Check out the newest article in our [OPINION] category! See why author Kyeong Jun has reservations about Kpop idols collaborating with Western audiences.
Leading up to the release of their newest album Mania, American band Fall Out Boy began releasing singles to build up hype concerning the new album. To be honest, I thought all of the singles released were pretty mediocre, so I was just going to ignore them for the most part and move on. However, among those released songs was the remix of Fall Out Boy’s single “Champion.” What was unique about the recent “Champion” remix though was the fact that RM from BTS featured on the song!
I listened to the remix, and to be honest, it’s not a good song. It’s the same song as before, only with synths added and RM rapping. I see the collaboration as Fall Out Boy trying to get attention for their new album. It may be my theory only, but I just feel like Fall Out Boy noticed how big BTS was getting in the West and decided to invite RM to feature. Normally, I wouldn’t have paid attention to the song, so I feel like their plan worked. A lot of Kpop fans decided to give the song a listen just because of RM’s feature.
Normally, I would’ve moved on and chalked it up as just a mediocre Fall Out Boy song, but I started thinking. Is that the best RM can do? He is a member of the most beloved Kpop band in the U.S. right now, but this really wasn’t worthy of BTS.
If BTS wants to continue Western growth, they have to choose better projects— both individually and as a group. Like I said, I see the collaboration as Fall Out Boy just trying to gain attention for their new album. I know that sounds a little cynical, but to be honest, I really don’t see any reason why this collaboration should’ve happened. Fall Out Boy isn’t the most relevant in the music scene anymore. The band could be relevant, but their last few albums have been mediocre and haven’t really reached a wide audience. Their latest singles are EDM-inspired tracks, but EDM hasn’t been popular in like 4, 5 years in the U.S. Music tastes have changed, and while EDM DJs continue to make music to this day, they’re not at the forefront of music anymore.
Overall, it seems to me that Fall Out Boy saw the hype concerning BTS and Kpop and thought they should align themselves with a Korean boy band in hopes of attaining a bigger audience and becoming cool with the kids again. I’m disappointed in RM’s feature since he could’ve chosen something better. In fact, he should have. (I’m assuming BTS has some sort of choice in choosing which Western artists they want to collaborative with since they are, in fact, massively popular right now and much sought after by many American artists).
I want to encourage BTS and other Kpop groups to choose better projects and collaborate with relevant and great artists. While there are many big names in the Western music business, Kpop artists shouldn’t just jump at the chance to collaborate with any of them for the sake of collaborating. After all, the Kpop world has seen mega-famous artists collaborate with huge American stars in the past, but that doesn’t mean the songs were great. Will.i.am and 2NE1 worked together a couple of times, as did Se7en and Lil Kim, but both songs were largely forgettable. It’s time people see the value of Kpop artists as musicians themselves and not just as people who should feel grateful to collaborate with any American or Western artist who offers the chance.
BTS is a big fan of Kanye West, and I think that’s a great artist they could work with. He even worked with JYJ in the past, so a Kanye-Kpop collaboration could definitely happen again! Lady Gaga is fantastic in my opinion and was also one of the first American artists to give Kpop a chance when she invited Crayon Pop to open her concert tour. Pitbull, a.k.a. Mr. Worldwide, pairs well with Kpop grandiosity. Justin Bieber still ranks high among American audiences and would be a great pick. Plus, I’m sure the two artists have similar audiences. In terms of rap, I say Chance the Rapper would make for an amazing collaboration with BTS or Kpop artists in general. He does great pop-style rap, and he’s pretty wholesome too. BTS can choose other high energy artists as well: Cardi B, Migos, Lil Pump, Rae Sremmurd. Even former heavyweight boy bands such as the Backstreet Boys have recently shared how much they love BTS, so the group definitely has plenty of choices for collaborations.
Maroon 5 has even recently teased a possible collaboration with BTS on Twitter, and I think that’s a great choice! Maroon 5 would be a great band with whom to collaborate. The band has wide mainstream appeal that a lot of people enjoy, and I also think the band won’t go the easy way out and release what can barely be considered a remix.
The main reason I want Kpop to make better decisions is because I don’t want to see this genre of music to be seen as a trend or the flavor of the month. As the Kpop genre continues to gain worldwide exposure, I want people to see it for what it is. Kpop can adapt. It’s a constantly growing and changing music genre. I have no doubt that it’ll be around for a long time, but its artists have to make the right choices when it comes to their exposure in the Western market.
I feel Kpop expansion into the Western world is easier than ever before. People around the world are connected with one another through YouTube and the internet, so a lot of people are accessing Kpop now. The language barrier isn’t really a thing. “Gangnam Style” infected the world back in 2012/2013 and that was mostly sung in Korean. There were English lyrics in the song, but they were buried underneath layers of effects and production that nobody could really understand them. Even then, “Gangam Style” did great. Plus, tons of Kpop idols speak English now, some very well. Language really isn’t a big deal anymore to most music audiences who seem more open to great music, regardless of its origin since music is truly universal.
Kpop is a chimera, an amalgamation of various pop music genres thrown together into one single beast. Pop music is down to a science. Producers know how to make music that appeals to the widest audience and so do Kpop producers. It’s how BTS got big over here. There are major concerns of course as Kpop continues to expand in the U.S. Will Western producers want to use their best work on Kpop idols and collaborations? Will they save their best work for home pop stars and give Kpop idols the B stuff? Perhaps that is what happened in the past, and that’s why other collaborations have been largely underwhelming. However, even then, some songs stand out in all the best ways! One prime example? “Cave Me In” by Gallant, Tablo, and Eric Nam was named by many (including FUSE TV) as one of the best songs of 2017. Another great example is Steve Aoki’s remix of BTS’s hit song “MIC Drop.”
While other concerns about Kpop-Western collaborations exist as well, my biggest concern is still the quality of the music and whether Kpop can compete in a saturated Western market without being too influenced by said market. Hopefully, BTS, as well as other Korean idols and musicians, can be more selective in the future and choose amazing singers and tracks that will reflect well on their own reputations as well.
KyeongJun is a writer for WTK, where he gushes about his love for Korean rock music (You guys need to listen to Jaurim). When not writing, he’s listening to the newest K-Rock bands. You can also catch him on WTK Radio where he hosts a show every Thursday night at 10 p.m. EST.