When the teaser for the Nick Cannon produced “Make it Pop” was released on February 28, 2015, featuring the K-pop idol Megan Lee, a sizable number of kpop fans could be heard groaning and moaning, beating their chests in disdain as to why the show was still being made. As many will remember, when the show’s announcement went viral back in November of 2014, the international kpop fandom largely went up in arms. Though the drumbeat of “burn, baby burn” has largely subsided, kpop fans complaining at the teaser’s release failed to notice one thing. Nothing in the teaser or the show’s formal announcement made reference or mention of the word “K-pop”. And, then in a recent interview the show’s main lead, Megan Lee, distanced K-pop’s influence on the show. K-pop fans had effectively sidelined themselves, making themselves irrelevant.
In the interview done by BTSCelebs, an online media outlet that “takes you behind the scenes of the entertainment industry”, Megan Lee was asked “this show is based on K-Pop, will any K-Pop stars make a guest appearance…?” And here is her response:
A lot of people have misunderstood that this show is about or based on K-Pop but actually it’s not.
The diss could not have been louder.
Megan Lee, herself has not been without controversy of her own. In late November of 2014 she filed a lawsuit to be released from her contractual obligations to her Korean label, SoulShop Entertainment. To which her label promptly responded by blaming the whole thing on Megan Lee auditioning for an American show. It’s all clear now that the show Megan Lee auditioned for, and then used to break her contractual agreement with SoulShop, is “Make It Pop.”
What’s interesting is, did Megan Lee audition for the role before or after the initial brouhaha from the kpop fandom? If it was beforehand, did Megan Lee auditioning for the show influence the producers’ initial goal to market the show as K-pop influenced?
However, if we look at the timeline, as of October 29, 2014, Megan Lee was still making videos for SoulShop Entertainment on their YouTube page, announcing their global auditions. Also, the “Make It Pop” auditions had already been announced as of August 2014. Back then it was called “The Drop, aka Kpop High.” Similarly, a press release had gone out on November 5, 2014 stating “no casting announcements yet, but a December 2014 to mid-march 2015 production date is eyed.”
Therefore, there was a span of a month between the ugly reaction from kpop fans regarding the show, and when Megan Lee filed for separation from her Korean label. Which all indicates that the producers of “The Drop” did a one-two punch on kpop fans. One – in the span of a month they got one of their very own to star in the show. Two – they disavowed K-pop as been an influence on the show and changed its name. That’s called crisis management, and re-branding.
As the case may be, it seems kpop fans are allowing themselves to be marginalized and sidelined, for all the wrong reasons. Understandably, K-pop to a large extent, initially, in the western world has been the genre of the underdog, the school weirdo, the different, the marginalized, and socially awkward. And so fans, who had found a safe space to call their own, when threatened would bandy together to protect their own. However, K-pop is no longer some side-show that needs protecting like an unwanted step child.
K-pop stars, idols and their agencies have worked hard, spent hard money and networked hard to bring it out of the shadows, the niche, and the delight of just a few, to a place were they are now the faces and sounds of international brands. And yes, kpop fans deserve credit too. Because they were protective of it, K-pop was allowed to grow into a healthy and robust genre, internationally.
2NE1 AND BIG BANG EXAMPLES
Take 2NE1 as a shining example. Their popular and hard-hitting “I’m the best” was picked up by the Redmond, Washington State based Microsoft, for their very expensive tablet the Surface. Also, recently Dara become the face of Club Clio, appearing prominently in the store-front windows on the streets of New York City.
All of which, vindicate the advice we offered in our article titled “Can Corporate Sponsorship Enable K-pop’s Popularity in America“, published back in November of 2013. In it, we suggest that K-pop groups and idols can become more popular in the United State by signing with US advertising and marketing agencies, rather than U.S. record labels.
Be that it may, CL the leader of 2NE1 is preparing for a U.S. debut. She has signed with Justin Bieber‘s manager Scooter Braun, and is making appearances in US media outlets like Complex magazine. Also, the youngest member Minji has been spotted taking dance classes in Los Angeles at the popular Antoine Troupe‘s studio.
Incidentally, 2NE1’s Kpop activities since the latter half of 2014 was literary, zero. Although, it’s suggested that this was because of the drug smuggling scandal of member Bom.
2NE1’s labelmate Big Bang, leaked months ago that they would comeback with an album in April of 2015. However, just last week, their agency representative shot down that idea. Instead, also last week, Big Bang’s leader chose to appear in the music video of a Canadian singer.
An interesting way to look at all these, is that these K-pop idols are effectively outgrowing their fans, both in substance and maturity. 2NE1, like their label-mate Big Bang, may not feel compelled to make music for fans who refuse to grow up or mature along with them, whether in sound, age-wise and in concept.
K-pop fans need to realize that their genre is practically considered mainstream now, albeit on the fringes. It is regularly featured on Billboard, Vice Media’s Noisey, Dazed, even on U.S. network TV and print newspaper. There is a saying, “what got you here, wont take you there.” Kpop fans may have protected their genre and allowed it to grow strong, robust and healthy from baby to teenager. But your baby is all grown up now and you need to stop helicoptering it – otherwise when your kids leave they’ll never comeback – and you’ll just become a footnote in history. For new and younger kpop fans, their forebears have set a bad example for them. These new and younger fans of kpop need to break this cycle of immaturity and cynicism.