a sense of understanding and even “acceptance”—for delusional
fans is difficult. In fact, I wholeheartedly admit despite my current teachings
and discussion, I do struggle with having compassion for these types of
individuals. After all, how is any ethical, critical person supposed to “accept”
and “understand” a woman who dares to make a rape threat to a man or a man who
dares makes a sexual threat to a woman? But, this is where I challenge readers
and myself: we still need to, at the very least, make attempts to understand
these individuals.

For perhaps a controversial point I
will make, having compassion for these delusional fans does not mean one is to
necessarily accept them entirely; I absolutely prohibit these types of fans
from ever attending fan-meetings and also desire to ban them from posting
content on idols’ fancafes. What I mean by “accept,” then, is that I still have
to accept and acknowledge these delusional fans are humans. It would be wrong,
for example, if fans suddenly made plans to kidnap the woman who made rape
threats to EXO’s Suho and physically assaulted her—reason being she still is a
human, and that using such escalated violence would lead to nothing. (Now even
more controversially, I do want to clarify that I do believe at times violence
to counteract violence is sometimes essential and appropriate. For a random
example, a police officer who kills a criminal who would have otherwise harmed
innocent people is, in my argument, worthy of praise as she appropriately used
violence in this case to prevent malicious violence. This is the only violence
that is acceptable—in my argument, that is.) Therefore, in one sense,
compassion in this regards means delusional fans do not deserve equally heinous
treatment—barring, as in the example above, cases where violence must be used
to prevent a delusional fan from inflicting violence.  

Secondly, another reason for
compassion and perhaps the most important reason is that it allows us to be
critical in assessing such types of fans. Why
are they behaving this way? Compassion grants us the moment to genuinely
attempt to understand where a delusional fan is coming from. With PRISTIN’s
case, I am highly curious of the background of the sasaeng fan. His mental
health, his relationship with women in general, his views on ethics and
behaviors, his views on masculinity, his views on sexuality—all of these are
aspects that can very much help hypothesize reasons for why he behaved highly
inappropriately towards Kyulkyung. And through this process, we come to realize
there is a humane side to a person who we otherwise would only desire to bash
and trash.

All in all, while these types of
fans should not be physically accepted at all, I think they ethically deserve to still be—if not
accepted—then at least understood in regards to motives. But, this is indeed
still a tough situation and how one feels about this situation will ultimately
be up to their own moral views. Some fans might feel compassionate and attempt
to understand the delusional fan’s seemingly troubled life and mind, but others
can equally and rightfully believe such a man is disgusting and perhaps even
inhuman for his actions and words. It all depends on one’s own ethical views,
and that is something I do not desire to shape. All I desire is to make people think of their very own ethical views—regardless
of what they are. If hate is to be used, then I hope there are at least solid
reasons for such. No matter what, though, we all can agree on this: on a
practical level, delusional fans are a threat to idols and staffs, and indeed,
I believe safety precautions need to be implemented such as blacklisting such
fans or thoroughly inspecting these types of fans for any suspicious items (be
it weapons or hidden cameras).

_______________________________________________________

This Critical Discussion took far
longer than expected. As a result, the review on “Wee Woo” will be posted much
later, but of course, I do believe that this post is much more valuable than a
musical analysis of their debut song as this post matters on both a practical and social layer. My words here are not
necessarily to convince readers what to think, but I do hope it sparks
discussions and encourages more critical, deeper thinking for PRISTIN fans or
other K-Pop fans—or even simply fans of any pop culture should this post reach
a broader audience.

Look forward to a review on PRISTIN’s
“Wee Woo” in a week or perhaps even two weeks as I will be heading into
university finals soon. Thank you to readers for being patient, and thank you
to those who have read or skimmed this post.

Critical Discussion: “MAMAMOO’s Use of Blackface: Understanding How Racism is Not a Binary”

“MAMAMOO’s
Use of Blackface: Understanding How Racism is Not a Binary”

Posted on March 5, 2017

That
said, for where this post will be going, I wish to unfold the current
controversy so that everyone truly understands why the situation is a critical
one, and more importantly, I wish to address the idea that racism is a
“binary.”

Personal
Message:
Needless
to say, I am incredibly shocked and feel both disappointed at MAMAMOO for this
incident in the first place, yet I still feel incredibly proud of them for
sincerely acknowledging and apologizing for this incident. There is a lot to
discuss for this Critical Discussion and indeed, these situations are why I have this type of post: because pop
culture tends to tie into social topics—whether intended or not. More
importantly, however, when these social-related topics arise, how it is handled
is definitely of interest and arguably even telling the current norms and such in
place.

With this discussion about MAMAMOO’s
recent use of blackface for a concert, I understand it is an incredibly
sensitive topic and no matter how one feels—whether one feels “betrayed” by the
beloved ladies and is no longer a fan or that one finds that this all
miniscule—the purpose of this post is not to necessarily change or neglect how
fans currently feel on an emotional level. Every fan’s individual emotional
reaction deserves to be respected. That said, for where this post will be
going, I wish to unfold the current controversy so that everyone truly
understands why the situation is a critical one, and more importantly, I wish
to address the idea that racism is a “binary.”

By “racism binary,” I am referring
to the unspoken assumption that racism is an “either” situation; either one is
racist and a completely awful human being or that one is non-racist and is
utterly open to all racial differences. MAMAMOO’s situation provides an
excellent example of why this racism binary is false: seldom are people
entirely on one end of the spectrum and more often than not, we will find
ourselves hovering in the middle. For example, there is a concept of “implicit
bias”—biases one has not due to their
individual beliefs and actions, but rather biases one accumulates in a society. This applies to race, gender, and every
other social aspect. Without getting into the detail of how implicit bias works
as that entails a whole separate post, the point is this: for one to claim they
are utterly non-racist is unlikely. This is not
because of their own actions and beliefs—I very much believe a vast majority of
humans try their best to be ethical in the world and thus non-racist—but
because societally there are hidden messages spread throughout that can alter
one’s thinking on a very subtle level.

To use myself in an honest example
as this might make implicit bias more understandable and relatable, as many may
know given the plethora of posts that tackle social topics, readers might
assume that I genuinely am incredibly open and without biases at all. This,
obviously, is false: I am as any normal human—the only difference that I might
deserve minimal credit on is the fact that I am open on discussing these sensitive topics in the first place even if at
the risk of people then assuming I am no longer “non-racist” and other labels. To
share my biggest personal implicit bias with race—though it might be more
accurately labeled with “colorism”—it is that I do have a hidden bias that
assumes lighter skin complexion is prettier than darker skin complexion. I only
discovered this when I found myself thinking that BB creams or simply even
lotion with skin-lightening properties are great, and more specifically, when
during a summer I found myself very
much disliking how tan I was getting and how I “needed”—yes, I thought in that
particular language of necessity—to go back to looking quite pale.

These were signs that I had an
implicit bias with skin tone, and thankfully I managed to bring and address this
on a conscious level—even if, as readers can tell, these are quite disturbing
biases to consider especially since I strongly
assert that all skin complexions are beautiful—and indeed, this is true as all skin complexions are
beautiful regardless of implicit (or explicit) biases one may have. Overall
this is all to say I am a human and given my cultural background and how I am
constantly watching Korean shows where, indeed, lighter skin is considered more
beautiful, I had an implicit bias form that I now am addressing and attempting
to correct. The best step, though, is the very act of acknowledging one’s
biases and shortcomings despite how uncomfortable this may be. Whether it is
with gender, race, sexuality, class, and so forth, addressing one’s biases and
admitting to them is crucial even if current times are extremely polarized with
these topics. (For example, even my admitting of my wrongful implicit bias on
skin tone will very much put me at risk with readers for the very fact that I
admit I have this implicit bias. Again, having biases are not bad if one addresses them and corrects them
to be more ethical, but many forget this point or are simply uncomfortable with
this very admittance in the first place due to risk of then being labeled as
“utterly racist and horrible.”)

For another issue with the racism
binary, there is the risk of clumping in accidental racism from intentional,
malicious racism—even if the former sounds ridiculous. After all, readers might
be wondering: “How can one accidentally
be racist and offend a specific community? It all has to be intentional.”
Unfortunately, racism is much more complex and there are cases where one is
simply unaware—“ignorant” if we wish to say, though I dislike this word as it
carries a negative connotation—of their actions or in fact even intend to do good but end up
unintentionally being racist. I would even argue that this form of racism is
the most common form we tend to find today; seldom are people genuinely
maliciously trying to be racist, but instead, are accidentally racist—which,
again, is still an issue but it requires a different approach than a sincere
racist who is simply being a purely unethical person who very much hates on
sheer differences.  

A perfect example of “accidental
racism” is when fans of K-Pop who are non-Korean claim they “wished they were
Korean because they love Korean culture so much.” On an intentional level,
these fans are not intending to be racist at all; they genuinely are sharing
their openness, care, and respect for another culture and to the degree of
which leads to some “envy.” The issue, though, is that these fans are treating
Korean culture as a “costume” or an “exotic entity” that one throws around in a
fun, objectifying matter. Thus, what they are saying is racist even if unintended.
It is not wrong to like K-Pop or Korean culture or any other culture that one
does not belong to, but when one uses the language of “wishing to be,” in
reality it is offensive on the grounds that they are implying cultures are
clothing thrown around to be switched and changed at any moment when that is
not quite the case. (Though it should be clarified that one can assimilate into a culture and this
is fine; a Japanese individual can move to Korea and assimilate into Korean
culture, for example, and this is definitely fine and not objectifying.) As I
say, being respectful and open to other cultures is definitely great, but never
should an objectifying tone take place.

But without getting too distracted
on that topic, the point is this: sometimes people are racist without intending
to be, and in these cases—such as in MAMAMOO’s case as we will get
to—acknowledging one’s mistake and educating oneself on their shortcoming is
what is necessary—and indeed, this is what MAMAMOO is doing. With that, let us
discuss MAMAMOO’s use of blackface.

_______________________________________________________

Context:
I will link Soompi’s article
regarding this incident as I find that Soompi is oftentimes
a reliable English translated source for K-Pop news—and indeed, based on my
reading of the article, they seem to have encapsulated much of the current controversy
and have even updated the article with RBW Entertainment’s and MAMAMOO’s
apologies and reflection. As such, readers can refer to the article for the
full context of the current situation. However, what I do wish to discuss is
the concept of blackface as unless if one is from the United States, this
concept is unfamiliar or even confusing and thus, I wish to explain the
historical concept of it and the contemporary take to it.

Blackface is called such as it
involves performers quite literally blackening their faces with makeup to
appear as if they were Black individuals. Already, we see why this is
disturbing: imagine if a non-Asian decided to “dress up and look
Asian”—something that is already generalizing and objectifying to the Asian
community. Similarly, this is why fashion and makeup tutorials of “How to look
[insert race here]” are all disturbing: these tutorials are implying there is an objective look to a community, and
that is simply false. Even if this is done towards a “dominant racial group”
(by dominant I am connoting “power”; in other words, they are the racially
privileged group such as Chinese in China or Whites in the U.S.), it is still
incredibly offensive. For example, in Korea, a “How to look Korean” video is as
messed up as, in the United States, a “How to look White” video—even if, yes,
it is understandable that these would be to poke fun at the racially privileged
groups.

But without digressing too far on
that, another issue with blackface is oftentimes how grotesque it is—and we
have to understand the historical context of blackface for this. In the United
States, blackface in the past was used by White performers who would perform as
Blacks in oftentimes degrading, exaggerated manners in a way that implied
Blacks were inferior to Whites. In other words, Whites would use blackface to
pretend to be Blacks in order to create a comical show. Again, this is all
quite disturbing and this history is something to bear in mind for MAMAMOO’s
controversy and hence why people are greatly upset. In contemporary times, no
one of any race should find these atrocious past acts acceptable given how many
societies are ethically progressing. (That said, the only contemporary use of
blackface is when Blacks themselves use it as a way of getting ownership back.
This in of itself is controversial, but the idea behind this to take away
blackface as a “For Whites to oppress Blacks” to a now “Blacks are taking back
the historical damage and turning blackface into an empowering tool.” Again, I
will not discuss this in much depth as I still have minimal knowledge on this
history and have no specific stances. For those interested in the idea of
“re-owning” oppressive acts, I recommend the story “The Goophered Grapevine” by
Charles Chesnutt as it does address this idea. Without spoiling too much, an
African American character seemingly uses Black stereotypes established by
Whites in an internalized sense, but in reality, one could argue he was using
these stereotypes to outwit and prevent Whites from buying his estate and thus
was taking oppressive acts and stereotypes and turning them into empowering
ones.)

English major nerdiness aside, I
hope this all provides context to what MAMAMOO did, and why blackface in a
historical sense is incredibly negative and why current uses of it—especially
if not by Blacks to “re-own” blackface—can be quite controversial as it carries
the roots of historical damage Whites have done towards Blacks in the United
States. (And again, given how sensitive this topic is, I highly emphasize historical damage—though obviously
current work is still needed in the United States for race. Point is, I wish to
emphasize the historical point as I do not wish readers who are White to feel
“responsible” per se; yes, Whites in the United States have racial privilege
and thus are responsible on this end and understanding their racial privilege,
but never should Whites be bashed specifically
for creating blackface when it is a historical piece. But, even my stance on
this is controversial though I argue it is the most humane and balanced view
versus the extreme ends that claim “Whites should take no responsibility at all
for the past” and “Whites are entirely responsible and need to pay for the
past.” Again, there is a responsibility of racial privilege in current times,
but it should not extend all the way to the past.)

Let us now discuss MAMAMOO in
specific and see how we, as fans of the ladies (or even K-Pop in general),
continue on from this incident.

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
Since I already addressed the
“racism binary” and why there are issues with it, I wish to hone in on the
concept of “unintentional racism” as I argue this is the case with MAMAMOO. I
strongly doubt MAMAMOO and RBW Entertainment were intending to mock a specific
community; rather, it is likely they were trying to very much get into their
performance and truly immerse themselves via appearance as they were covering American
pop artist Bruno Mars’s music video. While I have not seen the actual footage
yet, knowing the ladies I bet their performance was very much simply covering
the song in perhaps an upbeat, fun manner. Was race the complete reason with
why they were using blackface? Not necessarily as, again, they were most likely
focused on the music and not attempting to mock a community at all. But, this does not mean they are free
from responsibility; they had good intentions but still ended up using blackface—a highly derogatory, negative act.
So what do we make of this?

For one, fans need to stop using the
racism binary with now automatically equating MAMAMOO as “racist” and evil
women. If anything, this might be the worst idea given that MAMAMOO, from
admittedly my biased perspective as a fan, is one of the more aware K-Pop
groups of their international fans. Furthermore, the ladies and their label
company tend to be more “open”—and more so if we bear in mind many Asian
countries are still “conservative.” For example, MAMAMOO very much desires to
release songs that empower women (and hence the extremely high ratio that
favors female to male fans for MAMAMOO) and with having a song that explores
the idea of gender as a performance—the iconic “Um Oh Ah Yeah” music video—I
find it quite disappointing that fans are turning away from MAMAMOO with ideas
of “they have only been racist this whole time” and such. Now this is not to
excuse their actions, but indeed, we need to realize that a quick label of
“MAMAMOO is racist” gets no one anywhere—and this applies for everything
besides just MAMAMOO.

(On a personal note, I hate the
terms of “liberal” and “conservative” that I have to connote here and more so
if it ties into politics which I never will discuss on this blog; I find these
terms absolutely silly as seldom are people in one category. For example, while
I consider myself socially ethical as
my social views are based ethics and not so much politics or whatever else, I
am easily still labeled as “liberal” in this regard. However, I find that this
one label is insufficient as I know for sure I have and do strongly abide to
specific “conservative” beliefs. For example, I am highly against “hookup culture”—the idea of essentially casual
sexual intercourse—as I have my own beliefs about sex that are, obviously,
“conservative.” And to my surprise, sharing this personal view of mine was
utterly shocking and somewhat appalling to a class and this was when I
discovered there are so many issues with these labels. So, on one hand I am
“liberal” and yet “conservative” on the other and this simple example is why I
dislike those binary labels.)

And so, while fans need to stop
bashing MAMAMOO with labeling them as racist, we still need to understand that
their usage of blackface is still inappropriate. Fans who are offended and
upset are right to feel this way, and that is because even if MAMAMOO was
unintentional with this racist-based act, it still is racist. Thankfully, MAMAMOO and RBW Entertainment have
acknowledged this and are educating themselves on why blackface is
inappropriate—the very fact that they have done this acknowledgement is a
testament to that fact that they do care (and equally openly mentioning that
they wish to include fans of all race, gender, sexuality, and so forth). Also
to bear in mind is that with South Korea being a rather homogenous society,
blackface is perhaps a foreign concept to them—no pun intended on “foreign.” Thus,
the social and racial implications were perhaps something MAMAMOO and their company
were completely unaware of. But as said, they are not to be excused and this is
also something I urge fans to be aware of. While fans should not go to the
extreme of bashing MAMAMOO as racist, neither should fans let this incident
disappear or minimize their use of blackface as something forgettable.

_______________________________________________________

Conclusion:
Where does this all take us now? For
one, this incident reminds us all that racism still needs to be addressed in a
sociological sense—that the racism binary is false and needs to go away if
further progress is to be made. Racism is not an “either” situation as said,
and until that binary goes away, it will be difficult to ever deal with racism
in an upfront manner. After all, what do we glean from discussions that merely
go “MAMAMOO is racist, go away” or “MAMAMOO is not racist and are perfect; you
all are overreacting”? Nothing. To quite literally quote my sociology
professor, “Racism is like smog; we can’t find who is responsible but we all
are responsible for cleaning it up.” This is incredibly true for not just
MAMAMOO’s situation, but for discussions of racism everywhere. Instead of using
racism as a labeling game, fans and MAMAMOO need to instead directly address
racism as a concept. This means addressing implicit biases, acknowledging mistakes,
and ultimately striving to become a more open, compassionate, ethical, better
human being.

All in all, what MAMAMOO did was
incredibly wrong and was racist, but fans need to understand they never
intended to be malicious and racist. Nevertheless, acknowledging of their unintentionally
racism has to occur, and furthermore, the need to understand why blackface is racist is crucial. What
is most amazing to me, though, is the fact that MAMAMOO and RBW Entertainment
have done so: They have acknowledged their use of blackface is racist and
offensive, and they are educating themselves on why blackface is wrong and on
how to prevent future incidents like these from occurring. This growth not as
MAMAMOO but simply as four women trying to do better for others is what needs
to be cherished most. Although I oftentimes hold MAMAMOO as an example of how
all artists should be, I personally find that their acknowledgement and strive
towards improvement with their racist blunder to further prove that point. This is how one addresses racism and
makes progress—not by denying that it was not racist, not caring, or doing
whatever they can to assure others “I am not racist.” Instead, acknowledging their
mistake and then working to educate themselves so that they are more socially aware
and inclusive is what needs to occur.

As for fans, the same should occur
but in regards to removing the racism binary: fans need to understand and
educate themselves on the racism binary, on why MAMAMOO and RBW Entertainment
thought blackface was fine (in other words, understanding South Korea’s
situation with being a homogenous society), and ultimately, fans need to
realize how to be respectful yet still
assertive
with openly calling out their beloved idols. To the fans—both Korean
and international—who did not hesitate to critique MAMAMOO’s actions but did so
in a respectful, calm manner, huge credit to them.

While I hope these incidents become
far and few in the future of K-Pop, I also hope growth occurs for everyone.
Remember: racism is smog; let us stop playing the blaming and labeling binary game,
and let us instead all work together—regardless of our own race—towards a
future where race can be discussed in
a respectful, open manner. Then, perhaps, in the future racism in of itself
will disappear—or at least, discussions can occur and growth will be encouraged
and that no one will be automatically bashed as “racist and evil.”

_______________________________________________________

Given how controversial this topic
is, I assume this post will not render entirely well with everyone. With
MAMAMOO’s situation, as said, how one feels will ultimately be their decision—though
I urge that it is based in critical thinking. Certainly the racism binary needs
to be challenged, but even that can be controversial as some do strongly
believe that one is either entirely non-racist or one is entirely racist. No
matter one’s stances, I simply assert the idea that we need to all be open and
respectful of our various views. Through discussion and maturity will actual
progress be made. For me, I remain a fan of MAMAMOO and to me despite this
incident, they are still my role models—in fact, perhaps even more so as how
they are handling the situation with acknowledging their mistakes and striving
for improvement is truly admirable (even if what they did was not so). However,
even if one is no longer a fan, this is understandable and needs to be
respected.

All in all, I hope this post
provides some deeper insight to the situation especially in a sociological lens
and for those who find this post relevant for its discussion, I do encourage
sharing this around. Ultimately, readers will have to decide on what they think
though in a respectful, thoughtful manner.

Regarding upcoming reviews, BTS’ “Spring
Day” will be out in a few more days, and afterwards TWICE’s  “Knock Knock” will have a relatively thorough
review. After that I have a request for HIGH4’s “Love Line,” and from there we
will see where the remaining posts take us.

Critical Discussion: “Phone Equalizers: AtrocityCL’s Personal Guide to Bass Boosting”

“Phone
Equalizers: AtrocityCL’s Personal Guide to Bass Boosting”

Posted on February 28, 2017

There
should be a peculiar detail noticed: unlike what many oftentimes do, I
ironically am not bass boosting as much as I am treble reducing. This appears completely contradicting: is the
point of bass boosting not to increase the bass frequencies’ volume? Contrary
to the thinking of many—and perhaps even common sense—this actually should not
be done if one is attempting to produce the clearest possible sound quality.

Personal
Message:
Unfortunately,
the request I am working on—BTS’ “Spring Day” (which is full of many praises to
somewhat leak the review)—will not be finished in time for February. As a
result, I have decided to instead switch posts and will instead be ending this
shorter month with a bonus post that addresses music in a technical sense. That
said, I openly admit this: I have minimal knowledge with the technicalities of
music beyond, such as in this post, very basic principles. As a result, this
post is not meant to be an expertise-level resource; this post, then, is here
only to begin a discussion on “bass boosting” and “bass” in songs in general,
and ultimately I hope it at least provides some help to readers who desire to
figure out a “proper”—again, a very loose sense of that word—method to manually
bass boost songs on their phones within an equalizer.

For other news, I have somewhat
updated my “About” page on the blog after many months. In short, I merely added
some clarifications on the purposes of reviews and equally have clarified and
even apologized for older posts when it came to discussing social topics as,
indeed, I had done a horrible job of conducting those discussions in the past.
Ultimately my stances are still ones I very much hold true—for example, that all
human beings are ethically responsible to
treat sexual minorities with dignity and respect as they would with
heterosexuals. What, then, I apologize for are not my stances; rather, I
apologize for the way I discussed
those topics—or the lack thereof as, for example, I would passive-aggressively
bash males when discussing sexism when that is rather counter-intuitive and not
addressing the matter at hand. Overall, social discussions that occur on this
blog—which, again, only occur if they relate to K-Pop as it is important to care for K-Pop beyond
entertainment and music—are now focused on attempting to find an answer to how
humans can peacefully, maturely, intellectually, and respectfully discuss and
be open to various views.

So, for an actual example of what
discussions look like nowadays,
Fiestar’s “Apple Pie”
had a discussion about feminism but I attempted to do
so in a balanced manner. Specifically, the tension here was whether Cao Lu’s
remark on a certain show was inappropriate or not, and rather than merely
siding with the main feminist take that it was highly inappropriate (refer to
the link for context), I took another
perspective that, though quite different, was ultimately still a feminist
perspective that posed a genuine challenge to many people’s thinking. Instead
of attempting to persuade readers to automatically bash Cao Lu as being sexist
and so forth, I wanted readers to be more critical especially since many were throwing
very serious terms around. Was Cao Lu’s remark sexist or not? That does not
matter as much as discussing the core tension at play that her remark secretly
brought up: What does feminism look
like? It is this type of balanced, mature tone and deeper, critical thinking
that I now implement in social discussions, and this is what I hope the new
“About” page clarifies. (And I do hope readers take interest in the linked post
and social discussion. Many readers would be surprised to find how convoluted
feminism actually is—though indeed, feminism is here to stay and allows both
men and women to really dive into the topic of gender.)

But serious topics aside, let us now
focus on the current post. I have chosen the medium of cell phones as I do wish
to make this “applicable” to all readers. (And if somehow I have readers who
are not a part of this blog’s usual audience and are not fans of K-Pop or even
know of K-Pop’s existence, I hope this post will still equally be applicable
and helpful.) Especially with how many listen to their songs via cell phones,
this medium definitely serves as the most relevant to readers. Furthermore, I
hope to also discuss later in the guide the misconception that “the more bass,
the better” as that is incredibly false if
one is speaking in an objective sense versus a joking, casual manner.
Again, we will discuss this in more depth later. Overall, the main goal of this
post is to not just provide a simple equalizer guide to bass boosting on cell
phones, but I also hope to explain the critical question: why? This is where we get to dive into simpler musical
technicalities, and since readers sometimes wonder about the technical aspect
of music versus just the abstract, theoretical discussions that take place in
reviews, I hope this will satisfy those who are curious.

(Lastly to note, this bass boosting
guide is assuming one is using earbuds or headphones. Bass boosting for cell
phones’ speakers might require different settings—and ultimately does not even
matter as unless if once has actual speakers, phones’ speakers are worthless in
lower frequencies. Also to note, one’s listening apparatus will very much
influence the outputted lower frequencies heard; bass boosting in an equalizer
is not the only variable involved to hearing more bass sounds. Some earbuds are
awful with outputting lower sounds, but nevertheless changes in equalizer
settings should help but this should be noted.)

_______________________________________________________

Guide:
First of all, before the guide
itself begins, we must address the fundamental question: What is an equalizer?
How can I access my phone’s equalizer? To answer the first part, without getting
utterly technical and accurate, an equalizer is a place where one can modify
certain frequencies’ volumes—and yes, I am referring to specific ranges of
frequencies. As some may know, songs we hear are in a very rough sense made up
of different numerical frequencies, and to change those frequencies’ corresponding
volume, an equalizer is needed. We will get into actual directions and so forth
later, but this conceptual idea is why bass boosting works: one literally
boosts the volume of lower frequencies so that the bass is heard more
prevalently. (And this applies to all other frequencies; so if one wants to
treble boost—the opposite of bass boost—that is possible as well.) That is all
there is to it. Regarding how one accesses their phone’s equalizer, it is
oftentimes within their music player app’s settings. This obviously varies per
app, but indeed is it within the app itself or perhaps even in a phone’s
general sound settings. That said, oftentimes music players do come with
built-in custom settings so perhaps one may find that there is already a
default “bass boost.” This guide is still relevant, however, as perhaps some
may find that their default bass boost is too strong or weak and thus, the
guide here might help as one could merely increase the dB (decibel) changes to
higher levels.

The following is my personal bass
boosting guide and some
justifications for such—this latter being most important as it is seldom shared
or explained. Also, my phone’s modifiable frequencies are these (in hertz): 60;
150; 400; 1000; 3000; 8000; and 16000. Readers’ phones might vary drastically
or end up being similar; should there be differences, I hope at least a general
understanding occurs and that one is able to improvise if necessary.

Here are the dB changes I have
applied for each frequency:

60 Hz: +2 dB

150 Hz: +2 dB

400 Hz: +0 dB (0 dB is unchanged)

1000 Hz: +0 dB

3000 Hz: -1 dB

8000 Hz: +0 dB

16000 Hz: -6 dB

To explain my reasoning behind such,
first let us think in a general sense. There should be a peculiar detail noticed:
unlike what many oftentimes do, I ironically am not bass boosting as much as I
am treble reducing. This appears
completely contradicting: is the point of bass boosting not to increase the
bass frequencies’ volume? Contrary to the thinking of many—and perhaps even
common sense—this actually should not be done if one is attempting to produce
the clearest possible sound quality while still upping the bass volume.

For why this is the case, we have to
understand the issue of distortion (basically when a sound starts losing its
clarity and crispness). When it comes to boosting a frequency, the highest dB
change that I personally find to still be effective with minimal to no
distortion is only +3. Anything higher and distortion starts occurring and
becomes quite audible. Thus, when one looks at the actual bass ranges I am
modifying—60 Hz and 150 Hz (bass range is 60 Hz to 250 Hz if correct)—I have
only done +2. This ensures there are no distortions (or at least are far from
audible) and still boosts the range we are intending to hear more in volume.
Nonetheless, this alone is not sufficient at all and that is where we need to
look at other options. The solution: if we cannot go higher than +3 dB, we can reduce the volume of higher frequencies.

With 16000 Hz, I have given it a
very significant decrease: -6 dB which does a lot of minimizing of volume for
this frequency. Now readers may be wondering, “Why am I able to go -6 dB if +3
is the max without distortion?” This is where we need to understand that unlike
boosting, reducing is far easier and has no distortion whatsoever. Why this is
the case in a physical, scientific sense? I honestly have no idea; my excuse is
that I am an English and secondary education double major and thus cannot give
an answer. I suggest readers researching the answer as it fundamental concept
to understand if one wishes to truly know the technicalities involved. But,
indeed, we know the results: reducing the treble frequencies is our solution.

So, how exactly does this
significant reduction that occurs towards 16000 Hz help with bass boosting? The
result from doing such is that the proportion
of our frequencies are now in a certain ratio so that in order to still hear a
standard volume of 16000 Hz sounds, one would need to increase the overall
volume by a lot and doing so also
makes the bass sound louder as well in respect to the overall volume. This is
all far too confusing in words, so let me simplify this with a few diagrams and
actual examples.

At default settings (+0 dB for all
frequencies), we will assume that at Volume 10 MAMAMOO’s “Decalcomanie” is
appropriately loud. However, the listener desires more bass to be heard and so
she applies the bass boost settings.

Now with bass boost settings, we
find that at Volume 10, “Decalcomanie” is actually too quiet. This is because
the reduction at 16000 Hz reduces a lot of the sounds our listener hears, and
also her boosts towards 60 Hz and 150 Hz also somewhat drowns out the lighter
frequencies that she would normally hear if she were running a default
equalizer setting. So, in order to hear at a normal, listening volume, she goes
all the way up to Volume 15. This, though, is not “louder” than if “Decalcomanie”
was playing at Volume 10 with default settings; instead, the song overall
sounds the same before but it now has
more bass involved. This might still be confusing so we will now go to diagrams
explaining. (And by diagrams, I mean a slightly more visual version than just
reading text.)

DEFAULT EQUALIZER: (Percentage shows
how much is “heard”; numbers are made up but the general idea should be there)

Overall Volume: 10

60 Hz: 100%

150 Hz: 100%

400 Hz: 100%

1000 Hz: 100%

3000 Hz: 100%

8000 Hz: 100%

16000 Hz: 100%

BASS BOOST EQUALIZER:

Overall Volume: 10

60 Hz: 120%

150 Hz: 120%

400 Hz: 100%

1000 Hz: 100%

3000 Hz: 90%

8000 Hz: 100%

16000 Hz: 50%

Here we notice what I am attempting
to get at. At Volume 10, our listener finds that she is lacking her usual 16000
Hz sounds—this being physically heard by the fact that the song is actually
slightly quieter in general. (For those with pre-made bass boost settings, try
this experiment: switch from that to the default and then back to it and
readers should notice that with bass boost active, the volume to their songs
seems reduced. This is a rough
explanation at why this is the case.) In order to fix this, our listener simply
turns up the volume. Now look at the results:

BASS BOOST EQUALIZER:

Overall Volume: 15

60 Hz: 160%

150 Hz: 160%

400 Hz: 100%

1000 Hz: 100%

3000 Hz: 100%

8000 Hz: 100%

16000 Hz: 100%

Again, this is far from an actual
portrayal of what occurs especially as the other Hz are not bothered with, but
my point is this: bass boosting and treble reducing literally reduce a song’s
overall volume because it reduces certain sounds, but once the overall volume
is increased again so that it sounds as it is with default settings, we notice
that the bass is much stronger because in order to hear the same usual higher
frequencies, the bass frequencies—which are partially boosted—seem louder in proportion to the other frequencies. Once
again, the numbers I am using are not accurate and do not matter per se; these
diagrams are just to showcase the idea of the sounds being in proportion and
hence why equalizers work the way they work. As said earlier, one could see
this at work if their music playing app features its own pre-made bass boost setting:
the bass is never actually boosted in of itself per se, but rather everything
else but the bass is quieter so that
when the volume is increased, the bass seems louder because everything else but
the bass was already reduced in sound. This, in short, is what I am getting at.

_______________________________________________________

Conclusion: For the most part, if readers are
merely looking for a guide for an equalizer setting that is bass boosting, the
one I listed above should be reliable. Admittedly my explanation regarding why those settings work in the first
place might be unclear, but this might be one of those cases where readers
might just have to nod their hands and smile and wave. Of course, though, these
settings are not perfect and are indeed modifiable so that readers can increase
or reduce the amount of bass boosting that occurs, but the most important takeaway
is for one to understand that bass boosting is not literally bass boosting. This is one that many in general are
confused about—and I do not blame people; it is highly counterintuitive that
bass boosting consists of treble reducing
as well.

And on that note, another
misconception is that the more bass the better in an objective sense. If a listener finds that he loves his music to be
blasting with bass frequencies, then by all means he should be allowed to do
so. But, should a listener go around spreading her false information that more
bass is objectively better, that is
quite problematic. Excessive bass runs the risk of muddling out too many
sounds, and especially if one is being an active listener and is critically
thinking about songs’ compositions and production, excessive bass is
questionable. But, of course, general bass boosting is fine—and indeed, I
personally do review songs with a bass boost equalizer in place and I find that
this is beneficial as default settings fail to capture the bass involved with
songs.

All in all, I hope this post proves
helpful for those wondering how to work their equalizer or for those who have
always been curious as to how their
equalizer worked in the first place to bring them more bass, treble, and so
forth. Again, I am by no means an expert at all with sound in a technical sense
and admittedly I care more for songs’ theoretical discussion within an amateur
lens, but I think it is important to bear an open mind for even the technical
aspect of music. As always, readers who would like to send in corrections are
always welcomed by sending it via a question. (But, I will not accept
corrections on my diagrams’ numbers as, obviously, the point there is not on
the numbers themselves but rather the proportions that occur—even if mathematically
that is false as well.)

_______________________________________________________

With February ending and March
beginning, let us look forward to a more productive month. February was much
weaker than I intended it to be, but March will be started off with many
wonderful songs. In particular I am dying to review TWICE’s “Knock Knock” as I
have much praising towards the composers because of how efficient and accommodating
the song is for TWICE’s members, but we will save that discussion for after a
request on BTS’ “Spring Day”—another song that is well composed and has an
incredibly interesting idea with its instrumental that works out very well despite
it being a riskier one.

Thank you to all for reading this,
and for those curious on the next “technical” post in the far future, I finally wish to directly
address the misconception involved with “MR Removed” videos and lip-syncing and
whether live singing is a true, reliable testament to an idol’s vocal
capabilities. A very touchy subject and one that needed to be addressed long
ago when MR Removed was a trending idea, so if nothing else comes from this future post then I hope at least my
discussion on it will keep the topic dormant. (Indeed, readers can tell my
position regarding them: I find them highly unreliable, and even in the case of
them being accurate, MR Removed completely disregards composers and producers
and what it means to actually actively listen to music. MR Removed, in my
opinion, encourages a “hunting” game that not only gives minimal respect, but
it goes to the point of being disrespectful
to idols, composers, producers, and so forth.)

Critical Discussion: “Addressing a Concern: Fiestar’s Potential Disbandment”

“Addressing
a Concern: Fiestar’s Potential Disbandment”

Posted on February 19, 2017

Nonetheless,
this anxiety towards Fiestar’s potential disbandment is true—and in fact,
whether or not these incidents occurred does not matter. Fiestar has always had
the fear of disbandment: the group struggles financially as Cao Lu has said
multiple times, and indeed, the ladies are not popular as a group even if
individually two of them—Cao Lu and Yezi—are somewhat more popular. Likewise,
their songs have not been strong enough to catch high popularity; at most, “You’re
Pitiful” remains their best song and somewhat “Apple Pie,” but both of which
are not easily “mainstream” pop songs especially the former as “You’re Pitiful”
is a pop-ballad.

Personal
Message:
Admittedly
this is more of a “casual” discussion than a “critical” one—“critical” in the
sense of how these types of posts tend to be reserved for when social-related
topics come into play, such as gender, sexuality, or even ethics—but I have decided
to give my own take to the concern of Fiestar disbanding. There are a lot of
clarifications that I believe should be addressed, and furthermore the current situation
is not a binary of “Fiestar will either entirely disband or they will entirely
continue as is.” Furthermore, this post will also allow me to address a
question on what becomes of my subtitled videos of Fiestar (and indeed, Fiestar
is the perhaps the group I am most emotionally attached to as a fan) should
they disband entirely.

_______________________________________________________

Context:
To clarify to those who are unaware
of why this concern exists—though in truth, as I will address in a post about
SPICA’s “hiatus,” this concern should have already been lurking in fans’ minds—there
have been two main incidents leading fans to suspect that Fiestar is soon
disbanding. The biggest reason is that, according to a few news articles, Fiestar’s
leader—Jei—is no longer listed as a member of Fiestar on LOEN Entertainment’s
website (their label company). In fact, Jei is supposedly not even in LOEN Entertainment anymore; a few
sources claimed to has moved to another label company entirely under an actress
category. As such, as readers can tell, this is creating much concern as
Fiestar losing their leader and one of their most popular members can
definitely hurt the group’s popularity if not a disbandment.

As for the other reason fans are
concerned—and this, personally speaking, being a weaker reason—is due to Cao Lu’s
words regarding Jei on a show: when Jei was
in Fiestar. I hesitate to claim this is solid evidence for Jei leaving Fiestar
(and that, even after Jei’s departure, Fiestar will continue with the remaining
members) because this quote is not from Cao Lu directly; it came from English
subtitles. And indeed, especially as Fiestar fans can tell with my own
subtitles and translations, captions are never perfect due to
lost-in-translations or simply translation mistakes (and of which I admittedly
am tremendously guilty of).

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
Nonetheless, this anxiety towards
Fiestar’s potential disbandment is true—and in fact, whether or not these
incidents occurred does not matter. Fiestar has always had the fear of
disbandment: the group struggles financially as Cao Lu has said multiple times,
and indeed, the ladies are not popular as a group even if individually two of
them—Cao Lu and Yezi—are somewhat more popular. Likewise, their songs have not
been strong enough to catch high popularity; at most, “You’re Pitiful” remains
their best song and somewhat “Apple Pie,” but both of which are not easily “mainstream”
pop songs especially the former as “You’re Pitiful” is a pop-ballad.

And so, we come to the point of this
post: What now? To first address on a personal level before addressing this
situation in a general sense, I want to clarify this one point and I hope this
message is spread to those who watch my subtitled videos: that in the case that
Fiestar entirely disbands, I will
still continue subtitling Fiestar videos as ridiculous as it sounds. I have,
quite literally, gigabytes’ worth of videos that I still need to subtitle
involving Fiestar, and even if the group itself is gone, I still wish to finish
the responsibility I took up for fans. Now even when that is done, as many fans
relate, I personally have grown quite attached to the ladies themselves in
Fiestar—Cao Lu, Jei, Linzy, Hyemi, and Yezi. What this means is, even if the
group disbanded, I will attempt my best to continue uploading and subtitling
videos of each of them individually. Unfortunately this is unrealistic but it
is possible and I will attempt my best to do so. In short: for fans worried
they will forever lose access to Fiestar because I might no longer care for the
members once the group is finished, this is false; I will continue to be a
resource where fans can find videos of the ladies.

Ignoring that, though, let us
address Fiestar’s potential disbandment as of itself. My stance is this: Wait
for Jei and LOEN Entertainment to confirm she is officially leaving the group.
Currently, all we have are speculations and for all we know, LOEN Entertainment
might have made a deal with the company Jei is now currently signed with. If
this is the case, perhaps Jei would still be in Fiestar but with merely a
different company and contract. Additionally—and for the more realistic, feared
route—even if Jei leaves the group, I argue Fiestar can still go proceed
strongly as four. And admittedly by “strongly” I mean they can continue as is—not
popular but perhaps at least maintaining a financial stability and having a
decent, loyal audience. But on topic, recall that many other groups have lost
members and are still doing well if not even better: Dal Shabet lost two
members (one of whom was their core, solid rapper) and yet they persevere on
and have released a very impressive song of “Someone Like U.” Nine Muses is
also in mind as the group’s roster has seemingly shrunk every year. Though
their current releases are not too strong, it should be acknowledged that Nine
Muses has done very well despite so many roster changes.

Of course, though, it is true that
no matter the situation if Jei leaves Fiestar it will hurt in all aspects—popularity,
emotionally, and musically. That said, especially as this blog focuses more on
the musical aspect of K-Pop (and a reader suggested I take some time to purely analyze
vocalists, so perhaps this is a slight experiment at such), I think it is
equally critical to discuss how Fiestar would be affected musically should Jei
leave. In my opinion (and bearing in mind I am quite familiar with Fiestar in a
musical sense and thus am not throwing random thoughts), the departure of Jei
will leave a noticeable void but it is nothing that cannot be overcome. Regarding
Jei’s role, she can be understood as a sub-vocalist; this means that Jei’s
singing in Fiestar is oftentimes for less intensive, strenuous lines but it
still means she provides those minute details that are still very much
important.

As for why I claim her role is essentially
“replaceable” (in a musical sense; I wish to emphasize this), we have to bear
in mind that Cao Lu is Fiestar’s other sub-vocalist albeit weaker than Jei.
Nevertheless, I see this as a chance for Cao Lu to finally receive much more
lines and in songs such as “Thirst” and “Back and Forth,” I find that she is
definitely capable of firmly holding that role even if Jei is a slightly more
adept singer than Cao Lu when it comes to handling more complex tunes. Overall,
unlike losing Linzy or Yezi—both of whom are the group’s main vocalist and
rapper respectively—or even Hyemi with her being the lead vocalist (for those
confused, the lead vocalist is basically in between the main and sub vocalist),
Jei is already musically substituted by Cao Lu. As a result, Fiestar could
theoretically continue without much if any shifts in the group’s musical role.
(And to address how Fiestar would lose their “visual” member, I find this role fans
have created rather silly—though no offense to those who strongly believe in
this. For one, every idol in the K-Pop industry can be claimed a “visual”
member, but I argue it is partially ridiculous that we belittle both male and
female idols who might have excellent dancing and singing skills to nothing more
than a pretty doll to stare at.)

Lastly, regarding the non-musical
aspect I have yet to address, Fiestar’s popularity dropping from Jei leaving is
a reasonable concern. While we have our comedy-genius Cao Lu and our “girl
crush” Yezi (while I assume all readers know what that means, it is in
reference to a woman who gives off a tougher, “do-not-mess-with-me” vibe—for a
lack of a better term) as Fiestar’s other popular members, we have to
acknowledge that many are fans of Fiestar because of Jei. Especially with her
taking on acting in a drama and attending a myriad of variety shows, many fans
are here because of Jei herself. Therefore, it is unavoidable that Fiestar would
potentially lose some popularity from Jei leaving—and, many fans turn away from
groups once members leave and more so when it is the group’s leader. However,
even so, I argue Fiestar’s popularity will still be stable considering Yezi and
Cao Lu are in the group and certainly, these two members have brought a lot of
attention to Fiestar.

All in all, it would be greatly
upsetting in all aspects if Jei leaves Fiestar—or worse: if Fiestar actually
disbands. From a critical standpoint I find that Fiestar can still carry on without
Jei, but I equally would understand the decision LOEN Entertainment and the
remaining members make to disband if Jei leaves. Regardless of what occurs—Jei leaving
or the group disbanding—it is always crucial for fans to be understanding and
supportive to all members. As Cao Lu openly shared, working as an idol is an
incredibly unstable job; there is no certainty that the group will hold well or
that members can individually make a living. As such, Jei’s leaving—should it
happen—should never be interpreted as her being selfish and ignoring the
members and fans, and the same can be said if the members and company agree to
end Fiestar. If through this all it happens to be nothing more than a contractual
and company change on Jei’s part and Fiestar remains the same as currently,
then I hope this post remains relevant in addressing the “lurking thoughts”
fans—and perhaps even the members—have. And, would this not make us realize we
need to truly support and cherish the ladies and group while we are all
together?

_______________________________________________________

I hope this post is able to address
some questions fans have regarding Fiestar’s current situation. Time will tell
what occurs but as I said, being understanding and supportive is vital during
this sensitive period. I personally will continue to subtitle Fiestar’s videos
regardless of their status, and should the worst come I plan to still subtitle
videos of the members in their individual paths.

Another post will come out similar
in this fashion regarding SPICA’s “hiatus,” so look forward to it if the
technical aspect of K-Pop is fascinating. As for standard reviews, BTS’ “Dead
Leaves” and “Spring Day” will come out shortly. Thank you to all for reading,
and whether one is a fan of Fiestar or not, I hope this post still provides a
more critical insight as to how groups actually function in a systematic sense.
(Though we always need to remember the humane side and that groups are not just
a robotic team of robots.)

Critical Discussion: “SNL Korea and Meng Jia’s ‘Drip’: A Casual Conversation on Double Standards and Equity”

“SNL
Korea and Meng Jia’s ‘Drip’: A Casual Conversation on Double Standards and Equity”

Posted on December 1, 2016

image

Personal
Message:
I have
never felt this disorganized in quite some time, but it is time I clarify what
this post is. As some readers may know, similar past posts have been titled with
“Blog Opinion” or in fact, similar discussions have taken place directly in
reviews themselves. However, I have decided to change all of that: very lengthy
social discussions will now have their own separate posts and reviews will now
be purely focused on music—unless if there are minor discussions that can fit.
Consider this new type of post, “Critical Discussion,” a way of combining “Blog
Opinion” and social discussions in reviews into one convenient place.

Doing this allows music reviews to
indeed maintain their pure focus on the song at hand, and furthermore, it
allows readers to better “balance” my content. After all, it is incredibly hard
to suddenly transition one’s mind to a social lens when expecting a purely
musically focused review, and then after the social discussion, to then
transition back into a music lens. Thus, separating the two, I have decided, is
the best route. Consider this—to be quite cliché—a new chapter on the blog.

That said, the following discussion
has been excerpted—if I may use that word—from the Personal Message of a review
on Meng Jia’s “Drip.” The actual review will be posted some time later as I
finish up on it. This separation of social and musical discussions came only
after I finished and realized how difficult even it was for myself to
transition in mindset.

_______________________________________________________

Analysis:
(Note: As said above, this came from the Personal Message of
Meng Jia’s “Drip.” Thus, the language used reflects that and may come off as confusing
given the context was originally in the review post itself.)

Although the following may come off
as abrupt or even harsh, I will be clear with this specific Personal Message:
it might get very controversial. To that, if readers are uncomfortable with
discussing social topics, while I strongly encourage readers to stay for the
conversation, it is only right that readers have their own voices and
decisions. Thus, if this is the case, I suggest only reading the few last paragraphs
here where I discuss “Drip,” but more significantly, to skip to the review
itself. After all, I understand I have a relatively wide audience that ranges
from readers who care for purely the critical music discussion but also those
who come for that and a critical
social discussion. Either way, point is, readers should decide now on whether
they wish to read this Personal Message.

With that, no matter where a reader
is located in the world, given that every reader (yes, a bold generalization)
here is into K-Pop, I hope this following discussion is important and relevant.
After all, only through maturely and intellectually discussing social
topics—from gender, race, class, sexuality, and so forth—are we able to become
more loving, compassionate, understanding, empathetic and critically thinking
human beings. That said, for this review, I do wish to finally discuss the
topic of “double standards”—a topic I noticed gaining traction, but moreover,
becoming a completely complex topic that has garnered both support and
challenging as we will get into.

While I will focus on “Drip” in
relation to double standards, in terms of why I say it is a topic that is
gaining traction and attention, in the context of K-Pop this topic of double
standards has come to life outside of “Drip”: SNL Korea’s recent scandal. For
those unaware, I am indeed referring to how female staff members have sexually
harassed male idols as a supposed “welcoming tradition” in order to make the
men feel more comfortable. You read that correctly, and assuming one has basic
logic, a reader should be able to find the sweet irony: sexually harassing male
idols somehow makes them more comfortable on the show. Somehow.

Specifically for the actions
occurred, to be rather frank, the guesting male idols would be lined up and
then, for a surprise, certain female staff members would run up to them and
grab the male idols’ genital area. The worst news has yet to come, though: the
true horror is that these female staff members are facing no penalties minus
having to write apology letters to the public. Where does “double standards”
come in? Imagine if the genders were reversed: female idols having their
genital area grabbed by male staff members. Indeed, the staff members would
suffer much—and rightfully so. And yet, why do we socially turn a blind eye to the
male victims and excuse the women’s horrendous behaviors? Why? Why is this
double standard in place for male victims while everyone is suddenly rushing to
support female victims—again, this is a right action and I am not bashing that, but why is this “right
action” only applied to females?

I do not deny that males are still
socially privileged and that double standards is oftentimes when a marginalized
group is the one becoming even more vulnerable because of such. But, these
cases are still equally double standards at work, and I would argue that there are reasons for why male victims are
silenced—these reasons being tied into gender inequality and the dominant view
of masculinity being superior to femininity. For example, just ponder over
this: what happens to male victims when socially we regard men as “invincible” and
“tough” and “lacking emotions,” and that women are “weak” and thus “always need
protection” and could never be rapists or sexual harassers? What happens, then,
when those fictional standards are busted and truly occur: a woman does rape a man; a woman does beat her husband; a man does need help and protection and
emotional support.

Sadly, as this SNL Korea incident
reveals, perhaps when the realities conflict with our presumptions of gender
norms, we (“we” as in collective societies) do tend to ignore the believed “fantasy.”
We do ignore the men crying out for help; we do ignore the men who have been
raped by women; we do ignore the men’s voices and instead claim that they “should’ve
enjoyed it” or that “it is simply impossible.” And so, while male privilege is still
definitely in place, in certain cases where men are supposedly breaking gender
norms and falling into the socialized category of “feminine,” suddenly the
tables turn: men no longer have power in these scenarios because socially we
refuse to believe that a woman can overpower—physically, mentally,
emotionally—a man. But, the reality is there: that can—and does—happen, and for people who believe in gender equality/feminism,
social justice, and ultimately believe in treating humans ethically and to be
compassionate, men cannot be brushed out of the picture with blind bashing of
“but male privilege” or “but we should only care for women.”

Indeed our role as socially responsible
people is to side with the marginalized. If this means men in certain cases,
then indeed, I personally will stand by men and, such as in the case of SNL
Korea, I will be boldly critiquing the women’s wrong behaviors. Equally, while
Whites in the United States have race privilege, if I was in South Korea and a
White person there was being discriminated on her race by Koreans, indeed I
would side with her because in this case, she is the marginalized.

Overall, perhaps this is to be
reminded that these “double standard” cases of males being the victims and
women the perpetrators and getting away with such are not “feminazi” work (and
likewise we can apply this outside of gender). If anything, this SNL Korea
situation reveals we need feminism
now more than ever: feminism is here to stand by marginalized women and men (and, I argue, genders that do
not fall into the binary of man/woman). It is a shame feminism is misconstrued
as the “enemy” (being seen as anti-male or even anti-gender queer) when said
“enemy” is what true feminism and feminists fight against and more. There is so
much to discuss so let us just continue on with double standards as a topic
itself.

Backing up a bit, though I bring up
this atrocious news of SNL Korea, I will not dive too much into depth on it as
I do wish to focus on “Drip” and this song’s role with double standards, and
more importantly as said, I wish to discuss double standards in of itself. However,
for readers who are interested and perhaps as frustrated as I am at this
incident, I recommend reading Soompi—an English K-Pop news site—and their
articles on it. They have done an excellent job at actually covering the event,
but furthermore unlike other K-Pop news sites that are written too
simplistically and focus more on advertisements and click-baits, Soompi does
not withdraw when it comes to voicing out a strong push for social topics and
social justice—in this case, justice for male victims whether idols or not. That
bravery and care to see K-Pop beyond a superficial level is why I constantly
recommend Soompi as a reliable K-Pop news site (for English readers)—and of
course that they, as said, deliver news without emphasis on ridiculous titles
or poorly edited and written articles. Basically, shout-out to Soompi for their
great work. (And no; I do not work or write at Soompi or any K-Pop news site
for that matter. My reviews and social discussions are all of my own
independent thoughts—and of which should be openly challenged. Likewise, I make
no profit—and have decided not to after much thought—out of this blog.)

Now that said, yes, sometimes
entertainment media are seemingly only there for the entertainment, but as I
have argued on this blog for quite literally two years, we are all human
beings: sometimes, we have to put aside our artistic lenses and actually
critique the actual, inhumane treatments that occur in pop culture. We should
not dismiss the SNL Korea incident as worthless because it is pop culture and
not “real-life news”—a phrase that is already ridiculous as it implies that pop
culture is somehow fictional and a fantasy. We certainly have to care, and I
argue we might even need to care more
than “real-life news” because pop culture is something we all consume and feel more connected with (but of course, we still
need to care for “real-life news”).

Finally focusing on the topic of
double standards, I do believe readers have a general understanding of it—or so
I would hope otherwise the entirety of my prior points make no sense. In
summary—and apologies for not doing this sooner—the idea of double standards is
that one group can perform a certain act and have it be acceptable while, if
another group (typically but not always, a marginalized one) does the exact
same act, they are criticized.

Recycling the SNL Korea incident as
an example, the double standard is that the female staff members get away with
their actions because the victims are men. Reiterating what I said earlier, if
the genders were swapped, I am positive that the staff members would lose more
than just having to write apology letters: they would be fired, potentially
face legal issues, and so on. Likewise, another example is that a woman can
almost physically hurt her man in public and no one would bat an eye, yet if
the opposite occurred, many would stand up for the woman—again, that desire to
intervene is an appropriate act; the issue is that it applies only on one end
and not the other. It is these points that people have critiqued feminism as
“feminazi” as it is assumed feminism is being “anti-male” when it is not (but
understandably, I can see why people would believe so such as in these cases). Now
perhaps the more common views of double standard—of the minoritized being shut
down—is during, for an example, a case where a woman who swears a lot is told
to be “unladylike” while the man next to her is swearing equally and yet is not
reprimanded. Another case is where a woman is told she is being too bossy or a
bitch (and I do apologize for no longer censoring words; as this blog is an
open space for critical, mature discussions, readers need to recognize any
offensive word on my end is for an educational point and not to insult a group
of people) for being a leader and yet, a man doing the same is suddenly
respected as being “a true man and leader.”

Now that we understand what double
standard is, I want to address the “big question.” Although I have already
addressed why double standards can occur in the realm of gender, I think there
is still a question no one dares ask: why do we allow some double standards to
slide in favor of the marginalized? In the case of SNL Korea, I did address a
part of the answer: in the case of gender, we ignore male victims due to the
reasons I discussed above. But, what of other scenarios such as when a woman is
allowed to say “we need more woman power in this novel” and yet a man would be
heavily criticized for saying “we need more man power in this novel”? If I did
my job correctly, people should feel heavily conflicted. For one, it is wrong
for a man who is socially privileged with his gender to say that (and in this
situation, the one in “power” versus say a male rape victim), but yet a woman
can say the same and we would embrace her (and to that, I do say yes, we
embrace her words in this situation). Why? How does double standards play out
in this case? Is it about who has power? Is there more?

With this, let us turn to “Drip.” What
do we explain in the case of Meng Jia’s “Drip” and its music video? This is
where I wish to turn our discussion to, but thankfully, her solo debut provides
an excellent example of what I argue is not necessarily double standards, but
instead, is actually a case of “equity.” Certainly this is becoming a mess and
too many sociological/social terms are being used, so let us take this slowly. Let
us first focus on “Drip” ‘s music video so we can understand where the video
stands currently.

Critical viewers of “Drip” are not
wrong to point out that a double standard is being applied in favor for women.
For example, the man in the music video is explicitly kidnapped. If the
opposite occurred—that Jia was a man and a woman character was kidnapped—then
many would critique the music video. Again as repetitively said, that would be
a correct response—so why are we not doing it here for the man and, in some
cases, why do we even praise such a
plot? (As I believe in being truthful, I am that very person who praises this
music video’s plot—even if it is seemingly applying double standards or even
“anti-male.” I will explain why I still support the video.) Furthermore, the
kidnapped man is roughly interrogated and almost implicitly tortured by the woman.
Lastly, the lyrics do not help, either: assuming the lyrics are from a woman,
it appears that she wants to control the man in every aspect and wants him to
be a sweet, submissive and lovely boy who only adores her. Just imagine if the
lyrics were from a male perspective and talking about a woman—it would not get
far, but rightfully so.

As proven, then, it very much seems
“Drip” is one-sided and should be heavily criticized—and yet it is not. Is it
because of “feminazis” or is it, as I personally will argue, there are certain
cases where “equity” is in place? (Before continuing, though, this is not to
deny that this music video is completely innocent. I argue that it is a form of
challenging patriarchy with matriarchy via how women are the ones depicted with
power and men are submissive and at the will of women. But that said, it is
worth noting this music video still very much is worth critiquing from a gender
equality perspective, and considering there are marginalized men, we need to be
cautious of this music video in regard to that. We need to keep male victims in
mind, in other words.)

When it comes to equity, it is
perhaps best described as an “equalizer” versus of “equality.” In a very
rudimentary explanation, “equality” implies every person gets the same thing,
but in “equity,” it focuses that the outcome
is equal. So for a horrible example, if I was focusing on equality in a makeup
giveaway, I would make sure every man and woman got the same item. In equity,
perhaps a woman has no cosmetics at all while the man next to her already has
two. In this instance, equity would be giving the woman two cosmetic items and
the man being given none—there is no equality here, but there is definitely
equity.

For why this is important to
understand, equity is here for a reason: it helps reach equality as an outcome.
After all, to use the prior example, if I only focused on being “equal,” the
woman would still never have as many cosmetic items as the man: she would
always be one short since everyone would be earning the same amount and the gap
remains the same. Thus, equity is important in this regard especially when we
layer social statuses on one another—for example, that it might actually be
worth giving slight priorities to male makeup artists for hire or slight hiring
priorities for female engineers. Equality would mean everyone, regardless of
their social statuses (race, gender, etc.) would be picked and instead pure
characteristics are gauged (which should still be accounted for very much), but
equity is useful here because what if we consider that the female engineer who
is applying had to overcome obstacles that a male engineer had the privilege of
not facing? (Some examples of those obstacles would be how the female engineer
never had a “head-start” as her male peers since she was taught “females are
supposed to stay at home and not be into science and math.”)

All in all, in the context of jobs,
I like to consider equity what many term as the “language advantage”: if there
are two people with the exact
qualities and skills yet one knows a second language, it is realistic to hire
the person who knows the extra language. Equity for one’s social statuses is
similar: you have a man and a woman engineer who are exactly the same, but given how women have social barriers to
overcome in this field, a hirer could argue the woman has “a slight advantage”
since she needed extra work to make it through. And to not forget, she brings
potentially a new perspective to a predominantly male-dominated field.

But without getting off topic, relating
this discussion of equity to “Drip,” we could begin to view this music video
and song not as being “anti-male” and applying double standards unfairly—or
again, the silly phrase of it being “feminazi” messaging—but instead could
interpret the music video as an interesting form of equity. After all, it is
highly doubtful the directors would wish to antagonize and victimize males; if
anything, there would seem to be a more realistic idea: challenging the idea
that women always have to be on the “submissive end.” And how do the directors
perhaps go about challenging that very notion? Through flipping the script;
through swapping gender roles and showcasing a woman who is the one controlling
men and showcasing them as the submissive, powerless one in this case.
Especially given the music video is a form of art and therefore an expression—unlike
actual events of, say, SNL Korea—and factoring in the realities that women
acting in the way Jia’s depicted character in the real world would be heavily
criticized on a social level, “Drip” truly does begin to seem like a bold
social critique of gender norms. It is far from abusing double standards and
hating males.

All that said, however, as mentioned
earlier, even such an empowering music video can come across as offensive and,
if we are truly critically, it partially does play into double standards even
if its intentions and overall point is to challenge gender inequalities. And
so, this leads us to where the main discussion of equity is currently at: what
are the ethics of it? Equity indeed, I argue, needs to exist, but to what
degree? For example, until statistically huge disparities in jobs are
minimalized, I say equity in the workplace is acceptable and even welcomed.
But, when it comes to “Drip” ‘s music video, how far can the music video’s form
of “equity” go? It is highly unlikely that the ridiculous idea of “feminazi”
would truly exist—the idea that women would not become equal but instead surpass men as superior. However, it is
something to consider over as critical readers: what if we socially do reach a
point of gender equality, but interestingly enough, matriarchy for example
begins? I personally highly doubt that would ever happen because the whole
purpose of equity and feminism in general is to create that very equality
where, currently, males are the ones who are considered the “default” at with
privilege. To then subvert that and go further to the point of inequality once
again—for example, a rather ironic future of women catcalling men and how men
would be taught to “smile” or to “not get raped” instead of telling women not
to rape men (and as critical readers can tell, I am indeed using current
rhetoric that we tell women)—is not what feminism or equity is about. But, this
debate of “how far should equity go” is something readers have to decide for
themselves and I am in no role to dictate that personal decision; my role here
is to merely provide that seed for thought.

To perhaps tie up the discussion of
equity, to restate the biggest point, I will strongly assert that equity is
here to stay. The discussion of it should not be, in my opinion, of discussing
whether equity is to exist at all; the true discussion that needs to occur is
the degree of equity as mentioned earlier. What needs to occur is that from the
dominant social group is understanding. (In specific cases, it should be noted
that the “dominant group” may vary from the general. Such a case is with female
teachers in an elementary school being the “dominant group” despite how
socially women are marginalized in “main society” if we can term it as such. I
say this because male elementary school teachers are still much less in
comparison and oftentimes are marginalized with assumptions towards their
sexuality, for example.)

It is the failure of possessing that
very understanding that proves most concerning. After all, for a drastic
example, White supremacy in the United States originates from that lack of
understanding. To elaborate, it must be understood that White supremacists are
not holding their views out of pure “delusion” or “narcissism” (or at least, I
am attempting to give this admittedly disturbing view some fair spotlight);
while they absolutely must be challenged, one of the realistic roots of the
ideology behind White supremacy is that their perception of equity is that
equity brings threats: why should Whites have to step aside at times to let
marginalized members of society have priority when “true equality” ignores
social statuses? From these people’s perspective, equity is an attack on Whites
and a shaming of their race—a view they argue is hypocritical of what equity is
supposedly bringing. To this, what they do not understand is equity is to
combat a generated advantage Whites have garnered—and most of that advantage, at
least in modern times, is actually unintentional. However, because of lacking
that viewpoint and understanding and thus interpreting equity as a “shift in
power” versus an “equalizing in power,” White supremacy takes place as a way to
“regain” power (as ironic as it may sound)—and what better way to “regain”
power than to assert that Whites are the “naturally superior race” in the
entire world?

(As a side note, a different
discussion for a future review would be “systemic oppression”; in short, it is
the idea that certain societal structures are unfair on a social level even if unintended. I emphasize “unintentionally”
otherwise we begin tracking into conspiracy theories of how, for a random
example, Whites want to dominate the world. But, I very much doubt there is a
“secret plotting” of that very notion as do conspiracy theories argue is true.
That said, many social structures unintentionally
favor certain social groups and that
seems to be convincingly true and, to be humble, I believe many are against
this systemic oppression even if benefitting from it. Point is, no one
individually is to be blamed; we all have to collaborate to challenge the
societal structure itself.)

In the end, we truly have covered
too much in such a brief, rough frame. For those who are deeply interested in
these topics, personal academic research of equity and double standards (and
perhaps White supremacy) should occur. Besides, I am far from “correct” with my
opinions—music and social. I care more for beginning a discussion that readers
can later carry on for themselves and others, and if my words provide a perfect
starting point for those very discussions, then I will be satisfied. If
anything is to be gleaned—and admittedly given the huge length of this discussion
and poor organization, it may be hard to find any worth—I simply want to
emphasize that social topics are much more complex than they appear to be.
“Double standards,” for example, is not just a debate of “feminazi or
feminism”; there are much more complicated nuances in place. Being critical is
what is always necessary, and of course, to keep an open heart for others as
cliché as it may sound.

All that covered, let us now
transition to the review itself—a rather odd feeling after such lengthy
discussions. This said, I am considering potentially splitting these types of
discussions for perhaps “Blog Opinion” posts versus reviews themselves, but
time will tell. _______________________________________________________

While I normally formally conclude
every post, for this one in specific, I find that I have technically concluded
it already given that the content was originally in a review. As such, it will
end here but I do want to add the usual words: thank you for reading this.
Whether one disagrees or agrees (or both) is irrelevant; the fact that one engages intellectually with this post at all is what
matters most, so thank you for reading it or skimming it.