Kpop may have the Globe in a frenzy, but prominently placed western faces in its content are a rare occurrence. Since Bradley Ray Moore, a Caucasian American debuted as the drummer for the kpop band Busker Busker in 2011, “international” or “foreign” faces have been few and far between. However, that changed somewhat on the July 25th, 2014 broadcast of Music Core, one of the handful of live-stage music shows that kpop artists use to promote their latest releases. Music in America is promoted through social media. Music in South Korean, specifically Kpop is promoted primarily through television. Music Core is a broadcast of TV station MBC.
Hyuna, the sultry but often disparaged as slutty, K-pop artist made her stage comeback during the July 25, 2014 episode. She performed her new single “Red”, which is a rap song with staccato beats. On stage, she modestly dressed in a red jumpsuit with full-length shear slits. Accompanying her were 9 backup dancers in monochromatic strips, among whom was an African American known as Lex. A Detriot native, self-described as music producer and image consultant, Lex auditioned for the role on July 6, 2014 in Seoul. Cube entertainment, Hyuna’s label, had an open audition for dancers who would accompany her on promotional activities for her new album. Lex was chosen from over 1000 applicants. This may well be the first time an African American has appeared on a live-stage at Music Core and the other broadcast music shows.
Nu’est, the 5 member Kpop boy band’s comeback stage on Music Core occurred on July 12, 2014. They performed the title track of their new album “Good Bye Bye”. As the boy band began the live performance, keen eyes would have noticed an inscription at the bottom left of the screen “Producer: Cha Cha Malone”. Cha Cha, full name Chase Malone, is a Seattle native who through his friendship with Kpop idol, Jay Park, is making a name for himself in the Kpop music industry. Among others, he has worked with Kpop artists including Jay Park, B1A4 and Kara.
“It Girl”, a bubbly and Jazzy Kpop song performed by the duo “Homme” made their comeback stage on Music Core on July 25th, 2014. The music video of the single, released a week before, broke ground – so to speak, in that the video prominently featured three stylishly dressed ladies, one Korean, one black and one white – a level of diversity not previously seen in a Kpop music video. Kpop music videos at times attempt the “international” look, when it comes to the accompanying ladies. But, they usually overwhelming rely on one race. A good example is Big Bang’s “Bad Boy”. Although shot in Brooklyn, New York, they used only Caucasians. The girls from Homme’s music video didn’t perform with them during their live comeback stage.
Kpop idols and Korean celebrities, at times get criticized for having a unified look. Also, on a more social level, Korea is known to be one of the most homogeneous societies. So, when “Skull”, a Korean reggae singer, appears with his long black dreadlocks, it’s a cause for pause. Skull performed his comeback stage “I’m Getting Married”, accompanied by Yoojin of Seeya. Skull and Yoojin offered a beautiful contrast, vocally and visually. Skull, dress in a casual bermuda shirt, had his gritty voice in harmony with Eugene’s sonorous soprano.
Overall, the effect of Kpop’s embrace of the international or “foreign”, has raised the bar of the general quality of Kpop. In addition, it consequently deepens the connection with the international fandom. It’s not clear what may be the impetus for this sudden influx of “foreigners” in Kpop. However, it does point to a more influential “international” fan base. They played a major role in catapulting Lee Michelle’s single “Without You”, into the limelight when it was release on YouTube on March 19, 2014. Lee Michelle, a Korean native, was born to a Korean mother and an African-American father. Lee Michelle has never met her father.